Best Anime of the 00s – Hare+Guu (2001)

You know you’re on to something special when people leave a screening midway through the first episode because it was weirding them out.

Hare+Guu director Tsutomu Mizushima loves Sam Raimi. LOVES HIM. What was weirding people out was that a fair portion of the first episode is a homage to Raimi’s Evil Dead. Which, given the look of the show and the fact it’s a comedy, was probably not what people were expecting. And maybe the bizarre fruit/animals called Pokutes didn’t help matters either. They are kind of weird and unnatural looking.

In that first episode, Hale goes into the jungle to fetch his mother some bananas, when he’s pursued by something of PURE EVIL. Something that appears to swallow him whole and spit him out. What’s worse, when he gets home, the EVIL is already there.

Namely, a little girl called Guu.

Guu is Mizushima’s instrument of torture, and Mizushima proceeds to torture Hale psychologically and physically for the 26 episodes of the TV show plus two 6 episodes OAV series. Mizushima tortures his leads very well, another Raimi trait, doing it in xxxHoilc, Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, and to great effect in episode 9 of Genshiken. His best work comes from when he’s working with Michiko Yokote, as he is here. When he’s left to his own devices he does have tendency to hammer home the same gag too often (we start to see this a little with the final OAV series).

Like Raimi, like the League of Gentlemen, he knows there’s a thin line between horror and comedy and Hare+Guu walks that line better than any anime show in the last 10 years.

Adding a great deal to the show’s success are the performances of Naoko Watanabe as Guu and Rikkao Aikawa as Hale. Watanabe has this wonderful sardonic, deadpan delivery, which combined with the sly expressions that Guu is given in animation is marvellous. On the other hand, Aikawa’s often machine gun delivery matches the highs and lows of Hale’s hysterias to great effect.

The TV series and first OAV series is available on DVD in English, but it’s hard to find them at a substantial discount to make them more sensible priced in the DVD market as a whole. If you do see them cheap, pick them up. You’ll love it or be weirded out. No middle ground.