Show-ha Shoten! was a genuine surprise. I always like reading a good comedy that gets me to laugh and distracts me from the world being on fire outside my window. But I never thought I would find so much enjoyment in a series that’s literally about breaking down what makes something funny. It’s like reading a shonen action or sports anime but focused on analyzing how to make an audience laugh rather than overpowered fights or over-the-top theatrics. That may sound incredibly boring. But not only does volume two reinforce the strengths found in the previous volume, but it also elevates those same elements to a literal new stage.
Unfortunately, our protagonists, Azemichi and Taiyo, have been dealt a devastating blow right out the gate, humbling them despite their incredible talents. The overall story structure presents a perfect balance between highlighting the strengths of our two leads as “comedic geniuses” and highlighting their lack of experience and understanding. Azemichi is a really good sketch writer but sucks as an actor, while Taiyo is a great performer but not a “big idea” guy. This was established before, but now we start to see glimmers of how to make up for each other’s weaknesses, partially thanks to the more in-depth commentary from the expanding main cast.
Volume one had everything done from the perspective of our comedic duo. But this volume introduces a variety of rival characters that are more experienced within the realm of comedy. We now have a better understanding of the different types of routines performed from multiple perspectives. It also adds a lot more depth to the performances of our leads, as other comedians begrudgingly or smugly give commentary on how effective those routines are. I don’t know much about what makes a good standup, but the series makes a case for people who do. Hearing more from them eliminates the bias of only having one narrator.
This is one of the few series where explaining the joke is not only kind of the point of the series, but also has the added effect of helping things feel funnier. This can backfire as the influx of monologues can feel particularly tiring. There were even times when I worried that the dialogue would turn into white noise. It’s a tough balancing act to keep the audience engaged. There were moments when I was starting to feel that strain. It’s impressive, however, that these moments weren’t as prevalent as they could have been, thanks to the story’s sense of comedic timing. It’s as if Show-ha Shoten! can learn from itself and do what it can to maintain engagement with proper timing and execution. Once again, major props to Stephen Paul for their translation of this book, which felt tighter and punchier compared to before.
These strong suits are further elevated thanks to Obata’s incredibly expressive artwork. We see even more of his cartoony faces with well-timed panel layouts that help punctuate the humor. This volume carries a lot more visual metaphors and representations of how the comedy plays out, including moments of impact lines used to punctuate emotions like pain or exasperation. I also want to praise Obata’s ability to lean into the more emotional side of things as characters reflect and deal with heavier emotions like failure or defeat. I’m shocked at how this series still manages to hit an emotional chord with me.
Overall, volume two of “Show-ha Shoten!“ continues to deliver a lot of strong, unique elements in this shounen series. The artwork is incredibly expressive, hitting both communicative and emotional beats while juggling our main characters’ hurdle on their path to becoming Japan’s best comedian. As the cast continues to expand, we gain more insight into the world of Japanese comedy while having the different skits explained from multiple perspectives. This is another keeper for me, and I can’t wait to see what the stage in volume three looks like!