What I’m Watching: Ika Musume

Alright, now that I’m done geeking out over The Dark Tower series by Stephen King or getting caught up in current events, it’s time for another anime review:

Translated: “Invade! Squid Girl”.

I came to this anime by way of AMV Hell music videos using footage from the shows.

I expected a narrative. I got Slice of Life.

Slice of Life anime are fine when I know I’ve signed up for that, but this series also engages in Simpsons level episodic amnesia. As an example, in one episode, the eponymous Squid Girl revealed she can change her weight, and therefore fly. This information pops up in no other episodes, and that revealed power could have been immensely useful resolving threats that she’s faced with in other episodes both before and after the mangaka reveals this skill.

But first with the positives:

The writing is clever, and if you watch it in Japanese (and can understand), the squid/ocean-based puns in Squid Girl’s speech are pretty funny. ┬áThe official subtitle translation falls flat on its face though, with such gems as “No squidding way” regularly popping up in the English text. Given that that’s not even a pun, I would have preferred a literal translation with notes rather than trying to force-fit Squid Girl’s oceanic verbal tic and fruedian slips into the English language with the ham-fisted lack of care towards the target language that only a translator with seventy looming deadlines can manage.

Squid Girl’s power set would be Mary Sue in most other settings, but it’s offset by her just generally being too nice and naive (and, to be blunt, ditzy) to effectively use her powers to accomplish her stated objectives. And let’s face it, there just aren’t a whole lot of ditz genius protagonists running around in American or Japanese media these days. The last one I can think of is Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo.

Comin’ straight outta Toonami. 90s kids, represent!

Okay, I guess Asahina Mikuru from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi counts. Even if I hate her.

A wild author caricature of fanboy obsession has appeared!

And others. But forget about them, because for the most part, I already have.

Mihoshi is awesome, but she’s not a main character by any stretch. Hell, she’s not even one of the potential love interests as far as I’m concerned. She’s just a space cop there to monitor a known space pirate, which made her all the more likable, since, while she’s still likely a target of fanboy lust (because that shit gets everywhere), she doesn’t really get the “Trophy For Male Hero” treatment that Ryoko and Aeka get.

What I guess I’m saying is that Mihoshi’s just doing her job.

And probably too old for this shit.

Just like Luna Lovegood.

But I digress.

Downsides to Ika Musume.

Lack of continuity’s a pretty big one for me. The show has a pretty big inability to build stakes or tension, which is fine for a comedy, but problematic when it shades over into the dramatic, such as in the last episode of Season 1.

The show’s episodic amnesia prevents the maintenance of a voltage gap across multiple episodes, so the biggest payoff delay is 20 minutes. This is unfortunate, as I feel like the mangaka and episode writers could have accomplished their narrative goals a lot more effectively if they’d been willing drop the episodic amnesia elements.

All in all, if you’re looking for an amusing anime to watch, Squid Girl’s about in the realm of American Dad: Humorous popcorn, but don’t expect it to change the way you view the world.

If you’re not an anime fan: 3/5 stars
If you are an anime fan and understand what you’re signing up for: 4/5 stars

Get the whole series on DVD here.

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