Rewriting Painful Memories in ‘My New Boss Is Goofy’

There’s a memory from 15 years ago that still haunts me. When I was in college, I ate the rest of my roommate’s homemade pie. At the time, I didn’t know how to cook. I had no idea how hard it was to bake a pie. So when I saw the rest of her pie in the fridge, I ate it. A few hours later, she came back to the apartment, no doubt expecting to enjoy the literal fruits of her labor, only to find no pie. She even confronted me about it later, and I didn’t get why she was so mad! 

In retrospect, this isn’t THAT bad. Williams Carlos Williams wrote a pretty famous poem about this exact situation. Even so, I’m still horrified at my past self. I think about this a couple of times a year in complete mortification, usually around 3 AM when my brain feels like working overtime to tell me all the ways that I’m an irredeemably bad person. 

Perhaps you also have a memory like this one. A mistake you can’t unmake, words you can’t take back. Or maybe it was something you had no control over at all. Whatever it is, it revisits you against your will, sending you into a spiral of self-hatred, no matter how hard you try to forget. 

This is what I was thinking about when I watched the first three episodes of My New Boss Is Goofy. Under the surface, this simple comedy is about rewriting painful old memories with new ones. 

Like other viewers, I take issue with “goofy” as a translation of 天然 (tennen), which my kanji dictionary suggests is closer to “airhead.” Momose’s new boss, Shirosaki, is harmlessly clumsy—rather than inconveniencing the people around him, his antics delight them. Paired with his kindness, he’s the polar opposite of Momose’s abusive previous boss, but Momose can’t shake his old nervous habits. 

A stressed Momose. The caption says, “I hate myself for not being able to let go when all I want to do is forget!” 

Take the fire drill scene in episode two. Even though he knows it’s a drill, Momose recalls a traumatic incident during a fire at his old workplace. He clutches his aching stomach. He starts to develop a tension headache. Trying to brush away his memories only makes him feel self-loathing. “I hate myself for not being able to let go when all I want to do is forget!” 

Just then, absentminded Shirosaki grabs his arm, attempting to rescue Momose from the fire, having completely forgotten that it’s only a drill.

"The trauma of that fire incident vanished without a trace."

While Momose is trying not to smile at his boss’s harmless gaffe, his traumatic memory is already being rewritten. It’s a theme we see repeatedly as Momose approaches each encounter with his new boss with trepidation, only to find out his fears were all for nothing. Now, instead of holding his stomach in pain, he’s doubling over in laughter. This has happened so many times now that in order to keep the show from devolving into unremitting fluff, it has introduced yet another character who is recovering from a traumatic past employment situation. Call it Shirosaki’s Rehabilitation Clinic For Burnt-Out White Collar Workers. 

Shirosaki realizes it's only a drill.

I started watching this show after seeing some clips on Twitter and realizing that it’s a rare anime about characters my own age. At 34, Shirosaki is squarely a Millennial, although his grasp of technology is almost Boomerish. There are a lot of great shows this season, from the prestige TV quality of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End to the intrigue and charm of SPY x FAMILY. But I doubt I’m alone in wanting a nothing show to turn my brain off to at the end of the day. This fits the ticket because no matter what Momose has been through in the past, its formulaic episodes follow a reassuring sameness as he replaces bad memories with good ones. 

My New Boss Is Goofy is by no means a deep show, but there’s wisdom hidden in its simplicity. What happened in the past is not a prediction of the future. Every day is an opportunity for a do-over. Even if we don’t work for a veritable ray of sunshine.

"If a fire breaks out, I'm going to risk my life to protect him"