Review: Super Milk Chan

Recently they started running this show after their A-list material Sunday nights on Adult Swim. I’ve seen a few episodes of it, and I still can’t quite figure out if I like it or not.

Hmm, maybe if I try writing a review of it, I’ll be able to figure it out. Here goes nothing.

Super Milk Chan is a prime example of how one of Japan’s chief exports is distilled weirdness.

Now, weirdness is surely no stranger to the Adult Swim lineup. And while I do tend to enjoy offbeat shows and movies, weirdness is a tricky thing to get right. Do it well, and you’ll end up with something brilliant, like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021 on a good day, or even (if you’re really lucky) FLCL. Do it poorly, and you risk winding up with Sealab 2021 on a bad day or, heaven forbid, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

Super Milk Chan is weird, there’s no doubt about that. It stars a drooling preschooler named Milk who lives with a water-filled robot and a green blobby thing. She cheats the landlord out of his rent, yells “You Dumbass!” at the robot a lot, and is called upon by The President to solve the crisis of the day (such as “a bunch of fish in the ocean are drunk” or “I accidentally launched a missile at my own office”). Saving the day usually involves going to see Dr. Eyepatch at the King’s Idea Laboratory to get something which may (or may not) help. Eventually the problem is solved one way or another, often by random chance, and then they go get sushi or something.

Actually, using the world “usually” is an understatement. This show’s plots are very formulaic, and deliberately so. Last Sunday’s episode took this to an extreme, running through the entire plot in the first half of the epiosde, then running through the exact same plot but with different gags, and then starting a third run-through before the credits rolled. So clearly, you’re watching it for the humor, not the plot. (Oh, Milk got the landlord to run away without paying him the rent! I didn’t see that coming!)

But the thing with translating humor from Japanese to English is, it’s hard. Not that translating from Japanese to English is normally easy — far from it — but having jokes survive translation is hard indeed, especially when a lot of them seem to focus on Japanese pop culture references. (At least, I assume that’s what they are. It’s all just random Japanese-sounding names to me, so whatever joke may or may not be there, I’m not getting it.) So that cuts out half of the humor right there. Some of what’s left are pure non-sequiturs, like the live-action video-essay-esque scenes that inexplicably interrupt most of the episodes.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when it’s funny, it can be pretty funny. For example, I quite enjoyed the episode where Milk was trying to play a dating sim. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “let’s barge in on homeless people and make fun of what they eat” show-within-a-show becomes next season’s “reality” TV hit. The highly structured format lends itself readily to running gags, like the robot hoping to meet its father at King’s Idea (“How dreamy!”) at each visit, only to wind up being brutally insulted by Dr. Eyepatch (“Please let him not be my daddy!”). If you want a show where none of the characters ever learn anything, this is it.

I guess you could say that you don’t watch the show to see what is going to happen, but for how it is going to happen. [Editor's note: I originally typed "want" instead of "watch" in that sentence. Innocent typo or Freudian slip? You be the judge.]

There’s really not a whole lot else to say about Super Milk Chan. In the end, it all comes down to whether you’re willing to sit through the inscrutable to get to the funny, and if you can get enjoyment out of the sheer weirdness that permeates everything. If so, it’s probably worth watching. If not, I doubt you’ll be able to change the channel fast enough.

Since I haven’t stopped watching it yet, I guess I fall into the former camp.

Now let’s go get sushi or something.

2 Responses

  1. Ooh, a character on CN was playing a dating sim, a genre of games which there happens to only be one true contender for on the American market?

    I like the sound of that.

  2. They may be disappointed when they see Sprung as no “kill the girl you’re talking to” button like Milk’s game did.

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