For decades, mankind has taken the vast, epic ocean environment for granted. As our technology has advanced, so has the scale our pollution, with oil, garbage and toxic waste killing millions upon millions of innocent aquatic life forms. But now, the world below the surface has finally taken enough abuse from the world above, and they’re sending their most powerful, most terrifying soldier to deal with us.
All 1,000 of us.
Okay, so it’s information may be a bit dated, but it’s desire to enslave us and force us to pay for our crimes is no laughing matter. She’s coming, and we have no choice to prepare ourselves… For the most adorable invasion of mankind since Night of the Lepus.
Yes, it’s not Godzilla, it’s Squidgirl, a vertically challenged moppet who looks almost human, save for the series of blue tentacles that make up her hair. Or Ika Musume, as Japan calls her. She comes ashore one day, bursts into the Lemon Beach House, and announces to the first gathering of humans she sees that this world… And all the people in it… Now belong to her!
Unfortunately for her, this declaration is met with laughter, and she soon winds up working a low level job at the very beach house she just threatened. Like Ika, this beach house is owned run by a small family of siblings… They have no parents, because it’s an anime. The most important of the three is Eiko, a high school student who acts as a foil for all of Ika’s hare brained schemes and delusions. Takeru is a little boy who… genuinely acts like a child, surprisingly. He gets along very well with Ika, as he’s more than willing to play along with her. And their oldest sister, Chizuru… Well, telling you about her personality would spoil one of the greatest moments of the series, even though it happens in episode 1, so I’ll just leave it at ‘she’s awesome.’
The animation is nothing special, but it’s a little above average by Slice of Life standards. There are a lot of key frames, but when it wants to impress you, it will not hesitate to do so, saving it’s budget for moments that really need it. Yes, the allocation of the budget may be a little too noticeable for some people, but you can’t argue with results, because whenever there’s action or physical comedy going on, there’s really nothing to complain about. Aside from the main character, the character designs are a little on the bland side, but they still have kind of a natural feel to them. Well, natural by anime standards.
And speaking of our hero, the animation style works particularly well in favor of the Squid Girl herself, whose various cephalopod abilities make up the bulk of that action and physical comedy. For a good idea of how her tentacles work, think of her as a really mean parody of Lucy from Elfen Lied… the four deadly vectors have been swapped out for ten mostly harmless hair-tentacles that seem to have even more impressive abilities than Ika herself has. They’re powerful enough to break through a wall, strong enough to lift heavy objects, and fast enough to create a sonic boom, yet they’re also delicate enough to thread a sewing needle. And they can seemingly stretch indefinitely. On top of this, she can breathe underwater and use bioluminescence to glow in the dark.
And yet, beyond these abilities, Ika herself is… Well, I don’t want to say stupid… Perhaps ‘naive and gullible’ would be better. Her knowledge of the human world seems very arbitrary and inconsistent. She’s able to do complicated math problems in her head, but she doesn’t know that she can’t eat the images on a 3D TV. It’s odd, but hey, it’s an episodic children’s show. Even My Little Pony had problems like that. And for what it’s worth, while Ika may be a little inconsistent, she’s a very entertaining little pain in the ass.
As enjoyable as the title character may be… Your choice of dub or sub will influence this, but more on that later… I can’t really say as much about the supporting cast. I wouldn’t go as far as calling them bad or unlikeable… Okay, maybe a few of them are… They’re just not all that interesting on their own. They’re mostly used as props for Ika to interact with, and to be fair, this is done to great effect. They support her, as a supporting cast should, but none of them ever really stand out, as they either get too little screen time to justify their presence or so much screen time that their best qualities become Flanderized. The only one that ever really rubs anybody the wrong way is Sanae, Eiko’s childhood friend, who has a lesbian crush on Ika… Which would be fine, if she weren’t so damn creepy and obsessed about it. Honestly, she’s the only real element of the series that I wouldn’t call kid friendly.
The English dub, for the most part, is pretty underwhelming. It’s a parade of no names and small timers, with the only big actors being Carrie Savage and the increasingly impressive Christina Vee. for the most part, the performances are either bland or adequate, although nobody really bombs it. What really surprised me was the performance behind Ika, who’s played by Christine Marie Cabanos. I’ve never really liked her as an actor… I thought she was miss-cast in K-ON!! and Madoka Magica, and while I didn’t mention it in my review, I freaking HATED her in Oblivion Island. But here, she was actually kind of good. She won’t be winning any Oscars any time soon, but her “every ridiculous thing I say sounds completely normal to me” delivery was a pretty good approach to take.
The Japanese track is infinitely better than the dub, however, and Hisako Kanemoto blows Cabanos completely out of the water. Actually, the performances are better all around, even if you can’t understand the language. Which I can’t. The dub isn’t horrible, and it should be enough to please those who insist on watching it, but unless you’re eager to hear a barrage of fish-related puns, the Japanese track is definitely recommended.
I mentioned earlier that, aside from Sanae, this show is pretty kid-friendly, and I meant it. The stories are simple enough for a kid to comprehend, without ever really feeling too dumbed down. It’s episodic, split into threes like a Nickelodeon cartoon, but there’s still a sense of progress and development with the characters. It’s set on a beach, so there’s naturally a lot of scantily clad bodies walking around, but aside from that, there’s barely any traditional fan-service at all. It’s the story of an incompetent Invader losing touch with their origins as they adapt to human culture, and while we’ve seen that about a million times, it’s done pretty well here, with the constant otaku pandering that almost ruined Sgt. Frog left completely out of the equation.
The writing can get corny, and the characters can get a little stale at times, but it still smells of genuine effort and imagination. It never stays in a rut for too long, and there’s always a good laugh waiting around the corner. Actually, the writing in this show is a lot like the animation… It;’s hit or miss, but when it hits, it REALLY hits, and it doesn’t always need to rely on comedy to be enjoyable. There are some surprisingly touching scenes, including a chibi segment in episode five that’s so brilliant and creative that, with different music, it probably wouldn’t feel out of place in a Fantasia movie.
Squid girl is available from Media Blasters, surprisingly. They’ve released the first season stateside. You can stream it legally on Crunchyroll, buy the DVDs on amazon, or just watch the whole thing for free on Netflix. There’s a second season, but it hasn’t been licensed, and I haven’t seen it yet. I will see it eventually, and when I do, I have some pretty high hopes for it… I want to see Ika’s home world be explored and explained a little more, I want a few certain characters to get some more screen time, and I want a few other certain characters to die in a fire.
In the end, Squidgirl is kind of a mixed bag. It’s a bit of an underachiever in almost every category, but it still makes for some great light-hearted, mostly family friendly fun. I guess the base breaker for most people will be Ika herself., seeing as how the best points of the series Some of you may find her unconscionably annoying, and I can understand that sentiment completely. This show is not for you. For the rest of us, myself included, she is nothing sort of adorable and charming, and if the rest of the cast has to act as her props, then good job… This show is hilarious. It’s not one of the best comedies out there, and repeated viewings over a short period of time may leave you feeling cold… Once or twice a year at best is advised… But for what it is, I loved it.
I give Squidgirl a 7/10.