This is another iteration series, although rather than putting a date on it, they dub it as ‘new’, but this is a reboot of a series that came out over 25 years ago. Some might call this a black comedy, but I feel it is in the horror genre, akin to the old “Night Gallery” shows, where people get what they deserve. But let us look deeper into “The Laughing Salesman” (“Warau seerusuman” or “Warau Salesman”).
So this is an anthology show, in that our salesman, Moguro Fukuzo (can you find him up there? Need a hint?) is the only constant. He talks about people and that he deals in human hearts. No, not that crazy Aztec ritual, where we take a jade knife and remove your still-beating organ from your chest as an offering to the Gods. We are talking the emotional heart and that all of us are lonely at heart. His duty or calling or forte is to fill that hole in your heart…too bad he fills it with concrete.
Do not let this first wave of anime artwork (1962 to 1969) fool you. Just because there are no severed limbs or spurting blood or buckets of gore does not lessen the horror the show contains. In one sense, it suffers the “Hell Girl” Syndrome, in which the stories follow a predictable arc and there is no escape once Moguro sets his eyes on you.
A typical story proceeds as such: a person (usually a man, but not exclusively) has something missing in their life. Moguro inflicts himself upon them, sometimes taking them to his favorite bar, where they have a drink or two. The person opens up about his needs and Moguro is able to fill that need, but with a proviso, in that this is a one-time offer or a short-term crutch or a small taste approach, and that you must not ignore the warnings. Yeah, you saw this coming. The flaws that created the hole in the first place are going to compel the person to exceed the requirements and they have failed. Big time. Moguro exacts his vengeance and that person is now worse off than before and there is certainly no way out of this new hell.
But what does Moguro get from this? I mean, he takes no money, he doesn’t deliver a soul to a waiting demon, there are no marks taken off some black book, so why does he do this? My feeling is that he is a caliber of punishment to the stupid or that (although not mentioned at all), he himself is trying to erase some kind of psychic debt. And when we get to the last episode, the show ENDS! I mean, he gets on a plane and flies out of Japan and THAT’S IT!
Now, the bar he goes to has some kind of mediæval artwork on the wall. There is no database to plug in the content of the painting to determine what the artwork really is and who painted it, but it looks like some demon that is busy ferrying the souls of the damned to the lower levels of hell, something that Moguro is kind of doing.
The thing is that the show got tiresome. It was interesting to see how these people were served a dish of come-uppance, although it appeared that a couple of them were done because Moguro had an axe to grind and NEEDED to teach them a lesson. Overall, we are not plumbing new ground and a couple of the episodes were brought over from the previous series (which I have chosen not to view. I mean, I am coming upon this new like you would). It is, at best, a slight series, as it really did not know what it fully wanted to do with these tales. This is far down the list for me. I mean, if you are really between shows, this would fill your needs until something better comes along.
I would vote against binging. It’s just that it is going to drag, seeing people bend into their worst instincts and getting pounded like New Year’s mochi. Every. Single. Episode. You can see the gears turning and how the formula works, so the only real surprise is what they are going to get for failure to follow instructions. I mean, if you have a toothache or some bad diarrhea at 3 am and you need to stay up for awhile, this show would be perfect, as you can commiserate with the poor unfortunate souls up there. Otherwise, don’t do it. It’s a bad idea.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 5 (Extremely odd artistic approaches and decisions)
Plot 6 (Nothing new)
Pacing 8 (Strong and deliberate)
Effectiveness 6 (Too easy to see the outcome)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)
Bingeability 2 (Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)
Overall 5 (Falls into a rut fast and stays there)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. BOOM!