Back to anime this week, doing the 2011 show Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko. This one is animated by Shaft, and it has all those cute Shaft idiosyncrasies you see in their shows, I mentioned a few in my Bakemonogatari review. It wasn’t a particularly popular show as it aired, nor does it have the benefit of a rabid cult following like some other shows might. It’s one of those many shows that just get forgotten more or less the season after it airs. As is all the rage these days, Denpa Onna (I’ll shorten it to that for now) is based on a light novel series. And of course, the anime covers only a small portion of the ultimately larger (and generally more engrossing) manga plot. Honestly, I’m not all that familiar with the light novel plot besides one or two things, so this review will be from my perspective as someone who’s only seen the anime. By the way, while Denpa Onna was only a 12 episode show, there was a 13th episode that came with the blu-rays. I’ll be covering that as well since it offered some very nice insight into the series. Well, let’s get going~
So, let’s start with the genre. Denpa Onna is more or less a comedy/slice-of-life show, with a fair bit of fanservice thrown in. If I had to pick a word to describe the show as a whole, it would be… quirky. That’s how it feels to me. Anyway, a general plot overview. The main character is one Niwa Makoto, and the show starts with him moving to live with his aunt and cousin after his parents begin to work overseas. As is the case with so many Japanese parents these days. The excuse is beginning to wear thin with me, but whatever. It’s just a set up for the show. So Makoto goes to live with his aunt, who turns out to be a bit of an eccentric. Her name is Touwa Meme, and she has a daughter, Touwa Erio. Erio is more or less the poster girl of the series. Anyway, that’s the general background. The show is more or less about Makoto and his life with his aunt and cousin, and his life at school. It also deals with Makoto helping Erio acclimate to real life and a social life. Essentially it deals with Makoto and Erio’s development as characters. Now if you follow anime pretty closely, and happened to read a short description or know a little bit about Denpa Onna going into it, you, like me, may have been led to believe that the show was actually about aliens or something to that effect. And the first episode of the show does kind of lead in that direction. But after that, it takes this big turn into solidly slice of life/humor territory. Honestly, I did not mind it that much, but it was a little jarring and I did feel a little cheated. I guess I was lucky I liked the slice of life bits, otherwise I probably would not have enjoyed this show as much as I did.
Okay, the plot may be kind of weak. The characters are… a little better, I think. The thing is, they’re quite gimmicky, and if you don’t like their gimmicks when you first see them, you’re not going to like them at all. Well, to start we have Niwa Makoto. He’s… pretty generic. I cannot recall any part of him that was unique or notable in any way. He’s just your normal boy who happens to be surrounded by women who are interested in him. The other characters are (potentially) better. To start, there’s Touwa Erio. She’s more or less the definition of eccentric. She constantly wraps herself in a futon, and very strongly believes in aliens. As it turns out, she disappeared for six months before the show took place, and Erio believes she was abducted aliens. Since then, she became a fanatic about aliens and frantically searches for them any opportunity she gets. She’s also famously anti-social and quite shy, and it takes a lot of effort on Makoto’s (and her mother’s) part to bring her out into the world. Her mother, Touwa Meme, is in some ways just as eccentric as her daughter. She’s overly affectionate with Makoto and is quite sensitive about her age. She lets Erio more or less take control of her own life, so Erio doesn’t go to school. Honestly, it strikes me that before Makoto came to the house, Erio and Meme were not all that close. However, Makoto seems to bring them together a bit.
The other two characters I want to cover are Makoto’s other friends… Pretty much the rest of his harem. To start, there’s Mifune Ryuuko, the first person Makoto meets in his new school. They take an immediate liking to each other. Ryuuko is her own kind of eccentric (actually, I guess pretty much everyone is). She’s a little crazy and quite energetic and often drags Makoto into her own pace. Also, due to some sort of Kanji mixup in her name, she’s often referred to as Ryuushi. So much so that her catchphrase has become “Call me Ryuuko!” even if no one called her Ryuushi. The last character I wanted to mention Maekawa. Another one of Makoto’s classmates, she’s more aloof compared to Ryuuko. She’s also enormously tall and enjoys cosplaying a lot. Though it’s not really the normal kind of cute/sexy cosplay most people think of. She usually cosplays as weird things like sandwitches. Surprisingly, she strikes me as the most mature character in the show… probably because she isn’t as insane as the other characters. She enjoys teasing Makoto a lot and more or less only refers to him as “transfer student”. Anyway, like I said, all of these girls are fairly gimmicky, and if you don’t like their personalities from the get-go, you more than likely won’t like them as the show goes on. Erio has the most development, and her development is basically from being an extreme introvert to being a regular introvert.
The art is… okay, I guess. All the girls are kind of drawn in the way to show maximum cuteness, though that’s honestly not how I feel. Meme in particular, she looks really really young. Not like a mother at all. I mean, it doesn’t really impact how I feel about the show, since the art isn’t terrible, just the character designs strike me in that way. I guess Erio’s futon design is actually kind of cute, and I did like all of Maekawa’s cosplay stuff. The art on the whole is just okay, though. Insofar as the animation is conerned, well, it’s typical Shaft stuff I suppose. Complete with the head tilt thing. It’s not as bad as Bakemonogatari was, with the whole dropped frames and unanimated bits. But it’s not amazing either. That’s just how I feel art and animation most of the time, since I pretty much know nothing about it.
The music. Well, let’s start with the BGM. Totally and utterly uninspiring. Forgettable. Not bad, not good. But the OP and ED are what really define the music for me in most shows, since I hear them the most as I watch a show. The opening is Os-Alien by Erio wo Kamatte-chan. From what I understand, it’s some some group called Shinsei Kamattechan and the voice actor for Erio, Ogame Asuka. The song is singularly terrible. Honestly it’s the worst anime song I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It’s just that bad. I reviewed Hanasaku Iroha earlier, and I made mention of how some of that music was bad, but this… This is on a whole new level. It’s really just that awful. I’ll let you take a listen for yourself below, though. The ending theme, however, is called Ruru and by Yakushimaru Etsuko. She’s done work for Arakawa Under the Bridge and Mawaru Penguindrum, and I’ve enjoyed her work for both of those. I think my favorite song by her is actually Ruru, though. It has a really adorable nursery-rhyme type video to go along with it, and just sounds like a lullaby to put you to sleep. It’s a totally adorable song and really skews my perception of this show, musically.
The last thing I want to mention is the special BD only episode, episode 13. This one strikes me as a treat for the light novel readers, since it brings up some of the more interesting plot points that I assume is covered later in the novels. There’s one character introduced fairly late in the series, Hoshimiya Yashiro. She claims to be an alien esper, and is quite adamant about that point throughout the series. Like all other references to aliens throughout the show, it’s pretty much laughed off. As the viewer, I laughed it off too. But the very end of episode 13, there was a point where Yashiro kind of proved her powers to Makoto. While it may have just been a coincidence, she said she’d call down a meteor, and a meteor struck the earth about where Makoto was standing (before she told him to move, of course). This event, coupled with some of the tidbits I’ve heard about the novels are supposed to illustrate that the whole alien aspect might be a bit more real than first assumed. While this isn’t addressed in the anime at all (besides this episode, of course) I thought that was really quite interesting.
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