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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: October 5 - December 21, 2010
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

Spunky little squirt.

Sometimes I'll see a series boxset in my local second-hand media store and pick up a show entirely on a whim, with little-to-no prior knowledge of what it's about. This is what happened with Shinryaku! Ika Musume (The Squid Girl), and while most of the time this approach to discovering anime leaves me fairly disappointed Squid Girl turned out to be pretty decent.

Based on the manga by Masahiro Anbe, Squid Girl focuses on the titular character who has come from the depths to invade the land as recompense on behalf of all life in the ocean that has suffered from mankind's pollution and mistreatment of the seas. What she discovers in her attempts to subjugate mankind is that not all humans are bad humans, and she eventually finds herself adapting to life on the surface. The first season in Japan was called Shinryaku!, then Shinryaku!?, and then a series of shorts was released under the name Shinryaku!!. I wish the Japanese would stop adding accents or special characters to a name, we don't differentiate symbols in quite the same way they do. To avoid any further confusion, this is a review of the very first series of the show, one exclamation mark not two.

Squid Girl is a comedy anime that excels in character tropes and simple gags. It is a refreshing show in a genre that regularly attempts to top the last show with off-the-wall references and parodies. Squid Girl does occasionally send up existing things (such as a segment in one episode dedicated to poking fun at Kamen Rider) but predominantly it is a show more focused on its fun and exaggerated characters. The squid girl herself (who I'll call Ika-chan just to mess with everyone) is a short girl with light blue tentacles that make up her hair. She can use these tentacles for fine or complicated jobs when her hands won't suffice. She has a hat which if removed would cause her to disappear, at least according to her. The hat has two fins on either side which are remarkably effective in combat. Ika-chan comes to the surface world to seek revenge but ends up working at the Lemon Beach Shack seaside diner to pay for damages caused by her reckless behaviour.

The owners of the Lemon Beach Shack are a pair of sisters, Eiko and Chizura Aizawa. Eiko has a fiery temper to go along with her red hair, but has a heart of gold and is sympathetic towards Ika-chan's plight. Chizuru appears calm and rational but her meek demeanor and oceanic blue hair betray her intense combat potential and ability to strike fear into anyone simply via a quick stern look. The surface world is also home to a supporting cast of characters: including Goro the lifeguard and self-proclaimed defender of the seas, Nagisa the part-time worker and surfing enthusiast, and Cindy the MIT graduate who's on the lookout for any extra-terrestrials. The supporting cast gets plenty of opportunities to interact with Ika-chan and the chemistry can be enjoyable to see.

On second thought, I'll pass on the Squid Ink Spaghetti.

I've see a lot of trash talk toward the dub but I thought it was fine. It doesn't help that several dubs exist and that completely different voices were chosen for subsequent series which lends to the confusion. I watched the show on the UK Manga Entertainment DVD release, which is not only an excellent cast but also managed to avoid picking the few mainstays you usually hear in English anime dubs. Christine Marie Cabanos does an exceptional job as Squid Girl, with Heather Pennington and Shelby Lindley pulling of the two sisters in a more than acceptable and believable fashion. Long-time anime song cover artist and singing talent Cristina Vee absolutely smashes the role of Nagisa. Not a single voice is horrendous or out of place. Of course the choice between subbed or dubbed really falls down to the personal preference of the viewer, but I'm hard-pressed to find any faults in the dub that I watched the show in. Besides, it's hard to watch a subtitled anime while you're cleaning up achievements on a video game or tidying up, which is how I consume a lot of my dubbed anime these days.

The opening theme "Shinryaku no Susume" is a traditional denpa-wave number with cute nods and references including a Famicom JRPG themed section. The ending theme "Metamerism" was pleasant. I didn't find myself skipping them which is in itself some of the best praise I can bestow. Tomoki Kikuya provides a decent though not very memorable score, which isn't necessarily a piece of criticism as sometimes a score you don't remember can be a sign of a score that completely succeeds at its job of being there to fit the show.

In terms of comedy anime or just cute shows with a good sense of humour, Squid Girl fits nicely on the shelves of any anime collector or enthusiast. This is one acquisition on a whim that turned to be quite the enjoyable series. Unfortunately, the second season never hit home media in the UK but Sentai Filmworks did bring it to the USA. I guess I'll have to settle for watching it on Crunchyroll in subbed form only, but given the criticisms I've seen online for the second season's dub, that might be for the best.

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