Mayo Chiki is never going to be considered a great anime, moderately entertaining and amusing – yes, but great – no; however, even for an anime like Mayo Chiki, being aware of classical Japanese literary works can come in handy. My own knowledge of classical Japanese literary works is very, very limited but I happened to have the required knowledge to understand the joke in the final scene of episode 10 and to find it hilarious.
For those that haven’t seen Mayo Chiki, the scene in question starts out with a character named Usami (the one letter difference her name and bunny – usagi – has been used for humorous purposes already) who is playing a video game given to her as a “present”. The game features a chibi version of herself trying to catch a carrot. This appears to be a simple joke until Usami catches the carrot and a pyramid of creepy characters latch onto her as she’s being drawn up. This tickles my memory; I’ve seen this before. My suspicions are confirmed when the “angelic” character cuts the string holding the carrot and Usami falls into a pool of blood straight out of Hell.
Like I said, I’ve seen this before. I wish I could say that I’ve taken to reading classic Japanese literature because it probably would be helpful in understanding Japanese culture but I haven’t. Instead, I remember an anime that aired a couple of years ago by the name of Blue Literature (Aoi Bungaku). Animated by Madhouse and watched by almost no one, it featured several critically acclaimed, well-known works in 20th century Japanese literature adapted to anime form. It was a really great anime and one that I wished more people had watched. One of the tales used was a story written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa – The Spider’s Thread which was published in 1918.
The Spider’s Thread was written as a children’s story and the anime version features an evil thief who finally gets what he deserves. Right before his death, he happened to spare the life of a spider and for that one good deed he is given a chance to leave Hell and enter Heaven. This chance comes in the form of a spider’s thread that is hung down allowing the thief to climb out of the pits of Hell. Of course, there are many other people in Hell that would like to leave Hell and these people try to climb out as well. The thief, fearing the thread would break and not caring about the others, tries to physically stop these people from climbing up too. This compassionless behavior seals the fate of the thief and he falls back down to Hell after the spider cuts the thread to Heaven and walks away.
By the way, the thief was fabulously voiced by Mamoru Miyano who’s now well-known for voicing Okabe Rintarou, the mad scientist from Steins;Gate.
Even though I happened to get the reference this time, I was reminded that anime does, in fact, come from a foreign culture and even relatively well-versed individuals in a foreign culture are lacking in so many of the areas that native viewers just know.
So, that was the joke to that scene in Mayo Chiki. I know a joke is not funny if it needs explained but next time it’ll be funny (especially if you go back and watch Blue Literature or read the original work).