How To Build a Series: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. Reawakened

Okay, the Saiki K. series is a whole franchise built around a gag manga, and like any gag-based show, as long as the jokes keep coming, so do the manga volumes and anime episodes. Right? Just like Lucky Star, it’s good as long as it stays funny.

The six-episode Reawakened arc is up there on Netflix, so I ran through it twice. You know what? It’s a really simple story built around just a couple basic elements but it’s funnier than *bleep*.

We have Saiki himself. He’s got superpowers out the yin-yang: as I was paying half attention he demonstrated telekinesis, X-ray vision, telepathy, clairvoyance, mind control, super strength, invisibility, and the ability to reverse time. Those were just the ones I wrote down; I’m sure I missed a few.

Now a protagonist needs to have a flaw, and especially a protagonist with as many powers as Saiki. “The protagonist is a ___ but ____,” right? Saiki is a superhero but he doesn’t want to be one.

The name is Saiki, baby, please insert superpowers.

Right? What he wants more than anything is to be a normal kid. He’s tired of looking at peoples’ skeletons with his x-ray vision, of having to hear their thoughts from morning to night, of having to remember to control his super strength. He wishes he could just be a kid. And that suggests a really simple plot.

Ready?

He gets his wish.

Boom!

From there it pretty much writes itself. If he gets his wish and he stays normal, the franchise is broken; I mean, who gives a crap about a normal high school kid? It would be like watching The Melancholy of Kyon or something like that, Neon Genesis Evangelion if everyone was like Aida (the nerdy kid who ISN’T a pilot).

So he has to get his wish and not like the outcome.

What’s really cool about that is that it’s one of the Seven Basic Plots and that’s tragedy. Tragedy? Sure: Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl. Except in this case it’s boy hates powers (wishes to be free), boy loses powers (yay, free!), boy gets powers back (ops).

What’s really neat about that it that it illustrates the difference between genre and plot. As a plot comedy doesn’t mean jokes, it means happy ending. And tragedy doesn’t mean tears – I mean, Saiki K. is funny, right? – it means the protagonist doesn’t get what he wants

So we get a show that is funny even though it’s structurally a tragedy. That’s a nice twist right there.

And it’s funny because while it’s plot is tragedy, its genre is almost perfectly comedy. The great animation director Chuck Jones has said (about the Wile E. Coyote films especially), “Farce is extraordinary things happening to ordinary people, and comedy is extraordinary people happening to ordinary things.”

And if Saiki K isn’t “extraordinary people happening to ordinary things,” I’ll eat every print of it. Is there anything more ordinary than high school? And into that high school we drop Saiki and all his abilities, Riki with his spectacularly ugly appearance and oblivious nature, the clairvoyant Mikoto, Reita the medium, the beautiful – so beautiful she glows – Kokomi, and the spectacularly unlucky Hii (whose family name is Suzumiya…hmmm….) what you have is a cast of extraordinary people.

You also have a cast with not only a lot of comic potential but also a lot of potential story-wise. Remember how that stuff works? Just between the six of them (and I didn’t list all the important characters) there are 6 times 5 divided by 2 interrelationships, fifteen of them. Hoo baby, that’s a lot of potential for not just comedy but outright mayhem, especially given the special powers several of them have.

How much potential? Well, how about 50 manga volumes worth of it?

In Reawakened, at least, you have a story that is a tragedy in plot, but a comedy in design. See any tension there?

I’m not going to bother reading the manga unless it gets released in some kind of omnibus edition for like a buck a volume. I mean, if I want gag manga I have Saint Young Men and Kanna’s Daily Life, right?

But Reawakened is funny enough and complex enough that I’ll seek out the other series. And then I’ll do what I do with Reawakened: turn it on and let run in the background while I do something else. After all, if the gags keep coming I’ll catch a few of them.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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