What is Tsukkomi? [Definition/Meaning]

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Japan has a wide variety of intriguing terms that are used to emphasize a certain type of action (Kabedon), or a sound that something creates (ピ-プ – the sound from a police siren) and so we figured it would be a great idea to discuss the meaning of Tsukkomi. While the term generally refers to humor with regards to anime, Tsukkomi (突っ込み ) stems from “Owari”, which refers to Japanese style comedy. The Tsukkomi character is usually played by a very serious straightforward individual, who uses very dry humor to criticize verbally and abuse the “Boke” who is seen more as the more spontaneous of the two. One great Television example is the Japanese comedy duo of Summers, which consist of Kazuki Ootake as the Boke, while Masakazu Mimura plays the Tsukkomi role. There are a great list of anime that closely resemble this tag team type of comedy, so let us hop right into the action and look into the world of Tsukkomi.

Teamwork is key

Whenever you tune into your favorite show, there's always likely to be a scene where you burst out in laughter because two people just go back and forth with each other. Insults are thrown, fists go flying, and someone gets hit on the head for their foolish antics. This is the pure essence of Tsukkomi, where humor is shared between two individuals, who both display two types of comedy. On one hand, you have the more direct and hard hitting humor, and on the other you have someone who acts aloof and somehow gets away with everything. This spectacular teamwork is what creates the rib splitting laughter in many anime because, you're getting the best of both comedy worlds in one package. There's never a dull moment since every scene is filled with some random event that has both characters picking on each other for attention.

One fantastic example that we'd like to share first is the extremely funny anime called Lovely Complex. This anime demonstrates what Tsukkomi means as two people are in constant bickering over the most unusual things, which makes you laugh so much because of how much we can relate to everything that's happening throughout the series.

Lovely Complex

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: April 7, 2007 - September 29, 2007

What makes Tsukkomi so great is that you never know what to expect, and so every scene creates more and more excitement along with laughter to keep you engaged. The story of Lovely Complex follows Risa, who just wants to find romance and live out the fairy tale dream, and show off to all of her friends. She initially falls in love with one of her classmates but their relationship was short lived, which left Risa on her search yet again. As fate would have it, she comes across Atsushi, a very short yet handsome boy who at first she claims to not have feelings for. Over time the two grow much closer and begin a romantic comedy-duo, all the while trying to overcome the stereotype of their height difference.

Lovely Complex is a fantastic example of Tsukkomi because you have two characters who compliment each other with their contrasting personalities, Risa is the more straightforward, while Atsushi is all over the place causing Risa to go nuts. This is what makes the two so funny to watch, because they constantly go back and forth with each other, spewing out insults or hitting the other in punishment. This all comes from love of course, since their personalities are what glue their relationship together, while making the humor very effortless when we watch it.

One Punch Man

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Aired: October 5, 2015 – December 21, 2015

One Punch Man bleeds Tsukkomi in every way since you have two characters who are always constantly bickering about something which always has some random outcome. One Punch Man follows Saitama, who started off as your typical salaryman, but was having none of it since his true purpose was to be a hero. Through this determination he became the One Punch Man, who is able to destroy any foe with just one powerful blow. He comes across a cyborg named Genos who decides to tag alongside Saitama as his student, while the two fight to save humanity from evil.

One Punch Man is full of humor at every corner, not just between Saitama and Genos, but every interaction Saitama has with an enemy. Tsukkomi just flows naturally throughout the entire series, as you always see random encounters where Saitama throws punches at his foe in a very dry manner, while his opponent rapidly fires back with their own funny rebuttal. This, of course, leads Saitama to obliterat his opponent, but not before we all laugh at his stoic appearance and straightforward punchlines. Genos adds more of the relaxed humor as he tends to be a little air headed at times, which usually gets him into trouble. This nice subtle balance is what really creates a nice environment and honestly makes the action that much more satisfying.

One Punch Man PV

Binbougami ga!

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: July 5, 2012 - September 27, 2012

Binbougami ga! invites us into a world where contrast is everything, and is what really forms the explosive laughter we all look for in anime. The story looks at two individuals, Sakura, who comes from a very wealthy background, while Momiji, comes from a poverty stricken upbringing. The two are in constant battle between fortune and misfortune, with a barrage of dirty jokes and verbal jabs to keep you coming back for more. With so many anime references throughout the show, such as in Episode 7, where both characters disguise themselves as Hokuto no Ken characters, you're always in for a treat.

This is a great example of Tsukkomi because both Sakura and Mojimi come from different backgrounds which help to strengthen their humor driven antics throughout the series. One sees the world as this perfectly balanced world where everything is spoon fed to her, while the other sees it in a more realistic fashion and expresses it with vigor and purpose. There's so much over exaggeration in the show as well which really emphasize the essence of Tsukkomi.

The jokes aren't meant to be personal, but used more to create a climax and emphasize major flaws in each characters dispositions. The crude humor mixed in with the very tact and direct jokes blend well to create an abundance of excitement at every turn. Sakura's flavorful and heartwarming character creates an excellent dynamic, and teaches the viewer the values of life pertaining to sharing, respecting, and caring for others all the while throwing in humor to unify it all.

Closing Statement

Tsukkomi can be defined in many ways with terms like slapstick, improv, and more, but what truly makes it stand out is the laughter you receive from it all. Laughter is what cures all wounds because it's a way for people to express their experiences in a way that is serious, but exaggerated in such a special way to bring a crowd to tears. We can all relate to humor because it's such a fantastic language to pick up and learn. You don't have to use over the top antics to prove your point, but even honesty itself can prove to create a laugh when we all need it the most. If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to know more about Japan from our what is column, let us know down below of what you'd like to learn! We'll be more than happy to share with you the many great cultural aspects of Japan and more.

As always, for your sweet anime fill, keep it locked here at Honey's Anime.

Binbougami-ga-wallpaper-20160801004017-636x500 What is Tsukkomi? [Definition/Meaning]


Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!

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