A few weeks ago, nobody had heard of Invasion! Squid Girl. It was an afterthought on the fall season chart; just another kid’s show from a no-name studio, destined to be as quickly forgotten as the latest Pokemon or Beyblade anime. Then, about a week ago, something strange happened. People started making their own squid hats, ending their tweets with ~de geso, and making jokes about tentacle rape and ink vomit. Slowly but surely, Squid Girl was gaining popularity through word-of-mouth, until it became the sleeper hit of the fall season. Naturally, as an anime blogger, I couldn’t just ignore this. I had to see what all the fuss was about for myself.
Squid Girl is easy to quantify, especially if you’re familiar with the comedy stylings of Kiyohiko Azuma. Like Azumanga Daioh, it effortlessly blends slice of life with character-based comedy, and throws in just a bit of Sgt. Frog‘s wackiness to top it all off. The result isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but still cheerful and heartwarming… definitely an enjoyable diversion from the more mature anime of this season.
The plot is fairly simple. The titular Squid Girl (also referred to as Ika Musume), is an anthropomorphised moeblob squid who lives just off the coast of Japan. Upon seeing the pollution of the sea caused by dumped garbage, she resolves to invade the surface world and punish arrogant humanity for their transgression. However, her first attempt at conquest goes horribly wrong when she runs afoul of the Aizawa family, who operate The Sea House Lemon, an open-air seaside cafe. After smashing a hole in the cafe’s wall with her hair-tentacles, Squid Girl is forced to work as a waitress to pay off the damages. This sets the stage for all manner of hijinks centered on Squid Girl’s naivete about the human world.
More after the break~de geso!
What I Liked
Squid Girl: It’s often said that Japan can make anything cute. Well, now the power of moe has turned creepy tentacled sea monsters into absurdly adorable girls. This cuteness is what makes Squid Girl so endearing; mixed with her quirkiness and naivete, she becomes a textbook example of moe done right. What do I mean by this? Put simply, everything about this deep-sea damsel makes you want to hug her, from her laughable innocence to her overuse of the “de geso” speech quirk. This kind of warm, parental feeling towards an adorable character is the essence of moe. Consequently, Squid Girl is the sole factor that makes this show watchable; the other characters are mere cliches ripped straight out of Sgt. Frog, but Squid Girl herself is unique and funny enough to make up for this shortcoming.
Sight Gags: Okay, so we’ve got the cute part nailed. How about the comedy? Well, for the most part, the jokes are merely serviceable. They manage to garner the occasional chuckle, but nothing more. The exception are the sight gags like this one, which break up the otherwise monotonous comedy and keep everything fresh. The funniest part of the first episode was the squid ink short, which provided the timeless screenshot of Squid Girl vomiting ink onto a plate of spaghetti. That’s the kind of humor this show needs to stick with if it wants to keep the laughs coming.
Art and Animation: This anime has remarkable level of visual polish, even if the art style is somewhat simplistic. This isn’t a problem, since Squid Girl isn’t the kind of show that needs mindblowing visuals to succeed. In fact, the clean and simple style compliments the lighthearted writing perfectly. However, there are certain scenes (mostly involving Squid Girl’s tentacles) that featured incredibly fluid and fast-paced animation, which surprised me. Usually when a kid’s comedy show needs to toss in an action scene, the result is less than impressive. It’s nice that studio Diomedea pulled out all the stops this time around.
What I Hated
Boring Comedy: Every episode of Squid Girl is divided into three seven-minute shorts, each with a different story. This works to the show’s advantage, as it lets them switch up comedic formulas frequently enough to keep everything crisp. However, in the second episode, some of these shorts began to have weak premises. The third short, in particular, had a story that I found totally uninteresting, and the comedy similarly fell flat. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, the premise of Squid Girl visiting a human house wasn’t played for laughs, and they ignored several obvious gags centered around her naivete that would have been hilarious. Second, the writers also crowded out her dialogue in order to introduce another uninteresting character, who pretty much drained all life out of every scene she was in. When a show like this fails to deliver cuteness or comedy, I begin to notice the flaws in pacing and characterization inherent to all slice-of-life anime. This reinforces my belief that Squid Girl should always be the central focus; without her, the show becomes flat out boring.
Compared to the other comedies of this season, Squid Girl isn’t that funny… but it doesn’t need to be. Like any good moe anime, the strength here lies in the characters; in this case, the adorable protagonist makes this show worth watching. The dynamic energy and cuteness she brings drives the plot forward, and when the focus is taken off her everything stutters to a halt. If future episodes keep this in mind (and perhaps add a few more of those hilarious sight gags), this will be another classic heartwarming tale in the vein of Azumanga Daioh. If not, it will just wind up another bland, generic comedy soon forgotten by the ever-fickle otaku community. Here’s hoping that Diomedea chooses to avoid the latter.