I enjoy a good creepy anime and, after the disappointing mediocrity that was Junji Ito Collection, I happened upon The Laughing Salesman on Crunchyroll. The thumbnail alone of the titular character was enough to give me the heebie jeebies, and suggested I was in for a treat…
…And, for the most part, I was. It’s cheap, ’80s-style animation, with a handful of static frames and comically oversized mouths – likely a throwback to the original series. This, from 2017, makes you think you’re in for a One Piece-style ‘horror’ romp but it’s more like the old-fashioned tales with the moral of ‘be careful what you wish for’.
The titular salesman is actually a demon who has nothing better to do than to prowl the streets of Tokyo looking for people who are down on their luck. After ascertaining their needs, he provides them a solution – with a condition/caveat – but which inevitably ends up being something unlike anything the recipient expected.
Where this anime really entertains is how it handles this age-old, monkey paw trope: The results span the scale from humorous to harsh, and this unpredictable discrepancy makes for some unsettling viewing. Worse still, not every customer of The Salesman deserves their story’s ending; a bullied, lonely secretary with a spending problem and a boorish, drunk salaryman bunking off work at daytime strip clubs have two very different lives. It also makes the stories that much more real and relatable.
Like One Piece, don’t judge the show on its animation or its thumbnails. With brisk pacing, spirited voice acting and two stories per episode, you’d do worse for horror anime.