I never knew Rodney Dangerfield was in an anime? In truth he wasn’t, but in the story of Botchan, our main protagonist literally, “Gets no respect”… except for a couple key allies. Based off of the classic novel by Natsume Sōseki, Botchan would have a couple of adaptations in the anime world including this two episode part of the 1986 Animated Classics of Japanese Literature, which is what will be discussed here.
Considered a classic in Japan and often read during one’s school days, Botchan was not part of my curriculum here in the States. I got to read The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman, but no Botchan. Thankfully the book is readily available as well as many public domain sources online… but we get an alternative as anime fans. Actually two! Botchan also exists as an animated TV special from 1980 as well as this 1986 version from the meta series Animated Classics of Japanese Literature. Of the many episodes and stories I have explored from this series, Botchan stands out as one of the few comedic stories. Many of the Animated Classics of Japanese Literature adaptations are dramas in one shape of another and Botchan is definitely a breathe of funny fresh air.
Botchan by the way is our main protagonist. From what I can tell this name is more like a title like ‘young master’ so who knows what his real name is as I never seem to catch anything of it from the two episode run. Kind of like The Dude from the Big Lebowski? Botchan is a recent graduate with an education in physics who has been offered a teaching position at a middle school far off in some backwoods town. He leaves his native Tokyo and his trusted family servant to try out a different life so to speak. He arrives, finds the school’s teaching staff interesting (giving them all nicknames), enjoys swimming in the hot springs when no one is looking and likes eating his share of tempura at dinner all to the dismay of his students who constantly ridicule this rookie teacher. Botchan tries to bring up their shenanigans only to find difficulties with the senior school staff.
Questions arise, who does one trust and why are certain senior staff members extremely unhelpful? Botchan is a great tale of bringing to the light the injustices of nepotism and snobbery. Certain times in life we often wish we could stand up for something that seems very wrong and face those who believe themselves to be worthy of setting the rules to favor certain outcomes. With Botchan we have this played out in a very humerous way. Often times we ask is revenge best served as a cold dish? Sometimes, but enjoying shaved ice with a friend and ally can be better! (it’s part of the story trust me).
“How ya doing there Dude?” “Not too good man.” “One of those days huh?” “Yeah!”