TEPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ’til You Cry – Episode 1

By: Alex Henderson July 3, 20220 Comments
Stlized closeup of the three main characters from Teppen, their mouths open in a shout

What’s it about? Yayoi, Yuzu, and Yomogi form the manzai trio Young Wai-Wai, representing the Kansai region in a national comedy showdown. Can the girls shine on stage and get to the top?

As the fifteen exclamation points in the title might imply, Teppen has ENERGY! This premiere is fast-paced, zooming back and forth along a non-linear storyline and introducing all of the characters (five troupes of three; one comedy girl for each “!”). It’s a lot! I feel like I’m sitting here, a bewildered and windswept Wile E. Coyote in the wake of Roadrunner. But as the noise and movement of Teppen vanishes into the distance and I contemplate my feelings, I… think I had a pretty good time.

Character depth is not really what you’re going to get here: there are a lot of 2D girls thrown at you in a short space of time, each relying on a shorthand gimmick to make an impression. The Celebri-Tea trio are fancy, elegant ladies, “renovating” their dorm at the comedy school into a Versailles-style parlour room. The Invaders try to speak to space aliens, and one of them is implied to actually be one. Akudare Kingdom is from the countryside and really want to eat soboro natto.

Three girls standing outside a supermarket. One is lifting her arms to the sky and shouting in frustration. Subtitle text reads: How could anyone not appreciate the perfect union of natto beans and dried daikon strips?

And Bullet Kunoichi… I’m not totally sure, actually. Their vibe seems less unified—one of them is buff, one thinks she’s really cute and is convinced her audience will worship her as a god, and the third is mostly annoyed with her. Maybe they all want to be famous? Maybe their theme is “chaos”.

Whether these groups are stereotypes or parodies of their respective regions of Japan, I unfortunately can’t tell you for sure, aside from gesturing to the intense “country bumpkin” characterization of Akudare Kingdom. Maybe these young women will gain more depth as the series goes along. For now, it seems like each of the trios shares a personality trait and, in some cases, shares a brain cell.

But that’s okay, because Teppen is here to be colorful, silly, and fun. Whether or not this kind of rapid-fire shenanigans-based comedy is your thing, of course, is up to you. The jokes seem inoffensive so far, if a bit loud and shallow. The main conflict of the episode involves Young Wai-Wai trying to figure out how a trophy belonging to their dorm manager got broken. The solution to this mystery relies on slapstick physics and “resolves” ridiculously. But it’s okay, because the girls get to use the zany situation as material for a comedy routine! It feels a little bit kid-cartoony, which again, isn’t bad, but won’t necessarily be for everyone.

Two girls, seen from the back, looking down from on top of a stage. A third girl stands in between them, clapping. Subtitle text reads: Y'all funny!

That’s the trouble with a show about comedy, I suppose: if you don’t find it funny, the whole thing kind of falls to pieces. I didn’t laugh ’til I cried, but I got a couple of breathing-hard-out-of-your-nose chuckles out of this episode (though funnily enough, one of the things that made me laugh wasn’t an actual joke from the main characters, but something Yomogi’s younger sisters did while they were playing with toys. As in real life, sometimes little kids being little kids is more amusing than anything a grown-up consciously tries to construct).

Teppen is silly, high-energy, and has a cast full of eye-catching yet flat characters. But hey, there’s been no fanservice, no creepy camera pans, no jokes in poor taste (again, save for maybe leaning on regional stereotypes about uncultured country folk who are missing teeth and want nothing more than to eat “weird” food). If it can keep up this energy for a whole series, Teppen might be a fun little pop of color to distract you from the ills of the world on your summer evenings. Give it a shot and see if Young Wai-Wai—or one of their rival troupes—makes you giggle.

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