#1 A squid out of water story
Humanity must pay for what they have done… Years of polluting the world uncontested, carelessly and selfishly doing as they please. It is time for nature to strike back. But who will lead the charge against humanity? None other than the relentless, merciless, unyielding Squid Girl!
Bravely she sets out to conquer the world, only to immediately run into a fortified holding—a beach house operated by the sisters Eiko and Chizuru Aizawa. Squid Girl’s powerful tentacles can defeat Eiko (and her little brother), but Chizuru proves too powerful for a lone squid. Squid Girl is then coerced into working for the beach house to pay for the damages. There she slowly begins to acclimate to non-aquatic life and learn more about the humans that she used to hate so much.
A lot of the comedy builds on Squid Girl’s lack of understanding of Human concepts and traditions. She has to learn everything from scratch, overcoming many comedic misunderstandings along the way. A test of courage goes wrong as Squid Girl fails to grasp why ghosts would be scary, she feuds with the local lifeguards over what “protecting the beach” should mean, and sometimes takes fictional stories a little too seriously.
Fish-out-of- water comedy tends to be rather predictable, but Squid Girl taps into some very good material for its comedy. It knows how to make its jokes land and taps into the right amount of absurdity to reliably catch you off-guard, without ever feeling too random.
#2 Well-rounded cast
What helps the comedy stand out among the sea of other wacky anime is its cast of characters. Squid Girl herself is already a great protagonist. She has wild delusions of grandeur and loves to boast, but she has her heart in the right place. We often get to see a kinder side of her and it’s fun to see how life among Humans changes her over time. She still tries to be menacing and remind people of her ambition to conquer the world, though her evil deeds often seem more like childish pranks; many of which end up backfiring on her anyway.
Eiko is a fierce and short-tempered girl, but she is also caring and responsible. She takes things seriously and is quick to anger when people cause problems. This makes her relationship with Squid Girl seem rocky on the surface, because she is always correcting her. Like Squid Girl, though, Eiko shows a friendlier side from time to time and is always the first to help out when people need help.
Chizuru, meanwhile, is a play on the archetype of characters who are always laid back, only to become frighteningly powerful when angered; right down to always keeping her eyes closed. You better not be in the vicinity if/when she ever opens those eyes.
Other cast members include the American scientist Cindy who is determined to prove how Squid Girl is actually an alien, the obsessive Sanae who desires a carnal relationship with Squid Girl, and the frightened part-timer Nagisa who takes Squid Girl’s threats of world conquest entirely serious. All of these characters (and more) I enjoyed quite a lot. Even well into season 2, I was surprised how they still kept weaving fresh jokes and storylines out of characters that seemed so simple at first glance.
#3 Engaging storylines
On that note, many a comedy series stands to learn from Squid Girl. Every new episode felt like a treat, every storyline surprising. Even when Squid Girl does use some predictable anime trope, they twist it in such a way that it still feels fresh.
The adventures vary from cozy slice-of-life experiences to absurd comedy storylines. One episode is about the Aizawa family taking Squid Girl to go hiking in the mountains, with various struggles along the way. Another episode has them find an old doll in their house, which Squid Girl (convincingly) argues must be haunted.
There is also a good sense of continuity. The anime often has callbacks to its most memorable moments or brings back minor characters. I was especially fond of storylines surrounding the rival beach house and its mildly-deranged owner. It doesn’t come up often, but every time it does you can be sure that things will get VERY weird.
What also helps is that each episode is divided between 3 chapters. A single adventure needn’t carry a whole episode, so Squid Girl never feels stretched thin. Also, if you aren’t really into one story, then you aren’t stuck with it for too long. I absolutely can’t stand Super Sentai parodies for example, but it’s something I can deal with when it’s only 7 minutes instead of 21.
#4 Comedic presentation
One of Squid Girl’s strongest qualities is how masterfully it leverages presentation to make its jokes land. It’s not just the writing that’s funny, because it’s backed up by the artists, composer, and sound-effect lads.
Sound-effects especially are something I respect when I
see hear it being done right. Even little jokes like Squid Girl rushing over to see something are made funnier by the squelchy sound-effect of her footsteps. Details like that often stood out to me while watching through the show. They’re small touches that pay off tremendously when done consistently well.
They also got the ever-important comedic timing mastered and play around with the artstyle to great effect. While it’s a staple of anime, I often get annoyed when comedy shows rely too heavily on deformed characters to make jokes work. Heaven’s Lost Property, for example, has its characters in chibi forms more often than not. Squid Girl uses this much more moderately, which makes the instances where it does happen feel actually special.
A delightful side-story across Squid Girl are the adventures of Mini-Ika. These present an alternate reality wherein Squid Girl is a tiny creature incapable of speech. Eiko saves her life and takes Mini-Ika in as a pet, after which the two quickly begin to bond.
Mini-Ika is that particular flavor of cute that demands a plushie be made of her. I am certain of that, because I’d buy 3 of them right away. Episodes that focus on her also channel a different flavor of comedy, often interwoven with a more emotional tone. There’s a reason that videos of just her adventures get reposted online a lot; either as funny gifs or as heart-wrenching moments in anime. I have to admit, it is pretty damn hard to keep it dry in some scenes.
If you find yourself enjoying Mini-Ika’s stories, then be sure to also check out the anime’s specials.
More anime & manga like this
Amanchu: Good coastal vibes.
Gokicha: Animal protagonist discovers the human world, runs into trouble.
Mermaid Melody: Heroes protecting the sea from evil.