Kyouran Kazoku Nikki Anime Review
Kyouran Kazoku Nikki
Frenzied Family Journal
US Release By
Supernatural Family Comedy
26 25-minute episodes
2008-04-12 - 2008-10-04
What's In It
- Hyperactive Dialogue
- Cat Girls Who Act Like Actual Cats
- Mad Science
- Friendly Demons
- Evil Santas
- Gopher Superninjas
- The Most Tasteless Bar Stools EVER
- Violence: 2 (moderate)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
A millennium ago, the god of destruction, Enka, ravaged the world until it was finally defeated. But Enka left a curse: Its decedents would one day rise again to destroy the world.
Fast-forward to the 2060s, where the Japanese Empire's Paranormal Affairs Bureau has done global genetic testing to locate the decedents of Enka. These various beings were then brought to Japan where they are given new names and only one order: Become a happy family.
Thus we have the Midarezaki family: Husband Ouka, a top Paranormal Bureau agent, and wife Kyoka, a mind-controlling cat girl from a demonic empire. Their "children" are: Ginka, ex-gangster and gay bar host extraordinaire; Teika, a lion and Beast King; Hyouka, a 3-year-old superweapon with a dark past who likes to watch cartoons; Yuuka, cheerful, brutalized daughter of a famous crime family; and Gekka, a mysterious jellyfish (that's her entire dossier). Kyoka, in her self-proclaimed infinite wisdom, quickly adds in Chika, a high school girl with a dark side.
Thus begins Operation Cozy Family. Hopefully it doesn't end with the apocalypse.
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Kyouran Kazoku Nikki--The Frenzied Family Journal--is 15% dark psychodrama, 85% off-the-wall comedy, and 100% insane. When it's not revealing some dark, tragic backstory--an unexpectedly effective way to make the viewer care about the characters in an over-the-top comedy--it's following bat-guano insane cat-demon Kyoka's plans to solve problems big and small with humiliating costumes, game shows, and violence. Her ADHD-on-pure-crystal-meth rants give Excel Saga and Elf Princess Rane a run for their money in both sheer speed and lunacy. It's that crazy. Add in a collection of characters who would be serious if left to their own devices, a wide variety of colorful secondary characters, and a variety of heartwarming familial bonding amid complete chaos and you have one heck of a fun series.
Breakneck lunacy taken to the absolute limit with a stiff dash of tragic backstory to give the viewer an emotional hook, all I really need to say about this series is that it rendered multiple viewers unable to speak due to apoplectic laughter on more than one occasion and just plain speechless on just as many more. If you can stomach the hyperactivity, you're not likely to find anything funnier than Kyouran Kazoku Nikki.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Kyouran Kazoku Nikki--The Frenzied Family Journal--is 15% dark psychodrama, 85% off-the-wall comedy, and 100% insane. A wacky-family parody taken to the limit, all I really need to say about this series is that it rendered multiple viewers unable to speak due to apoplectic laughter on more than one occasion and just plain speechless on as many more. Good stuff.
The premise alone is a sort of genius: Take one of those shows about the unknowing offspring of a demon awakening to destroy the world, but have the government find them, legislate them into a family, and wait to see which one is going to be the problem child. After all, killing them all would be uncivilized.
Thus we have a competent Paranormal Bureau agent ordered to play daddy with a completely insane catgirl-demon who thinks she's God. Their "children" are: An honorable lion king, an adolescent superweapon, two teenaged survivors of a vicious crime family, a guy who would be studly if he wasn't a flaming transvestite, and a jellyfish. No one knows what's up with the jellyfish, but she's probably Cthulu.
What makes Kyouran Kazoku Nikki so lovable is that they really are trying to make the best of it--they are a family. Even the creepy, mind-breaking jellyfish is front-and-center participating in the shenanigans. Yet they all have functional personalities, and individually any of them would be relatively serious characters. Most of them also have brutally tragic pasts, which explains why they're so willing to give it a shot.
That occasionally dark emotional edge certainly caught me off guard, but it's not a wet blanket--nothing ever ends on a downer. Moreover, it somehow works--the tragic backstories suck you into caring how things turn out, quite a feat in a comedy this over-the-top. And if the drama doesn't do it for you, there's loads of slapstick to offset it (often in the same episode).
Even the finale, apart from a cheap-shot cliffhanger, keeps the drama to a manageable level, clearing the biggest anime-comedy pitfall. It does leave several sub-plots unaddressed, but even that isn't particularly unsatisfying, just open for a sequel.
While there is something of an overall plot, it leans heavily toward story arcs of a couple episodes each. Some cover the backstory of one of the main cast, some dig into the colorful collection of recurring peripheral characters, and a few are completely random chaos. Actually, pretty much everything is completely random chaos.
Reason: Kyoka. Kyoka, the "mom," is a character to behold. She's not just wacky, she is completely, certifiably, bat-guano insane. She literally thinks she's a god and has an attention span of about five seconds (she is a cat, after all). She can out-villain an average villain, she'll cheerfully and maliciously grin through anything, and through sheer force of will pretty much everyone and everything else is forced to shrug, roll his/her/its eyes, and play along.
That's how the majority of the series works: Something (be it alien invasion or boredom) gets Kyoka started. She will immediately formulate a plan that makes no sense, is humiliating to everyone involved, and involves costumes, game shows, or violence. Possibly all three. The rest of the cast, fully aware of how whacked the idea is (they all play straight man to a degree), usually half-heartedly go along with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's a catastrophic failure, but either way a grand time is had by all. Or at least by Kyoka, which is all that really matters.
Well, that, and the result is usually flat-out hilarious.
Take, for example, the "girl can't cook" cliche: The "food" in this case is glowing purple, and talking. An entire scene follows with Kyoka arguing with her husband while the plate of something makes snide comments. On the multi-layered dialogue front, there are a number of scenes where a serious conversation is taking place while Kyoka has a bout of ADD and is ranting about something unrelated in the background the entire time.
Mark my words: The insane, hyperactive rants give Excel Saga and Elf Princess Rane a run for their money in both sheer speed and lunacy. It's that crazy.
I could easily give a dozen more examples of the beautiful madness that defines this series, but I don't want to blow the surprises. I will note, though, that it has what may be the funniest Christmas episode in anything, ever. And that's in comparison to The Tick's Yuletide spectacular, mind you.
The series' only flaw in my mind is the erratic and rather vague setting. It's too bad, because the idea is fun: A relatively normal alternate Earth with the occasional monster or demon wandering around openly and appropriate bureaucracy to deal with it. It does solidify somewhat as it goes along, and in the end it didn't annoy me enough to be a liability.
The visuals are fittingly colorful, with above-average animation up to the task of the often-frantic scenes and purely visual gags. There's nothing particularly creative in the visual design, with the exception of Kyoka's fondness for costumes--some episodes have her changing outfits to suit the scene a half-dozen times. On the same note, watch for visual nods ranging from Indiana Jones to Street Fighter II (not to mention the jellyfish in a nurse outfit).
The ensemble Japanese voice cast makes up for any lack of comic timing with pure energy. Ayumi Fujimura's Kyoka again hogs the stage, but then she's supposed to. Her combination of auctioneer-speed, ADHD-on-pure-crystal-meth dialogue, megalomaniac ranting, and occasional hint of humanity is a thing to behold. Every one of the other family members gets at least one shot at drama in, and all are distinctive, likable, and fun to listen to. Several characters have mildly annoying vocal tics, but if you don't understand Japanese it's not likely an issue, and there is one unusually good Kansai accent that comes of it. The surprise from a dramatic standpoint is Haruka Tomatsu as Chika, the older of the human daughters. Most of the time she's a standard ornery-girl, but in her couple of dramatic episodes she cuts loose with enough raw, unfettered rage to drown out the insanity for the duration of the storyline.
The background music is forgettable, but the theme songs are something else. The opening is a hyperactive spectacle of sight and sound (and... the wall of toilets). As for end themes, there are eight--one personal theme sung by every character. They range from Kyoka's turbo-techno rant, to Teika's manly ballad about the savannah, to Ginka's gay-bar cabaret. Coupled with appropriate visuals, they drive home how serious most of the characters would be on their own.
In all, this is one heck of a series. Breakneck lunacy taken to the absolute limit with a stiff dash of tragic backstory to give the viewer an emotional hook, it's a side-splitting spectacle to rival the most madcap of comedies. If you can stomach the hyperactivity, you're not likely to find anything funnier than Kyouran Kazoku Nikki.
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On the hyperactive insanity front Excel Saga and Elf Princess Rane are the most obviously similar series, though neither is as serious. The mix of overboard humor punctuated occasionally by drama, as well as the supernatural overload, is rather like the later parts of the Urusei Yatsura TV series and Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl. On the wacky family count, there's also The Daichis, though the set-up is kind of opposite. Fruits Basket is also a bit similar, though the proportions of comedy and drama are approximately reversed and it's drastically lower key.
Notes and Trivia
Based on an ongoing series of light novels by Akira, with illustrations by x6suke (who is also credited with character designs). As of this writing there are 11 books in the main storyline, and four books of side stories; the earliest was published in 2005. There is also an ongoing manga adaptation that started about six months before the anime aired, written by Akira with art by Weshika/Shougo.
The story of the anime covers books 1 through 8, with the four side stories mixed in as well as some original material. The timelines don't match up exactly, but according to the novels the series takes place around 2063 (though that world's timeline is clearly different from ours).
The pen names of all the parties involved are unusually awkward. "Akira," in addition to lacking a family name, is unconventionally written with the same character repeated three times (日日日). "x6suke" is written exactly like that and apparently pronounced "pekerokusuke." And "Weshika/Shougo" (ヱシカ/ショーゴ), slash included, is only one person; it's written using the obscure and no-longer-used phonetic character "we."
Lots of trivia for this series:
Which of the eight end themes originally aired with which episode was different depending on where you watched it. The show was originally broadcast on eight networks, with each getting one theme each week; which station would get which theme was selected on a web radio show using a variety of creative methods. The only exceptions were the first two episodes, where each station got the same one both weeks and Chika's theme appropriately wasn't in the rotation (two stations got Kyouka's). The final episode was the same everywhere.
Speaking of intros and outros, the number of outfits Kyoka runs through is astounding. The intro shows seven (nine if the jetpack and robot count), and there are sixteen in her end theme (bikini, orange shirt thing, pig suit, wedding dress, explorer, waitress, sci-fi getup, Chika's school uniform, cat(?) pajamas, Teika and Madara lion suits, white monkey pajamas, penguin suit, Gekka suit, middle-school swimsuit, and of course her standard pink dress). The end theme outfits include the clothing (or costume) of nearly every other character in the series.
Other recurring quirks are that Raicho appears somewhere briefly in every episode in the first season before she debuts properly (always about to eat something sweet), and a weird sexy background voice that makes a random comment in nearly every episode.
Paranormal Bureau head Raichou Hiratsuka's name is, one assumes intentionally, the same as that of an influential feminist and political activist from the first half of the 20th century.
"Midarezaki" is written with a character meaning, appropriately, "confused," paired with a standard last-name ending. Each family member's given name consists of a character matching their personality and one pronounced "ka" (each "ka" is different; some are standard in names, some not). Kyoka is "Evil," Ouka is "Phoenix," Ginka is "Silver," Yuuka is "Gentle," Teika is "Emperor," Hyouka is "Hail" (as in precipitation), and Gekka is "Moon." Chika is the exception; hers means "thousand," the same first character (千) as her original name, Senko. (This is the same as the two names of the protagonist in Spirited Away, Sen and Chihiro--quite possibly a reference to that film.)
Almost all of the main cast have a distinctive way of speaking. Kyoka, in addition to a generally colorful manner of speaking, invariably uses the word "kisama," the most insulting of the words meaning "you" and one of the stronger insults in the language, to address everyone--enemies, friends, children, and husband. Teika speaks in a very formal and somewhat old-fashioned way befitting his Beast King heritage. Yuuka uses the adjective "sappari," meaning "simply" or "completely," in nearly everything she says. Ginka, of course, uses entirely feminine speech patterns apart from the rare occasions he's playing badass. Gekka speaks in extremely old-fashioned Japanese, suited to the vaguely Heian-period dress her humanoid form wears. Ouka, Chika, and Hyouka all speak relatively normal Japanese, although Hyouka talks like a little boy.
Other notables are Shinigami, who draws out the usually-silent vowel at the end of the "to be" verb "desu," and Kiriko Takanashi, who has a thick, relatively soft Kansai accent, probably Kyoto-style.
And, finally, a few other language notes: The sash Kyoka wears in the opening reads "Representative of Humanity." Also appearing in the intro (along with many other places) is the word "utage"; this is Kyoka's motto of sorts, meaning roughly "banquet" or "lavish party" (usually including food). Lastly, her cooking chain saw is labled "Ryori"; this is of course a play on power tool maker Ryobi, but it also conveniently means "cooking" in Japanese.
US DVD Review
None exists in North America as of this writing.
Apart from loads of relatively cartoony violence and the occasional mildly dirty joke, there are a few episodes with realistic abuse and bullying, putting it in about the 13-up range.
Violence: 2 - Not all of the violence is cartoony, and there are some more serious depictions of abuse.
Nudity: 1 - Some of the many outfits are revealing, but even the hot spring episode doesn't have any actual nudity.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Occasional mildly dirty jokes and some other mature themes.
Language: 2 - As usual, a little hard to say; a literal translation would be pretty clean, but if you take into account the way Kyoka talks it's on the rough side.