Why did the pokute cross the road? What is a pokute anyway? Find out in the wonderfully bizarre comedy Haré+Guu!
Imagine that you're an average, 10-going-on-11-year-old boy who lives in the jungle with his mom. You go to school, play video games and eat pokute (a strange animal that looks like a cross between a bunny rabbit and Gumby and supposedly tastes delicious). Your village is small but full of, um, interesting people, such as your narcoleptic school teacher, your oddball classmates and the village chief who draws his hunting powers from his afro-like chest hair. Not too much out of the ordinary happens (well, relatively) but the jungle’s a nice place to live.
Then one night your mother Weda comes home drunk, which is pretty much what happens every night except this time she brings someone home with her. Guu is a young girl who's lost both her parents and Weda has decided to take the little orphan in. She's about your age, shy but very cute. The two of you get along great and you start to think that maybe your mom did something right for once.
When you wake up the next morning, Guu is different. Yes, she still has pink hair, fair skin and features uncommon to the jungle people, but her whole demeanor has changed. She's no longer a sparkling happy child but a cynical, stoic person who greatest pleasure seems to be making you miserable.
She changes back into her cute, charming form when it suits her but for the most part you're stuck with her expressionless face starring deadpanned at you. You both go to school, where Guu scares not only the other kids in the class but the teacher too. It's up to you to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn't cause too much trouble (such as swallowing the whole school).
As if watching Guu wasn't hard enough, you have to protect your mom from the lecherous advances of the school doctor. Dr. Clive is an obnoxious, white--haired (not because he's old but because he thinks it looks trendy) sexist medical practitioner with designs on your hot, single mom. With Guu's help (or hindrance; she doesn’t seem to care much either way) you have to keep the leech away from your house and from seducing Weda. It may already be too late for that, as the doctor and your mom seem to have been involved in the past, 'involved' meaning that he fathered her child, meaning you. Could this perverted creep really be your dad?
Now you know how it feels to be Haré, the main character of Haré+Guu. Haré's the straight man in a crazy world. Being one of the few sane people in his village is a big burden for the young boy, and he occasionally goes into hysterics or bouts of self-pity.
No matter how bad things get for Haré, he always has Guu around to make matters even worse. Sometimes this means getting her to spit out people after swallowing them whole, or making her return the chief's chest hair after taking it and using it as an afro. When Guu's at her most dangerous however is not when she’s causing anarchy but when she looks to be doing nothing at all. From behind the scenes she'll either manipulate Haré or use her magic powers to somehow embarrass him. For example, when Haré wishes he were grown up she grants him his wish by switching his body with the doctor's. Aside from learning that being a kid isn't so bad, Haré understands Dr. Clive a little better after spending the day as him. This new insight comes at a price as Dr. Clive spends the day in Haré's body feeling up every girl in the village. When Haré gets his own body back, it's him who gets the payback for the doctor's lecherous actions. Guu of course, does nothing to help him.
It could be that Guu isn't needlessly cruel and is actually trying to help Haré by putting him through hell. She may have a soft spot in her heart for him and just goes to extreme means to get his attention. Like the kindergartener who pulls the hair of the girl he likes, Guu could just be harassing Haré as a way to show her affection. Kind of like the saying "you hurt the one you love," only in Guu's case it's "you hurt, play with their mind, eat and then spit out the one you love."
Or maybe she's just sadistic. Either way, it's really funny. The humor in Haré+Guu is mostly slapstick. These kinds of jokes work best in the early episodes when they’re still unexpected and surprising. Luckily the series just gets weirder as it goes along so the gags stay fresh as more characters get introduced.
The characters are the other big source of laughs. Like most comedies, the cast of Haré+Guu is large and eccentric. The show exploits the different traits and tics of each character through the previously mentioned body-switching episode and other devices like in a later episode where Guu changes everyone's personality to the opposite of what it usually is. The characters also get into hilarious situations that are in direct conflict with their personalities, such as during a freak snow storm where Haré's narcoleptic school teacher must fight his compulsive desire to sleep lest he die from hypothermia. That actually sounds very dramatic, but like everything in Haré+Guu it's not taken seriously.
Though the show is centered on Guu and Haré, it's the minor characters that are the most amusing. Haré+Guu has a Seinfeld like quality for coming up with bizarre side characters, only instead of the Soup Nazi and Bubble Boy there's the Hairdresser Hag and the ubiquitous pokute. The main cast is funny enough on their own, but any episode with the Hairdresser Hag, an old lady who’s convinced that Dr.Clive is her dead husband merely because they have the same hair color, is going to be a riot.
The show has a great look to it, though the animation is only so-so. Being set in the jungle it uses a lot of earth tones, but in friendly shades that you might use for a children’s room or nursery. The look of Haré+Guu is more reminiscent of the American kids' show Dora the Explorer then any animation from Japan.
There seemed to be less pieces of music for this show then most anime, so after a while the songs get a little repetitive. The music fits the jungle theme well though with an exotic sounding flute and xylophone.
When I first saw Haré+Guu, it was at an anime club meeting with about a dozen other anime fans. Practically everyone there, including myself, was laughing out loud at every joke. Being mostly reliant on slapstick with some snarkyness from Guu thrown in for good measure, the gags can reach a wide range of people. This is the type of show that’s 10 times more fun to watch with a group rather then alone by yourself. AnimeNation Entertainment will be releasing the show in the near future, so get ready to grab a couple of friends together and watch Haré+Guu!