A few episodes into the deranged comedy Kyouran Kazoku Nikk and so far I’m rather surprised I how much I like what I see. The premise is sort of brilliant: There was some ancient demon or evil god or somesuch that was defeated long ago, but it’s bloodline lives on in beings destined to destroy the world. The government doesn’t want this to happen, so they do DNA scans of everybody to identify the descendants. Killing them would be barbaric, though, so instead they just legislate them into a family to live together and be kept as happy as possible so none of them will WANT to destroy the world. Whatever it takes to keep them happy, the government will supply.
Thus you have a family composed of a top Paranormal Investigation Agency agent as dad (he’s the straight man), a flat-out insane, hyperactive cat-girl who has some telepathic powers and thinks she’s god as mom, and the kids are an innocent combat robot, an honorable talking lion, a good-looking ex-gangster (by far the most functional) who happens to be gay and extremely girly, not to mention older than “mom”, a cheerful, abused teenage girl from a mob family, and a pink jellyfish. Nobody knows what’s up with the jellyfish. There are hints that it’s basically Cthulu, though it mostly seems to like eating sushi. They eventually add one more girl who’s determined to turn the guy straight.
All of them know why they’re in this family, all of them know exactly what’s going on, and all of them are pretty much committed to leading a happy home life—the only one who seems that they might have any inclination to destroy the world is the jellyfish, and it’s still as helpful and participatory as a jellyfish that can’t talk can be.
The series is hyperactive like nobody’s business—Kyouka (the cat-girl-mom-with-a-god-complex) has ADHD and talks faster than Excel, and yes I’m serious. Half the time she’s in the background of a scene ranting about something to do with her incredible ego while everybody else is talking about something important. It’s obviously completely nuts, and generally in a very funny way, at least so far as my taste goes.
Weirder still, it’s maybe 25% relatively heavy emotional drama. Insane comedy with occasional stiff shots of near-shoujo-scale cruelty sounds like a daft idea, but then daft this series doesn’t have a problem with. Shockingly, it actually sort of works. The characters are nuts, but they appear to have functional personalities, so the drama actually sort of works. It’s a long series, so there’s a lot of room to go too heavy, but if it keeps the mix reasonable and continues to end on a light note (usually the completely insane plans of mom) I’ll be impressed, and will probably call the insane fusion a success.
High points thus far are two scenes where there’s an argument going on over mom’s spectacularly bad cooking. Yes, “girl can’t cook” is a given, but the food in this case is glowing purple and talking. Nobody’s listening to it, and I’m not entirely sure if it wants to be eaten or not, and if so whether it’s just to be put out of its misery, but I found that mind-breakingly hilarious. There’s also a couple of particularly crazy mom-plans, continuing cat-like moments for Kyouka (random distractions and thinking that she is the center of the universe), Excel Saga-scale high-speed delusional rants, and in one of the more dramatic moments someone telling a character that they’re being kind by only breaking their mind a little. Had a Code Geass flashback there.
Oh, there’s also the opening and endings—the opening is high-speed crazy that’s hard to come up with a parallel for (Kyouka rants at the audience over the song) with seriously wild visuals (wall of toilets!), and there is an end for each of the characters. So far that ranges from Kyouka’s hyperactive end theme to the lion’s dramatic solo with appropriate visuals. A couple are far, far too cool for anything in this series, which is just sort of awesome. I can’t wait to see what the jellyfish’s will be.
It’s the sort of series that can go completely wrong toward the end, but so far so good.