Kakushi Gotō is a successful manga artist whose series regularly appear in popular weekly magazines. However, he doesn’t draw run-of-the-mill manga about dragons or the misadventures of high-school kids. Rather, he specialises in “ecchi”, a sub-genre of manga known for its sexual precociousness and double entendre-based humour. And while Kakushi is happy with his success, there is one person he is desperate to prevent knowing what he does for a living: Hima, his bright, inquisitive 10 year old daughter. Tormented by the thought that Hima might be ashamed of him and his work, Kakushi constructs an elaborate charade in which he pretends to be an ordinary “salaryman”. But that in turn means he must always be on guard against any situation in which he might be exposed: a context in which mistakes, mix-ups and misunderstandings inevitably abound. Aided and abetted by his loyal assistants and dim-witted editor, Kakushi shares the landmarks of childhood with Hima, all the while protecting her from what he feels are the all-too-harsh realities of existence. But when disaster does finally loom, it doesn’t come through any exposure of Kakushi’s occupation, but from the tragic circumstances that attended the death of his wife many years before,,,

Based on the popular comedy manga series created by Kōji Kumeta, and animated by the Ajia-do Animation Works studio, “Kakushigoto” aired on Japanese television between April and June 2020. Presented in a lovely visual style that combines hand-drawn animation and CGI enhancement into a classically mangaesque aesthetic, the title carries a double meaning in Japanese, denoting either a “secret” or a “body of work”, thus nicely summing up the central premise of the series. The comedy is absurdist and chaotic, which in turn makes the over-the-top reaction tropes that feature throughout the series less galling than they might have been in a more seriously themed story. But beneath the laughter – and there are genuine laughs to be had, right up to the end – there is a poignant and deftly spun narrative thread about an emotionally wounded father and his relationship with his adored daughter. “Kakushigoto” also takes time to make some ironic – and pointed – observations about the manga and anime industries, and the realities that exist beneath the glittering surfaces of both. From the joyous opening theme (performed by Japanese rock band Flumpool) to the emotionally affecting denouement (which is all the better for its nicely ironic twist), “Kakushigoto” is an unexpected gem that will pluck both your funny bone and your heartstrings, and have you feeling better for it afterwards.     

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.