It’s amazing what an injection of self awareness can do for making a shitty trend palatable again. I find it way better for the show to want me laughing at its lead, rather than it unintentionally encouraging me to do so. At least then I know that an adult had a part in writing it.
Sakamoto desu ga? is a show that runs off of one joke: High school student Sakamoto is basically the most perfect person ever, and everyone around him either can’t help but admire him, or succumb to jealousy at his mere presence. What makes it work is a more hands-off approach to the comedy that (mostly) lets Sakamoto’s preternatural ability for turning any bad situation into a good situation, and any good situation into a perfect one, speak for itself. Most of the episode has less to do with Sakamoto himself, and more to do with how others respond to him. He’s less a personality than he is a force of nature that reminds others of their comparable inadequacy. He’s your average near-perfect generic lead driven to its logical conclusion.
For the most part, Sakamoto desu ga? knows exactly how to make the best of its self awareness to deliver the jokes. There are some instances of dipshit straight-men explaining the joke, but it’s only done as much as necessary for what’s happening to be understood. This isn’t a D-Frag situation where a semi-decent gag is run into the ground by a guy that doesn’t know when to shut up. It’s difficult for a show to be aware of its own ridiculousness without being insufferable, but Sakamoto desu ga? maintains the balance exceedingly well.
While it’s the response of the world around him that drives most of the show forward and provides unexpected levels of pathos, Sakamoto’s perfection is sometimes excellently used for its own sake. The highlight of this is a solo, high intensity effort to save a bird caught in hurricane-force winds, using only his godlike physical abilities and a cheap convenience store umbrella. It taps into the slapstick that anime tends to do well, without explaining the joke in excruciating detail, piling on the absurdity at just the right time without overwhelming everything that comes before it.
I doubt that the overarching theme of Sakamoto doing ridiculous shit to the astonishment of others will hold water for an entire series, but the variety that made up the first episode gives me hope that I’ll be wrong. It’s a sign of a good premise that I can know what will happen, but am still eager to know how it will happen.