Hozuki's Coolheadedness Season 2
Work continues in Hell and all its subsections, and Hozuki is still there to oversee everything and making sure it runs smoothly.
If it wasn't so unfair to some creators to say that "some shows just seem to write themselves", I would suspect Hozuki's Coolheadedness to be a show like that. The synopsis is as brief as it is for a reason; going into every separate topic of each episode would mean that said synopsis would outstrip the review itself in size. But Hozuki's Coolheadedness season 2 doesn't seem to have this big overhanging goal other than "get through the day with your sanity (mostly) intact.
At its core, Hozuki's Coolheadedness season 2 can be described exactly like the first, because on the most simplistic level, the seasons do the exact same thing: it brings out a few of the characters among an almost surreptitiously large cast and have them go about their day in a way that honestly makes it a bit puzzling that they refer to the living world as "the mundane world" or "realm". Sure, a lot of the aspects of Hell look anything but mundane, but all the goings on are almost aggressively familiar to many of us who work and try to find some relaxation outside of their workdays.
Particularly when it comes to work. Season 1 of Hozuki's Coolheadedness dealt in a very large way about the running of a workforce, and this season -- or these two seasons if you look at it that way -- continues that trend. So rather than change around the formula to keep things fresh, season 2 instead proceeds with opening the doors to more of Hell's realms and secrets and all the traditions and idiosyncracies that comes with it.
Which is still probably the biggest hurdle for me as a more... intermediate fan, although the flipside to being a bit unfamiliar with Japanese culture and mythology is that a lot of the things I watch in here is going to feel fresh and interesting, and Hozuki's Coolheadedness is good enough to explain things in ways that does not feel lectury or dry because most of the information you get are weaved into fairly mundane conversations that sounds like any old conversation you'd have around the water cooler... or when going out having a drink after work, as the Japanese are wont to do.
Interestingly, this is also the season where we learn about Hozuki's origins and how he rose to prominence, and it's a lot more mundane than one would expect... and yet not. As "mundane" as the world is, a lot of the people in it -- according to this show, at least -- are often lazy, immoral and even spectacularly petty, although that might be because Hozuki's Coolheadedness is mostly featured in Hell, which is of course not the final destination of the generous, kind and admirable. Compared to that, Hozuki himself is at least honorable to some degree, and if anything, he's certainly not lazy or stupid. Said past seems to involve Hozuki having once been a human child who was sacrificed by the village residents to ensure a good harvest, and then becoming an ogre wandering around in the afterlife, meeting up with Enma in his pre-ruling days wandering around asking for suggestions about how to change the afterlife into something entirely different than what it used to be.
In hindsight, I have to wonder if Hozuki's unpleasant personality comes from the creator of the manga not wanting him to come across as too perfect. Not that anyone -- well... not many -- in the show are of the kind to worship the ground he walks on, but Hozuki's Coolheadedness still portrays him as so very much above everyone else, even the competent ones, that it's hard not to see him as some kind of Gary Stu ideal. Which, in Japan, means work culture, which wouldn't have been so iffy if not for the many cases of people working themselves to death. In addition, this season even features the backstory of the spiked club you can often see him carry around and use on the... less fortunate -- and given that this show takes place in hell, "less fortunate" takes on a very severe undertone in this case. Said club is of course a really special club that were sitting around waiting for just the right person to wield it, so... yeah, a bit hard to not see Hozuki as a bit of a flawless Stu and a mouthpiece for the original author. Though I've worked with lazy people myself before, so it's not like I'm completely deaf to this show's moral quandries either.
And we will, of course, be able to see characters like Momotaro and his old animal companions again, particularly the white dog Shiro. And Hozuki's two aides are always underfoot to bring a sense of normalcy to the proceedings by being two fairly normal-acting late teenage boys who are working in Hell in sort of a scholarly, practical manner. Kodama, the white-haired one of the two, even has a very nice conversation with Izanami while he's on a job to make a redesign for her entryway, which is basically Hozuki's grudge project mentioned further below.
That's why it becomes even more amusing when the show brings in two characters who looks for all the world like they've got Hozuki wrapped all around their little fingers. Two Zashiki Warashi, one with white hair and one with black, I can only assume the three take to each other so well because all three wear the same stone-faced expressions at almost all times -- I say almost, but that only counts for the two Zashiki Warashi. Hozuki only changes the few times he actually loses his temper, while the two Zashiki Warashi has their own priceless expressions when their request for a fashion upgrade didn't go quite like they expected. While their contributions to the show vary greatly, they show up often enough that they place themselves among the regulars, like Momotaro and his old animal companions or King Enma, or even the two flunkies that are usually found underfoot. As great as Hozuki is, at least as far as this show wants us to think of him as, Hozuki's Coolheadedness does a pretty good job at making everyone in it feel like a natural addition to the cast, as mundane as that might sound. It helps that the cast is a colorful lot in both a literal and figurative sense, helped along with dialogue that feels as normal as the world they are held in is amazing in its creative cruelty.
When I cowrote the review for the original season with Nicoletta, we commented much on the show basically being a lot of commentary and jokes about corporate culture, both its good and bad sides. All that is back in full force here, which is what makes writing reviews for each successive season more and more difficult, because the main topic isn't anything new. What makes the show worth a continuing watch, though, is that rather than come up with something new topically, the show just brings more facets of hell and its many layers of ludicrousness to life, including how they relate to old legends or religious/mythological beliefs. And it does so with both the greatest of respect and the most hilarious irreverency through its many conversations -- this is a very conversation-centric show, after all.
Of course, one cannot cover so many sections of hell in a mere 13 episodes, so to say there isn't anything new in this season is a bit of a misnomer on my part. The sameyness would probably stem from the fact that more often than not, each episode is mostly about Hozuki extolling the virtues of the various sections of Hell and their respective methods of punishment for those with little to none of that, and the variation comes from the fact that each faction of hell seems rather tailor-made to fit the crime. Yet the parts that make the show so much fun is in its various modern interpretations of ancient folk tales. The first season covered the "after the main event" story of Momotaro, and his old animal compatriots play as big a role here as they did back then. But this time, we get to meet none other than Izanami, who after her stint in the afterlife took on a job as Enma's first chief of staff. For being a vengeance demon who promised her ex to kill 1000 people per day for his crimes of trying to take a look at her in the realm of the dead, she eventually settled down in both a literal and figurative sense and became a valuable asset to hell. In fact, if anyone's grudge should be feared, Hozuki's would be it, as his grudge became her entryway ornaments, so to speak, made up partially of the people who made him a child sacrifice back when he was a human. And that's not even why he has a grudge against them. Just... watch and see.
Its art is also still a lovely mishmash of era-based styles, which is even more great to behold now that I've learned that the manga this show is based on was made by a woman whose inspirations came from her parents being a part of that field. In fact, Natsumi Eguchi's mother was a classical studies professor, so she herself was never short on reference materials. So while the show's namesake, Hozuki, can be a bit unapproachable as (main) characters go, the show itself is such a nice collection born from someone completely geeking out on folklore, and Eguchi's own creations doesn't necessarily cover just Japanese folklore either. Granted, their representation of the Christian devil is.... well, not quite on the level, I suppose, and I wasn't sure how I felt about him being turned into an otaku here; classical terminology vs. old, tired jokes aside, it's still a bit disappointing to see Hozuki's Coolheadedness resort to something like this. Thankfully, they play a relatively minor part altogether. And it's still fun hearing the characters talk about hotsprings in hell; they're just like mundane realm hotsprings, don'tcha know. Except with more blood. Or poop. Or other things each region of hell are known for, like lava or ice. Yes, ice, because a hotspring in the frozen regions of hell are still a lot hotter -- relatively speaking -- than the surrounding area.
Not that I want to sound like I'm repeating myself, but as long as you don't mind slow and somewhat longwinded shows, you're bound to find something of interest in Hozuki's Coolheadedness. Like earlier, I don't always enjoy Hozuki's treatment of some of his coworkers, Enma in particular, but I still appreciate its dry wit and bone-gnawing sarcasm. It's infernally amusing.
...I'll let myself out.
I haven't been this entertained in this way since I watched the first season. It's slow, but it's unique and intelligent and, most importantly, fun. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show isn't necessarily gory, but there are some visual cues that makes Hozuki's Coolheadedness and its many on-location shoots a bit unsuitable for the young, and seeing as a lot of the show is centered around workplaces and working adults, I'm a bit uncertain how entertaining teenagers would find this. It's not outright sexual, since that's not the main topic of the show anyway, but neither does it pretend sex doesn't exist, as the hell for men who mindlessly chase (any) women will show AND tell you.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subtitles.
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Hozuki's Coolheadedness Season 2 © 2017, 2018 Studio Deen
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