Tentai Senshi Sunred is, without a doubt, one of my most favourite comedy titles to hit in recent years. Along with all the other elements that come together to make each episode as funny as the last, there are two key things that make the humour really work–the voice acting, and the characters’ body language.
Sunred’s humour primarily relies on absurdity. It is a show about heroes and villains living typical mundane Japanese lives, after all. So rather than opting to have the characters deliver their lines in the typical polished anime voice acting style, they instead deliver with a noticeable level of naturalness. The voice acting isn’t rough or unpolished. Far from it. In fact, the acting is very good. However, the voices coming from the monsters and heroes in Sunred aren’t what you’d expect from heroes and villains, or the typical anime character. They’re the kind of voices you’ll hear if you speak to normal Japanese people.
It’s fair to say that the average Japanese girl does not sound the moe heroines that make up the bulk of female anime characters these days. By that same token, the average Japanese male does not sound like a brooding pretty-boy hero. Rather than mastering voices that are difficult to come by in the real world, the actors in Sunred instead deliver polished and professional performances that sound like, well, your buddies. However, in Sunred each character’s speech quirk is intentional. Things like mumbling are deliberate, and regional dialects are very much written in the script. Sunred’s punk-like cadence and Vamp’s near homosexual tone are especially well done. This perfection in delivering the imperfections of normal human speech is part of what drives home just how absurd the entire show is.
In addition to voice acting, the characters also have their own body language to match. While not the most well animated show, Sunred makes sure their characters express themselves both vocally and physically. In fact, the limited animation probably helps. Characters quickly changing between a few bold poses with no inbetweening does a good job of drawing one’s attention to the body language.
Much like the voice acting, the characters’ body language is also very natural. Convincing awkward mutters are matched with just as convincing fidgeting, and arguments between characters aren’t the typical talking-head shouting match. A great example of how well the body language works in Sunred can actually be found in the latest (not yet translated) episode–Sunred is confronted by another hero in a restaurant, and this hero asks Sunred for an awkward bit of advice. As the sketch begins, Sunred is looking around awkwardly, taking very annoyed puffs from his cigarette. This short cut of him just looking around, clearly looking as if he doesn’t want to be there, sets up the sketch perfectly.
Of course, what makes this all hilarious is that these are a bunch of freaks acting like normal guys. Especially a character like Khamenman, who sounds like some old guy, but still acts like a 20-something loser. The way in which these various factors contradict each other is key to how the show operates. And even though the show communicates quite realistic emotions through body language and voice acting, it doesn’t shy away from sweat drops or other examples of anime visual short-hand, which again contrasts nicely with all the stuff I’ve outlined above.
The are some other reasons why I find Sunred to be one of the best comedies out there, but this more or less covers why I think the show works as well as it does.