The enormous smash hit Mr. Osomatsu is back for a one-off TV special! What’s the deal?

For a few months now in Japan, many commercials on trains and on television have been prominently advertising a collaboration between Osomatsu and JRA, the Japan Racing Association. These ads featured all-new sketches with newly-produced Mr. Osomatsu animation and performances by the full cast of characters returning to reprise their roles. Essentially, the JRA is riding high (ha ha?) on the popularity of Mr. Osomatsu, and it appears to be a highly successful, symbiotic relationship.

The entire campaign is going under the name Oumatsu-san (a wordplay on Osomatsu and uma, the word for “horse”), and it culminates in a full thirty-minute special TV episode which was broadcast on Monday night.

YouTube also has been used as a platform for a new miniseries of six (what else?) brief two-minute episodes leading up to this recent televised special.

For anyone who needs a bit of an explanation, the series is an original sequel produced by Studio Pierrot, based on the Osomatsu-kun manga by Fujio Akatsuka, about a group of sextuplets. The original manga had some anime offshoots prior to this series, but where this new interpretation deviates is in the complete update and revamp of the settings: the six siblings are no longer children; instead, they are grown-up losers with no jobs, no money, and no girlfriends.

They also now each have a unique personality–all of them weird–and thus, their insane interactions form the key to the comedy. The series is episodic and usually fully contained, with little of an overarching story, but viewers with a keen eye (or ear) are often rewarded thanks to many references to earlier episodes and repeated gags with new twists. It is also worth noting that it is one of those fourth-wall breaking, self-aware meta shows, designed to parody the very format that it’s presented in.

As such, the special begins in a very Osomatsu-like way: with an explosion of nonsensical hyperactivity that appears to harbor no respect whatsoever for horse-racing and horse-racing aficionados! But hey, that’s the way Mr. Osomatsu shows its love. Yoichi Fujita (Gintama, ClassicaLoid–is back in the director’s chair, so expect everything to feel just right.

Without giving too much away, the special is made up of a series of vignettes, much like many of the episodes from the original series, except this time they are all tied around the theme of horse racing. Expect the same wacky irreverent humor that made the show so great as well as more of the crazy interactions between the sextuplets, as well as the supporting cast of Iyami, Hata-bou, Chibita, Dekapan, Dayon, and even the parents. But Totoko stands out rather like a sore thumb, since it is revealed she knows very little about horse racing and proceeds to make any and all manner of faux pas.

The skits range from the brothers arguing about the best methods to go about betting on horses to them actually being the jockeys, all the way to their being re-imagined as the horses themselves.

This is actually not the first instance of crazy horse racing in Mr. Osomatsu. There is an earlier episode where Iyami bets on a horse that appears to be winning until, according to the commentator, it ends up running so fast that it traverses the space-time continuum and performs a temporal shift, leaving behind a flaming trail as it disappears, Back to the Future-style.

As a testament to its ongoing popularity, Osomatsu and his brothers are gracing the cover of both PASH! and Animage this month in full jockey gear, even though it is only a single half-hour episode. What’s more, Amazon has completely sold out of issues again (This has happened before and it is an aspect of the Mr. Osomatsu effect), with buyers having to resort to third-party marketplace sellers offering the issues at a marked-up price.

Of course, in reality, it is far more than a single episode: this is a full-on collaboration, as mentioned, spanning a variety of media. There is even a simple Flash game available where you can bet on which brother will win in a race.

For a limited time, the JRA is organizing some related events and selling special Mr. Osomatsu-themed merchandise at the race tracks. The limited-edition goods are expected to be so popular that the organizers have implemented an orderly method to enter the shop. Here is an example of the system used at Nakayama Racetrack in Chiba during the event on December 10. Entry to the merch shop area is limited to a certain number of people, decided by a raffle system. There are three windows where people can have the opportunity to enter and purchase things.

With all of this going on, it is safe to assume that the social phenomenon that is Mr. Osomatsu is not overstaying its welcome anytime soon.

The 2015-2016 season of Mr. Osomatsu is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

The entirety of the new television special is officially streaming here until the end of March 2017.

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