A change of scenery can sometimes make a world of difference. Taking these characters out of a familiar environment of the Japanese-inspired workplace and over to the sunny beaches of Hawaii, Africa Salaryman episode 7 follows on from where the previous episode’s storyline left off. That’s right, Toucan and the rest of the anime’s animal cast are removed from their familiar workplace environments and taken on a company-funded vacation to the sunny beaches of Hawaii, hoping to take a break from the stresses of corporate life.
With fresh surroundings, the potential for a unique take on the established concept is there. The big question, however, is does Africa Salaryman episode 7 follow up on last week’s surprising uptick in entertainment value to produce a fun and humorous episode in a series whose formula is rapidly becoming stale, or does it hold back and waste the chance to try something new?
Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride
I have to be honest, while this episode certainly feels unique in how it does away with series conventions, I’m not sure what this episode of the series was trying to achieve. The established formula, for better and for worse, has seen our anthropomorphic animal cast thrust into a variety of situations often faced by office workers within Japanese society, with an occasional satirical spin on the events transpiring. Occasionally it can just be a story riffing on the personalities of our series protagonists, seen when Lion took a trip to the dentist in episode 4, or it can poke fun at the power imbalance and issues with Japanese work culture as it has done on multiple other occasions, including last week. Sometimes these ideas work, and sometimes they don’t. Overall I would argue that the results have created an anime with a decidedly mixed quality throughout, but it has at least been consistent, if unfocused, with its ideas.
That’s why episode 7 of Africa Salaryman is such a weird episode in many respects. The change of scenery on its own would be one thing, but the structure of the episode left me feeling like I was watching a completely different anime.
This is mainly due to the introduction of a new one-off character in the form of Nene, a childhood friend of Toucan who has started to work as a tour guide in Hawaii. Their introduction shifts the dynamic of the entire episode, taking the anime from a rather restrained comedic portrayal of working life with sparks of animation flair to spice things up from time to time into a surreal experience where Toucan’s never-discussed childhood becomes a focal point for a story of betrayal and high crime.
Toucan’s Mission Impossible
For the first half of the episode, the anime manages to mostly stick to its standard routine in the new setting, albeit rather disappointingly so. This sees the cast visit Hawaiian tourist hotspots and is surprisingly informative about pieces of trivia regarding the areas they visit. Learning that Waikiki beach is made up of sand transported to the area from other areas is a genuinely interesting fact to learn. In saying that, however, attempts at comedy here feel forced, such as the shark attack that comes with little explanation or the issues with passports when flying to the country which has no residual impact on other events despite the seriousness of the issue at hand.
In the second half, however, things go off the rails. Over drinks, Toucan and Nene catch up and discuss childhood memories, which eventually leads to a discussion of the billions in riches supposedly still buried underneath Iolani Palace. From there, Africa Salaryman episode 7 changes pace into a weirdly-paced and poorly-thought-out heist on the palace, including the collection of guns for our main characters to use from a local military store. From there, using a grenade filled with sleeping gas, they sneak into the palace, enter a secret passage, before attempting (and failing) to steal the riches found underneath the palace due to acts of self-sabotage between the so-called friends.
While I was certainly engaged with this second half of the episode and the heist, I don’t think it was for the reasons the staff intended. Rather than laughing or enjoying this shocking turn of events, and the petty betrayals which sabotage the mission, I was continuing to watch the episode mostly because I was bewildered by what was transpiring on screen. This completely breaks with the expected conventions of the anime up until this point, for a joke set-up and pay off that fails to land because of its reliance on a one-off character we haven’t got to know well enough over the course of the episode up until this point. Not only that, while it is true that Toucan has always been the free spirit and laziest member of the cast, always willing to do whatever is necessary to earn extra money and do as little work as possible, nothing up until this point would suggest these feelings would compel him to break into a royal palace and steal the riches found underneath, no matter how much money was hidden there. He’s an idiot, sure, but he’s not a criminal!
This all culminates in the even stranger decision to tease the continuation of this unlikely story arc into future episodes, with next week’s episode being named ‘Africa Post-Vacation’.
Africa Salaryman Episode 7: Muddled Execution
It’s difficult to praise or criticize episode 7 of Africa Salaryman when the overriding emotion I feel after watching the episode is one of dumbfoundment at what I just watched. Breaking with tradition can be a good way to switch things up and keep things interesting, but this still requires an anime to work within the bounds of what it has established up until that point. By breaking character and switching the anime from a social satire to an over-the-top comedic heist gone wrong, the results feel a little confusing.
I didn’t enjoy the episode, and after a step-up in quality last week I’m suddenly left unsure what the staff are aiming to achieve with this anime production come the season finale. With no consistent through-line connecting the quality or tone of the episodes up until this point, I’m not sure if we will ever find out the answer to that question, either.
Africa Salaryman is currently streaming on Funimation.