It’s no secret that I like silly slice of life anime. Generally the less plot on display, the happier I am. So, when I fired up Shinryaku! Ika-musume, I knew there was a significant chance that I’d at least like the show. But this little anime’s potent mix of outlandish situations and well-placed narrative fake-outs surprised even me.
Shinryaku! Ika-musume starts with an absurd premise: a squid-girl rises from the ocean intent on enslaving humanity armed only with an imperious attitude and ten powerful tentacles. However, thanks to her relative naivete and short attention span, she finds herself railroaded into helping at a quaint beach-side restaurant. Once divorced from the potiential plotline of subjugation and rule, the show pleasantly morphs into a slice-of-life venture that uses Ika’s eagerness to learn about the human world and her air of superiority to manufacture laughs through three micro-stories every episode.
But Shinryaku! Ika-Musume burns brightest when its writers flex entirely unexpected plot muscles. While keeping its absurd tone, the show on occasion reaches out, dead-serious to pluck your heartstrings with alarming acuteness. “Wouldn’t having a pet be squidtastic?”, for example, tells a story of love and loss that seems incredibly poignant until its final twist delivers a load of narrative whiplash that will nearly put you in a neck brace. Similarly, watching Ika-musume bond with her first umbrella during "Squidn't you bring an umbrella", seems like silly, harmless fun until an accident sends things horribly awry and you find yourself feeling for the poor, bereft squid-girl. The juxtaposition of genuine emotion with outright strange situations and slapstick comedy must be some dark alchemy designed to deliver laughs from unexpected places.
Shinryaku! Ika-musume borrows heavily from the artistic sensibilities of both School Rumble and Lucky Star. The clean, attractive character designs exude moe, deform pleasantly for comedic effect, and can spring into motion when the show requires it. By keeping the everyone’s face uncomplicated at the start, the animators are free to paint any and all emotion onto each actor as dictated by the script, and this flexibility helps maintain the show’s healthy relationship with the absurd and transforms well into more embellished forms when the script calls for an overwrought still.
For those of you who love characters with adorable vocal tics, Ika-musume offers a treasure-trove of material to make you shiver with delight. Juri Aikawa’s shouts and yelps have a bizarre magnetism that makes Ika’s voice more adorable as she gets increasingly confused, desperate or excited. The seiyuu’s control of tempo means that the lead character remains fully in charge of every scene playing off both the equally zany Sanae (an overly-affectionate Kanae Itou) or Cindy (Hitomi Nabatame) and the numerous straight men like Eiko, Chizuru, or Goro.
It would be hard to come up with a more entertaining bunch of one-dimensional clowns. Since each short story focuses entirely on the quriky Ika-musume, everyone else serves as either sounding board or prop. Eiko and Takeru, for example, function primarily as straight men, introducing Ika to new experiences and allowing the naive protagonist to allow her preconceptions to run wild. Their benign responses of annoyance and useful enthusiasm form some of the best humor of the series as they allow Ika set up her own punchlines and lampoon herself (the places she goes whenever Takeru strokes her ego almost always result in a good laugh). In contrast, delusional characters like Sanae and Cindy offer the lead a chance to be the voice of reason, victimized as she is by the otaku leanings of the schoolgirl and the unwholesome experimental urges of the CIA agent. The combination of these two types of interaction give the show a playful ebb and flow that keeps its running gags from wearing out their welcome.
But in the end, Ika with her extremely short attention span and unflappable ego, serves as the series’ whimsical maypole. Unable to stay focused on her primary task of “squid-vasion”, she throws herself heartily into whatever activity presents itself with delightful results. Whether we watch her stare down an ace baseball pitcher while helping Kiyomi’s team win a pickup game, or giggle as she gives her first umbrella a series of increasingly epic names her gusto for life forms the backbone of the humor. She rests firmly in in the tradition of characters like Tenmna Tsukamato and Yui Hirasawa who react in a predictable manner to every situation but with a twist. This stark contrast between her hyper-able tentacles and her otherwise klutzy ways allows her to react both conciously and unconsciously to situations which in most cases delivers two punchlines at once--an interesting twist to the otherwise predictable 4-koma pacing.
Shinryaku! Ika-Musume shoots for cute and quirky, nailing the target dead-center. By mixing its able production values with a chuckle-worthy cast and clever storytelling, this anime should worm its way into the heart of anyone with a dark sense of humor and a love for absurd slice of life.
My friends and I did a whole video review of the anime. We broke down the anime in different criterias especially the ones already mentioned such as Story, Animation, Sound, and Characters.
Anime in 200 Words: Squid Girl
Premise: Squid Girl washes up onto the beach with plans to conquer the surface world and make them pay for the serious crime of polluting the seas... and then she gets suckered into working at a beach restaurant and everything goes awry.
Environment: There’s an environmental message here, but it’s not obnoxious. People have been throwing garbage into her home, and she’s angry about it! At least the studio realized that you need more than that to keep people from tuning out.
Characters: Squid Girl is naive and... well, tsundere, for lack of a better word. This isn’t a romance, but she has violence/friendship mood swings. My favorite, though, is probably Chizuru. She looks so sweet, but she’s so good at manipulation! ^_^
Humor: Most of it’s slapstick or a naive misunderstanding, so none of it’s terribly refreshing or memorable.
Ink, Squid, Etc.: These puns in the titles got old really fast for me, but I AM older than the target audience, so that’s understandable.
Overall: Squid Girl is a decent comedy that involves wackiness without soaring to the utmost heights of insanity. If you want a light, episodic comedy, try out this show.
What I Liked: Consistent animation, bright simple visuals, good (but plain) character designs, great voice acting (especially from Hisako Kanemoto, the VA for Ika Musume / Squid Girl, and Rie Tanaka, the VA for Chizuru), unique characters (in terms of personalities, anyway). The squid puns.
What I Didn't: The pacing of the final episode was a bit off-putting (i.e. going from the Volleyball skit to the "Pinch Jyana-IKA" 2-parter seemed a little jarring to me), but it wasn't enough of a problem to warrant a mark against this series.
Final Verdict: Shinryaku! Ika Musume is one of those skit-based comedies that manages to surpass expectation and deliver a pleasing and entertaining arrangement of characters and situations.
I feel kind of bad for ranking this so high, almost like a consumer who feels cheated after "falling for" an effective marketing campaign, but I really thoroughly enjoyed this series.
Sometimes in the anime world, there are a lot of sub-genres that are very subjective, depending on what kind of anime you’re watching and one of the other subjective forms of media is comedy. For example, some people can like Love Hina for being some new turn of the Harem genre but most of them (including me) hated it for how annoying and juvenile it is. Others like Azumanga Daioh & K-On! For being innocently enough funny to entertain people for all ages without being too edgy and for others, they find it either too boring or moe for their taste. For me, comedy is one of other favorite mediums of today, simply because I like to laugh at some good humor material and the keyword being GOOD.
Squid Girl has come to the land from the depths of the sea to conquer humanity for its pollution of the ocean. Unfortunately she ruins the first house she uses as an invasion base and has to work to pay for repairs. Of course, she can't overcome the Aizawa sisters who manage the house, so who know whether she can subjugate humankind.
The premise is the fish-out-of-water plot with a lot of comedic scope and while watching it, I enjoyed some of the antics that Squid Girl gets herself and a few others into. The show goes by showing 3 part episode, with the segments being 7-8 minutes, much like American cartoons in the past, present and future, so I can see a little inspiration from that and for those who love to use puns a lot, this show has plenty of squid puns to go around, even the episode’s title cards uses them.
I really enjoyed the characters and their interactions with each other, especially the main character of Squid Girl, who really wants to be taken seriously as an invader but is not up to the task of that, considering she can’t even conquer a local eatery shop but for her character development, she plays it as being a cute mascot-like character without being overly annoying and grating and she never once toss aside her plans for world domination for no reason but it’s not like she’s going to invade any time soon with the Aikawa sisters, with Eiko as the strong-minded and no-nonsense sister who always need to keep Squid Girl in check and there’s Chizuru, who I think if Brock from Pokemon & Sakura Matou from Fate/Stay Night had a baby with the mindset of Ryoko Asakura from Haruhi Suzumiya and it’s her and she was even more of a bizarre character in the show than the title character and the sister’s little brother Takeru, who is more akin to Squid Girl as a playmate; Sanae, Eiko’s neighborhood friend who is very obsessed with Squid Girl, so much that is frightening and enters into Hentai territory; Nagisa, a surfer girl who is actually afraid of Squid Girl and she’s very paranoid about it. Plus, Squid can use her fear for her advantage but mostly it’s just to mess with her. There are other characters including the American scientist Cindy Campbell (not the one from Scary Movie), who and her three fellow scientists from MIT want to study Squid Girl to see if she’s an alien; Kiyomi Sakura, a minor character later on in the show whom Squid has become close friends to and Goro, the lifeguard who Squid riles up every now and then and also has a crush on Chizuru.
The animation was done by Diomedea (or previously Studio Barcelona), whose only known project I have heard from them is…..Kodama No Jikan….okay, not the best title to be represented but this was some great animation, especially when it came to animating Squid’s tentacle movement. Also, since this is a gag-based anime show and for that, it was acceptable for doing that, maybe not on par with Azumanga Daioh & Sgt. Frog but it’s very good nevertheless. Now, I didn’t mind the music here that much but it was rather fitting and appropriate for the show, although if you ever sing this to somebody’s ears real loud, you are most likely to get punched.
Now, I know there are two seasons of this show but I just been commenting strictly on Season 1 and their dub done by Bang Zoom Entertainment and was released by Media Blasters and I thought about the voices on that. Christine Marie Cabanos has been one anime VA rookie that I personally want to succeed in the business, (to me she’s a younger version of Stephanie Sheh), and her performance as Squid Girl fits the criteria of her cute and upbeat nature. I will say for Cristina Vee in her role as Nagisa is very similar to her role as Mio in K-On! (very paranoid and easily frightened) but then again, I don’t know if the K-On!! dub was produced before or after Squid Girl but it’s hit or miss and I really enjoy the dub.
FINAL VERDICT: While not being something I would add to my top ten lists, this is a very fun and energetic show that never gets too boring or too hostile. I enjoyed all the characters, even the minor ones who can manage an impact into the series and the gags can be very funny although the squid puns did get too old too quick in my opinion. I do wish that Season 2 will get dubbed someday since Media Blasters no longer has the license to that one and possibly get Sentai Filmworks to license it and get the original cast back on that.