Teppen-!!! is a Bushiroad-published manga by Inujun about three aspiring comedians, inspired by real-life voice actors Ayasa Ito, Mikoi Sasaki and Aimi. An anime adaptation was announced in January 2022, with a trailer following in March. The series, called Teppen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ‘Til You Cry, will follow student Yayoi Sakamoto as she reunites with her old comedy partner Yomogi Takahashi. The girls revive their double act with the help of a mysterious third member, Yuzu Hosono.
The series may remind fans of Bushiroad’s own Love Live! multimedia project, with school comedians instead of school musicians. However, an odd-couple friendship in the world of female comedians might also sound like anime’s answer to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. That series concerns Miriam “Midge” Maisel as she becomes a trailblazing stand-up comic in the 1950s and 60s with the help of her acerbic manager Susie Myerson. Are these similarities superficial, or do they reveal something about what can make a showbiz series great?
In the trailer, Takahashi appears to chastise Sakamoto as she arrives at school, panting from exhaustion. Takashi and Sakamoto might constitute a traditional Japanese manzai comedy routine: Sakamoto appears to be the fool, or boke, and Takashi could be the tsukkomi, the straight man. Midge and Susie are both intelligent, but they sometimes have a manzai-esque repartee: one example came when Susie derided a fake staircase designed to be glamorously descended in Season 3, Episode 5, not anticipating that Midge actually wanted to try it out. Like Mrs. Maisel, Teppen might show that its comedic protagonists aren’t immune to moments of unexpected comedy in their own lives.
Teppen‘s plot summary on Anime News Network describes Sakamoto as “a diehard fan of comedians and comedy acts.” This calls to mind how each Love Live! idol group takes inspiration from those who started before them, such as μ’s being inspired by A-RISE and Aqours being inspired by μ’s. Meanwhile, Midge has a strong appreciation of real-life comedian Lenny Bruce, who comes to serve as one of her strongest inspirations. However, Midge’s relative unfamiliarity with the world of stand-up apart from this makes her approach to the scene as an outsider one of her unique strengths, so Sakamoto’s preexisting comedy fandom is one of many ways her story will differ from Midge’s.
Another similarity between the three shows is that the protagonists have a basis in reality. Fans often compare Midge’s life story to that of Joan Rivers, and series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has said in an interview with Vanity Fair that she is a fan of the late comedian. However, Sherman-Palladino emphasized that she drew inspiration for the series from life with her own stand-up comedian father, Don Palladino. Not only this, but the series weaves in real-life comedians such as the aforementioned Bruce in a way that adds additional authenticity to its story.
The real-life voice actors who were the basis of the Teppen-!!! manga’s trio will be voicing the characters they inspired in the anime. The pop groups from the world of Love Live! may not be based on real people, but the popularity of their music as performed by their voice actors makes fans feel like they have a presence outside the anime and games. These links to reality make watching the three series feel even more like experiencing the lives of actual performers.
Of course, there will be many differences between Mrs. Maisel and Teppen. The most obvious of these are the medium, the high school setting and the modern-day backdrop, but one story difference is more fundamental. Midge struggles as one of the only female comics of her day, being rejected by club hosts in favor of more familiar male acts. In contrast, Sakamoto is one of 15 students learning the discipline of comedy (evidently the reason for the 15 exclamation points in the series title). While there may be rivalry, Sakamoto and her friends have the privilege of being part of a community of female comedians — a benefit Midge never had.
It’s expected that Teppen would share themes such as female friendship, learning from one’s inspirations and working hard to master a craft with another Bushiroad project such as Love Live!, but it’s interesting to discover that it shares them with an American series such as Mrs. Maisel as well. However, the uniqueness of the anime’s premise of 15 aspiring comedians can’t be understated either. The series will be sure to cement its own unmistakable identity to English-speaking fans when it premieres on Crunchyroll in July.