The sun mixed with the drifting clouds that fall afternoon, dappling the neighborhood with occasional sunlight as the temperature started to rise. I was shuffling down a leaf-covered sidewalk downtown with some friends, heading to Eliza’s car. We’d just had brunch and were trying to figure out what to do from there.
“So now what do you want to do?” said Lorraine.
“I don’t know,” said Olive.
“I think I’m too full to go anywhere else right now,” said Eliza.
“Mm,” said I.
While not verbatim, this was our general discussion.
“Wanna go back to your place and watch something?” Olive asked Eliza as we neared the car.
“Sure. But what are we gonna watch?”
It was suggested somewhere among the conversation that we tune into Netflix for BoJack Horseman. I’d never heard of it. “I’ve never heard of it,” I said when they asked for my input. “Sure.”
We trod from sidewalk to grass, the leaves rustling beneath us as we went to make it happen. Four seatbelt clicks later we were headed to Eliza’s apartment, which she shared with her boyfriend Saul. The show’s title gave me the image of a cowboy kicking his leg toward the sky under the sharp blaze of the sun standing in the corner of the screen. The cowboy’s bangs fanned in a series of slick, crescent curls shifting across his face, drafting upwards into spikes poking around his hat. An Arizonan-style cliff arose in the background, angled the same direction as the cowboy—tilted right, mostly facing the audience. The man’s face seemed to be drawn in three strokes of the brush—one flat, then two more narrowing down to connect into a broad triangle. I had no idea what BoJack Horseman did or who he was in his anime desert, but it would be an interesting time with friends to find out what.
Yes, I thought BoJack Horseman was an anime. The title reminded me of Cowboy Bebop. And when we sat down around Eliza and Saul’s assorted living room furniture and got it started, I found it was actually an American show about an alcoholic ex-Hollywood star trying to break his cycle of bitter, self-loathing failures. And it was amazingly real. The trials of BoJack and his friends really are the “emotionally ambitious” upheavals The New Yorker praises them to be. It’s a fascinating feat that this anthropomorphic world with an ostensibly paperlike animation style could resonate so deeply with the human experience. It’s rounded, believable, goofy, and has a killer voice cast. We didn’t watch much, but I went away opened to the magic of a new show. Since then I’ve watched many BoJack clips. Whatever happens to this depressed horse and his friends, I hope they all have a future by the end.
But what if BoJack Horseman really WERE an anime? Then would it be like? I imagine there’d be a pretty big tonal shift, if not an overhaul of the show itself. Not that I, the “I-really-don’t-watch-anime-never-did-what-are-my-kawaii-san-classmates-talking-about” Pilot would know. Seriously, I just never got into anime. At least, not anything past the English dubs of Pokémon, Digimon, Cardcaptors, Zoids, and Ghost Stories.
Still, the question has been raised, and now curiosity must be sated. So with my very limited knowledge of Japan’s animation style and my 4.37 hours of watching BoJack episodes and clips, I’m going to speculate what this show would be like as an anime.
Insert fast-paced theme song and loud groaning here
Setting: Futuristic post-Hollywood (“Hollywoo”) era. A standstill of all that was once eminent, the city is towering and chromatic on the outside but crumbling on the inside. It’s been ground into stagnancy after some kind of depression, and is now isolated as a cautionary tale in the middle of a desert. Yes, I’m still riding on the Cowboy Bebop thing.
Plot: The fall of America’s entertainment industry leaves the former stars of Hollywoo fame struggling to transition into new lives and rediscover their identities. Little do they know that in one of the many abandoned buildings yet to be demolished there lays a book, bound for millennia and choked with spite. This tattered collection of screenplays forgotten awaits the day someone will hear its whispers and open it, releasing the seeds of evil that will grow into a fest of vengeance against those who usurped its fame. And what luck for the book it is when its discoverer is BoJack Horseman, the jaded lead of one of the blandest shows to take over Hollywoo. BoJack’s actions lead to consequences that could end the city forever. He must team up with others involved with celebrity life and conquer his problems before the book claims everything he’s come to love.
Tone: Dark and psychological. Addiction, violence, swearing and partial nudity give BoJack a strong M rating, without going into the full-on graphic horror of Akira or Berserk. I can see BoJack working at a computer high up in an office, only to hear a gigantic crash as a monstrous tentacled mass rises to all the way to the 38th floor. “My God!” BoJack yells, standing up right before the monster smashes the windows in slow-motion.
BoJack: A bitter, lonely man who gets a lot of scenes exhaling in partially lit rooms while he grapples with revelations he tries to make sense of. He’s slept around too much, drank too much, smoked and gotten high off of too many things. But when the book faces him with his potential fate, he has to whip his back straight and face the truth head-on. Sometimes he enters mechs, whooping in glee after he missiles away a 2-episode threat and feels something fleeting yet real as the smoke clears in the downtown streets. BoJack makes the shape for a solid lead in a city of faded hopes and dreams. He may not still be around when the ashes cease to fall, but you can darn betcha he’ll put up a fight. As soon as he starts challenging his demons, at least…
Mr. Peanutbutter: The thickheaded sports rival who’s too cheerful to really be anyone’s enemy. Goodhearted and athletic, Mr. Peanutbutter lives a life too full of fortune to appreciate the dangers befalling him and his girlfriend. But when his luck runs out and charisma no longer gates his popularity, Mr. Peanutbutter is forced to either face reality or perish. The now-alone Labrador suffers a highly criticized number of seasons in solitude, but it helps him for the better when he learns he doesn’t need fans to be the Mr. Peanutbutter. He gets a lot of cool action scenes that show off his athletic prowess and goofy charm.
Diane: Diane Nguyen is the haunted, suffering supernatural blog owner whose knowledge of a dark secret keeps her silent. It’s difficult for her to relate to others, who take her sadness and insecurity as signs that she’s perfect and doesn’t have problems in life. It is her strong belief that she must do whatever it takes to end the evil alone. The reclusive clue-hunting and long nights typing onto her laptop drive her toward madness, a condition Mr. Peanutbutter finds out too late when the evils Diane avoided turn themselves into their home, permeating the walls and possessing Diane into something no one could have ever known. She’d have some really awesome visuals in her scenes.
Princess Carolyn: The sharp, take-charge mom figure who exerts executive power over the shows currently running in Hollywoo. Because of this, she has knowledge of competition in the city and who’s who in its business operations. She has no problem deploying mechs into action and sometimes takes to the cockpit herself. She is a strong ally to BoJack strategically and as a friend; together they find life in these stressful times. Princess Carolyn’s negotiation skills are essential when BoJack descends into an investigation of the city’s underbelly. Cut to her hitting a keyboard in the middle of a fight scene and going, “Dammit!”
Officer Fuzzyface: The serious background character who never takes the end of the day to mean that his work is done. Officer Fuzzyface is always on the clock, guaranteed to tail leads, get stuff done, investigate what makes others squeamish, and eventually be where the monsters are in order to whoop some ass. He makes some memorable one-liners and probably gets a close-up riding his motorcycle with a strangely realistic grim facial expression.
Todd: The awkward, slightly loser-y guy who keeps BoJack sane, despite his rash of wacky misadventures. Todd is so removed from the life of fame that it’s a refresher to BoJack between the drama. He’s always reliable for an awesome battle, and his experience in weirdness tends to bring vital and entertaining wild cards.
The book: Uh, well, I imagined the book having a black hardcover with the ghastly white imprint of a ghost face as the cover. Oval eyes, wide leering laugh, that kind of thing.
Did you have fun laughing at my pitch? I’m pretty sure I threw in tropes from about five different kinds of anime. It was an amusing venture, to say the least. Thanks for tuning into this disastrous speculation of a genre switch and see ya next time!