In a season full of comedies that started strong only to flag at the halfway point, one series managed to stay enjoyable from beginning to end: Outburst Dreamer Boys, about a girl who gets roped into helping the eccentric “hero club” despite her best efforts to have a chill, unremarkable high school experience.
The show’s deadliest weapon is its laser-targeted ability to capture the sometimes cringy enthusiasm of adolescence, whether it’s having an encyclopedic knowledge of That Thing You Like or putting on a disaffected cool kid persona to try and hide the very sincere off-key karaoke covers you secretly uploaded to the internet. Personally I knew this show had my number when the cast went over to their friend’s house only to find his sketchily drawn self-insert fantasy epic under his bed. Whatever your embarrassing nerd story, Outburst Dreamer Boys remembers it.
Every member of the hero club is a total nerd at heart, but it’s important to note that this isn’t a cringe comedy. Those comics I mentioned? After having an internal scream session over what they’ve found, the cast makes a pact to never mention it lest their friend be embarrassed, and one of them admits he actually kind of got sucked into reading them. While the members of the hero club are all into different things, from sentai shows to 2D idol games, they’ve got each other’s backs. It’s the anime equivalent of watching your mutual excitedly livetweet a show they adore and giving them the thumbs up, knowing that you will never, ever watch that thing yourself.
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That passion is then funneled into solving cases around town; which, without shaming either the audience or its characters, underlines the fact that passion can be put to powerful use helping one’s friends and community. The show even takes some time to cheerfully kick some gender norms in the face, with several episodes dedicated to cooking, chasing off a Nice Guy stalker, and putting on an idol mascot costume to entertain some kids.
It’s acutely aware of how embarrassing being a teenager is without feeling cruel, and supportive of fannish love without making the writing into wall-to-wall inside jokes pandering solely to an otaku market. Add in energetic direction, punchy dialogue that knows how to mix and match its ensemble cast for best comedic effect, and a little bit of winking vagueness as to whether its heroine might actually have a touch of reality warping powers, and what you get is one of the most solid, inviting anime comedies of the year. With no space wasted at a tightly written eleven episodes, Outburst Dreamer Boys is a high note to send the decade out on.