Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou is probably my choice for the underrated sleeper hit of Spring 2016 , it was written off by most people because of it’s art-style, which I’ve hear people call , “ Ugly , lazy and too childish “. Complaints I find hilarious since having seen every single anime that aired from April to May I can quite confidently say that Tonkatsu DJ looks so much better than all the , HD, high budget shows that are mass-produced every year and never fail to look the exact same. Tonkatsu is a show I’d be able to pick out of a line up of 100. Visually I think it deserves the same recognition as , “ Ping Pong - the animation “. Is it as good as Ping Pong overall though ? The comparison is quite hard to make since the two are very different and don’t strive for the same goals , Ping Pong might have more complexity to the story and characters especially but Tonkatsu takes a world that isn’t explored all that often , or ever , in modern animation and creates a very fitting tribute to the lifestyle and culture.
Tonkatsu is an adaptation of a web-manga which has so far released 5 volumes. I was rather surprised to see studio Deen's name attached to this as it is quite a step away from their usual style. But it’s nice to see a studio with a history of producing great shows trying out something a bit more experimental.
“Agetarou works at his family's tonkatsu restaurant in Shibuya, but he's not very excited by the work. One day, he takes a delivery to the staff of a night club, and the worker lets him in to enjoy the club for a while. Agetarou finds that he loves the club, with its relaxed people and cute girls, all enjoying the music supplied by the DJ. He continues going to the club, until the night comes when the guest American DJ Big Master Fly puts on a show. Agetarou is inspired by Big Master Fly, and realizes that the groove of being a DJ is very similar to the groove of being a tonkatsu chef. Now Agetarou is determined to master both disciplines, though he is most excited to become a DJ! “
The story when put under a microscope isn’t all that complex. This basic outline has been used for everything from sports anime to battle shounen. What keeps Tonkatsu apart is the absurd and very loud way of telling the story , conversations flow very fast and characters rush from scene to scene , constantly moving things forward. Which perfectly emulates the aggressive and fast atmosphere of the club.
The conversations flow seamlessly as the characters chatter away , and the script is rife with club and hip-hop slang , which serves as a basis for the comedy but also engrosses the viewer in the lifestyle that’s being portrayed.
On top of having all that going on within it Tonkatsu DJ is the first mainstream anime ( that I know of ) which fully aims to explore and educate about DJ and club culture. Sure this has been touched upon with other series and characters but only at surface level. Tonkatsu demonstrates a inside knowledge , and considering how famous club-life is in certain parts of Tokyo it’s a surprise no studio has wanted to make this sort of story.
It should come with no surprise but the soundtrack is great. A mix-up of choice hip-hop and EDM that perfectly matches the tone and is always in-sync with the scene and character.
As I mentioned before , conversations and pace move at a breakneck speed and all the VA’s doing a great job of keeping up and cramming as many lines into as little time they’re given. Which is to be expected since Studio Deen went all out of a very experienced cast.
The art-style which polarized and alienated a lot of people to me is completely mesmerizing. Fittingly it looks like the art you’d see on a club’s flyer. The exaggerated features lend themselves to the comedy. And since there’s very little detailing the animation is high quality enough to keep up with the speed of the dialogue.
At parts it feels like an old school CN comedy show that would have been broadcasted late at night. But still holds it’s roots deep in Japan and so doesn’t lose the national character which makes it “ anime “.
The characters are all uniquely designed and fit into the art-style , their animations are all very well done and even when some frames come out janky it comes off as more of a deliberate design choice than an mistake from the animators.
Our MC is likeable enough and I’m sure quite a small selection of aspiring otaku DJ’s can relate to him and the struggle he has to keep his family and DJ lives together. Having him be an outsider to the club culture allows us to learn and explore in alongside him.The sound characters are all over-the-top and memorable , I doubt there’ll be a day when I don’t die laughing at the record shop owners antics
Since the art-style isn’t tied to realism there’s a lot of space for outlandish and odd compositions which wouldn’t have flown in a conventional art-style. The theme of music is often used to express different ideas and animated music videos contain a lot of psychedelic visuals something that Tonkatsu picked up on and incorporated into the show.
I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of keeping the episodes at a tight 9 minutes. It keeps with the pace of the web-manga which relied on short gags but it’s perfect for having the fast and deliberately rushed animation without losing focus from the viewer of having to compromise that vision and slow down to stretch the material for 24 minutes.
Even if you hate clubs with a passion. Tonkatsu is still a show I’m going to enthusiastically recommend to you. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a standard “ good show “ with HD and clean visuals but I think that giving things like Tonkatsu a pass purely by eye is a great waste. Anyway it’s just 9 minutes so what's the harm in trying ?