Tuesday, May 11, 2021

REVIEW: Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan (manga, vol. 2) by Gaku Kuze, translated by Matt Treyvaud

Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan is a dark workplace comedy series. It's licensed by Kodansha Comics. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Content warning: depression, child abuse (emotional for sure, but also possibly physical?)

Uramichi is back, limping his way through work yet not quite to the point of just giving up. A part of him still finds tiny things to cling to, like the knowledge that his show's young viewers look up to him. Of course, that just makes it more painful when he lets them down.

This volume introduces a few more station staff members: Kikaku Hanbei, who works in Marketing; Amon, the show's producer/writer; and Uebo Saito, who runs the show's website. We also get to see a little more of Daga Mabui, Iketeru's sister, meet Nekota Matahiko, and learn a little more about Uramichi's past.

After a rough start, Volume 1 eventually grew on me. Volume 2 was much better overall, but I have a feeling that those who enjoyed the blunt darkness of Uramichi's on-camera statements in Volume 1 may not like Volume 2 as much. Volume 2 scaled that kind of thing back a bit, made the children a little more childlike overall, and focused more on the "behind the scenes" workplace comedy aspects and exploring Uramichi's past and the nuances of his emotional life. There were still plenty of "Together with Maman" show moments, but they were presented somewhat differently - Uramichi's filter seemed to be a little more in place, even though he was still clearly close to cracking.

The Uramichi of this volume didn't feel quite like the one of the first volume. He seemed softer and more vulnerable, less scarily brittle, which I honestly didn't mind. He actually had a few things he seemed to care about - the way the kids viewed him, for example - and there were a couple moments when he found himself emotionally overwhelmed while on camera. Possibly it took the author a while to settle on what Uramichi should be like?

Of all the characters, Uramichi was the one who felt the most painfully real to me, and some of the revelations about his past and the way he functions were gut-wrenching. There was a part where several of the cast members were put on the spot and asked to draw their fathers, and Uramichi's drawing was unexpectedly upsetting. He didn't even seem to realize what he was revealing to everyone. Kumatani's thoughts about Uramichi were similarly sad, and it lined up with my suspicions about why Uramichi allowed Usahara to visit him so much when he didn't even seem to like him.

Which makes it sound like this volume was a drag, but I actually found it to be funnier than the first one. Kikaku was my favorite new addition to the cast, alternating between smiles and scary rage and intensity. The guy would make a perfect horror movie serial killer. His first scene, in which he explained the expectations and deadline he was working under, was fabulous.

My favorite on-camera moment was probably when poor Uramichi was forced to redo his Right-Left Man traffic safety footage while dealing with a hurt neck. As Uramichi said (with a great big smile plastered on his face), "When you get old, all kinds of body parts give out on you!" My right hip, shoulder, and arm could all relate.

For some, even this volume may turn out to be too dark and bleak. The closest Uramichi may ever be able to come to happiness is finding a way to accept his life as it currently is, keeping an eye out for little moments that move him in some way, but maybe the author will eventually get him to a better emotional place. I have a small amount of hope, after the surprisingly sensitive and empathetic flashback scene with Kumatani. For now, this series is going on my list of ones I'd like to keep and continue reading. Guess I need to find some shelf space for it.


This is an omnibus edition containing volumes 3 and 4 of the original series, so there's color artwork at the beginning of both volumes (3 pages total). There are also character profiles, the full lyrics of the songs they sing on the show, a few bonus comics, a one-page afterword comic, and 5 pages of translator's notes.

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