The Laughing Salesman – Episode 1

By: Amelia Cook April 3, 20178 Comments

What’s it about? “My name is Moguro Fukuzou. They call me the Laughing Salesman. Oh, I’m no ordinary salesman. The merchandise I deal with is hearts… Yes, human hearts. All people in this world – old, young, man, and woman – are lonely at heart. I will fill that emptiness in their hearts. Oh, no. I don’t need a single yen. There is no greater reward than to see a satisfied customer.”

This is the opening monologue from the Laughing Salesman himself. Sounds lovely – until you realise he looks like this…

A man in a suit, with sleepy eyes staring upwards, his mouth open in an inhumanly wide, fixed grin with large teeth and red lips.

There are two words for heart in Japanese: ‘kokoro’, meaning the emotional, romantic heart, and ‘shinzo’, meaning the physical heart. The man in this image looks like he harvests physical organs, but the word he uses in the monologue is ‘kokoro’. That contrast is the point. From the creepy character design to the constantly shifting background to the Japanese alphabets being used the opposite way around to usual in the title, everything about The Laughing Salesman is designed to be a little off, provoke discomfort.

The stories, two per episode, are just as uncomfortable. They are modern day parables, in which the Laughing Salesman offers his “customer” something they want then watches it destroy them. Or, more precisely, he watches them destroy themselves through impatience, impulsiveness or greed. His gifts have conditions which go against the entitlement and lack of discipline of his customers, leading to their inevitable failure and punishment. I genuinely wonder who will find this fun to watch twice per episode for 12 weeks.

The visual direction is striking, but the character design is deliberately ugly. On the plus side, it offers more diverse body types than usual…

Five women with various body types, hairstyles and styles of dress sit around a table and smile.
Two OLs touch the arms of a third. All three have different body types and hairstyles.

…but on the  minus side, women deemed unattractive are portrayed like objects of horror.

A woman with wide eyes and a gaping grin runs towards you from a black background, her face and body mostly in shadow.
An old woman with small eyes, straggly grey hairs and a grin with teeth missing screams.

The stories feature a 29-year-old salaryman and a 31-year old OL (‘office lady’ – general administrator). Despite being the most generic white collar job titles possible, all the characters are unsympathetic, relatable only in ways we might be ashamed of. People in the world of The Laughing Salesman are so far shallow, desperate, bitter and cruel, regardless of gender or social status. Is it going for social commentary? It doesn’t feel like it, but perhaps a deeper message will emerge over the next three months.

I have no idea if this formula is supposed to spur self-reflection or schadenfreude, or why this is a full-length anime instead of shorts. It’s visually interesting but heartless, and I’m not sure who will love it.

Great opening credits though.

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