To Be Hero – Review
To Be Hero was awarded as Best Short of the Year in our Anime Awards.
To Be Hero:
Original Air Dates: October 5th, 2016 – December 21st, 2016
Synopsis: ‘Old Man’ is a very attractive, but terrible slob and failure as a father. He works as a toilet seat designer, divorced from his wife, and lives with his daughter, Min-chan, who is both very smart and athletic. However, one day after coming home scolded by his daughter for hitting on another pack of floozies, Old Man takes a dump and gets sucked down into the toilet bowl and sewers! There he’s given an important job by a strange muscular individual: to become a hero and save the world! As Old Man returns to his normal life he discovers his good looks are gone, replaced with a chubby frame in exchange. Now he must battle to protect the Earth and his daughter Min-chan!
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Based on visuals alone many might assume that To Be Hero is little more than an unrefined short animation, with balls to the wall absurdity to match its slightly abnormal style, with the rare occasion for some truly eye catching animation. But there’s actually a whole lot more to it than meets the eye.
Linny: The animation style and the character designs are a bit different than usual, which gives the show its own distinct look. Like Tom pointed out, the show itself can be rather crass and vulgar and might gross out any viewer with a more sensitive or refined palate. However, the humour isn’t particularly offensive, just really, really lowbrow at times. And while the show lays that humour on thick, it does also contain some well executed mockery and parodies of famous anime tropes and cliches, breaking the fourth wall for humour that appeals to a wider audience.
Tom: Make no mistake, To Be Hero’s comedy rarely extends beyond lowbrow, even when it’s mocking tropes and cliches. But the humor becomes more clever over the course of the series, gradually perfecting when to end a joke and not drag itself on too long. In fact, the weakest the show ever is, is that first episode. From there things only constantly improve and tighten up until To Be Hero feels like a well oiled machine, churning out humor and eventually, surprisingly, heart.
Linny: The fact that To Be Hero can pull off the transition from crass to heartwarming is one of the many reasons you might end up falling in love with the show. Sure your inner 5 year old will be guffawing until your sides hurt but when the story turns sombre, it pulls you in just as quickly, making you feel invested in the future of people you wouldn’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole otherwise. However, there is a chance some viewers might not be won over due to its short form run time. By proxy the story can sometimes feel rushed and hectic as it tries to squeeze everything in. And as tends to be the norm with short form, a lot of the dialogue and scenes can move very fast with characters almost rapping their lines.
Tom: Believe it or not, but To Be Hero’s emotional core and journey for Old Man is a strong one. In fact, the comedy kind of sinks away for a couple episodes, including the finale, which can really bring the feels in a surprisingly effective way. The series includes a twist near the end that normally wouldn’t work, but because To Be Hero has been secretly building to it, with many of its jokes, elements, and characters all a part of this undercurrent of emotion it really, really works. Old Man himself is, surprisingly, a fairly emotional character, thanks in part to his highly transformative arc. You can’t help but find yourself cheering for him at the end. He may be a pervert, and that crass humor does come back to bite the show in the ass for anyone turned off by vulgarity, but those who aren’t so disgusted will find themselves growing to love him, especially as he struggles to better himself.
Linny: Min-chan, the daughter of our protagonist, comes off as a mean tsundere like character as she constantly physically and verbally abuses her father for being a playboy and not being around to play the parental role when she needs him. For those who worry that she might come off as just a one note aggressive and abusive female, her behaviour feels justified as the show makes it clear that her resentment is reasonable and justified. For those who crave physically strong, independent female characters who also show heart, Min-chan proves to be a very likeable character.
Tom: The villains themselves, seemingly one off jokes and trope commentary are all actually woven so well into the narrative you could rewatch To Be Hero after the revelation and gain a new appreciation for their place in the narrative. It feels like everything is connected and woven in such a way to service To Be Hero’s emotional core and that’s actually very impressive.
Linny: It’s truly amazing how these crass male characters evolve as important pieces of the story. That said, the male characters in this show can be … rather unique in their vulgarity. From a character that uses flashing himself as a means of offense/defense to one that reveals he uses his appearance changing abilities to please his father at night…it’s all stuff that definitely has the potential to offend. So be warned. However, most, if not all these characters redeem themselves or prove to be such valuable pieces of the puzzle that the show would feel incomplete without them.
Tom: To Be Hero is the product of a collaboration between the Chinese and Japanese regions, although it’s not entirely clear how much Japan influenced the production. But this ultimately means there’s two versions, China’s original and then the Japanese broadcast. America has been getting the Japanese copy, but that means we’re missing out thanks to some crucial changes and edits. Namely the Chinese copy of the series includes a few more tie ins that offer extra revelations for Old Man’s character and helps to explain why he did certain things. These are left out of the Japanese version in favor of adding in a final joke that feels tacked on and exceedingly unnecessary. Sadly there’s no legal way to watch the Chinese copy with English subtitles. (Thanks to Neogaf User Jarmel for this discovery.)
Linny: All in all, despite our lavishing praise on the series, I would still say this show is not for everyone. Some of the jokes are so juvenile or inappropriate that it would strongly upset certain viewers. However, if you can see the humour in and enjoy crude jokes, To Be Hero might just sweep you off your feet with its comedy and the heartwarming tale it unwraps with each episode.
Tom: To Be Hero started as little more than an uneven crass comedy, but built itself up into something with deeper levels of humor and a surprisingly strong emotional core. It’s not perfect, as the animation isn’t always that great to look at, and there’s occasions where jokes go on too long, or don’t really hit home, but what’s here is incredibly impressive. There’s little doubt in my mind that To Be Hero is in fact one of the best shorts of the year, if not the best short anime I’ve ever seen.
To Be Hero is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com