Image Source: コロコロチャンネル【公式】 on Youtube
Comedy anime is usually a rich treasure trove of visual gags and slapstick, and of course, that is also the case here. While the West is certainly no stranger to comedy animation such as The Simpsons and South Park, most of the time the jokes are situational—and much of the characters don’t call out why things are funny or weird.
But crazy school comedy 100% Teacher Pascal is similar to Mr. Osomatsu in that it echos manzai-style comedy.
So, what is manzai, then? Manzai is a traditional form of stand-up comedy where the act is made up of a pair of performers telling a story or talking about a specific topic, one playing things straight (the tsukkomi), and the other acting silly (the boke). The popularity of manzai is increasing around the world and there is even a Netflix special out on it currently.
The basic idea is that the silly half will make puns, or misunderstand something, or perhaps just behave in a weird way, and when he/she invariably does, the straight-player will either hit him/her or will react angrily in some way, saying “that’s stupid!” or something similar.
For example, in Mr. Osomatsu, the tsukkomi player would be Choromatsu. He is usually the most “normal” one, and would often comment on how ridiculous a situation is, while the rest of the brothers would be carrying on with their weird selves, none the wiser.
The interesting thing about this type of comedy is that the straight man serves a sort of audience insertion role, in the sense that his reaction to the silliness is how we, normal people, would most likely react. And yet, it is done with so much speed and finesse that the even before we think to react in that way, we find ourselves laughing.
In 100% Teacher Pascal there is a tsukkomi–boke relationship between the kids in the class and Pascal himself. The kids, Hayato in particular, play the role of the straight man the whole time, as can be seen in numerous examples. Many other gag anime do not have this element and so rely on the overtly wacky, which is a little harder to pull off without being just weird instead of genuinely funny.
If we take a look at the ridiculous things that Pascal does all in the space of just twelve minutes, we can already see the absurdity in it all. The fact that he doesn’t even know how to spell his name, for example! What he writes on the chalkboard is shown onscreen for two seconds, just enough time for us to realize it’s wrong, but not enough time for us to have a reaction—Hayato beats us to the punch. He shouts, “You’ve written it wrong!” At that moment, we laugh, because he has taken the words right out of our mouths. It’s very precise comedy.
Other examples follow, such as when Pascal is taking out several items from his briefcase that appear not to have anything to do with schoolwork, such as Beyblades, game controllers, and a bag of “potatoe” chips. Hayato jumps in with, “you have no intention of teaching us!”
Lastly, when the class tough guy is threatening to use violence against Pascal, Hayato is sure that being a teacher, Pascal would never resort to a fistfight with students and would rather sort out differences through talking things out… That is, until he turns around and Pascal is glaring back with the clearest “Bring it on!” expression imaginable both on his face and in his posture, forcing Hayato to exclaim, “He’s actually into it!”
Sometimes in a wide shot or a landscape shot, you may see the tsukkomi being represented as a tiny bubble with Hayato’s face in it, as he screams his line.
There are even several instances of Hayato hitting Pascal over the head with a harisen, which is typically used in manzai acts by the tsukkomi guy for greater impact whenever he interrupts or criticizes the boke.
So in the end, when we look at this specific style of comedy, it’s not that it would not work without all the tsukkomi, but it certainly would feel like something is missing. Think about a sitcom with a laugh track. We know that the jokes are self-contained within the script, and therefore the laughter is not necessarily needed. But at the same time, the laughter serves a purpose to accentuate the punchlines and it is like an invitation for us to join in the laughter. Similarly, Hayato and the rest of the kids here are reacting in the same way to Pascal’s craziness that anybody normal would. Therefore, we join them in their reactions.
Pascal is not the comedian in the show—the children are. They are the ones with the comedic timing.
100% Teacher Pascal is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.