Based on a true story, Japanese comedic drama Jimmy: The True Story Of A True Idiot is likely to be a series that divides audiences. Leaning heavily on slapstick and silly humour, Jimmy’s simple nature and wild mannerisms is put centre stage for comedy value which oftentimes juxtaposes against the drama which drives the narrative forward and is genuinely pretty good. Split across 9 episodes, the plot develops at a decent pace and seeing the relationship between Hideaki Onishi (Nakao Akiyoshi) and comedy legend Sanma () develop is the highlight in an otherwise by-the-numbers Japanese comedy.
The story begins with a brief prologue; an introduction to present day Hideaki Onishi who narrates the opening scene after briefly explaining his comedy career. From here, the story shows glimpses of Hideaki’s past, including a brief stint in baseball, before showing him trying to adjust to life working at the Yoshimoto Kogyo, a well known comedy talent agency. In true drama fashion, Hideaki faces plenty of obstacles on his way to fame including a stage name change to Jimmy, a fortune teller taking advantage of Hideaki’s simple nature and late on a tough decision that sees Jimmy torn between pursuing art or comedy. There’s a particular feel-good feeling to a lot of Jimmy: The True Story Of A True Idiot, especially with the way the series ends, but because of the way the comedy is portrayed, there’s a very particular style of humour here that won’t be for everyone.
Playing on standard Japanese comedy tropes, expect plenty of slapstick, silly humour and wild, exaggerated mannerisms to dominate the comedic portions of the series. There’s a particular Eastern feel to a lot of this too that may well alienate Western audiences looking to dive into this Japanese series. For those who take to this style or can ride out the comedy, Jimmy’s journey from nobody to superstar is well written and there’s a good balance between drama and comedy – even if these two styles tend to clash at times during the series.
Much like the comedy, a lot of the visual design here is relatively simple too. Brightly lit sets and bursts of wild dialogue give the series a distinct sitcom feel although there’s a good variety of camera shots used to try and break this design up. Where the series really shines though is with its characters and seeing the relationship between Hideaki and Sanma develop is the highlight here. Their character progression is generally very good and stands out as the highlight in an otherwise average comedy offering.
Knowing this is based on a true story certainly helps the appeal though and whether Hideaki Onishi is genuinely mentally handicapped or this is just an act to accentuate his comedic alter ego is up for debate but there’s no denying there’s a specific charm to this series that’s infectious and worth checking out. This is likely to be a series that divides audiences though and the Japanese style slapstick coupled with the language itself may well put some people off from venturing into this unique man’s life, especially those in the West. For those who can persevere and take to the slapstick comedy though, there’s a charming, well paced drama here but how many people stick with it to see the fruits of this pay off, rests solely on the comedy that’s likely to alienate more than it perhaps should.