Many long time readers are likely aware that I’m a psychology major. So it should come as no surprise, then, that an anime titled Comical Psychosomatic Medicine caught my attention. It’s a gag anime, a genre which I’m not terribly familiar with, but I think I’m justified in assuming that this is a pretty solid example of the genre.
But that’ll become apparent. To start with I should explain the premise. Comical Psychosomatic Medicine (which I’m henceforth abbreviating to CPM because it’s too long a title to keep typing) is a twenty episode series where each five and a half minute episode gives information about some sort of psychological problem. It’s set in a mental clinic with the information given by the doctor and hilariously misinterpreted by the nurse. After the first episode some introductory situation sets up the topic for each episode — such as an encounter with a flasher opening up the topic of exhibitionism. I should note here that six of the episodes deal with blatantly sexual topics — erectile dysfunction (which can have a psychological cause or component and was dealt with twice), voyeurism, Lolita complexes, exhibitionism, and fetishism. As for the rest of the series, every topic quickly enters sexual territory because the three nurses that recur in the series are sisters and are all perverted in their own ways, as is their grandfather. I think the past few days I spent watching the series have included more puns than most of my life prior to watching it.
It’s not all sex jokes, though. There’s a lot of wordplay — a lot of which is what leads to the sex jokes, but not all of it is sexual — which, while leading to funny situations in the translation, doesn’t work as well in English. Wordplay in other languages is often a problem when it comes time to translate a work; the jokes rely on a strong knowledge base in the original language, and in character-based languages like Japanese, it’s even more important to know the language because many of the jokes rely on similarities between characters for different words. Some of it is explained in the captions on screen, but in this series that presents it’s own set of problems.
See, because the episodes are so short and have a lot of ground to cover, the dialogue is extremely fast-paced. I often found myself having to reverse and pause to read a caption because it went by too quickly the first time. Not to mention that aside from the main dialogue there is often background dialogue or text as part of jokes, or as part of actual information, which means the image is frequently surrounded by captions. Given the running time of the episodes I probably could have watched the whole series in a day, but the amount of text to read negates that by increasing the effort it takes to watch an episode. They’re more like reading articles than watching a series.
But translation issues and the sheer amount of text to read are minor gripes, and overall the series was very funny and surprisingly accurate with a lot of its information. Much of the information is cited back to the original authors or text, and the series goes so far as to include diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV. For those not in the know, the DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s standard handbook for diagnosing and classifying mental illness. The DMS is now in it’s 5th Edition, however, and has been since 2013, so I do wonder if some of the information in CPM is a bit outdated; the anime was released this year, and even though it’s based on an older manga, I imagine it would have been simple to update the information to the DSM-5 criteria. That aside, though, the information still remains surprisingly accurate and well researched, especially considering this is a gag anime.
I do have one major issue though, and while I won’t spoil the premise of the episode in dealing with it, I will talk about the information in the episode, which is the issue. Episode 14, “Accept Grief in 4 Stages?!” deals with, obviously, accepting grief. Many of you will likely be familiar with the concept of the stages of grief, but like me, you’ve probably heard of it as five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, CPM details the stages as denial, anger, “give up and accept,” and hope. And, unfortunately, they don’t cite any sources in this episode, which is a pretty major oversight in my book. I’ve never encountered this version of the stages of grief before, and I have major issues with it. First, it ignores depression, which is kind of the biggest part of grief; the episode actually depicts denial as depression more than as denial, which is also an issue. Additionally, “give up and accept” is a ridiculous notion. It’s not so easy to just say “ok I’m good with this,” which is basically what this stage implies. And finally, “hope.” I would argue that hope is not a stage of grief, but in fact a side effect of accepting things. The anime contends that hope is the final step because when you have hope for the future you move past the problem. Sure, I’ll buy that. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a stage of grief. Grief ends when you accept things as they are. Hope comes afterwards as you move past it and carry on with life. But ultimately this is the only episode I had a real issue with.
When it comes down to it, I would highly recommend this series. And I think it’s important, too; we need to raise awareness of mental illness, of the causes and cures, and to normalize it and reduce the stigma. As it stands, mental illness is often brushed off as being “all in your head,” which is not only a cheap pun but an insult to those of us who suffer from it, because what it really says is that we don’t have an illness, we’re just messed up. We’re often told to just “get over it,” which is easier said than done. And it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that a lot of mental illness is actually biological; for example, depression isn’t just “being sad,” but it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s not something you can get over, it’s something you need to be treated for because you have an actual, physiological problem. And I’m pretty happy that CPM actually takes the physiological components into account in a lot of the cases it deals with, including depression and seasonal affective disorder. I think with wider exposure, this series could do people a lot of good, whether just by educating them or letting sufferers of mental illness know they aren’t alone (and maybe giving them a good laugh while they’re at it).
You can watch the whole series for free on Crunchyroll here: http://www.crunchyroll.com/comical-psychosomatic-medicine
I do recommend watching in order; even though there’s not a rigid plotline, you are introduced to recurring minor characters and their later appearances make more sense when you have the context of their introductions.
I should probably make note here that this series is not safe for work. There’s a lot of fan service — that’s anime code for half-naked women and lots of jiggle — and as I’ve said before there’s a lot of sexual content in the jokes, and anime is a visual medium. Everything is done with discretion shots, of course, but that doesn’t make it appropriate for work or any other setting where you wouldn’t want to be caught watching something overtly sexual.
Finally I’d like to share the ending sequence, because the song is catchy as hell and it’s a pretty cool credits sequence.
EDIT: The video with the end credit sequence was removed and I can’t find a replacement. I do have the title and artist of the song, but for the ending sequence you’ll have to watch an episode. The song is “Karappo Capsule (からっぽカプセル)” by Maaya Uchida.