Grand Blue Dreaming
Episodes 1-2

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Grand Blue ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Grand Blue ?

I found Grand Blue Dreaming's premiere episode to be a surprisingly enjoyable take on the tried and true staples of the college comedy farce. Iori's bizarre and increasingly alcohol-addled adventures with his new Diving Club offers the kind of bawdy humor you just don't get a lot of in a medium that is usually inundated with high-schoolers and middle-schoolers. This is without a doubt one of the more self-consciously lowbrow comedies that I've come across in recent anime, but its penchant for wacky facial expressions and the generally likable cast made Grand Blue Dreaming's first episode fall on the right side of the comedy line for me.

The second episode of the season continues with the same absurdly dumb jokes as the first did, but the execution fell a bit flat this time. The first of the episode's two main vignettes focuses on Iori's desperate attempt to convince his cousin Nanaka that he's mature and reliable enough to attend a boozy party with some students from the local girls' school. Being the idiot that he is, Iori trusts his club seniors Tokita and Kotobuki to help him give his bedroom the veneer of a “mature” young adult. Of course, Tokita and Kotobuki take this as an invitation to fill Iori's room with an ungodly amount of pornography. Iori unknowingly shows this off proudly to his cousin, then cue Nanaka's disturbed reaction followed by Iori's crippling despair.

It's the kind of sitcom setup that's classic enough to be kind of played out by this point, but the problem arises with GBD's struggle to maintain the gang's comedic escalation, which was a problem that first reared its head in the way that the premiere killed the otherwise funny “detect alcoholic beverages by lighting them on fire” bit. Once the club seniors fail the first time, they enlist the help of the hapless otaku Kohei, who just plasters Iori's room with lewd anime posters, first from his own collection, and then later with BL art after Iori furiously demands his room be decorated with the exact opposite of whatever Kouhei would want. In between these bits, Kouhei and his seniors keep getting distracted whenever they sit down to watch porn together, which only further confuses an already frazzled Nanaka.

The stuff with the group watching pornography is actually the funniest material in this whole sequence, mostly because it revolves around the realistically banal way the boys approach their smut, more with bored curiosity than anything else. All of the other gags involving the room decoration work purely because of the show's funny facial expressions; otherwise the only humor comes from the boys being really stupid, and a single routine can only stretch that premise so far before the show needs to move on. Plus, there's a throwaway line that implies that Kouhei agreed to help Iori after the seniors offered some kind of video involving middle-schoolers, which is too dark to be funny when delivered so flippantly.

The second vignette has Tokita and Kotobuki taking Kouhei and Iori to a pool to practice diving. Ironically, this segment works best as soon as the jokes stop altogether. Almost all of the pool gags revolve around Iori getting weirded out by seeing his seniors' junk, which is the least funny way that GBD exploits its characters' chronic undressing habits. Rather, I enjoyed the scene that came after Iori's swim training, where Nanaka takes Iori to the aquarium at her sister Chisa's behest. This time, we get a scene played entirely straight, where Nanaka tries to convince Iori to give diving another shot. I never expected Grand Blue Dreaming to take its diving premise seriously, so it's nice to see the show can have decent character moments as well.

Still, Grand Blue Dreaming's second episode was a noticeable step down from its first, though I don't think it's a terminal one. It's true that the gags simply didn't land as well, and the animation and artwork took a noticeable dip in quality, but there's a raw level of charm and well-paced slapstick that's enough to carry the show for now at least. I don't know that this will ever be a comedy masterpiece, but I'm hoping that GBD can provide enough dopey laughs get us through the summer.

Rating: B-

Grand Blue Dreaming is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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