Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jan 8th 2011
Episodes 1-12 Streaming
She comes from the deep, a tentacled terror driven by rage. The cavalier abuse of her home by the puny humans above has pushed her to the ultimate retribution: an invasion of the surface realm. Her name is Squid Girl, and the world will know her name. Or so it would be, if only she wasn't about four feet tall, eleven years old and totally incompetent. No one takes Squid Girl seriously. The first humans she meets, Eiko and Chizuru Aizawa, put her to work as a waitress and squid-ink supplier. Subsequent acquaintances get in petty spats with her (local lifeguard Goro), fall in love with her (obsessive cute-chaser Sanae), want to play with her (Aizawa family youngster Takeru), or mistake her for an alien and try to dissect her (alien hunter Cindy and her three MIT goons). That Squid Girl is totally ingenuous and easily distracted (she is an invertebrate after all) furthers her cause not at all. But it does make for plenty of adventures, though of a decidedly less military nature than she'd like.
If the first words to go through your head when reading a synopsis of Squid Girl are Sgt. Frog, you're probably not alone. Diomedea's squiddy slice-of-life tale owes a considerable debt to Sunrise's froggy invader comedy. They share their central premise—hapless invader becomes the chore-slave of his/her intended victims—their persistent triviality, their anthropomorphic leads, and even their mini-episode structure. But there the comparison ends. Where Frog was a hyperactive gagfest, Squid Girl is a relaxed squid-out-of-water comedy with more than a toe or two in a surprisingly warm pool of character byplay. It is obviously aimed at an older audience, and has the unhurried pace and (relatively) grown-up humor to prove it.
Of course, saying it's less relentlessly silly than Sgt. Frog isn't saying much. Regardless of demographic, Squid Girl hasn't a thought in its fun-loving head. The environmentalist message of its premise—remember Squid Girl's invasion is prompted by pollution—fades at first into the occasional gripe about messy beaches and eventually into total oblivion as Squid Girl's misadventures in the world of mankind consume the series entirely. While not afraid to bask in the glow of friendship and camaraderie or to demonstrate how Squid Girl's self-denied but readily apparent good heart win her the affection of those around her, the show has no interest in fashioning any of it into anything like a message. It doesn't even have a plot, much less involved characters; there's no room for such luxuries in its seven-minute episodes. If it can't deliver a smile, a happy laugh, or an inward glow, Squid Girl simply has no interest in it.
That commitment to smiling, happy-laughing, inward-glowing good humor makes Squid Girl one seriously delightful escape, however. Set in a sun-kissed world of beachside restaurants and permanent vacations and uniformly harmless weirdoes, it carries its own carefree, good-times aura with it wherever it goes, be it comic action or pseudo-horror. Squid Girl's relations with those around her are unfailingly and warmly funny, whether she's intentionally terrifying a co-worker (the only person in the world who is genuinely frightened of her) or merely doorbell-dashing on a neighbor (who, through no fault of her own, becomes her best friend). The rhythm of the mini-episodes is easygoing and the laughs usually hover pleasantly in the smile-and-chuckle range. Sometimes the series can sink into a Yotsuba&!-ish obsession with whimsical simplicity, but it balances it with the occasional spike into uproarious hilarity, memorably including the ill-advised use of bioluminescence in a graveyard and a terrifying reinterpretation of the teru teru bozu. It's terribly difficult to leave the show without a goofy smile plastered all over your face.
The show is called Squid Girl and Squid Girl rules it absolutely. Part of her dominance is simply the weakness of everyone else. Amusing and likeable and generally cute though it is, the series' simple cast lives vividly only when in contact with Squid Girl. In some cases that isn't saying much. Chizuru's contact with Squid Girl only reminds us that she's pure yandere. In others it means everything. The increasingly deviant behavior of Sanae as she pursues her squid-crush is endearing in its self-delusional persistence and also very, very funny. The very best of the series, however, is always reserved for Squid Girl. Her excellence in waitressing, baseball, drumming, drawing, math, and just about anything else that is useless to an invader is a consistent source of inspired silliness. Her continual surrender to her kinder instincts despite her avowed villainy is the sweetness that flavors the series' gags. She even gets the finest of the series' unusually sharp animation, pulling off athletic pratfalls and sleek comic action with equal aplomb. And when she isn't swatting mosquitoes with her feet or launching tentacles like Macross Fortress missiles, she's being indescribably cute.
Occasionally Squid Girl attempts to diversify beyond pure good-times uplift. These episodes provide the series with its rare failures. An episode about a pair of deeply creepy dolls (named Johhny and Depp) aims for half-humorous horror, the only result of which is half the humor. The series' two forays into sports action create one charmer and one over-charged debacle. But the explorations outside of the series' comedic comfort zone also result in little moments of surprising poignancy; moments when the series' clean art and casual pace combine and its seldom-used but usually frivolous score turns delicate and joins with the series' love of ocean sounds to reveal a little sliver of poetry in the series' soul. A dream in which an aging Eiko lives out her life in the company of a mini-Squid Girl is one such moment, and its quietly funny but deep and very real sadness lingers longer than perhaps any of the series' genuinely great jokes.
Unfortunately, the promise of maturity that that poetic sliver holds is never fully realized, even as the series ends on an unexpectedly emotional note (unexpected since the serious turn only lasts fourteen minutes). Maybe in the next season...if it ever materializes. Until then we'll have to content ourselves with being left happy and untroubled. Curses.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B
+ A light, occasionally riotous comedy perfect for brightening your day.
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