Mr. Villain’s Day Off – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser January 8, 20240 Comments
a tall man in an overcoat carrying a stuffed panda

What’s it about? A certain villain is passionate about taking over the earth and eradicating humanity on behalf of a certain evil organization. He’s equally passionate about doing absolutely no work on his days off, whether that means pretending not to know coworkers or helping a hated enemy find the train station.

Are you a fan of the punch-clock villain trope? Do you experience joy at the concept of hearing a man describe mundane activities in extremely ominous terms, in a voice I initially thought it would be too mean to call “replacement Tsuda Kenjiro” before learning it was literally true? Do you thrill when you hear a certain devious horn progression?

Because listen, the answer for me is “yes.”

the protagonist looking at his phone. "Once humanity is eradicated, I'll proliferate the pandas."
No listen, he’s selling me on it

Mr Villain’s Day Off falls into two categories that are a staple of the Winter season: it would be drowned out by the traditionally more robust offerings of a Spring or Fall, and it probably should’ve been a short series rather than a full 22 minutes. The writing is mainly variations on one gag, and its origins as a Pixiv short are still plain when each new scene opens by reexplaining the basic conceit. It’s not too visually daring, relying on the old Dezaki standby of punctuating a scene with a painterly still frame.

But for all the reservations I can throw, it still achieved the ultimate iyashikei goal: ending the episode with the feeling of a warm, fuzzy blanket after a long day. For some reason, the emphatic focus on a strict work-life balance struck a chord; maybe it’s that similar shows like Miss KUROITSU are critical of the hells of overwork but are more centered on the relatability of trying to keep your head above water. The titular villain, meanwhile, is extremely successfully protecting that barrier, and incidentally making his off-time richer as a result. It’s a sort of constructive fantasy rather than “you’re not alone in struggling” commiseration, and while both have their place I found the former really clicked with me. It may also help that, unlike the other josei fantasy iyashikei of this season, Mr. Villain hasn’t tried to inelegantly weld an extremely serious subject to its cute animal shenanigans.

the protagonist looking at a child about to cry. caption reads 'very much panicking inside'
Is this organization taking applications

And speaking of those shenanigans: maybe I’m a simple soul, but cutely animated animals have yet to lose their effectiveness on me. Cheap bump of cuteness aside, it ties in with the exhausted overwork element when our protagonist is contemplating the murder of all humanity over a petty inconvenience like “they cycled the seasonal ice cream so now I can’t get my favorite flavor,” only to be soothed by panda merchandise. It’s hardly profound anti-capitalist commentary to say that the little joys get us through the systemic horrors, but that doesn’t make it less relatable. The jokes are familiar but they’re well-timed, competently executed with room to grow. Also, they included a cameo of a Pallas Cat, making this an automatic 10/10.

Going forward, I suspect the show’s secret weapon will be series composer Gotou Midori, writer of the criminally underrated Outburst Dreamer Boys. Gotou has a great ear for comedic ensembles, and the opening theme hints at a wealth of fellow evil villains and sentai heroes for the laconic protagonist to bounce off. This kind of premise absolutely requires a compelling cast, which can transform a repetitive joke into something inspired. There’s enough hints of that here that I’m willing to give it the old three episode test to see how things shake out. And not just because my partner and I have already started calling it “Crowley’s Day Off.”

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