NMB48, which is the third all-girls pop group founded in 2010 by producer Aki.P, has 98 active members and performs nightly in their performance theater at the Yes-Namba Building, in Namba (Osaka Prefecture). Osaka Prefecture is also the home base of not only this all-girls cast - 15 first-generation members drawn exclusively from the ranks of NMB48 - but is also famously the cultural capital of comedy in Japan, kind of like how Chicago is the center of comedy in the U.S. And from this cast of 15 - all between the ages of 16-21 - comes "NMB48 Geinin! The Movie: Owarai Seishun Garuzu" - i.e., NMB48 Entertainers! The Movie: high school comedy girls.
A bit more cultural explanation: Every Japanese high school has a heavy dose of extracurricular activities in addition to mandatory subjects. For many Japanese high school students, the make-believe world of their after-school activities, aka "bukatsu" or "kurabu" (clubs) becomes not only an alternate reality, but also a veritable escape from the day-to-day grind of an otherwise monotony filled existence as well as a raison d'etre.
At the fictional Namba Girls' Academy High School (Namba GAHS), which serves as the setting and backdrop for the entire movie, the world of after-school kurabu are no exception, and this being Namba, which is located in Osaka Prefecture, it cannot be helped that there is a comedy club as well, or "Owarai Seishun" ensconced within the walls of an elite, private girls' high school.
Comedy clubs, however, are somewhat looked down upon by the other elite girls at Namba GAHS, as the lead girl puts it to newly transferred Watanabe Miyuki, "Milky," during her walking orientation, "About our school, our volleyball team and wind instrument music club (Rappa Ren SchuSchu), compete in national tournaments. Our volleyball and basketball teams - even our choir - appear in regional championships. We're 'well rounded' in both sports and the arts, so to speak." That just about covers everything, except what Milky is really interested in, which is the "Owarai Seishun" - or comedy club, which not too surprisingly, is composed of the school's misfits and oddballs, namely other first-generation NMB48 members, Yamamoto Sayaka, Yamada Nana, Kotani Riho, Ogaswara Mayu, and AKB48's Yokoyama Yui.
Milky's entry into the Owarai Seishun club room is met not without some reservation, if not downright hostility, especially from club leader Yamamoto Sayaka, "Sayanee," who has her eyes set on competing in this year's annual regional stand-up comedy championships known as "JK-1 Comedy Tournament." Sayanee's indignant claim that "comedy will save the world" to those girls who laughed at her still fresh in her mind, Sayanee isn't above giving Milky the once over. To keep things on an even keel,the group decides that only a member-wide "monoboke match" or prop comedy improv competition will settle the question of whether Milky is a right fit for the group or not. Accordingly, Milky passes with flying colors - what with her demonstration of her characteristic indecisiveness and airheadedness.
Cultural differences notwithstanding, the Japanese-style "manzai" humor of the "Owarai Geinin" is not totally unappreciated or incomprehensible to a Western audience. All truth told, I didn't really get the "kombi-style" stand-up comedy acts done by these girls as it's not really stand-up comedy in the American sense. It is, however, one part physical comedy and a litany of Japanese linguistic play on words and puns that will do nothing for the non-Japanese speaker.
The real comedy, however, is in fact this goofy movie with its campy script and off-the-wall group of j-pop stars from NMB48, who are basically kids on the cusp of adulthood playing characters not too far removed from their actual identities. Therein lies the actual comedy and camp.