Despite giving up on my hopes for the series as a whole after multiple mediocre episodes in quick succession, Africa Salaryman episode 6 managed to reel me back in ever so slightly by doing something new. As I have mentioned in previous episodic reviews, the series has always been at its strongest when it uses its comedy for social commentary on Japanese corporate culture, acting as a comedic critique of the intense work environment. It’s the place where the series shines, as in other areas its animation lacks outside of its tendency to alternate visual styles for comedic effect, while on top of that its humor outside of satire often falls flat. This episode, rather than slapping two separate stories together with different messaging into an episode, selects two unique anecdotes with a similar central moral idea that allows the episode to further hone in on the critique the episode is aiming for. The result? The strongest episode of the series to date.
Red Toucan Hood and Summer Vacation
Even in summer, there’s no rest for the wicked. Toucan, the free-spirited 20-something youthful life of our main trio, is thinking about everything that the wonders of summer vacation can offer him. The warm beaches, the women (women he can both flirt with and ‘rescue’ from others), fireworks, nothing beats the wonders of summer vacation… that is unless you’re an office worker. There’s no way to enjoy summer vacation when you’re trapped as a wage slave within the walls of your employer’s offices.
While not diving too deeply into the concerns raised around overwork, the humor of Africa Salaryman episode 6 leans into the issue of overwork and the stress that working long hours without a reprieve can have on people. Summer reminds people of their youth, and the time they had to enjoy during these long, warm months after the school term was over, only reinforcing these feelings of stress and despair from lacking a chance to rest and recharge.
Where this story elevates itself is by pointing its comedy not at the despairing, exhausted Toucan but at the circumstances that cause him to feel this way in the first place. It would be easy to simply exploit these emotions for a quick joke, yet doing so would also become relatively boring before this half of the episode was over. Instead, the humor and entertainment from this story comes from pointing out the lack of power the employee has in such a situation, exploiting Toucan’s clear discomfort at his need to bend over backward in order to receive the respite he so desperately needs, even if it has to come in the form of a business trip to Hawaii and not a true vacation.
This is perhaps why I laughed so much at this first story, as the series’ comedy always hits hardest when it doubles as a critique of traditional workplace culture. The true feeling’s of Toucan, who feels exploited and worn down by the expectations of his work are laid bare as he first confronts the company president before doing everything in his power to praise them, grease the wheels, so to speak, in order to gain even a short business trip to Hawaii. By using these contrasting emotions and relatable experiences for comedy instead of exploiting weakness, the humor lands in a way that doesn’t feel exploitable and makes for a more enjoyable experience.
This is all while ignoring the pre-opening credits skit, a take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairytale in a corporate setting. Toucan is wearing a red hood to hide the bald spot he received from stress, delivering a present to Lion, currently ill and bedridden, which turns out to be a pile of office work.
Even when ill, there’s no rest for the wicked.
Africa Nasty Coworker
The second half of Africa Salaryman episode 6 turns this singular idea on its head by looking at the things some people will choose to do in order to relieve stress. While it may come at the expense of the others they work with, a dislike of the job and the stress associated with it leads to some taking it out on others and spreading misfortune wherever they can.
Creating fake photoshops, spilling coffee on someone’s suit, all these acts are acts of rebellion that act as stress relief for this employee. The humor from this story comes from the arguments that ensue as a result of this, in their own way a form of stress relief and a way to air their true feelings about the people they work with publicly.
If I were honest, this story doesn’t hit as strongly as those that came before it, yet it also sees the series return to its use of expressionism for comedic effect in a way that I’ve spent multiple episodes commenting has been sorely lacking. Even as the weaker story of the bunch here, it manages to be stronger than some entire episodes of the series to date, and helps cap off an enjoyable week for the show.
Africa Salaryman Episode 6: A Common Cause
While its African setting is still woefully under-utilized within the context of the show, with even a European fairy tale receiving more representation this week, episode 6 of Africa Salaryman is the show’s strongest episode to date. From the expressive visual comedy to the satirical commentary on workplace power comedy, the anime is able to both have something to say and be an enjoyable experience from start to finish.
I’ve lambasted previous episodes for failing to reach their potential and still haven’t been brought back on board with what this show is attempting to achieve. However, here’s hoping that going forward, it is maybe able to keep the momentum of this episode going forwards into future episodes. This episode is the closest to what I’ve wanted from the series since its premiere.
Africa Salaryman is currently streaming on Funimation.