Image source: 「笑ゥせぇるすまんNEW」公式 on Twitter

I’m sorry, but Moguro Fukuzo, the titular character in the dark, surreal retro comedy The Laughing Salesman, is just a bad, bad man.

“All people in this world, young and old, male and female, are lonely,” he states, in the preamble for every episode. “I am here to fill the emptiness in all of their souls. No, I won’t accept a single coin in return. As long as my customer is satisfied, that’s all the payment I need.” He claims to deal in matters of the heart, but really, how much customer satisfaction have we witnessed so far?

Moguro paints himself as a volunteer of sorts, claiming to want to solve people’s problems, but he is very often the one that actually causes them. Most of us might not exactly be living in bliss, perhaps, and in fact some of our lives might certainly have some kind of constant struggle. Yet under the pretense of helping the unfortunate, Moguro goes out of his way to ruin their livelihood by exploiting their vulnerability and preying on their weaknesses. Perhaps he is trying to expose our delicate, overly-sensitive, dissatisfied postmodern minds: the result of living in an affluent society where we complain about the drudgery of our work-life balance, and take for granted the freedoms we enjoy. Does that give him the right to use our greed against us, to reveal our darkest desires and bring about our downfall, whether we deserve it or not? How is he the voice of justice? In the end, who judges his methods?

Image source: 「笑ゥせぇるすまんNEW」公式 on Twitter

Moguro is a mystery. We know not where he came from, nor what his aspirations are. Maybe Moguro is a figment of these people’s imaginations, manifesting himself and driving people over the edge as a result of their own bouts of insanity from overwork or stress. In other words, these people are probably just destroying themselves.

Well, that would certainly be a valid reading of the material, seeing as how his appearance is so oddly stylized that he does not even look human when compared to the other regular people in the show. He is not just a laughing salesman, he is a constantly grinning one: He seems to be physically unable to remove that creepy grin from his face. Maybe he is the equivalent of the little devil on your shoulder from those old cartoons of yore? The one that tempts you in a certain forbidden direction, goads you into some act of wrongdoing, but then takes no responsibility for your actions when you do commit the sin in question?

Image source: 「笑ゥせぇるすまんNEW」公式 on Twitter

The only problem with this theory of Moguro not actually existing is that, on many occasions, we do actually see him interact with other people apart from his “customers.” Not that he is ever shown with any real depth in his underlying motivations for “helping” said customers. Who is he? If he indeed is real, how did he get into this line of “work”?

In virtually all of the stories seen in The Laughing Salesman, we see this pattern repeated: some person is having some problem, be it in the home or at work, but is managing to deal with it somehow. Japanese society is often described as “no pain, no gain,” with sacrifice being a major admirable quality in successful people. Try hard and persevere. Even if you are not rewarded with success, your endurance will often be considered commendable among peers. What Moguro invariably does is interrupt this status quo by offering a magical, yet conditional, solution to these peoples’ woes. Often, his services will be refused by the “customer.” Yet Moguro is the one who insists. Eventually, their spirit weakened, the customer will accept the offer, find that it alleviates a lot of their suffering, and come to rely on it—whatever it may be. At this point, Moguro usually returns, claiming a breach of contract of some sort, and dooming them to a fate much worse than their original predicament.

Image source: 「笑ゥせぇるすまんNEW」公式 on Twitter

Salesmen usually try to get you to buy something you don’t want or need. The smart ones find some psychological tricks that make you doubt your life without the product they are plugging. That is their foot in the door. It’s smooth sailing from there; they’ve hooked you, and the next step is just to reel you in.

Yet one thing is rather apparent: Moguro is not just a salesman. He is a con artist. His fine print is nowhere to be seen, and the whole speech about just wanting to fill people’s hearts with happiness, without personal reward… Yeah, I’m not “buying” it.

Image source: 「笑ゥせぇるすまんNEW」公式 on Twitter

The Laughing Salesman is not about the laughing salesman. It’s about us. It’s a warning not to be in a position where your stamina and self-esteem are so low that you can be taken advantage of by being offered a shiny, magical solution. It’s an invitation to think objectively about why you are perhaps suffering, how you got to be in that position, and what steps you can take to rectify the situation. If Moguro is evil, then he is the temptation and greed that dwells inside all of us that makes us go for the shortcut: the quick fix and the easy solution. It’s up to us to not fall prey to his charms.

The Laughing Salesman is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Anime News Newtwork Feed