Useless Animals is a cute little anime series that isn't too bad to watch. The characters are genuinely cute and adorably silly, and since each episode is five minutes long, getting through the entire series (26 episodes) shouldn't be too much of a stretch.
Normally, I love five minute comedy anime, and I'm always on the look out for more comedies that can fit into my awful attention span. Hetalia, for all its worth, could have some hysterical moments (before it sort of started pandering to fans of certain pairings), and I smiled a few times at Nyanpire before getting bored of its lackadaisical storytelling. There was also the fact it just did not click with me. Hetalia did, and three years later, I guess Hidekazu Himaruya is a genius at comedy and fan-interaction, and Funimation are geniuses at marketing, because Hetalia is now an anime fan favourite. (To put Hetalia into perspective, I first cosplayed as France in May 2009. The Hetalia group at the con must have numbered about 40 or 50. I imagine if I went again in October this year, I'd see hundreds of Hetalia cosplayers. Yup, I judge how popular a series is by walking around conventions and people-watching.)
Anyway, enough about Hetalia, because I just wanted to use it as an example and got wildly out of hand. What I'd really like to say is that I clicked with Hetalia, and didn't with Nyanpire. For Useless Animals, I was somewhere between the two.
All the characters (who are depicted as normal humans wearing kigurumi (or animal footsie pyjamas)) in the show are absolutely adorable and so comical I couldn't help but laugh at just how stupid some of their back-stories were. So you have a less-than-purehearted unicorn and his miserable pegasus brother (Yunihiko and Peganosuke), and a clumsy cheetah (Chiiko), a short-sighted eagle (Takaoka), a whale who can't swim (Sakamata) and perhaps best of all, an angry chain-smoking rabbit (Usahara) voiced by Noriaki Sugiyama. Who voices England in Hetalia. England is often depicted with a pet rabbit (in his younger days) and with a green pooka (when he's going off into his magical world). But that's just the fan-girl portion of my brain working a little too hard.
I promise not to go into Hetalia anymore.
The animation for this may not be top-notch, but hey, it's a kid's show by a fairly under the radar studio (Magic Bus), and it's five minutes per episode. I'm not expecting a sumptuous Disney short or anything.
Also, there's barely any music to speak of unless you count the theme song by Ryoko Shintani. It's a very cute little song whose main theme is just about how it's okay to be a bit of a failure... so long as you have good intentions, it'll work out in the end! Everyone in the world will love you! ...I guess.
The main problem with Damekko Dobutsu, however, is the storytelling. Yes, it's highly episodic, uses a lot of episodes to introduce side-characters who don't really have much of a role in the series... I'm not complaining about that. It's just that the last six episodes were a complete slog... maybe I'd gotten tired of the jokes by them or something, but it was just a real slog. I didn't care when Uruno realised he wasn't useless and went to the forest for useful animals, only to come crawling back into the forest for useless animals by the end of the twenty-sixth episode. It just didn't gel with the rest of the series.
Like with a lot of comedy in anime, it can either be really funny or fall flat on its face due to differences in humour. Damekko Dobutsu was really funny when you were introduced to each and every character, when you saw them doing something stupid (pretty much all of Usahara's scenes)... it's just a shame that most of the jokes got old rather fast. I get it, Uruno sucks at hunting. Chiiko falls flat on her face when she tries to run. Usahara acts more like a wolf than Uruno does. Takaoka wants revenge against Usahara for something and is always trying to hunt him, but always fails. Eh. I think the adorable factor wears off after a while too. The characters' actions are endearing and funny at first, but then descend into boredom.
It's not a bad series to spend an hour and a half on, but boy does it drag once the episode material dries up... so I'm giving it a 4.5/10. :)
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