I tend to stay away from Japanese comedies, often what passes for funny in Japan falls entirely flat to an American audience. There have been a few shows that have been good but just as many that I stared at blank-faced, thinking the Japanese are just weird.
This is not one of those shows. Starting in 2011, Hero Yoshihiko is heavily influenced on the Dragon Quest video game series and is packed full of references to other sci-fi, fantasy, gaming and geeky shows, movies, etc. Therefore, it has to be good, right?
Damn straight it is!
So what is this dramedy about? In ancient times, a mysterious plague covers the land, killing many innocent villagers. When his father, the last hero, fails to return with a miraculous herb that can cure the plague, Yoshihiko is elected the new hero by pulling a sword out of a stone. Well, not so much, it mostly falls out and nobody else really wanted to go. Yoshihiko, along with his companions, Danjo, the warrior who just wants Yoshihiko to listen to his tale so he can kill him, Murasaki, the girl seeking her father’s murderer, but only has a very bad drawing to go by and Merebu, the a shyster magician whose spells are worthless, hunt down the Demon King, encouraged by a very odd Buddha who really doesn’t know much and spends most of his time arguing with the team.
The series goes on, alternating between random battles against roadside thieves and a search for all of the various magic items Yoshihiko will need to take out the Demon King. They all die. Several times. They face an evil salaryman named Gordon. It’s all a lot of fun. However, I will say that it bogs down a little bit toward the end, where Yoshihiko and his friends are taken in by the Demon King’s castle town and they lose sight of their quest, but that doesn’t last for long before they’re back and ready for action once again.
Let’s look at the characters, shall we? Yamada Takayuki plays Yoshihiko. He was in BOSS, Densha Otoko and the Densha Special. Kinami Haruka plays Murasaki and she was in the Shinzanmono Special I just reviewed, as well as BOSS 2 and Akihabara@Deep. Our strong man, Danjo, played by Takuma Shin, was in Triangle, while Muro Tsuyoshi, Meberu’s actor, was in BOSS 2, 33pun Tantei and Galileo. Wow, looks like a BOSS reunion around here!
It was really a shame to see it end. While I admit that it wasn’t like losing good friends like some other dramas, mostly because the characters are hard to take seriously in the first place, I’m glad there is a second series, Hero Yoshihiko and the Key of Evil Spirits that I can jump into. I suppose there’s a point at which it all becomes too silly and repetitive, but I haven’t reached that point and don’t see it coming any time in the immediate future.
If you like silly series, especially in the vein of old-school 8-bit video games, this is absolutely for you. It’s shallow to be sure, but it’s an entertaining kind of shallow, with characters that have a genuine chemistry together and that you want to see succeed, no matter how many times they have to die first. Go find it. Watch it. You won’t be sorry, I promise.