Anime has an interesting relationship with the “Otaku” lifestyle. There’s an undeniable appeal to lounging around the house or apartment playing video games and/or watching TV (especially for an Otaku), but that’s not particularly a healthy way to live your life – so we get a variety of anime that romanticize the Otaku lifestyle in a manner both congratulating and self-depreciating, like Genshiken and Otaku no Video.
Himouto Umaru-Chan has an interesting take on this. The main character of the show is Umaru – a die-hard Otaku who is currently attending high school and who is also living with her brother Taihei, a salaryman who handles the cooking and cleaning. However, her public identity is not that of being an Otaku, but instead as one of the most popular girls in school, proficient in most sports, and who gets As in all her classes. On returning home, she undergoes a seemingly physical transformation into a chibi version of herself, with a radically different personality and wearing a hamster hood. The difference is dramatic enough that it’s something of a running joke that people who don’t already know can’t tell that Umaru’s public and private personas are the same person.
From there, the humor of the show comes from juggling the silliness of Umaru’s behavior (and with it the split between her public and private personas) and how Taihei responds to her behavior, along with other characters reactions to the two personas when encountered on their own. The writing for the humor here works very well. It’s helped by the fact that unlike far too many anime of late, this anime writes a brother-sister relationship that stays on the familial level, instead of stepping into the romantic level like like Oreimo and Eromanga-Sensei did. Nor does it get heavily into risque fanservice, keeping the show from getting skeevy.
It makes for a comedy series that isn’t particularly ambitious, and not particularly deep, but is fun and makes for good light viewing.
Himouto! Umaru-Chan is currently available from Amazon.com (Blu-Ray, DVD), and RightStuf.com (Blu-Ray, DVD).