Must-Watch for everyone not put off by a bit surrealism in the beginning and with enough attention span to piece the story together over multiple episodes. It offers a lot for you.
How to talk about it without spoilers? The synopsis sounds quite bonkers and could be off-putting to some. But in typical Ikuhara fashion nothing is as it seems in the beginning.
The show starts by just telling you the central message of the show: It’s about the connections you form with other people. What that really means is for the viewer to puzzle together. The creators, however, don’t just throw out nebulous metaphors. They take great care that they also present all tools for you to piece it together yourself while expanding the story with more context to explain it. In the end, everything that was “wtf” in the beginning falls together into one picture. They take the viewer by the hand to give them a general direction, but still enable the viewer to form their own theories, explanations and meanings along the way. It’s refreshing that a show don’t present something with the premise that the viewer is too stupid to understand it. The show treats its consumer as a mature person without being condescending or self-indulgent.
One part of the puzzle pieces are the flood of word plays and puns. It’s a lot of fun to hunt them down, as these are the little details that fuel the story development in the beginning until things get made more clear. You can pick up on many hints and clues if you pay attention to these little things.
You can divide the story into three main components that influence each other. You first have the general concept, the theme of ‘connections’, that get explored by the characters , which in turn live through and drive forward the plot. The character study and exploration of their motives is, imo, the meat of the show, while the general plot of kappas, kappa-zombies, otters and butt-stuff take a back-seat for them. More about them characters below.
With concern about spoilers, I’ll just say that the plot is more than it seems in the beginning.
The animation is great. It’s animated on a high frame count and therefore delivers on fluid and beautiful movements. Storyboarding is also great with many unique and creative shot-compositions that greatly enhance the meaning of the scenes. The creators painstakingly crafted every miniscule detail to either enhance the story or to give the world more life. In the animations department you can see many details that weren’t necessary, like a sliding door bouncing back a little bit after being closed. You can count the shows that would spend time and resources on animating such little details on both of your hands.
The action scenes are animated on 1s or 2s, meaning that a new drawing every 1-2 frames is used. Slower scenes are animated on 3-4s. Which makes this on par with Mob Psycho 100 or other highly acclaimed animations, in terms of production value. It’s less flashy with the rotating camera work than shounen battle series are, but still the camera work, perspectives and realistic movement of 2D characters in a 3 dimensional room are utilized with great effect.
Also in typical Ikuhara fashion is the use of repetition. The transformation scene and the fighting scenes, that are pure and weird eyecandy, get repeated to enhance the themes. They get rearranged, cut and done with different characters to reflect the mental states of characters, to enhance themes or to reinforce metaphors. That’s how you use repetition as a stylistic method.
Great designs for the characters, each and every one looks unique, is easily recognizable and just looks great without being over-designed. Simple is sometimes more effective. Everything is presented in a colorful and bubbly way. The characters look cute or, in the case of the cops, hot.
The world’s design is really great. Ikuhara and colleagues are talented in making a world look lived in. Even though the background characters are just paper-cutouts, the environment makes them look more like normal humans than most of the other shows are able to. Every scene is crafted with a lot of little details without being littered. The composition and the realistic filling of the environment makes you feel intimately familiar with the town and the homes of the characters.
And of course, there are all the crazy visuals and buttstuff.
The overall sound design is good, with every action being accompanied by fitting sound effects that leave a mark and are creatively used. It’s good, although nothing that special, but where the show really shines are the voice acting and the music.
Voices simply fit for every character. Among the main trio the voices represent the mental state and maturity of their characters. Enta, who is much more childish than the others, lets this reflect in his voice with more erratic intonation and less control over his voice than the more mature Tooi. Keppi’s voice sounds more noble while also giving room for other interpretations and theories. The villain perfectly encapsulates “creepy motherfucker” by how calm yet threatening he speaks. A perfectly timed pause and then his agonizingly drawn out “Ussssoooo..” show how much care they put into the voice directing.
The voices although excel in the dramatic moments. For sake of a spoiler free review I won’t go into details, but when tragedy strikes, you can just feel the pure pain, hurt and desperation in the voices. It’s raw and unfiltered emotion to the point that it can make you uncomfortable.
The music. Man, the music. I simply love it. Usually I would just judge the OP and ED here, but this show delivers much more. The show has two main musical numbers that you can listen to on repeat by itself *cue sexy cops song*, but they get shook up and changed or cut according to the story, with the Kappa’s song changing to who sings it and what the theme of the episode is. Once again, that’s how you do repetition.
The OP is an upbeat song about the struggle and beauty of forming and maintaining connections. It’s an optimistic view on the theme of the show. It shows the bonds and connections between the main trio and other characters in a positive and more lighthearted way. I like it.
The ED on the other hand is about the pain of losing that connection, emphasized by incorporating the boys into the real world. They are shown separate from each other and appear a bit alien in that world, emphasizing the isolation and pain that losing such connections entails. Although this is the weakest song in the show, it’s still good and is accompanied by some great visuals.
This is the real meat of the show, the general plot often takes a backseat for the character development. Once again, no spoilers make it hard to explain why they are so great, as the secrets they keep, what connections they have and how they behave is slowly revealed in the course of the show. While watching it weekly on release it was a great joy to discuss all the hints and theories about the characters. The secrets and stories behind the characters were written compelling and their story beats are unique and fresh. As of date, no other show had the balls to portray certain characters in such a realistic, loving and honest way. The show treats it characters with respect, despite the tragedies of the story.
For the characters are the three main boys: Kazuki, Enta and Tooi. Each of them have their own circle of connections they try to protect and maintain. They have to come to terms with the pain and risks they entail and have to grow as characters with them. And oh boy they do. The character development for all characters complete a full arc and leave no open threads. How far would you take to protect the connections that are important to you and what are these connections anyway? Love? Lust? Desire? All these questions get raised and each character responds uniquely to these questions without getting preachy to the viewer. That’s how the characters propel the theme of the show forward. You will understand the terms, but the show won’t explain to you if that is the correct explanation or answer. The characters are mostly ambivalent and leave room for the viewer to make their own sense of it.
The construction of the show’s characters is painfully realistic. While some character actions are over the top, many others are simply what you believe the character would do or come up with. They resonate with the viewer because they are so realistic. E.g.: You’ll probably say something along the line of “But why, Enta?” while cringing and dying a little inside watching it, but after all, these are actions that an immature 13/14 year old boy would do. The characters are acting exactly how a kid with their individual level of maturity would react.
The same with adult characters in the show. Them going through intense trauma, ending desperate and feeling cornered makes you feel sympathetic towards them, despite their actions.
What really resonated with me is the portrayal of LGBT characters. This is one of the few shows where gay characters got crafted with such depth and love for them. Both the warmth and tragedy of these characters is portrayed naturally and without clichés. Knowing I’m gay early in my life, and growing up with the hardships and pain that entails, makes me really glad that they tackled this topic with such delicacy and love, without omitting the hard parts.
This show jumped to the second place of my list of favorite anime for a reason. It managed to resonate with me personally, a feat that only a few shows pulled off. In fact, I could count them on one hand probably.
To be real for a second, I’m long through that age, but still, seeing it like that had a healing effect for me and made me remember a lot of things from when I was that age. Having to lie, not being able to be honest, the fear of rejection. The moment when hope is more painful than giving up, the moment when hope becomes the best feeling in the world, the moment you realize you love somebody, when you get accepted for who you are. Forming connections when you get accepted. Losing connections when you’re not. Good and bad parts of my life and even if it hurt once, it showed me again the beauty in having experienced it. That’s why the show and certain characters are special to me.
It’s a great show and as long as you don’t reject it out of stubbornness you will find something in there for you. It has a lot to offer, from the enjoyment of piecing a story together yourself, exploring unique characters and finding a bit of yourself in them or just for the spectacle of the great and weird visuals. It’s definitely worth a watch.
P.S. This was the short version. I could write so much more.