Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou - The Best Anime You've Never Heard Of
The third season of Haikyuu!
Saiki Kusuo no Psi-Nan
The second season of Shokugeki no Soma
Keijo!!!!! (released in the fall)
Yuri on Ice
March Comes in Like a Lion
My Hero Academia
And that's not including the two JUGGERNAUT anime movies, "Your Name (Kimi no na Wa)" and "A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)". You can see, how in a year that was a veritable goldmine for anime series, that a cheeky, 12-episode series about a young tonkatsu chef/DJ chilling out in Shibuya could fall through the cracks. However, today is your lucky day. It's time for Marco to introduce you to Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou, a series whose charm and artistic mastery puts it up with all of the names I've mentioned above, but never elevated past "niche" status.
What's it all about?
Young Agetarou Katsumata, the heir to his family's tonkatsu store in Shibuya, Tokyo, is bored with his daily life. One fateful night, he makes a delivery to a customer who works at a club in Shibuya's vibrant nightlife scene. As a token of thanks, the customer lets him listen in on a DJ set. Inspired by the DJ's funky grooves, Agetarou realises that the DJ's groove is the same as the groove of making tonkatsu! In that moment, he decides to become a Tonkatsu DJ - tonkatsu chef by day, DJ by night. Think Superman, but instead of Clark Kent, he's a prep cook in a tonkatsu store, and instead of a super powerful superhero, he's a super funky DJ. The show follows Agetarou's double life as he learns about the worlds of DJing and cooking tonkatsu.
But What Makes it so Good?
What makes Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou stand out from the crowd to me is its commitment to executing its premise, both through the story and through the art. In literally half of the time that most anime seasons get (the episode runtime for Tonkatsu DJ is 9 minutes, compared to the standard 22 minutes that anime episodes usually run for), we get to see the complete first story arc for Agetarou, that takes him from total beginner to locally-known Tonkatsu DJ. For a show that has such a unique premise and laid back nature, the story is incredibly driven. In a mere 108 minutes of run time (this is 4 minutes less than Kimi no Na Wa), this series tells a story that feels as full as any regular 12-episode anime season or blockbuster film without cutting any corners. The show takes a very literal route to using tonkatsu cooking to influence Agetarou's DJing (how certain methods he's learnt in the store can apply to his song choices etc.), and the more you watch, the more you realise that these two seemingly unrelated things that we've been told are similar and we just nodded along for the sake of it, are actually far more symbiotic than you'd think. Of course, parts of it are quite tongue in cheek, such as Agetarou's father telling him that the pickled vegetables are mixed 33 times, then 45 times (these are playback speeds for vinyl records, for those who don't know), but all of the tonkatsu DJ growth is coherent and believable as well as being incredibly thematically consistent.
Tonkatsu DJ is the "easiest" story I have consumed - and by that, I mean I spent most of my time laughing at the comedy, or grooving to the show's incredible soundtrack, but somehow I caught every story beat perfectly, and there was a real sense of progression from episode to episode in a way that was very natural and effortless. Yes, the story is very simple and doesn't require a load of attention to figure out, but it's told so concisely and effectively in a package that makes you feel as if you're just going to the flow, vibing to a beat.
Another huge part of this show is the characters. Whilst the focus is very centered on Agetarou, the rotating cast of regulars that the show amasses are all very endearing and serve to both push the show forward and add depth to the world. There's his family, who are there with him to run the tonkatsu store and push his development forward - most notably his father, who takes his job of bequeathing generations of tonkatsu knowledge into his easy-going son. There's his DJ friends who help introduce Agetarou to the technical side of DJing, most notably his mentor, the lard-eating DJ Oily, who takes payment in the form of cubes of lard. And there's the guys that fall somewhere in between - his friends and customers, who support him both by buying his family's tonkatsu, and by going to his DJ sets (what a NOBLE SACRIFICE to go clubbing to support your friend, huh?). There's even rival DJs introduced in the second half of the series, that give a show that has a very slice-of-life energy a slight shounen twist. Even though Agetarou is still a beginner and is focusing on finding his own paths in both his tonkatsu-ing and DJing, he still wants to be the best - and his journey will certainly take him there.
However, all the quirkiness this show has through its premise and its characters would be for naught if it didn't have the right artistic presentation. The art style has a very chilled, laid-back feel that fits the show perfectly. It's also quite versatile despite how simple it may look - it lends itself very well to slapstick, visual comedy too. The Shibuya sets are also allegedly very true to the real thing (I say allegedly because I have not been to Shibuya, nor have I spent a lot of time looking at it), so I would imagine the very "cool" vibe that the art gives is reflective of how it feels to be in the real place.
However, the absolute standout part of this show is its soundtrack. What's the point in having a show about a tonkatsu DJ if his beats aren't fresh? Luckily for us, every single beat that is presented to us (there's 5 or 6 total I think?) is incredibly funky, and they reflect the personalities of the DJs fantastically well. Agetarou's grooves have a very straightforward, high-energy funk to them, which perfectly represents his character. The other DJs, who all have their own quirks and styles, are reflected equally well in their OST pieces. My personal favourite of the "character themes" is the theme given to a DJ double act, whose theme is "sweet and spicy" - the way that the beat represents these two concepts and so effortlessly transitions from one to the other is a real treat to listen to. The soundtrack gives the feeling that Shibuya is a cool, trendy and vibrant place to live, and that its club scene is just as fun. Think of this OST Samurai Champloo's hip, younger sister who goes clubbing and also maybe played too much Parappa the Rapper or Friday Night Funkin'.
All in all, Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou is a show that is just as polished as some of the big names that released at a similar time to it, but because its niche premise and more "budget" feel, never got the traction it truly deserved (nor has it gotten a second season, which it absolutely deserves). If you like slice-of-life anime, tonkatsu, are interested in the Shibuya scene, or just generally need a show to switch off and relax to, I cannot recommend a show more highly than I recommend Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou.
And as a parting gift, you can click here to listen to the OST.