FEATURE: The Devil's in the Details, Dark Bargains in The Laughing Salesman

What's old is new again in the 2017 reboot based on the psychological horror/dark comedy manga by Fujiko A. Fujio

Paul Chapman (@gooberzilla) struggling in the jaws of a life-sized model hippo.

 

Laugh and the world laughs with you, as the saying goes, but having an unruly anime queue is no laughing matter. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to humor you with a retrospective look at some of the series that fans may have missed the first time around, in hopes of connecting viewers with the types of shows that tickle their funny-bone.

 

This week, we're striking a Faustian deal with an outwardly benign fellow who leaves broken families and shattered dreams in his wake as we check out the recent reboot of The Laughing Salesman.

 

The Laughing Salesman

 

What's The Laughing Salesman?

 

Based on the manga by Fujiko A. Fujio, The Laughing Salesman is a Spring 2017 TV anime with direction by Hirofumi Ogura and animation production by Shin-Ei Animation. Crunchyroll describes the story of the series as follows:

 

My name is Fukuzou Moguro, and people call me the Laughing Salesman. I am no ordinary salesman. The merchandise I sell is the human soul itself. Hooo-ho-ho-ho ... All people in this world, young and old, male and female, are lonely. I am here to fill the emptiness in all of their souls. No, I won't accept a single coin in return. As long as my customer is satisfied, that's all the payment I need. Now, I wonder what sort of customer I'll serve today ... Hooo-ho-ho-ho-ho ...

 

A series of morality tales about the dangers of hubris and the weakness of the human will, if The Laughing Salesman has an aesthetic that appears eerily familiar, that's because the original author Fujiko A. Fujio (a pen name used by Motoo Abiko) is one half of the creative team that brought the world the much-beloved children's series, Doraemon.

 

Moguro Fukuzo points an accusatory finger and grins in a scene from the 2017 The Laughing Salesman TV anime.

 

A Devil's Bargain.

 

Each episode of The Laughing Salesman consists of two-parts, and the series structure is episodic, rather than serialized. Each story involves the enigmatic Moguro offering some sad, desperate, or lonely person a seemingly perfect solution for what troubles them, but every deal that Moguro offers comes with a specific restriction or condition. Breaking that condition leads to dire consequences, but invariably Moguro's clients prove too weak to resist the temptation.

 

Taken in total, The Laughing Salesman is an exploration of sin, ranging in severity from the little white lies that people tell themselves to more severe transgressions such as power harassment and marital infidelity. The dark subject matter contrasts with the cartoony visuals, and the themes that the show explores are more akin to a walk through The Twilight Zone than a stroll down Sesame Street.

 

A screenwriter is engulfed in a nightmare of scrabbling hands in a scene from the 2017 The Laughing Salesman TV anime.

 

Psychological Horror.

 

With a few exceptions, most of the scenarios presented in The Laughing Salesman aren't horrifying in the classical sense of monsters, murder, and mayhem. Instead, the show preys on adult anxieties with stories of people who are terrified of physical, mental, emotional, and social abnormalities.

 

The consequences of Moguro's tender ministrations are occasionally implied to be deadly, but the fear of death isn't the primary factor the series explores. Instead, Moguro's clients are afraid of feeling worthless, irrelevant, and powerless. They are afraid of embarrassment and exposure. They are afraid that the comforts of their ordinary lives will prove illusory. They are afraid that they will get exactly what they deserve. And invariably, they are right to be afraid.

 

Moguro Fukuzo strolls away from the backlot of a movie studio while a pillar of smoke rises high into the sky behind him in a scene from the 2017 The Laughing Salesman TV anime.

 

Dark Comedy.

 

Despite its heavy subject matter and diabolical protagonist, The Laughing Salesman isn't all doom and gloom. The series actually has a twisted, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that leans heavily on the concept of schadenfreude — i.e. taking pleasure in the suffering of others.

 

Nine times out of ten, there is a sense that schadenfreude is well-deserved because one of Moguro's clients has behaved poorly and earned a swift and brutal comeuppance. Sometimes the punishment doesn't fit the crime, though, and in those tragic instances, the audience is encouraged to laugh as a way of holding back the tears.

 

While Moguro Fukuzo strolls away in the background, a heartbroken wife and her young daughter wait fruitlessly for the father of the family to return home in a scene from the 2017 The Laughing Salesman TV anime.

 

No Refunds or Exchanges.

 

Crunchyroll currently streams The Laughing Salesman in 207 territories worldwide. The series is available in the original Japanese with subtitles in English, Spanish, Latin American Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, and Arabic. There are currently no home video releases or English language versions of the original manga for The Laughing Salesman in the US, so what you stream is what you get.

 

Within its old-fashioned character designs and its uncanny subject matter, The Laughing Salesman isn't likely to appeal to all anime fans, but if you're in the mood for the cartoon equivalent of black licorice during this spooky Halloween season, and if the series is available in your area, then why not experience the dark and refined flavor of The Laughing Salesman? Go on. A little taste couldn't hurt ...

 

Moguro Fukuzo looms over a terrified potential client in a scene from the 2017 The Laughing Salesman TV anime.

 

Thanks for joining us for this week's installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”. Be sure to tune in next time when we transition to a more mellow part of the fall season with a look back at a relaxing show that mixes up fantasy and gourmet cooking for a tasty autumnal treat.

 

Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog!"

 

Crunchyroll-hime poses for a Crunchyroll ad banner.

 


 

Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.


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