The Yamakan vehicle Senyuu.can be seen as one of the latest examples of the short five minute (or less) comedies series that have become more prominent in the last year or two. The names of these shows typically last as long in the memory as the episodes themselves. Recorder to Randoseru and Teekyuu are in or will have third seasons airing by the end of the year. On the other side there are examples like Ai Mai Mi, Boku no Imouto wa “Osaka Okan”, Haitai Nanafa, Mangirl! and Sparrow’s Hotel that throw jokes at the wall for 2-3 minutes straight hoping something sticks, and in many cases are more well known for having microscopic budgets. Then there is also the rarer examples of light-hearted storytelling like Aiura and Yama no Susume, which are more short-form school life series than anything. So what makes Senyuu. special?
First and foremost, Senyuu. is a comedy at its core. The hero Alba and his attendant Ross start out being sent by a generic king figure on a generic mission to defeat the new Demon King who opened up a portal to the demon realm. Over time they are introduced to new characters; Ruki, the new Demon King who is responsible for their current plight by making popcorn, Rudolf the lolicon attendant working for the evil hero Foi Foi, Hime-chan the armor-suited princess hero and Ares the attendant who always messes her up. Along with them are a cast of demons who are comical or not depending on their role.
In its second season, Senyuu. has had a much more serious edge to it, while also still maintaining the awareness that it is a comedy. I have found it increasingly interesting because of its attempts to inject a bit of seriousness where there was little before.
At the start of the season, the cast split up into two different groups. Alba, increasingly on the periphery as the story went was comically trying to reunite with Ross using the assistance of Eres, Hime-chan, Foi Foi and the comedic shape-shifting demon November Elf. That group represents the pure comedy take that the early episodes of the first season represented.
The other group is where the story has evolved. Ross ended up in an awkward coalition with Ruki, the demon Januar Ein and his personal hero Samejima along with Januar’s masochistic cat Michaelaju and another demon Februar Zwei generally being useless. This group has been involved in exposing the grand scheme of Dezember Zwolf in trying to wake up the original Demon King. They need either the power of Januar or for the legendary hero Ross to use up enough of his magic to break the seal keeping the Demon King asleep.
The episodes involving the first group have been classic Yamakan slapstick comedy. Alba gets in trouble, ends up in jail for the umpteenth time and breaks out again in absurd fashion. Eres adds a function to Hime-chan’s armor that transforms it into a motorcycle, without considering the consequences to the person inside. It’s almost like Ross’s constant abuse of Alba in the first season all over again.
The other group’s scenes vary depending on which character is the main focus. For all of Samejima’s schtick of just being incredibly manly to intimidate his opponents, there’s Dezember dispensing with threats and schemes. The only connection stylistically to Yamakan being the fact that he wears a mask that is his face in a shadow. They went a whole battle scene with no jokes in it at all. The ever entertaining narrator, voiced by Nakata Jouji, questioned the direction of the series. This was Senyuu, but not as anyone who had seen the show up to this point knew it.
Now that both sides have come together, where does Senyuu go from here? A return to the first season’s silliness seems out of place now that we know that Ross is the true hero. Actually judging by the conclusion of the most recent episode, I may have overestimated Yamakan wanting to create a genre-busting short-form comedy.