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Every time I watch an episode of The Laughing Salesman I feel like I’m being transported to… The Twilight Zone.
The episodic series The Laughing Salesman tells tales of a salesman named Moguro Fukuzo who gives advice to lonely people on how they can lead a more fulfilling life. But, if the people don’t follow his rules, dire consequences ensue.
The Twilight Zone, in turn, is an episodic series from the 1960s that runs the gamut of science fiction, horror, fiction, psychological horror, and paranormal, among other types of stories. Each episode of The Twilight Zone always has a major twist or moral that keeps viewers guessing how the story will progress.
The premise of The Laughing Salesman reads like a short blurb of any episode of Ron Sterling’s 1960s TV series The Twilight Zone—and that’s probably the best way to approach The Laughing Salesman too as both share a similar structure. We are treated to an opening act that shows us the lives of the characters. This is then sent topsy-turvy when the characters are given an item or placed in a new and different situation. Then the stories conclude with a twist reveal. This is a good setup for both series. It keeps the audience guessing as to what the ultimate twist of the story is going to be. It also adds a great deal of suspense to the story we’re being presented with.
However, The Laughing Salesman takes it one step further than The Twilight Zone. Where The Twilight Zone treats the characters as unwitting participants in the story, The Laughing Salesman emphasizes how the main characters are willing actors in the story that also bring about their own demise. The Laughing Salesman is very dark in that respect, because, while some of the characters do get what they want, the endings are hardly happy. Granted, not all The Twilight Zone episode ending are happy either, but there are still episodes where things turn out all right for the characters—which is a stark contrast to the shorts of The Laughing Salesman.
Then add on the bizarre nature of Moguro Fukuzo—his advice and proposed solutions—in The Laughing Salesman. These bring on a whole different tone than many other anime series. The darker tone came to mind first, but the surreal tone jumps out as well.
Combine the tone, how the characters bring on their own demise, and the narrative structure, and The Laughing Salesman is rife with stories that seem lifted right out of The Twilight Zone.
The Twilight Zone is an icon of American televised programming. So, to see The Laughing Salesman use it as a template for its stories is fantastic—especially because it leaves an eerie feeling after each episode, just like The Twilight Zone does. And as The Laughing Salesman progress, I can only hope to see it deliver masterpieces like “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “It’s a Good Life,” or “To Serve Man” from…The Twilight Zone.
The Laughing Salesman is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.