The Bathroom

A bit of background I didn’t fully explain in the Kappo/Utsu Musume review; essentially, I watched The Bathroom as a part of a “bad anime night” in which me and my buddy watched 5 low-rated shows from MyAnimeList: Kappo, Utsu Musume Sayuri, The Bathroom, Mars of Destruction, and Tenkuu Danzai Skelter+Heaven. Three of those listed you may very well recognize as being infamous; Tenkuu Danzai in particular is the lowest rated show on the entire site. By comparison, Kappo and The Bathroom stand out for being meme picks chosen purely because their global scores were 4.20 at the time we watched them. Taking a second look, that’s no longer the case for either; Kappo appears to have jumped to a 4.21 (I rated it a 5), whereas The Bathroom jumped to a 4.22. Why is that, you might ask? Well, ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not “The Bathroom” is actually unironically really fucking good. Now, in theory The Bathroom does share some elements with shows like Kappo and Utsu Musume; it’s an avant-garde comedic 10 minute movie depicting a bunch of weird shit without any real story or voice acting, except it’s actually really fucking funny, creative and clearly took serious amounts of effort. Much in the same vein as the last two shows we talked about, The Bathroom is only an anime on the most technical level; a Japanese animation. But unlike Kappo and Utsu Musume, The Bathroom is a black and white silent film animated entirely in stop motion. Anybody familiar with stop motion knows that it takes a really, really fucking long time to do, and the animation on display here in The Bathroom is nothing short of impressive. It was directed by this guy named Kuri Yoji, an extremely important figure in the history of Japanese independent animation who kick-started a so-called renaissance of modern-styled, independently made and adult-aimed animation in early 1960’s Japan (and if it sounds like I ripped that straight from his wiki page you’re like half right). Looking up the director of some random ass avant-garde surrealistic black comedy I expected to be bad and finding out that he’s a god-damn legend in the independent anime scene was a surprise, the fact he’s even still alive at 93 is an impressive feat on its own. Now, while I personally think The Bathroom is legitimately good, I think whether or not you’ll enjoy it is very much a matter of perspective. There’s a lot to appreciate here, but at the same time there’s a lot to criticize. When I say that The Bathroom is good, there’s an important distinction to make between good by comparison to traditional anime, and good for what it is. If you tried to compare The Bathroom to something like Samurai Champloo for instance, you could argue that The Bathroom is bad because it lacks any sort of comprehensible narrative, or because it relies on random, absurdist comedy in order to be funny as opposed to constructing intelligent humour. I would disagree with both of those points, and I try to compare shows only when those comparisons are warranted; The Bathroom isn’t really like anything else I’ve seen and so it deserves to be considered as something totally different from a traditional anime. As far as the comedy of The Bathroom is concerned, it’s definitely very bizarre and absurdist, but at the same time it’s still clever and well-constructed. It’s not funny purely because it’s random or dark. In fact, it’s actually very deliberate and split into various different skits that all have their own individual punchlines and resolutions, kind-of an avant-garde silent equivalent of a traditional comedy like Joshiraku for example. Even the basic concept is similar; a movie consisting almost entirely of various comedic skits shot within a single empty room, much like how Joshiraku takes place largely in a single room and uses seemingly simple dialogue in order to create ludicrous comedic scenarios. Of course, comedy is very, very subjective, and I think that’s the primary reason why The Bathroom’s appeal is so arguable. Even I found myself a bit off put by some of the really dark comedy and general subject matter on display, and I think an easily offended person wouldn’t really appreciate the humor here nearly as much as I did. I mean, there’s fucked up shit in this; one of the most memorable parts for me is a cartoonish drawing of a man hanging by the comically large breasts of a woman who is also hanging which flashes on screen for less than a second during a time-lapse skit where bubbly music plays in the background. For as little as I know about Kuri Yoji, I’ve seen his work described as anti-cultural, and I think that a lot of what that really crude and black comedy is doing is challenging the very notion of our society’s prudishness. Look at Utsu Musume Sayuri for example; it gives the impression that the creator himself is as fucked up as his work. In contrast, the black comedy depicted in The Bathroom doesn’t at all give the impression that its creators are messed up in the head. It’s all very intelligently constructed and deliberate in the ways in which it tries to unsettle and confuse you. But honestly, that brings up an important question; ignoring the social commentary present within it, is that same black comedy actually funny? I think some of it is, but there are definitely jokes here that don’t really land and moreso serve the purpose of delivering a message to the viewer about how little their opinion on the subject matter of the show actually matters. It’s a show practically daring its thin-skinned viewers to go on Twitter and complain about how terrible and offensive it is, knowing that it will make absolutely no difference whatsoever because at the end of the day, it’s funny to the demographic it’s targeted towards and no amount of complaining from people who hate it will ruin the experience of those who appreciate it. And you know, that’s kind-of a funny subject for a reviewer like me to be talking about; I’d say that the important distinction between what I do and what people on Twitter do is that I understand my opinion doesn’t matter, and I understand my opinion is not factual. Even if I truly hated something, I still try to understand what about it people might enjoy, give it a fair chance and try to provide constructive criticism regarding what could have been done better, making important distinctions between the objective and subjective aspects of my criticisms. There are a lot of philosophical questions which arise just trying to differentiate between what is and isn’t truly objective or factual; all I can really do is say what I think, try to give the best case I can and be as fair as I can. At the end of the day, I just think The Bathroom is really god-damn funny despite how it may seem and how ridiculous it is, and I had a really fun time watching it—I was genuinely pleasantly surprised that it was actually good! As a fan of ridiculous absurdist comedy, it ended up being right up my alley. If it sounds at all interesting to you, go ahead and give this one a shot.

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