Image source: 群馬テレビ公式（ポチッとくん） on Twitter
In World Fool News, we have a newscaster who is clueless about what to say (and when to say it) as a person can be, and every day, viewers tune in to see her read the news.
Newscasters have a tough job trying to smoothly transition from hard-hitting, serious stories in one minute to lighthearted curiosities in the next. For this, one needs nerves of steel—not to mention a reliable backup team of runners with sound judgement. However, Kanae Shimohira is immune to the very idea of tense atmospheres.
Shimohira is a textbook case of someone who is—as the Japanese like to describe the condition—“KY.” KY stands for kuuki yomenai (空気読めない), a phrase that literally just means “not being able to read the air,” but actually refers to the problem of not having the skill to judge when to say something and when to keep quiet. It basically is at play whenever somebody is in a crowd of people and is trying not to break the atmosphere, so they are careful not to say something that might trigger off a backlash in some way. The key is to say constructive and risk-averse things, remaining positive, even if you feel something else inside—i.e., read the room and stick to small talk. Perhaps your inner self might want to be a little more critical, but when considering the conflict that may create, it’s probably for the best that you keep contentious opinions to yourself. At worst, even your constructive criticism may be considered passive-aggressive.
It is a tough skill to master if you are already set in your ways of shooting from the hip and telling people straight up what you think, expecting them to appreciate your honesty. Japanese society is notorious for its idea of tatemae (your superficial expression) and honne (your innermost thought) as a necessary duality of modern social interactions.
The practice of blending into Japanese society is something which has been discussed before in other, somewhat satirical short anime such as Pepepepengiin.
Not to be outdone in the KY department, Shimohira in World Fool News is always saying any odd thing that pops into her head. However, unlike what would be expected in the real world—namely, being almost totally ostracized from society—she is unwittingly rewarded for her efforts in these situations, making her none the wiser. All the while, her newsroom teammates are at a loss as to how to react.
Not only is her anchorman partner, the straight-laced Ichitaro Takahashi, constantly bewildered by her bizarre behavior, but the assistant directors and other staff are always on their toes, on the lookout for any outburst or potential slip-up that can plunge the live show into chaos.
Image source: 群馬テレビ公式（ポチッとくん） on Twitter
Takahashi is the long-suffering hard worker who got “promoted” from host of a midday show to this evening news position and transferred to the World Fool News program, known as a “dead weight” show. He has to put up with Shimohira’s weird shenanigans and is often struggling to work out how to respond.
For instance, during a commercial break, Shimohira would suggest, out of the blue, to play rock-paper-scissors. As if the idea wasn’t ridiculous enough, when Takahashi caves in and tries one round, he keeps losing to Shimohira’s made-up hand shapes to counter the traditional ones, such as “fox” and “heart.”
And yet, for Shimohira, it all usually seems to work out through dumb luck. In episode three of the currently airing second series, Shimohira is on location to visit a popular ramen spot to report on the taste. However, the problem is that the owner is renowned for being overly strict on reporters and media. This makes the crew nervous as they go into the restaurant, but Shimohira is nonchalantly enjoying her stay and curiously commenting on everything she sees while the owner looks on, growling under his breath and grating his teeth. As she makes one incomprehensible comment after another (“It smells like the back of my dad’s ears!”), the crew sweats profusely, lest the owner pull the plug at any moment.
Eventually he becomes riled enough to ask her directly what she thinks of the taste, and she responds in the most sincere manner, to the chagrin of her staff: “It takes like something made by a guy who’s bad at cooking, but is trying his best.” But this honesty was what the owner wanted and he begins to reminisce about his late wife, and how Shimohira’s critique reminds him of her. He begins to sob quietly and thanks her for allowing him to reminisce.
So whether you think Shimohira can’t “read the air,” or maybe that she’s just an airhead, it always seems to work out, and is a reminder that sometimes the least-conformist may be the best-intentioned.
World Fool News is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.