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Shelf Life
Squid Girl

by Paul Jensen,

I enjoyed the first episode of A Place Further Than the Universe, but I can't say I share the main characters' interest in traveling to Antarctica. After the stupidly low temperatures we've had in the northeast lately, my desire to go anywhere colder is below zero. I think I'll just stay inside with my cup of tea and leave the exploration up to those anime girls. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Squid Girl

On Shelves This Week

My-Hime - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 650 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $43.49 Amazon

Synopsis: After an unexpected encounter with a mysterious sword-wielding girl, ordinary high school student Mai Tokiha becomes a HiME battle princess.

Extra: We have reviews of the old single-disc releases of this magical girl action series, and you'll find the first of those here. It's available streaming on Funimation.

My-Otome - TV Series Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 650 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $43.49 Amazon

Synopsis: A long journey leads Arika Yumemiya to the Windbloom Kingdom, where a special academy trains girls to become powerful warriors.

Extra: You'll find the first of our single-disc reviews for this alternate-universe successor to My-Hime here, and it's available streaming on Funimation.

My-Otome - OVA Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 175 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $44.98
Currently cheapest at: $33.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The cast of My-Otome return for another adventure, and a prequel story explores the origin of the Otome powers.

Extra: We have reviews for both of the OVAs in this set, which you can read here and here. Be aware that only the first of the two (My-Otome Zwei) comes with an English dub.

Naisho no Tsubomi - Complete Collection DVD
Sentai - 85 min - Sub - MSRP $19.98
Currently cheapest at: $12.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Fifth-grade student Tsubomi learns to deal with several new events in her life, including her mother's pregnancy and her own feelings for a boy at school.

Extra: We don't have much coverage of this 2008 OVA, though its source material has apparently drawn praise as a kind of "sex ed through manga" series. Our user ratings are reasonably positive with an average of 6.8 out of 10.

Naruto Shippuden - Set 33 DVD
Viz - 323 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $26.89 Amazon

Synopsis: With Naruto and Sasuke on the verge of death, Kakashi and Obito must confront Madara, who has activated the Infinite Tsukuyomi.

Extra: Our episode reviews cover this set (and a whole lot more), and you can stream the series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $43.49 Amazon

Synopsis: High school delinquent Ryu Yamada and honor student Urara Shiraishi switch bodies after an accidental kiss, and this mysterious event turns out to be just the start of their supernatural troubles.

Extra: I wrote our episode reviews for this series. It's a fun show, though the pacing is pretty rushed compared to the original manga. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Squid Girl
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.

We're kicking off a new year of reviews with the recently-released collection of Squid Girl, because what could be more fun than a girl who spits squid ink and has tentacles for hair? (Stick with me on this one, I promise it's better than I'm making it sound.)

Squid Girl is the kind of show that sounds less appealing on paper than it actually is. The idea of an anthropomorphized squid hanging out at a seaside restaurant and having adorable adventures calls to mind a long list of forgettable anime starring bland or annoying mascot characters. As always, it's the details that make the difference between good and bad, and in the case of Squid Girl it's a combination of clever writing and a little bit of heart that elevate this series above the genre crowd. Approachable yet entertaining, it's an example of what happens when someone gets this particular formula right.

Our protagonist Squid Girl (or Ika Musume if you're a stickler for Japanese character names) is a self-described invader from the sea, who makes her way onto dry land in order to exact revenge for humanity's pollution of the world's oceans. She gets as far as a little beachfront restaurant, where she punches a hole in the wall. The restaurant's owners, sisters Eiko and Chizuru Aizawa, are less than impressed and force Squid Girl to wait tables in order to pay for the repairs. As is often the case with comically incompetent invaders, she eventually gets used to living with the Aizawa family and ends up working full-time at the restaurant.

If you've heard of this 2010 series at one point or another, you might know it as the show with a million squid puns. Squid Girl's speech is peppered with squid-related wordplay, and translating her verbal quirks into English is somewhat difficult. Japanese grammar creates lots of opportunities to say “ika” without going too far out of one's way, while English is less helpful when it comes to sneaking “squid” into an otherwise ordinary sentence. The subtitles and dub script compensate by tossing in as many aquatic puns as possible, and while the results can be quite amusing on occasion, it often feels like too much of a squidding gimmick. The good news here is that while the squid-talk may be one of this show's more unique elements, it's not all that essential to the comedy.

Most of the actual jokes don't depend so much on Squid Girl's speech as they do on her interactions with the world around her. There's a lot of fish out of water humor (no pun intended) in this series, with Squid Girl constantly getting the wrong idea about everyday items and situations. She's terrified of inflatable toy orcas, she thinks a cheap umbrella is the pinnacle of human innovation, and she derails a superhero stage show by cheering for the squid-themed villain. She also has a long list of special abilities that fall into the “amusingly useless talent” category, like using her tentacles to rock out on a drum set. While these bits are backed up by the quirky personalities of the humans around her, the comedic success of any given episode is usually determined by how much mileage it gets out of Squid Girl being Squid Girl. Thankfully, the writing has far more hits than misses, and even the show's less entertaining moments at least make for harmlessly pleasant viewing.

Some of the credit for that consistently pleasant experience goes to the show's mild-mannered content. The setting essentially makes every episode a beach episode, and the protagonist has tentacles instead of hair; the potential for copious fanservice is obvious, and yet Squid Girl never really goes down that route. In fact, I'd almost go so far as to call it kid-friendly. Many of its episodic storylines are built around themes of friendship and acceptance, and the humor typically steers clear of anything too raunchy or mean-spirited. From time to time, the writing even throws some light but heartfelt drama into the mix. It may not always be obvious while you're watching it, but Squid Girl's ability to deliver laughs while remaining accessible to a broad audience is pretty impressive.

From a visual standpoint, this is a pretty ordinary production with one very big exception: Squid Girl's character design. She's instantly recognizable with her blue tentacle hairdo and dopey white squid hat, and her special abilities help to set up quite a few sight gags. The English audio track in this collection is something of an unusual case: Media Blasters dubbed the first season back in 2011, but they never got around to releasing the second season. This new set from Sentai Filmworks keeps that old dub of season 1, but nearly every role is recast for season 2 aside from keeping Christine Marie Cabanos as Squid Girl. For consistency's sake alone, I'd recommend sticking with the subtitled version. There's a special edition available if you've got the cash and want the physical extras, but even this standard version has more on-disc extras than the average release. Of particular note are a couple of short videos starring the adorable mini-Squid Girl, along with an episode commentary track done in character by Squid Girl's Japanese voice actress.

So yes, this is an odd little comedy with a few elements that get lost in translation. It's also funny, charming, and far more accessible than a show about a talking squid has any right to be. You could watch it with someone who's never seen anime before and they'd still probably find it cute. As a fun diversion for a broad audience, Squid Girl hits the mark.

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from CandisWhite:

"Hi! This going to be a little different than traditional collections because, apostate that I am, I have no separate anime collection; My anime stuff is treated the same as any other movie or show (The photo with Slayers will give you a taste): To avoid 80 photos of a Where's Waldo? experience,  this is going to be less of a museum tour and more of a fashion show. Enjoy!

I've been collecting anime since I was small. My parents would tape LOADS of stuff off of cable in the 80's and that included Japanese cartoons; I still have quite a few of these tapes but many more were jettisoned in a stupid teenage purge and I've had a rough go replacing a lot of what was lost. I did tape Sailor Moon and some Pokémon myself off of TV but it was when I got into DVD (I bought discs before I even had a player!) that things started picking up speed and then once I had an income, they skyrocketed.

I have a book next to the computer at all times so that I can write down anything that I would like to buy and so I can keep track of release dates. I've already filled one book and am on the second, which is pictured here. Some things get crossed off but I'm waiting on a lotto win for the rest. I think that we all have that fantasy!"

Ah, the good old days of taping TV shows on VHS. I still remember recording a made-for-TV science fiction movie and watching it over and over as a kid. Love the collection, thanks for sharing!

Want to show off your own anime collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]!

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