This Week in Anime
Jun Maeda Goes for the Jugular

by Steve Jones & Nicholas Dupree,

Almost one year to the day since TWIA revisited Angel Beats!, Nick and Steve are once again plagued by the sorrowful machinations of Jun Maeda in That Day I Became a God. You won't make it out without going through a few tissue boxes.

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Steve
Nick, I feel like there's been a dark presence looming over This Week In Anime this season, haunting every corner with its terrifying inevitability. And I fear it's finally here. We can run no longer.

It's time to talk about the Jun Maeda gremlin show.
Nick
It's actually good we took so long to get to this show, because with Christmas on the horizon it's the perfect chance to remind everyone the Reason for the Season: insatiable toddler monsters.
I can't speak for the Son of God Himself, but I know if I were tiny Jesus, I would absolutely be running around rubbing my divinity in everyone else's faces, so I can certainly feel that degree of kinship with Hin—sorry, Odin, here.
Straight up, yes this is a Jun Maeda show, and anybody who's seen anything he made knows what that eventually has to mean. But for the first 75% of The Day I Became a God, it's entirely about a very dim boy named Yota and his pet all-knowing chihuahua:
Mr. Maeda sat down and took his pen to the big question "what if God were one of us?" Of course, the "us" in this case assumes we're all horrible little anime girls, which is not that far removed from reality considering the wildfire spread of the VTuber mind virus.
I'd say "how dare you compare Hina to a Gamer", but considering episode 4...
Bold of you to say that when Hina is extremely canonically a Gamer. I know what I'm talking about.
Could some paltry gamer revitalize a local restaurant through nothing but an intense misinformation campaign and blowing bubbles in her pepsi? I think not!
Only a God Gamer, which, coincidentally, she is. And that's pretty much how the first part of The Day I Became a God shakes out. Hina/Odin marches into everyday potato protagonist Yota's life and aggressively inserts herself into every one of his affairs and relationships, using her supposed omniscience to solve problems for him and his expanding circle of friends.

Well, most of the problems get solved.
Some of them.
Maybe.
More like one of them
...if that problem was "I need to star in an Armageddon parody in The Year of Our Hina 2020"
In her defense, she's very clear about the part where she's omniscient and not omnipotent. Even she has limits, and those include the license fees of an Aerosmith song for TV broadcast.
This tiny anime nun can predict the future and foresee the end of the world, but can she escape the litigious grasp of Tim Burton?
Hey, that leather-clad scissor-handed man has a beak. That looks like an Original Character™ to me!
For folks who haven't watched this show, yes these are all real screencaps. Yes there's an entire episode based on movie parodies. And yes, Rocky is here too:
The first half of the show can be very silly, in the way that the first halves of Jun Maeda stories tend to lean very silly. And there's some pretty good stuff here. Like the one episode where Hina forces Yota to go full Kitchen Nightmares Gordon Ramsay mode on a struggling ramen shop
You say it's similar, but even Angel Beats! wasn't this out there despite its ultraviolent Looney Tunes humor. As goofy as that show could get, at least it never devoted a whole episode to never-ending Mahjong gags.
For the love of Odin, that freaking mahjong episode...now I understand why you came to me so utterly confused about it lol.
Listen man I don't know dick about mahjong. I trust that these are all real words but you could replace them with Elvish and I wouldn't know the difference.
That's mahjong-speak for "you just got dusted," basically. The fourth episode is honestly incredible from start to finish. It's one long esoteric mahjong shitpost that will only make any sense if you've played riichi mahjong long enough to understand the game and all its frustrations. If that sounds like a good time to you, trust me, there's some solid gold material in here.


And if you don't know anything about riichi mahjong, trust me, the screencaps I just posted are very funny.
I'll have to take your word for it because literally the only joke I understood in that whole 22 minutes was the one about Yota blueballing himself.

Because yes the entire mahjong tournament episode is actually a roundabout way to get Yota laid. That's just what this show is for most of its run.
Yeah, the short version is that Hina teaches Yota the wrong way to play mahjong as a joke, and it ends up with the TV personality he has a crush on being so impressed with his blatant disregard for the rules that she all but drops her panties for him. I don't know what possessed Jun Maeda to do this, but I'm glad I was witness to it. Don't worry, though, the Maeda Classics are still here, like baseball!
Just want to note he follows up the Mahjong PUA episode with one where THIS is the first line of dialogue:

Because after 15+ years of this Maeda has moved beyond the need for things like gentle tonal shifts.
Whiplash-inducing tonal shifts are another Maeda Classic.
Just saying this rollercoaster would be decommissioned real quick. Bank your turns, people.
I suppose, to an all-knowing god, there's probably not a whole lot of difference between wanting to get laid and wanting to move on from the death of a loved one many years past. However, we are but mortals.
True, we are bound by things like uh, finding it kinda sus to impersonate your friend's dead mother on a fake phone to the afterlife:
Yeah, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to mahjong tournaments, but Hina pulls some pretty heinous moves here in order to squeeze Izanami's resolution into one single episode. Like, there's some hard-hitting stuff when it finally comes to her and her dad hashing out their feelings, but I don't know if I'd consider the ends justifying the means here.
It's another classic Maeda move where you have some genuinely sad material but something in the delivery just yanks you back from the grasp of his heart-string pulling fingers. Like this is a Sad Mom story. I should have been bawling by the end of this!
It wasn't a total failure, but it definitely feels like a going-through-the-motions Maeda. You can't just put a dead mom on a VHS tape and expect her to do all the work for you. Like, Kakushigoto covered similar material, but better, because that show built up its characters and their relationship to loss over its entire runtime, not 15 minutes.
It's certainly an ambitious attempt, but yeah this was definitely the first real misfire of this show, and it had me pretty worried about where we'd go from here. But it turns out where we went from there was The Bromance Festival.

Just two bros passing some balls, like God intended.
Two bros, keeping their hands off each others' hips while riding tandem on a motorcycle cuz they're not gay and also don't respect proper road safety.
"Not respecting road safety" is putting it lightly.

Dudes, I understand this is a symbolic moment of taking control of your past trauma, but also, don't be jumping onto moving vehicles.
Listen they had to rescue Hina from that truck before she found any more Charlotte characters to harass.
I sure hope this is a self-portrait of Jun Maeda after writing that scene.
Nobody ever said this God Gremlin was a benevolent lord. She has neither the time nor patience for immaculate conception.
I'm just glad she got some time to cool down.
Oh, and while all this is going on there's some random super-genius teen hacker searching for Hina on behalf of a shady corporation that may or may not be trying to get ahold of her god powers. If it's weird we didn't bring this up before, that's because the show forgets about it for like 4 episodes.
It's doubly weird because, for a long time, we have no idea what Hackerman is doing outside of an abstract search for a missing physicist's research, and we have no idea how it relates to Hina outside of the fact that it's in the show, so it has to relate somehow. So we get these random vignettes of him doing espionage and digging through garbage without knowing why.

Like, it didn't take much for me to piece together what was probably going on, but its presentation is very strange and scattershot.
It is incredibly odd, to the point where I assumed for a while that Yota's side of the story was happening in a totally different reality. Like it would be revealed the physicist made a parallel timeline or this was all a simulation. Because they genuinely feel that distant in both tone and focus.
In truth, it turns out the physicist was Hina's grandpa, and the shady corporation is looking for the quantum supercomputer he invented and implanted in Hina's brain. Because it turns out we were forgetting the most important Maeda Classic of them all: a cute innocent girl with a terminal disease.
Is it possible to make a sentimental anime about grief WITHOUT at least one hospitalized anime girl? The world may never know.
Not in this fiction, anyhow. And the frame around The Day I Became a God begins to noticeably crack once it starts shifting away from goofier stories and into all of the secrets behind Hina's past. It's one thing to accept that Hina pops up out of the blue and inserts herself into Yota's life. That's anime logic, and I can deal with that. The actual explanation for it is somehow even more bonkers.

I mean it sort of makes sense considering she is all-knowing, but just like, leaving a phone number or address book would have been way easier Grandpa.
Just a little something more than "I'm gonna dress her up like a freak so you all notice her. Good luck! Bye~"
But yes, the actual plot mechanics of this show's back-half are absurd enough to make you wonder if this whole thing is a second ruse. But unless there's a massive twist in the final episode, nope! And that's not even getting into Suzuki hacking the planet via Ecco The Dolphin.

Gotta hand it to Maeda, he managed to have the most ludicrous visual representation of hacking in a season with Akudama Drive.
Lol you're right. Anyway, once Hackerman pins down Hina's location, the Human Instrumentality Committee unanimously decides to capture her and remove her all-knowing quantum supercomputer brain because they don't think mankind is ready for that kind of power. Which is a thing, I guess.
In a sense I kind of appreciate what this is going for. I love it when fiction tells small, personal stories that are largely on the fringes of bigger, more typically "important" stories that are going on elsewhere. But also good lord this is a lot to take on in one episode.
I think I get where Maeda's going with it too, because this is on the tail of both Hina's awkward "reunion" with her biological father, and Hiroto's backstory with his own terrible parents. Adults are here making the decisions they want to make without care or consideration for these children, and that's a real, awful, common phenomenon. I don't think the high-concept sci-fi strappings add much to that, but here they are regardless.
It's certainly not the first time Maeda's let weird genre rabbit-holes pull away from the emotional core he's trying to pick at. And I will say that for all the awkward ways we got there, the last two episodes of this show have been...something alright.

Pictured: My brain trying to put into words how I feel about this show's final act.
Speaking of eggshells, lmao.
Look I have been very, very critical of how Maeda, and anime at large, handles the type of subject matter the last two episodes have been covering. I fully understand and respect why anyone would sigh so hard their chest implodes at the end of episode 10. But even knowing all that...fuck man, I don't know.
Without seeing how the show actually ends, I really don't either. To summarize: they remove the chip from Hina, and the trauma of that combined with her Logos Syndrome land her in a remote sanatorium for disabled children. Hiroto helps Yota pose as a research assistant so he can infiltrate the facility with the goal of reuniting and rescuing Hina. But, obviously, nothing is even remotely that simple in this situation.
What follows is possibly the most purposefully uncomfortable sequence I think Maeda's ever created, as Yota fumbles his way through a desperate series of attempts to recover Hina's memories, reunite with her, and bring her back to the family and friends who all bonded with her.

Except that is absolutely not something that can happen. Like 1000% it is the worst thing you could try to do, and this final act seems to be documenting the painful process of Yota figuring that out.

It is really goddamn hard to watch. Yota is so tunnel-visioned on reaching the Hina he used to know that he unintentionally scares and hurts the Hina currently in front of him. On one level, I do appreciate the rawness with which this is depicted. Like, the trope of someone using the power of love or whatever to recover their loved one's memory/personality, like it's a magic spell being broken, is exactly the kind of thing I'd expect out of Maeda. But mental illness doesn't work like that in reality, and Maeda at least seems to be trying to grapple with that.
And like, speaking from personal experience, there is nothing quite as heartbreaking as a loved one not recognizing you, let alone being scared of you the way Hina is at first. So just trying to get through this, let alone trying to do episode reviews, has at times been like prying up my own fingernails.
I've had similar experiences too. It's shattering. But it's still delicate subject matter that I do want to say I'm absolutely not qualified to speak authoritatively on. Except, if I were Maeda and this is something I wanted to explore, I probably wouldn't have created a fake syndrome to do so. That's just me though.
I mean I also probably wouldn't put this incredibly raw story at the end of a show that was previously about trying to get your dick wet through board games. There's a lot of, shall we say, questionable approaches to this whole idea on a macro scale. At the same time though, I can't deny feeling like I got punched in the throat watching these episodes. I straight-up didn't assign episode 10 a rating in my formal review because putting a number to that emotion was beyond me. That's gotta speak for something.
It's heavy stuff, there's no denying that. I like, too, that Yota's anime-protagonist-brand idealism gets a good reality check by the therapist currently caring for Hina. She might not be very nice about it, but she's pretty much 100% in the right about this boy bumbling in thinking he can just fix everything in two weeks.

Shiba has absolutely no patience for him, and I am incredibly grateful for it. It would be incredibly easy to paint her as a cynical obstacle to Yota working his protag powers, but nope. She's just right and knows personally how important giving Hina and children like her proper, patient, and nurturing care is, and that expression of love is no less meaningful than Yota's.
She has much more nuanced techniques than Yota's Hail Mary of asking Santa for a PS5.
Sorry Yota, but that's definitely not poggers. I assume. I still don't know what that word means. So yeah, even with all that said I still have no clue how this story is going to conclude. The logical point would be for Yota to recognize what's best for Hina, even if it means being separated from her, but that's a decidedly un-Maeda conclusion. Plus this show's been so all over the place that trying to predict it just makes my head hurt.
Yeah I'd really like for him to end in an unsatisfying and melancholy place for the sake of being realistic and respectful, because even that doesn't preclude the power of having hope and love for someone else. But I'm also afraid there's going to be some major Maeda bullshit on the horizon. Still, he's got me hook line and sinker for the finale, so he's doing something right.
That's basically where I'm at. The Day I Became a God as a gestalt is an absolute mess with high and lows of every variety, often in the same episode, but fuck if any other show this year managed to choke me out like this. And I guess that's what gives Maeda his reputation - for all the faults and missteps he can still find ways to bypass all that and stab you in the chest.
At the very least, I have another folder full of gremlin reaction images now, and you can't put a price on those.

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