Season One. I spotted the first season of Squid Girl in a second hand DVD shop, and it was cheap enough that I couldn’t turn it down, despite the title not exactly shouting out “quality entertainment”. Much to my surprise, I found out that this did well enough to justify a second season and three OVA episodes, plus the manga ran for nearly nine years, so this was clearly a concept that had legs… and tentacles.
Squid Girl herself is visualised as a cute anime girl with a sort of squid thing on the top of her head that looks like a hat, and tentacles for hair. She emerges from the sea with a plan for world domination, not quite realising that the world consists of a whole lot more than the few people she sees scattered around on the beach. She ends up getting roped into working in a cafe on the beach, the Lemon Beach House, and instead of her tentacles being used to conquer puny humans they are put to use carrying drinks and snacks to customers. Most people seem to just accept that, sometimes with admiration, but almost always without freaking out about it. Don’t expect a realistic portrayal of an invasion from the sea when you watch this anime!
In charge of the cafe are two sisters and their little brother. Eiko is the manager despite being only 17, and she ends up accepting Squid Girl (who has no name other than that) into her family. Her older sister, Chizuru, is probably the best character in the anime, outwardly calm and polite, but always one step ahead of everyone else and super quick and strong. Their brother Takeru I found rather a boring character, and I can’t think of one interesting thing to say about him.
Other people become a part of Squid Girl’s life throughout the first season (the only one I have seen so far). Sanae is a girl who appears to be about the same age as Squid Girl, and she falls head over heels in love with her. It is always played for laughs, with Squid Girl violently rejecting her advances, while Sanae seems to get a kick out of being beaten up by her. The one episode that really focusses on this situation is uncomfortable to watch. Sanae tries to move on and behave normally around Squid Girl, and just when they start to form a friendship because Squid Girl can finally relax around her, Sanae buckles under the pressure and goes back to her old ways, throwing herself on Squid Girl at every opportunity. She’s actually happier like that, and thrives on any intense interaction, even if it’s a violent one. Basically she’s painted in terms of being an addict, and the writer doesn’t really come to much of a conclusion other than she’s happier feeding her addiction than walking away. It’s a sad thing to watch, and I’m not sure that was the intention. At times this series feels like there are important themes bubbling under the surface, which are always brushed under the carpet in favour of slapstick comedy. In this instance, the comedy is seeing Sanae enjoying getting her face bruised up. We’re clearly supposed to laugh at that, but I couldn’t.
Another good example is Ayumi, who works for her dad at a rival beach cafe. She appears to be being treated badly by her father, made to dress up in a silly costume to attract customers, until he mentions that she actually wants to hide away rather than interact with customers as her true self (and when the customers actually get to see her they adore her because she’s stunningly beautiful). Again, it seems like a good opportunity to tackle an important issue, but it’s just brushed aside as usual. Part of the problem here is that the episodes are divided into distinct chapters, so the whole series is a collection of mini-stories, each less than ten minutes duration, so there is never much time to do a situation justice before we move onto the next thing.
Few of the other characters make much of an impression, or at least not a good one. Nagisa is a girl who is unusual in that she is actually scared of Squid Girl, and her refusal to change her opinion of the threat she poses in the face of all the evidence to the contrary makes her seem rather stupid. Goro is a very boring lifeguard, who is more of a plot device than a person, as is research scientist Cindy Campbell. She has three American scientists working for her, who are crushingly disappointing and unfunny stereotypes: an old thin one, a very fat one, and a black one. I suppose we must give the series a little credit for including a person of colour, which is so rare in anime that it’s the first time I have ever seen that done, and this is something like the 70th series I have watched, at a rough guess. Schoolgirl Kiyomi turns up later in the series and provides Squid Girl with her first genuine friend of her own age, which is one of the better storylines, although it does leave a bitter taste in the mouth with the distorted relationship with poor jealous Sanae going on in the background. I felt so sorry for her.
So I came to this series without much in the way of high expectations, and I think in the end I was about right. It was a bit of fun entertainment, but never did much to engage the brain. I would say it’s probably a better series for kids to watch, apart from the problem that the violence, although cartoonish, fully justifies the 12 certificate, so this is not one for young children to watch. In fact, 12 year olds are probably about the full extent of the ideal demographic for this. Any younger and it’s not really suitable. Any older and it’s going to come across as something too childish to watch. I’m not in a hurry to get the second season, so if anyone has seen it please let me know in the comments section if it gets any better or not. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad series as such, because it’s reasonably entertaining, but there are far better series out there to watch than this. Squid Girl herself is quite a fun character though, so if you’re into squid ink and tentacle based humour this might just be the series for you. There’s a fan out there for everything. RP