May 30, 2017
Lancehot (All reviews)
It's been a decent year for anthropomorphic animals in TV animé. 2016 saw the CGI enhanced return of Chi's Sweet Adventure; the unique side scrolling comedy Sengoku Wildlife Caricatures; & the charmingly oddball CG-live action hybrid Nyanbo – probably as close as we'll get to a Yostuba&! adaptation. Quietly running throughout 2016 & still ongoing, though, was the return of an even older series, Mikio Igarashi's BonoBono.

Consisting of fifty, five minute vignettes, the first season follows the relaxing, amusing & often meandering days of the titular blue otter. Laid back, absent minded & always holding a clamshell, it doesn't take much for Bono to find pleasures in the simple things or have his mind fired, or distracted by, the most mundane or unusual occurrences. Imagine if Osaka from Azumanga Daioh got lost in the forest.

Rarely able to answer his own questions, Bono's woodland wanders are often accompanied by the brash yet earnest Raccoon (not a Tanuki!) & the adorably cynical Chipmunk. Though often of little help, they make for entertaining company, the trio having echoes of Pooh, Piglet & Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. A strong recurring support cast further add to the series – my favourites being Bono's lackadaisical father & Chipmonk's sisters.

Accompanying the entertaining characters is a commendable production from director Hidenori Yamaguchi & studio Eiken. The series maintains a consistently mellow pacing, resisting the possible temptation to heighten the emotion of scenes or overindulge in giffable character reactions. The only thing that might seem odd at first is the characters tendency to switch between using conventional mouth flaps & something that looks more like the trumpet mouths in Pingu. A bright yet soft colour palette more akin to children's illustration than typical TV anime further adds to the relaxed mood, as does the music. It's hard to resist the urge to hum or whistle along to Moonbright's theme song.

It's not all smooth sailing, though. As fun as the main trio can be, their shtick can get old. Raccoon often fills the role of tsukkomi, which means lots of hitting & shouting at other characters. An otherwise fun character, it's unfortunate that arguably he's at his weakest when purposely trying to be funny. Chipmunk, while their cynicism & occasional sinister turns are adorable, also has “are you going to bully me?” for a catchphrase, repeated ad nauseum in some episodes. There is also a lot of toilet humour, which is fine but there is only so many times you can laugh at poo.

Then again, Bono Bono isn't a series that's really meant to be binged, which is when the more repetitive elements of its humour become obvious. While not quite as episodic as it appears, with many vignettes being paired by theme or characters if not direct continuations, none the less it's arguably best enjoyed a few episodes at a time. Its laid back atmosphere & quietly comic musing on the big issues (to a small animal) make for a great visual palette cleanser to relax & clear the mind - or maybe even get you thinking yourself.

Made for children but enjoyable by all, Bono Bono is the kind of laid back, family friendly TV that one sometimes wishes there was more of. Pleasantly relaxing & often amusing, if you're looking for an anthropomorphic alternative to the usual anime fare, you'll find it here.