Maesetsu! Opening Act was a Fall 2020 series co-produced by AXsiZ and Studio Gokumi. The former, AXsiZ, is probably most known for Ms. Koizumi loves ramen noodles as well as its work on upcoming anime World’s End Harem. The latter, Studio Gokumi, has loads of notable titles, including the entirety of the Yuki Yuna Is a Hero series, as well as personal favorite, Tsuredure Children.
When I first watched Maesetsu! back in Fall 2020, I liked it, but not well enough to finish it. Instead, I spent my energy on shows like Akudama Drive, Moriarty the Patriot, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, and TONIKAWA, all of which captured me more quickly than Maesetsu! did. I found the jokes unfunny, especially since I haven't enjoyed a lot—or really, any—manzai-style comedy. And honestly, stand-up comedy of any kind typically isn't something I like. Still, I was drawn to Maesetsu! because of its charming, slice-of-life premise. Plus, its staff included Kagami Yoshimizu, the creator of Lucky Star. That made Maesetsu! an immediate sale, especially for the sole person who still feels passionate about that series in 2021.
Maesetsu! is a really enjoyable show… if comedy is your thing. If it's not, then it can be a bit of a drag, especially in its early episodes. Episode 1 features a painful impersonation of Konata Izumi impersonating Crayon Shin-chan which… falls as flat as that description, especially when it's done multiple times. This continues, to some degree, until the show grows its legs, though I'll say as someone who's not into Japanese manzai comedy, some of the jokes didn't hit right.
I won't say that Maesetsu!'s jokes are completely cultural, but quite a few do rely on an understanding of Japan. In fact, they rely, to some degree, on having lived in Japan or at least been to Japan, and can be hit or miss to viewers. However, there's definitely a lot of funny bits that felt universal in experience, and are executed well enough to make you laugh. Bits about food and onsen tickled me especially. Those jokes I got, as a former (and returning) resident of Japan. Some of the jokes that were referencing older material—there's references to 80s Japanese TV shows a few times— passed me by without so much as a chuckle. They weren't bad, but they just weren't something in my wheelhouse.
Thankfully, the comedy gets better and better as Mafuyu, Fubuki, Rin and Nayuta get better. The bits get snappier, their timing gets better, and the jokes broaden out from restricted, inaccessible bits of using relatable situations that everyone can laugh at. By episode 4, the show seems to have found the beginnings of that. That's when the comedy starts to gel, and you really start to like the girls. You see that maybe, they've got the chops to make it all the way to the top. Not immediately, of course, but one day. You start to get invested in being along for the ride, and ultimately, in seeing the girls find success. That's a lovely feeling for sure.
Speaking of the girls, Maesetsu! initially follows four: red-head Mafuyu Kogarashi, blue-haired Fubuki Kitakaze, twin-tailed Rin Araya, and soothing blonde Nayuta Asogi. All are 19-years-old, working part-time to support their dreams of becoming professional comedians on a grand stage. Better: all of our comedy quartet is quite likable, with distinct personalities that play off one another well, whether they're performing or just hanging out. Their friendship feels genuine, and is strong enough to support the show, even when the comedy flops and you get an intense wave of secondhand embarrassment. It's also strong enough to weather some serious character growth, most notably with Fubuki, who might seem like a wallflower, but is one of my favorite characters in the series.
In fact, this friendship is Maesetsu!'s biggest strength, which I alluded to above. It's what carries a lot of the “arcs”, though I would argue that the beauty of Maesetsu! is that there's really one big arc with lots of little moments of growth sprinkled in. Still, the friendship between the comedy quartet as a whole—and between each duo—frequently helps improve the comedy, especially once the girls find their own style and start to get good. This is most evident when the girls put on a comedy show at an onsen in episodes 4 and 5, and when they head to Osaka in the back half of the series. It's ultimately what kept me watching all the way through to the end, and it's why I think that Maesetsu! is actually pretty good, if a bit forgettable.
Maesetsu! Opening Act most likely isn't remembered outside of its Fall 2020 debut. In fact, you might have read this review, googled “Maesetsu!” after, and found out that yes, this show is only two seasons old. It wasn't even a flash in the pan: honestly, Maesetsu! slide completely under the radar for probably 99% of viewers. It's a shame too because Maesetsu! is perfect light-hearted anime fodder, offering up a stress-free show that's just about a quartet of young women who want to do something that makes them genuinely happy.
Ultimately, Maesetsu! is a show that I would really like to encourage you to watch, especially if you're looking for a low-stakes, more realistic entry in the sprawling slice-of-life genre. In many ways, I regret not finishing Maesetsu! last Fall. It really is a gem of a show, even if it's time in North American fandom has come and gone without much of a bang. There's something nice—something incredibly pleasant—about a show where all of the women in it are just having fun. There's something so intensely pleasant about seeing a quartet of young women finding their stride in an industry that often can be cruel to non-male participants.
It's also nice to spend time with a show that features a lot of older, middle-aged female comedians to serve as inspiration for the younger girls. And while Maesetsu!'s target audience is definitely a cis male audience, this show definitely offers up some really positive female friendships that feel true to life. There's never any “cattiness” between the girls. Instead, they talk things out, work together, and are cheering one another on so that they all reach the same goal at the same time. It's just gals being pals, and y'all? That's why I love slice-of-life anime.
In the end, Maesetsu! is a show well worth your time, not always for the comedy, but for the character growth and. If you're willing to set aside any preconceived notions of comedy and think of this as an underdog story—which Maesetsu! ultimately is—then you'll find a single cour series packed with a good deal of heart, likeable character, comedian cameos, and loads of food. And to me, that's a pretty good time, comedy fan or not.