SQUID GIRL: Life's a Beach...
By alicebg, Aug 19 2017 02:24PM
Squid Girl is the type of conceit that could only exist in anime. Indeed, it is as close to 'pure' anime as you could possibly get. Boiled down to its essential components, it's a simple beach-cabin sitcom involving a young girl. Who is also a squid.
The basic set-up for Squid Girl hits you in the face like a very large halibut. The titular character emerges from the depths of the ocean, intent upon conquering humanity in revenge for Man's persistent abuse of the sea. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), her campaign doesn't get very far, foundering at its first target, the Lemon Beach Cafe, run by the domineering Aizawa sisters. Before she quite knows it, Squid Girl (she is never identified by any other name) has been co-opted as a waitress and supplier of a hugely popular dressing in the form of squid ink (which she spontaneously vomits).
So, is that enough to be going on with? Squid Girl herself is an intriguing concept: fundamentally, she's just a bratty little girl in a nautical-themed dress, but in place of hair she has an array of whiplike tentacles that she can manipulate at will, and she wears a vaguely squid-styled hat that may or may not be an actual part of her anatomy. The series determinedly fails to fill in anything about Squid Girl's background - her origin, and whether or not there are other squid people, are never explored.
Squid Girl has a very formal structure, with each episode divided into three distinct sketches. This is both a strength and a weakness - it ensures the episodes clip along at a furious pace, but it also means that some situations get thrown away when they could have used more development. Inevitably, the humour is hit-and-miss, some sketches screamingly funny, others frankly lame.
That said, some of the running gags are excellent: in the first episode, Squid Girl inadvertently damages a wall of the Lemon Cafe, and its crude repair is maintained throughout the rest of the series. The seemingly innocuous closing credit animations all feature in-jokes directly referencing the episode that has gone before (the one with the parade of miniature Squiddies made me giggle uncontrollably).
Squid Girl's major failing is in its inability to fully develop its supporting characters, who are a suitably weird bunch. Of the sisters, Eiko is just generally cranky, but it's the seemingly meek and mild Chizuru who appears to harbour both super powers and an immense capacity for evil. You might think Squid Girl too populist a concept to embrace the realms of yuri, but that would be to underestimate both the show and amine in general - the arrival of the distinctly pervy Sanae is a highpoint, her lurid affections drawing a suitably violent response from Squid Girl herself.
Even stranger is the American contingent, led by sexy investigator Cindy Campbell, who deem Squid Girl an alien and want to lure her to their lab so that she can (presumably) be dissected. Significantly, Campbell's cohort of oddball MIT graduates includes Harris, the only consistent black supporting character I have so far encountered in anime (there doesn't appear to be any overt racism behind this, it's just a quirk that would not be tolerated here in the PC West).
Squid Girl slightly falls between two stools, since its humour isn't quite unhinged enough to match its premise, while the lack of pretty much any narrative structure makes it difficult to fully engage. However, the final episode, where things turn at least temporarily serious, packs an unexpected emotional wallop, hinting at what the series might have been. As it stands, it's a fun diversion, suitable for showing the squids, um, kids, but not a classic by any means.