OP: 「Alteration」 by ZAQ
「明日からがんばる」 (Ashita Kara Ganbaru)
“I’ll Start Trying Tomorrow”
There are times when it’s impossible to find the right words to begin a post. I guess it should be no surprise that it would be SHAFT who would inspire this in me. Fukken SHAFT. I have seen a lot of first episodes, but it’s been a long time since I last saw something quite so ridiculously, brilliantly nonsensical. Of course, it’s not actually nonsensical – there is both rhyme and reason within Sasami-san@Ganbaranai’s plot, it just comes across in that way on first glance!
I need to include some sort of cursory summary as to what happened in the episode for those who may not have seen it and are curious what to expect. ‘Stuff’ happened. Magnificently glorious and absurd stuff. We start with Sasami (Asumi Kana), the hikikomori who doesn’t even have the motivation to greet the postman, and her doting brother, Kamiomi (Otsuka Houchou), whose face is perpetually hidden behind some object or other. He performs all the menial tasks for her, and in return she spies on him whenever he leaves the house. Stuff goes down on Valentine’s Day and Kamiomi ends up turning the entire world into chocolate. Cue epic battle scenes with fantastic music as the three Yagami sisters, Tama (Nonaka Ai), Kagami (Hanazawa Kana), and Tsurugi (Saito Chiwa), fight against all manner of chocolate creatures (plus a dragon!) to eventually save the day and return things to normal! Wow. I’m not entirely sure what I just wrote!
I may not have mentioned it before, but those who know me well will be aware that I absolutely adore the surreal, the absurd, and the abstract. In my opinion, Shinbo’s distinctive style – which I will refer to as ‘Shaftiness’ henceforth – has been one of the greatest things to happen to directing in anime. While it works in almost any type of show – mysteriously doing wonders for the healing factor in Hidamari Sketch for example – at the end of the day, I feel as though it’s naturally most suited to the surrealism that tends to arise naturally from the fantasy genre. In Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica it added extra levels of eeriness and displacement – the witches and their minions were even more surreal, even more wrong, thanks to the stylistic clash brought about by his unique style. You only had to see them once to know that something was very wrong with the universe. In the -monogatari series, the frequent cuts and unusual imagery lend themselves extremely well to the often abstract dialogue and wit of NisiOisiN’s writing. And in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei we have the OPs; the glorious OPs which held so many hidden secrets about the series as a whole, so beautifully concealed in plain sight for five whole years.
Shinbo is my waifu. I’m sorry Shinbo, I have betrayed you for another.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai might not be quite as blatant as those series, but Shinbo’s unique touch is still obviously present. From the distinctive camera angles and distant shots, to the focus on a particular set of telegraph poles for effect and the ridiculous interior design of Sasami’s house, we have many of the characteristics that so frequently crop up in a SHAFT show. I’m not really a fan of censorship – I find the principle itself distasteful. The censorship here is clearly intended as a joke, from the randomly obtrusive beam of light which is then mysteriously absent when the footage is replayed in the ED to the @ sign which appears and vanishes between cuts. I want to say something about it being a deep commentary on the ridiculous censorship in anime these days, but it’s more likely to be Shinbo screwing with us for fun as he so often seems to love doing.
The apparent randomness of this first episode is not actually random, but there is a slight lack of exposition that will hopefully be delivered in the next episode. It’s never been a secret that Sasami-san@Ganbaranai deals with deities, and even if it was, the hints present throughout this first episode are both obvious and frequently ingenious. Sasami’s doting elder brother is the key – while he’s not actually the protagonist, his role is central to the show and the hints are there, from the typical foreshadowing in the OP, and even down to his sudden break into the legendary Hare Hare Yukai dance. Now that is how you make clever references to another anime while simultaneously revealing some of the hidden depth of the show!
After watching this first episode, I have two thoughts on Kamiomi’s perpetually hidden face. The first lies in parody of the typical visual novel/dating sim protagonist, where the character is left faceless (and frequently devoid of a voice) in order to make it easier to self-insert. There seems to be a fair bit to support this, from the numerous girls surrounding him to the fact we frequently have shots from his perspective and that we watch him through surveillance tools. It’s a pretty interesting idea, especially if we were to consider that we’re essentially seeing it through the viewpoint of one who would be a side character in such a game! My other thought on the matter also has a fair bit of support from the material, and that’s that Sasami does not acknowledge her brother as anything more than a tool at her disposal, someone to feed, clothe, bathe and generally adore her as she lives her surprisingly aloof and somewhat regal lifestyle. I’m personally leaning more towards the former, but either seems plausible to me.
The three Yagami sisters seem to follow typical archetypes, with the young and extremely naive (yet well developed) Tama being the girl who lacks proper understanding of basic concepts – so nonchalantly talking about murder and unintentionally throttling her elder sister. Kagami appears to be the bookish girl, always prim and proper and using a plethora of ridiculous puns to punctuate half of everything she says, and Tsurugi would be the genki and slightly tsundere girl with pretty much no inhibitions. It’s when things start to get crazy that they really shine, each with their various powers and quirks setting them apart. I have a fairly strong feeling that their names are relevant, though Tsurugi is the only one which is immediately obvious to me since her name translates to ‘sword’ and she happens to wield a sword of some description. The other two, Tama (soul or ball – since it’s written in hiragana, it’s somewhat vague) and Kagami (mirror or model) are a little harder to place with the little exposition we’ve been given.
I find myself wondering a little about Sasami’s aversion to the outdoor world. It could easily be some sort of agoraphobia, and this would certainly make sense given that she’s a hikikomori, but when you bring deities into the equation, suddenly so many more options present themselves and it can be hard to follow Occam’s razor. Is she a hikikomori because she doesn’t like the outside world and has no interest in socialising (extremely plausible given how she acts around other people), or is it that she’s a hikikomori because something physically prevents her from going outside? I guess all will be revealed in time!
For a SHAFT production, the quality of animation was much higher than I’d originally expected, with those lovingly animated changing scenes, spectacular combat, and Kagami’s brilliant transformations. The distant shots do leave a lot of room for some ‘quality’ moments, but most of these are easily overlooked while watching the episode itself instead of staring at still caps. Add to this the brilliant music from Hashimoto Yukari which made so many of the scenes that little bit more badass (the Yagami sisters running through town leaps immediately to mind) and we have something that’s pretty awesome to watch. My only question is, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, why on earth are you still reading this? Go! Go!
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – In typical SHAFT fashion, #sasamisan starts off by being completely and utterly insane.
- Is it just me or is it a little odd that her brother refers to her as ‘Sasami-san’, particularly when they’re so intimate?
- I love the whole Meta leap from ‘oh hey that new anime is starting’ into the OP.
- I can already see that Kamiomi is going to be extremely dense for the majority of this series!
- Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate reference spotted!
- Also worth noting is SKYNET.dll being loaded during Sasami’s computer start-up!
- Wow, dem armaments man.
ED: 「浸透圧シンフォニー」 (Shintouatsu Symphony) by 阿澄佳奈 (Asumi Kana)