Why in the world was this not on our line-up earlier?
Just as soon as she enters Sakaneko Private High School, Asagaya Minoa is dragged into the anime club by her classmate, Kamiigusa Alice, even though she knows next to nothing about anime. A classmate, Kouenji Miko, along with other anime-loving senpais, quickly turn her into an anime fan. Fighting off the incessant shut-down threats of the student council, and completely oblivious to the coming apocalypse, the anime club talks about anime in the club, at Akihabara, at anime Meccas, and at hot springs. (Crunchyroll)
So first of all, cursory research says this is a sequel? Yet I can find very little on its precursor. Just some images, here and there. Maybe with a little heavier research, but for now let’s focus on what’s immediately in front of us, shall we? Because hoo boy, I am direly regretting not having this one on my radar sooner. Granted, there are a few reasons for that. It’s a school club anime and, as a general rule, those are things I just have to be in the mood for.
Mind you I have absolutely no problem with anime taking place in schools. Though usually, I prefer the schools, themselves, be special or supernatural in some way. You know. Like that one anime I won’t shut up about. Ordinary school settings are generally fine with me. If the story is about teenagers in a slice-of-life format, then school obviously comes with the territory (unless the entire series takes place over one summer break or something). I just don’t tend to be all that interested in series where the school is at the forefront unless the school’s somehow awesome. Weeell, now’s time to throw all that out the window because I love this.
Part of me was a bit leery about watching it at first because I feared it would run into that problem of not knowing when to shut up, based solely on the show’s pitch. But the show surprisingly knows when to knock it off with the humor, and deliver some subtlety. Then the humor comes back all the better because of those brief moments of clarity. But what is it that really sells that element of the show? It can’t be just about the humor, can it? Well, no. As funny as the show is, I’ve laughed far harder at other things, and far much greater stretches of time. The humor is actually more of a bonus perk for myself.
What really helps sell the series on top of the humor is a cast of believable characters… to a point, anyway. I try not to use the word ‘relatable’ because it’s gotten to the point of being an overused buzzword… much like the term “buzzword,” but there’s really no other way to put it. Based on the first few episodes, alone, we get an anime rookie as the audience character and several characters with encyclopedic knowledge of their pastime of choice. Each one comes with their own backgrounds, quirks, and so on, all of them deliciously exaggerated in all the right ways. They’re all distinct from one another, yet share one thing in common – a love for anime. And that’s what the show is ultimately about. It isn’t just a lazy slapdash sprinkling of anime references, and it isn’t 1000% reference without substance (though there are a lot of references, and they are funny. Even if you don’t get them all, you will get plenty). It’s a show about anime fans and the different viewpoints that an admiration for the medium (or any medium, really) can breed.
As someone who also absorbs Comic Books, Movies, and Video Games fairly regularly, I can honestly say I identify with this series in pretty much the same way as I do by watching anime a lot (especially lately). The nuances between watching the source material or just the adaptations, for example. That’s a conversation I’ve had many times. Trying to verbalize exactly what makes my favorite genres work? Spoiler alert: You’re reading my doing that very thing, right now. And this isn’t the first time. The characters are obviously all extremes. Even Minoa, the main character, is a bit exaggerated in her sheer rookiness. But they are ultimately just having cartoonishly amped up versions of conversations we as media lovers have. Ultimately what makes it work is that these characters, however exaggerated they may be, are familiar. And that familiarity breeds likability. Thus it makes them all fun to watch.
The establishment of the club, itself, was actually pretty quick, thankfully. And the arrangement did quite a bit to earn its laughs. I don’t know what it is, but I especially love the whole butler gag. Beyond that, of course, seeing how Minoa reacts in conversations with her new friends is endearing, and hits all the right notes with me. Beyond that, though, there’s a layer of mystery introduced in the first couple episodes that I’d like to see elaborated upon soon, because seriously…
I do also want to praise the show’s humor because it would be easy to make all of it references. But it isn’t. While there are tons of them, a lot of the humor also comes from poking fun at the anime community and fandoms in general. It parodies (this is an interesting article on the subject. check it out) many of the mannerisms and attitudes that a lot of people have towards and in the industry. And also many of the conventions of the genre, itself. Though not as directly. It strikes me as a very clear case of being able to laugh at yourself, ultimately.
Honestly, if there was anything to truly criticize, it’s the show’s… “plot.” And I do use that word as loosely as possible. By episode 3 (which itself has one of the absolute best meta conversations ever in it, and it’s amazing), we’re privy to a plot by the student council to, what else? Shut the club down.
Our hapless heroes thusly spend the episode earning back their club room after the student council kicks them out. It’s achieved through a speech, the giver of which I will be honest… I didn’t expect. Possibly because the series knew what I was expecting, thanks to how extremely self-aware it is. Thus it knew exactly how to throw me off. Of course, the speech is punctuated by a funny little occurrence that got a good laugh out of me. And really, what is humor if not a subversion of expectations?
The next episode followed more or less the same trend. Student council wants to get rid of Anime Club, Anime Club fights back. I will admit that seeing the Anime Club repeatedly fail at tasks to prove their worth was amusing. Especially Kai’s blunder. Though I feel like the resolution was a bit ham-fisted. The problem wasn’t the lack of subtlety. This show is intentionally unsubtle. It was more that the correlation between what they did, and what they were trying to prove was a bit… too easy? Too forced? Something along those lines. Also, the resolution with the president was a tad bit on-the-nose.
By the end of the episode, it does look like the Student Council is no longer going to be a direct obstacle, and if that’s the case, then I’m glad they’ll have gotten that out of the way earlier, rather than later. I am curious as to what else they’d have to stand against them.
Anime Gataris is absolutely delightful so far. It’s not perfect, but honestly, nothing is. The Student Council stuff, I could’ve done without, but it did yield a few pretty good moments. Something I really appreciate is that the character all enjoy watching anime without necessarily all being 100% on the same page. They’ll agree on some aspects and be entirely against one another on others. It’s yet another factor of that believability I talked about. As outlandish as these guys get, they’re pretty accurate, if comedic, depictions of how people look at these things. Which one(s) do you most align with?
The visuals are like dessert for the eyes. They’re colorful, slick, and downright pleasing to behold. The humor lands, and the show does have a surprising degree of heart. This is definitely Recommended. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. And, uh, do yourself a favor. If it’s not your thing, that’s fine. But at least try to make it to episode 3… trust me. But if you just can’t get into it, maybe we have some other reviews around here for you.
Anime Gataris Simulcasts on Crunchyroll, Sundays at 10:00am EDT.