Kakushigoto: Refined Absurdity

The style of manga artist Kumeta Kouji is unmistakable. His brand of comedy focuses heavily on humorous misunderstandings combined with rantings by off-kilter characters eager to point out the absurdities of the world while blissfully unaware of their own eccentricities. Previous anime adaptations of his work have totally embraced and even enhanced this manic energy (Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Joshiraku), but the anime version of Kumeta’s Kakushigoto takes a relatively more mellow approach. It makes sense, given that Kakushigoto is a more subdued and down-to-Earth story by the artist’s standards. The key difference between Kakushigoto and his past works is an emphasis on the tenderness of a father’s love for his daughter.

Kakushigoto is the story of Gotou Kakushi, a manga artist and single dad who will go to any length necessary to hide his profession from his young daughter, Hime. Specializing in ribald humor, Kakushi’s greatest fear is that he will permanently embarrass her, make her a laughingstock among her peers, and ruin her life. Luckily for Kakushi, Hime is extremely naive, though that doesn’t stop them (and everyone they know) from getting caught up in humorous misunderstandings. As fitting the manga author, the title of the series is a pun on the fact that it can mean “something you hide” (kakushi goto) and “a job where you draw” (kakushi goto). 

Many of the jokes revolve around Kakushi’s job, and like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, there’s a lot of inside baseball about things like deadlines, color pages, industry trends, useless editors, and decency standards. These are often the source of many of the aforementioned Kumeta-style rants (and Kakushi himself shares Zetsubou-sensei’s voice actor), but because the general subject of these ravings are smaller in scope than the societal condemnations of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, it actually gives Kakushigoto a noticeably more intimate feel. Because of this, as well as the focus on Kakushi and Hime’s relationship (and some extra familial drama with his in-laws), I find this anime to be more accessible and enjoyable to a wider range of potential fans who might get exhausted by Kumeta’s other works.

If Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is a spicy ketchup, Kakushigoto is a high-quality tomato sauce. 

What I mean is that Kakushigoto has a certain kind of maturity, and a willingness to try to find a middle ground between the unadulterated creative style of Kumeta and something that can speak to others beyond those already familiar with his work. It’s a tricky balance to strike, reminiscent of Shinkai Makoto’s your name. and its greater mainstream appeal compared to his older films. Importantly, Kakushigoto does not abandon Kumeta’s signature style, but rather refines it into a more well-rounded experience.