Overshadowed in the tremendous hoopla surrounding the finale of Madoka Magica (she died for your sins) is the second episode of SHAFT’s Spring effort, Denpa Onna. And after that episode, I’m still not quite sure what we have going on here – and whether I’m a fan of the series or not.
Just how much direct impact “Chief Director” Shinbo has on this one I surely don’t know, but the show is starting to skew alarmingly towards the dark side of the SHAFT oeuvre stylistically. We’re getting head tilts, lots of quick cuts, all the trademark Shinbo affectations. But at the same time, the character designs are remarkably appealing and the characters themselves have mostly won me over so far, starting with Makoto. His internal monologues – skillfully interpreted by Irinu Miyu – are both funny and authentic.
Also livening up this episode was the introduction of two more characters, schoolmates of Makoto and potential harem members. First is Ryouko (don’t call her Ryoushi) Mifune. She’s a moeblob, true, a classic genki girl – but again, the character design is so darn cute that it’s hard to resist. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s voiced by the talented Emri Katou. The other is Maekawa-san, voiced by relative unknown Mai Fuchigami. She makes quite an impression in her couple of scenes – a tall girl with an odd way of speaking who apparently enjoys making herself dizzy. She also turns up late at night dressed as a… what, exactly? Sandwich? As Makoto says she’s an imposing figure, but also feminine and delicate in an odd way. She’s a mysterious one, this one, and worth keeping an eye on.
Unfortunately I’m not sold on main heroine Erio, or her storyline. It’s clear it’s going to get much darker, but for now the sheer preposterous nature of it is a bit much to bear. We’re taking a giant leap of faith in accepting Erio and Meme’s behavior at face value – Erio’s wrapping herself in a mattress and recklessly endangering herself, Meme’s seeming shockingly negligent and callous disregard. It’s obvious there’s more here than meets the eye, but for how long will we be expected to accept what’s happening? It feels like an affectation at this stage, the kind of self-indulgence that SHAFT is prone to (though I know this is an adaptation).
I’m ready to give this more time, because there’s a lot here I really like. There’s a distinct style to the production (again, SHAFT is never boring) a very appealing male lead and some potentially very interesting supporting characters. I just hope that at some point the story decides what’s it’s really about and starts being a little more direct with the audience.