There are plenty of great anime comedies out there, but there aren’t many shows I feel as much affection for as I do for Shinryaku Ika Musume.
OP: “Let’s Shinryaku Time”
If you followed this series for the two seasons of the TV anime, you know exactly what to expect here. Rather than any sort of stand-alone concept, this OVA is very much in the mold of a TV episode – three chapters told independently of each other, with their own payoffs and punchlines. It even follows the strong tendency of the TV series to start out with the hard slapstick, go slightly dark and edgy in the middle, and then close with the most heartwarming of the three.
I only remember one of these chapters (“Won’t You Hide”?”) from the manga, though I won’t swear “Won’t You Break it?” and “Isn’t it Normal?” are anime-original. All three are quite good “Ika” comedy, the first (“Break”) being the usual nonsense from the Three Stoogers. This time they design an unbreakable hand-held game console after Martin breaks his “Mintendo”, and give it to Eiko and Ika to test. There’s nothing too intellectual here, but some good laughs as the consoles are not just indestructible but practically unusable, and the curse of the trial version rears its ugly head.
“Normal” and “Hide” are probably my favorites, as each brings the character element that usually sees Shinryaku Ika Musume at its best. “Isn’t it Normal?” has some rare moments of stress from Chizuru, who seems to have just now realized (because Ayumi admits she’s not shy around her because she’s “not human”) how the rest of the world sees her. Insecure Chizuru is an interesting twist (the closest we’ve seen is her stressing over her weight) and her attempts to try and act normal (Ika-chan probably isn’t the best template to measure against) are quite hilariously unsuccessful. No word yet on if she traveled back in time after (intentionally) slipping on the banana.
As for the finale, we have the most sincere chapter of the trio in “Won’t you Hide?”, though it doesn’t abjectly go for the heartstrings as some “Ika” chapters do. Ika hiding in order to have the siblings worry about her is behavior that’s about as typical to human children as you can get, but it isn’t until Takeru finds her and joins the game than the Nee-chans really begin to show any worry. Alas they make the mistake hiding Japanese children should never make – forgetting to hide their shoes – and Chizuru gently turns the tables on them. As scary as Chizuru is, she never lets it get out of hand when Takeru is involved.
Will this be the last we see of Shinryaku Ika Musume? Well, I certainly hope not – while the second season wasn’t as frequently off-the-charts hilarious as the first, I never stopped loving these characters – and the fact is, it’s the obvious affection the characters have for each other and that the writing has for all of them that makes this as charming a comedy as it is. As much as any anime comedy of recent vintage I think Ika Musume has mastered the balance between hard-edged and sincere, and between slaptsick and character-driven humor. The BD/DBD sales were down quite a bit, so a third season definitely isn’t the near-certainty that a second was – but they were good enough to give reason to be hopeful.