Like many a brilliant comedy, Shinryaku Ika Musume is proving itself to have more going on than meets the eye. As much as most of the humor is delightfully approachable and can be appreciated by kids of all ages, there’s a subversive bent to the more satirical bits that was more apparent in episode 4 than any that preceded it. Each mini-ep, in its way, was just a bit unsettling.
For starters we had an ep focused on Ika Musume’s obsession with shrimp. She finds a wallet and gets a 10,000 yen (about $125) reward, which Eiko – ostensibly to try and bring Ika and Nagisa together, but really to cause amusing trouble – sends her off to town with Nagisa to search for ideas on how to spend. Some good laughs are derived from Nagisa’s paranoid fear of Ika, and Sanae spots them as Ika settles on her purchase, about 10 lbs of shrimp. There’s some mild torture by Chizuru before she allows Ika to gorge herself, and then the payoff – a package is delivered and inside is Sanae in a giant shrimp costume (complete with heavy breathing). Very creepy.
After that is a sad/cute vignette where the siblings somewhere heartlessly head home and leave Ika Musume behind all by herself at Lemon. Naturally, when the TV breaks she gets into all sorts of trouble – staging a rather messy invasion using the condiment bottles. The next night Chizuru – ostensibly because she feels sorry for Ika having to stay along without the TV, but really to cause amusing trouble – invites her home. All sorts of fun is had around the TV, with the PSP, and Takeru’s models – but when it’s finally time for bed there’s all kinds of trouble. Ika wants to stay up and have more fun, but Takeru just wants to sleep. She ends up in Eiko’s room, where Chizuru finds them in the morning in a rather compromising position.
Finally, the funniest ep of the week features a rival beach cafe owner who, seeing Ika Musumue’s popularity with the kids at Lemon, decides to trot out an unlicensed franchise version of her. Turns out he’s an inventor and his Ika Musume is basically a busty teenager in a bikini with a mechanized Ika head. The second head is… just wrong. It’s a great sight gag the director is smart enough to let speak for itself – the long still shots of the hideous heads and the others’ horrified reactions to it are priceless.
I wonder if Ika is officially a resident of the Aizawa house now, or this was a one-time event? On balance the laughs were a little different this time, the humor less broad than in the first three episodes. We’re getting a little deeper into the ethical side off Ika’s situation now, though I don’t expect this show to ever lay the social commentary on too thick. We’re also seeing a bit more of just how disturbingly odd the humans around Ika can be, and not always totally kind in nature. Chizuru (who definitely has a sadistic side) and Eiko really are taking advantage of her, in a way – as Chizuru herself said Ika could easily have paid off the repairs to the wall (episode 1 continuity – yes!) with the reward money, but no one suggested it. Still, there seems to be some genuine affection there – certainly there is where Takeru is concerned, and his motives are pure enough. While I think (and hope) this is going to remain in large measure a screwball comedy, I do wonder how much that side of the story is going to be explored – I wouldn’t mind a little of it in the mix.