Netflix takes over the helm of a successful anime series with The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Reawakened, a continuation of a franchise that began as “gag manga” (read: comedy manga, not serious/weird tentacle sci-fi doomsday violent dramatic etc. manga), became an extended series of television shorts and, eventually, a live-action movie released in Japan. The animated stories of a teenager with a variety of superhuman psychic abilities appeared to conclude for good in 2018, but really didn’t, because Netflix is here to revive everything from The Babysitters Club and Lost in Space to, I dunno, what’s next, Spectreman? (Note to Netflix: please reboot Spectreman!)
THE DISASTROUS LIFE OF SAIKI K.: REAWAKENED: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A closeup of protagonist Saiki K.: Pink hair, little electrode thingies on the sides of his head, green glasses, droll voiceover that I think is his telepathic communication with us or the other characters or both, I’m not sure, but he soon makes an arrogant, but likely convincing case that he’s further evolved than the rest of us.
The Gist: It’s true — Saiki K. (voice of Hiroshi Kamiya) is further evolved than the rest of us. (Saiki is pronounced “psyche,” which I assume is an English-language pun?) Noobs should know that Saiki has normal parents and normal friends and goes to a normal high school, and by “normal,” I mean normal for a hyperactive and weird anime series that indulges stereotypically exaggerated visual and tonal styles. He can read minds, move objects with his mind, see through objects with his mind, control other minds with his mind, among other things, including, as evident in this episode’s five mini-episode snippets, create paper printouts of images from his mind or other people’s minds. One hopes Saiki K. minds his mind, lest he use his considerably powerful abilities to participate in insider trading and become yet another amoral billionaire bent on acquiring wealth at the expense of Earth and its citizenry.
I digress. In the first snippet, he helps a little girl find her lost dog. In the second and third respectively, he impersonates his father Kuniharu’s (Mitsuo Iwata) video-game avatar and mind-swaps with his father and solves a problem for him at work, where he’s an editor for a manga publisher. In the fourth, he overhears a parent-teacher conference with his mother, Kurumi (Rikako Aikawa), and his friend Nendo’s (Kenta Miyake) mom. And in the final short, everyone in Saiki’s art class presents their clay-sculpture project.
Our Take: The character carries himself calmly compared to the rest of the very excitable and buffoonish citizenry. But does he have to be such an aloof poop about it? The contrast is the comedy — the way his monotone voiceover cuts through the chaos with nigh-robotic, Spocklike applications of logic. It’s also refreshing, and amusing, to see a superhuman use his powers to solve mundane problems (while in his dad’s body, he manipulates a despondent comic artist to get meet his deadline expeditiously) instead of fighting 30-foot robots, invading Martian monsters or mustache-twirling supervillains hiding out in volcano headquarters.
Then again, what’s Spider-Man’s mantra? With great power something something? Isn’t there an international conflict that Saiki could solve before it devolves into military invasions and missile launchings or something? He’s cooler than thou, and perhaps doesn’t care about the fate of the world — and therefore is a comic extrapolation upon teenage self-absorption. The art-class episode seems to be random weirdness at first glance, until we realize its barrage of screaming caricatures of high-school stereotypes is cutting and satirical. The show skewers those tropes with its sharpened neo-sci-fi concept. There’s some commentary to be found, if you want to cut through the series’ bazonkers pace and OTT weirdness.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: A shot of Saiki’s art project which, appears to be a castle of some type that takes up an entire city block.
Sleeper Star: The dog Saiki rescues looks like Totoro crossed with a tanuki.
Most Pilot-y Line: “I’m an entirely different species. Friendship is impossible,” is Saiki’s self-assessment — and he really doesn’t seem too upset about it.
Our Call: STREAM IT, especially if you enjoy offbeat anime. Keep in mind, though, Saiki K.: Reawakened is more likely to please franchise fans more than newcomers.