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"Hare+Guu" Vol. 7: The Mansion Family

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I’ve not seen volumes 5 and 6 of Hare+Guu, so I was a bit perplexed when I started the seventh volume and found Hare, Guu, and Weda living in an entirely new location. It turns out Weda has moved from her jungle home back to the city mansion where she lived as a youth. This abrupt change from the familiar jungle environment to the big city mansion is cool, because often shows don’t switch it up like that, especially late in the run. It reminds me of The Simpsons episode “You Only Move Twice”, where the crew had to design an entirely new town. So those bored with the jungle setting may like the freshness presented here.

The show also takes advantage of the change in locale. The volume opens with Dr. Clive missing Weda and deciding to pay her a surprise visit. But Hare doesn’t like this, as he wonders if Clive’s intentions are good or bad, so he, Guu, and a servant tail the couple as they go to a cafe and a hotel. In episode 25 Hare and Guu play tag around the mansion grounds, but things quickly go awry when the people in Guu’s stomach start wandering around outside their usual setting. Eventually the game of tag is abandoned and Hare talks with an older woman who he realizes is his grandmother, whom he has never seen.

The series comes to a close with Weda and Hare contemplating whether they should stay at the mansion or move back to their jungle home. The main conflict revolves around whether Weda and her mother will patch things up, as they had a tiff years earlier. Meanwhile, it turns out Guu has a video game controller that can control real life, and Hare gives it a shot.

As I noted in my volume 4 review, I don’t find Hare+Guu to be a “laugh out loud” show. There are two big laughs on this volume. One is when Dr. Clive gets punched in the stomach right after Hare and Guu break into his hotel room. The timing and quick animation make the joke work. The other stand-out involves a mass of rats in an air duct, in which Hare and Guu are both stuck, thanks to Guu’s getting herself wedged in and not being in a big hurry to get herself free.

As opposed to belly laughs, the appeal of Hare + Guu is more in the creativity that arises out of the situations. Episode 24 starts out as a typical sitcom-ish plot (like Hare dressing up as a girl so Weda won’t recognize him), but it soon veers in crazy directions: crawling through air ducts, hanging off building ledges, and gaining entrance to the next door neighbor’s room so they can listen in on Weda and Clive. And episode 25 takes a simple game of tag and makes it creepy, what with the huge mansion to hide in and a sinister-looking Guu lurking around every corner like a serial killer in a slasher flick.

The appeal is also in the characters, especially Guu’s visual and conceptual originality; how many anime characters have a multitude of objects living in their stomach? And even though it’s a comedy at heart, I was still interested in seeing what happened to the characters. Hare wonders whether he wants to stay with his new, cushy, but boring life (he has no friends around) or go back to the jungle and possibly have fewer opportunities. This is obviously a sign that I cared what happened to the characters.

The major weakness in the show, though, is Hare. He’s the straight man, which is often essential for comedy, yes, but his reactions to all the craziness are just annoying. Numerous times in volume 7 he just stands around screaming his lines, like he’s overloaded with adrenaline, caffeine, and pep pills. Unfortunately this kind of thing kills some of the comedy. Weda’s maid, who has something of a “thing” for her, apparently, also doesn’t work comically, as the show doesn’t push it beyond a “I’m a girl and I’m lusting after another girl!” running joke.

There are some stand-out animation sequences, as in episode 26 when Guu stretches her arm to reach a fleeing Hare. As Hare is dragged through the mansion by Guu’s super long, rubbery arm, we get some fine zany cartooniness and animation on ones. There are also quite a few off-the-wall face vaults, so the visuals don’t get boring despite the sections of limited movement.

Bang Zoom’s dub continues to be quite good, especially in Jennifer Sekiguchi’s work as Guu. While she usually voices higher-pitched characters in most of the shows I’ve seen her in, her lower voice here works well for the character. And you wouldn’t think that a voice in monotone would still be engaging to listen to, but it is; the way Jennifer delivers Guu’s dry replies and lifeless exclamations, even in high-energy situations, is quite good. And as a Wendee Lee fan, I find her voice for Weda, which is appropriately peppy and bubbly (with a hint of airheadedness), to be a nice contrast to Guu.

Special features on Volume 7 include two minutes of English outtakes, clean open/close, and translation/cultural notes. One thing I didn’t mention about the former volume is the menu designs, which I love. The tropical-themed backgrounds and menu selections really reflect the flavor of the show, and it’s nice that the art on the menu is consistent with the specific volume inserted.

Since comedy is such a subjective thing, I don’t know whether to recommend Hare+Guu or not. While I personally don’t find it the hilarious riot some do, it’s still fun to watch and as such, I’d recommend that readers give it a try.