The Spring 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Gal & Dino
How would you rate episode 1 of
Gal & Dino ?
What is this?
Kaede is a fashion-conscious young woman who wakes up one morning to realize that, in her drunken stupor last night, she brought a dinosaur home with her. The dinosaur can't talk but does seem intelligent, can eat instant ramen, and is deathly afraid of cats even though they seem to love him. Will this be a permanent living arrangement? Mieharu is a middle-aged male actor who has a similar experience.
How was the first episode?
I had no clue what on earth Gal & Dino was about before I watched its premiere, and now that I've seen it, I still don't know how to explain it beyond the basic premise: A so-called “gal” (a Japanese stereotype for fashionistas with a penchant for tanning their skin and partying hard) wakes up after a bender to find that a mute cartoon dinosaur with a perpetually agape mouth has come home with her. They become roommates. That's the show.
The easiest and most obvious comparison I could draw for Gal & Dino would be Pop Team Epic, as this is basically a hybrid gag-manga sketch comedy/multimedia variety show, though replace the anarchic shit-posting sensibilities of PTE! with a very laid-back slice-of-life feel. PTE!'s pleasures came from seeing an incredible amount of love and craft go into animating the stupidest non-jokes you could possibly imagine; Gal & Dino has similarly vibrant and exciting bits of animation (the stop-motion stuff is less inventive), but it doesn't seem all that concerned with telling any kind of joke. There's a girl, and there's a dino with a goofy face. Sometimes the dino eats ramen. Sometimes it freaks out about cats. The gal is mostly cool with whatever is happening. She's just chill like that.
To even qualify Gal & Dino as “good” or “bad” seems counterintuitive. It isn't especially trying to be either those things, as far as I can tell. It's just this kind of cute, often very pretty-to-look-at artifact, a thing to experience when one simply doesn't have enough gals or dinos in their lives. I think I liked the charm of it? Or maybe I found it a little boring? It's very difficult to say. One thing's for sure: That gal sure does live with a dino, alright.
So here's the acid test: whatever your reaction was to Pop Team Epic a couple of years back, you'll likely have a similar reaction to this one. Though based on the seinen manga My Roomie Is a Dino, this adaptation is the brainchild of Jun Aoki, one of the two people behind Pop Team Epic, and it so thoroughly bears his creative stamp that you might as well call this Pop Team Epic v2.0. I hated PTE with a burning passion, so it should be no surprise that I did not take well to this one, either.
The basic structure of the series has two short scenarios playing out in animation in the first half of the episode, followed by another segment done in live-action for the second half. The first half features the titular “gal” (or “gyaru” if you prefer), while the second half replays some but not all of the first half with the male actor Mieharu. He repeats situations that the gal finds herself in, sometimes word for word but with his own brand of expressiveness, though things eventually diverge at the point where the gal takes Dino outside; Mieharu instead engages in a Christmas scenario with Dino, one which strangely ends on a dramatic note that seems utterly out of character with everything else in the series. One of the jokes here is that, during the live-action segment, Dino is played by someone in a mascot-type suit. The other is that Mieharu's room is exactly the same as the gal's, so you have a middle-aged guy in a room clearly designed for an early 20s woman.
In both versions Dino doesn't talk, instead usually just having a blank, open-mouthed expression. That he's a dinosaur doesn't seem to faze anyone. There is also a live-action version of this adaptation featuring an actress playing the gal which is debuting at the same time, so I'm not clear if there is supposed to be a connection between that and the live-action parts here or not.
A bit of the humor in the first part does work, and the opener is an interesting mix of animation and live-action shots, so those are the main reasons I'm not giving this a minimum rating, but the second half was just drudgery to sit through. The regular animation is very basic – we're talking Flash-player level here – and it is interspersed with some segments that are either actual stop-motion or 3DCG made to look like stop-motion. The sliding timer bars on those segments I guess are supposed to be part of the joke, but they just tediously stretch out scenes that aren't funny to begin with. Or maybe it's just that, like with Pop Team Epic, I don't get this style of humor. At all.
I've developed a number of seasonal expectations over my time working on the preview guide, and one of my least favorite is the regular “why isn't this show an anime short” production. These anime generally have bare-bones production values, an extremely basic premise, and tend to be constructed out of many disparate skits. As skit after skit piles up, none of them really expanding on the show's central joke in any way, an urgent question emerges: “why am I being subjected to twenty straight minutes of a program that ran out of ideas after three?”
This season, Gal and Dino earns the dubious honor of really deserving to be a three minute production. The title says it all: a fashionable gal lives with a vaguely defined blue dinosaur, and that is it. There aren't really any actual jokes in this production; the base concept of a gal living with a dinosaur is apparently supposed to be entertainment enough. Then, halfway through this production, we switch to a live-action version of the same story, except it's now a person in a dinosaur suit and a middle-aged man.
Produced by the same studio that created Pop Team Epic, the most interesting elements of this episode harken back to how this team elevated that manga. There are lots of mixed media interludes, and the show is fairly creative in how it finds a variety of ways to frame Gal and Dino's cohabitation. But ultimately, with base material that isn't funny in the slightest, this team can only do so much to polish this dramatically and comedically inert source material. Gal and Dino is an easy skip.
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