Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Life is never dull in the jungle! 11-year-old Haré's life has not been normal or stress-free ever since the seeming little girl Guu came to live with him and his mother Weda. An effort to teach Guu about fishing goes awry when Guu ends up swallowing a young woman who was attempting to commit suicide, while her presence on an excursion to the beach causes a tidal wave. Back at home Haré's long-absent father has settled in as the school doctor and takes every chance he can get to cozy up to Weda, but trouble breaks out when the local barber lady/psychic mistakes him for her dead husband. Worst of all, Weda disappears when a village hunting party encounters a formidable monster on a jungle hunt, and it's up to Haré and Guu to find and rescue her.
Haré+Guu is one of those series that revels in its own weirdness, from which springs many a fun and funny moment. Its sly wit is epitomized in Guu, a sardonic menace in the form of a cute little girl whose physical form is apparently quite mutable. This is a girl capable of swallowing whales, maintaining a fantastically more bizarre world in her stomach where people live, punching people from 20 feet away, and adjusting the length of her hair at will, amongst other things. Throughout the series so far she has gotten up to no end of mischief, which constantly aggravates the already-high-strung Haré, but in this volume she also shows on more than one occasion that she's there for Hare when he desperately needs help. A troublemaker she may be, but at times she can be a very handy troublemaker.
One shouldn't put too much value on Guu's redeeming traits, though, because this is still, at heart, a series about how much trouble she can foment and how it affects (or doesn't) the interactions of all the odd characters around Haré and her. Since the first volume, Haré' s long-absent biological father has been added to the mix, a development more irksome for Hare than desired since he finds him to be a less than wholesome role model. Two further potential recurring characters are introduced here: the psychic barber Dama and Hiroko Yamada, a young woman saved from a suicide attempt who is very angry over being jilted by the married man she was having an affair with. These new characters are, predictably, way over-the-top. Much more entertaining is the villain of the “Weda disappears” episode, a “black, big, hard, shiny, strange noise-making creature” whose description is repeated as often as possible and misinterpreted in radically different ways by different characters; the actual nature of the monster, and how Guu confronts it, may surprise but won't disappoint in its comic effect.
Moreso than in most anime titles, the artistry here is an integral part of the overall comedic effect. Both character and background designs are kept fairly basic and unrefined in their digital designs, although the varied character designs generally fit their roles quite well. The simple designs allow Guu's body to transform as needed without seeming too odd, however, and her sarcastic, mischievous expressions are a critical part of her charm. Lots of strange stuff is going on in the backgrounds of shots (especially those in Guu's stomach), so repeat viewings or extensive pausing and backtracking may be required to catch everything. The video games Haré plays are also pleasingly silly rip-offs of common fighting games. The animation is good enough to support the visuals and sometimes combines both foreground and background animation, giving the visuals the illusion of a more multilayered effect at times.
The quirky soundtrack continues with the same musical themes it used in the first volume, which do an excellent job of enhancing the oddball mood of the series. A lively Caribbean dance number continues to serve as the opener (although it still features at least one character who hasn't popped up in the series yet), while the more tame and ordinary closer also remains unchanged.
Critical to the success of any comedy series is a strong dub, and Haré+Guu is particularly blessed in that category. No performance even remotely strikes a wrong note, with Jennifer Sekiguchi's dry-toned take on Guu and newcomer Alex Simon's interpretation of the neurotic Haré continuing to be highlights. The English script follows the subtitles remarkably closely for a comedy title, making for another superior all-round dub by Bang Zoom! that is, at worst, the equal of the original. It's certainly worth a try even for dedicated sub fans.
“Goodies” on this volume include typical extras like clean opener and closer, Japanese TV commercials, a Production Gallery, and company trailers. The included English Outtakes are purely that: only bloopers, not the comedic alternate visual or dialogue bits seen on the DVD releases of some other recent series. (Given the popularity of such extras, one would think that more ordinary outtakes would eventually become obsolete, but apparently that hasn't happened yet.) The on-disk translation and cultural notes are a just a word-for-word reprinting of content that can be found in the colorful liner notes, although the liner notes also include some additional content. This volume still suffers from the rough transitions between episodes and closers seen in the first volume, though the problem of the full subtitles option never translating the opening song lyrics, which I mentioned in my review of the first volume, has been corrected.
Haré+Guu took a bit of a downturn in its second volume but is now back to full form. Although not always a laugh-a-minute series, it nevertheless offers up plenty enough humor and weirdness to keep a viewer involved and entertained. Its excellent dub, uncomplicated structure, and light-hearted spirit offer a nice comedic diversion for anyone who's day has been a little too serious.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Great dub, plenty enough humor to satisfy.
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