Anime-Gataris started out as a pleasant slice-of-life comedy about a high school anime club but soon leaped off the deep end into layer after layer of meta madness. This week in anime, Micchy and Steve try to piece together this show's insane conclusion.
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Well Micchy, it's time to look back on Anime-Gataris, a bold and gripping work of speculative fiction that dares to ask, "what if anime but too much?"
Gotta say, I had no idea Heybot would have such stiff competition for most obnoxiously meta anime this year.
And I especially didn't expect to see these faces AGAIN.
Was Mr. Osomatsu's take on Tsukasa Kotobuki designs not enough punishment?
But let's back up, because a lot happened since last we checked in on our intrepid Anime Club.
What the hell just happened? Like seriously, how did we get from Anime Club hijinks to... whatever that finale was, I don't even know.
Well, after going to not-Comiket, everyone was inspired to try their hand at making their own anime (also they had to or else the club would be disbanded by the student council). After all, how hard could making anime really be?
And, well, they sure did make.....something.
Naturally, they put Minoa in charge, which meant that she tried to recreate the anime of her youth.
Anime of the year, by the way.
Every part of their anime, from the character sheets scribbled on note paper to the amazing final product, just oozed a hilarious authenticity. It's all terrible, but endearingly so.
Original Character™ Do Not Steal
Let whoever is without crude anime drawings in the margins of their high school notebooks cast the first stone. I DISTINCTLY remember drawing Sephiroth, and NOBODY will ever see it thank god.
Hear that, readers? It's time to bully Steve into leaking his high school Sephiroth doodles (right after I burn my attempts at drawing cute anime girls).
GOOD LUCK. Anyway, if you don't watch any other part of Anime-Gataris, at least watch the anime they make in episode 8. You can tell that the staff did research by watching fan-made animations on YouTube and Nico Video, and the end result is nothing short of amazing.
Naturally, this homemade anime brings the entire school together (complete with a beat-for-beat parody of a Love Live recap that must be seen to be believed) and everyone hops on the anime craze, asking the Anime Club for recommendations and even advice about how to do their sports better.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
It's the Haikyuu/Hikaru no Go crossover I never knew I wanted.
Anyway, it turns out there's a snake in the club. The wotagei-senpai eggs the club advisor into accepting compensation for their TV appearance, which lands the club in hot water with the school's administration. But then the principal reveals that the REAL reason for their shutdown is far more serious:
It turns out that the principal directed the anime that Minoa so admired when she was a kid, and he's not gonna stand for these whippersnappers doing whatever they please when his own anime was canceled after the first episode.
Look, if these kids don't even know GahXephon or Kimamani Mikan Road, how on EARTH could they do such a high-concept premise justice? Super robot magical girl idol anime deserve better, dammit.
Incidentally, while his criticisms were all sound, I thought his dig at This Week In Anime was a little uncalled for
He's not wrong though.
But Minoa manages to rescue the principal from his storm of regrets by summarizing my own relationship with every anime I love.
She rescues him from a literal storm, might I add. It's a giant growing raincloud over his head that she only briefly acknowledges shouldn't exist in the real world. Between that, the sports clubs becoming more absurd, and the new super robotics club weren't enough, this is where Anime-Gataris' approximation of reality gets REALLY dodgy. In its last few episodes, the whole world of Anime-Gataris becomes anime.
Yeah, remember the whole "end of the world" thing that the show's promotional material alluded to but the show itself never seemed to address? Turns out it was anime all along.
Basically, the show becomes increasingly and unsettlingly meta, with everyone embracing their newfound anime-infused lives while Minoa looks on in horror. This gets a little confusing because the show was already an anime, with a talking cat and everything, but the absurd elements ramp up to 11 in this final stretch of episodes, to the point where the characters themselves ask if it's a bit too much.
Then they rewind the episode to watch the opening sequence again and check the credits for which writer to blame. That's after we've already had real-life sparkle effects, horrifying '90s faces, and the letterbox abyss.
God, my favorite gag was the letterboxing slowly encroaching on the screen while Minoa gawks at everyone's new cursed art style.
also Sebas turns into a maid because of course
The jokes in this show have always been clever, but some of the shit in these last episodes is next-level. That letterbox gag is so subtle, you hardly notice it creeping in until it's too late. And if you pay close attention, you can even anticipate when the art style shifts occur. Minoa's family mentions watching off-brand Mahoutsukai Sally, an anime from the 60s, immediately before turning monochrome.
If nothing else, Anime-Gataris commits to its reference humor. The blatantly transparent 2016 anime ripoffs in early episodes might've seemed superficial then, but it turns out that was all setup too.
You know something's wrong when the in-universe timeline jumps from about a year ago straight to the current season.
It's still reference humor, but it's well-researched and admirably irreverent. The 11th-hour reveal is that their friend Aurora is actually an anime character! His motivation for manipulating the Anime Club is that he wanted total control of the laws of the universe so that he can rename himself, because his name is fucking Aurora.
And remember the ominous beret that Neko-senpai told Minoa not to touch? Turns out it's the key to controlling anime, and it just so happened to fall into the hands of a wannabe director.
But that gets settled off-screen to pay off the series-long setup for a joke about plots getting settled off-screen.
Yep, the not-really villain of Anime-Gataris is the show's director himself, but he gets killed off-screen.
This is low-key my favorite joke in the entire show. The director's self-insert character appears just as his own credit pops up on screen. It's the best.
It's that kind of commitment to meta jokes that sets Anime-Gataris apart from your garden-variety self-referential anime. That and a genuine love for anime that still gets through to the audience.
In the end, it's Minoa's relentless love for anime that pulls the other club members out of their anime-drugged daze, and together they harness the power of cartoons to rocket-punch through the wall between 2D and 3D.
BTW, if you're confused by any of this, the show provides a simple graphical reference for what happened.
We get to see this for about half a second, for the record.
Anyway, it's a tough battle, and things get so bad that the characters even revert back to their planning stages.
"Pull yourself together, Mikene-chan!"
"Huh? Mikene-chan? Who's Mikene-chan?"
I'm infinitely grateful we didn't get Arisu with twintails.
I for one am glad Miko's character ended up being more than "has huge boobs".
Miko's probably my favorite character, so I agree wholeheartedly that she was given such additional depth.
How can you not like a character who reps the best anime of our time?
For as much as the show pokes fun at anime, you can always tell that it's coming from a place of love. Like, this one sentence captures what anime means to me in practice better than anything else. Anime is possibility.
Even if the results are often, well
If that's not the spirit of being an anime fan, I don't know what is.
In the end, the 2D and 3D universes return to their natural states, the Anime Club is formed anew (with a catgirl in place of the cat), and the world once again finds peace.
It's a neat and heartwarming end, but it leaves one very important dangling question: what the heck was up with all the Yui fanservice?
When in doubt, it's because someone was horny.