May 11, 2013

Anime Reviews: GJ-bu, Poyopoyo, Ai Mai Mi

I don’t really have a linking theme this time around. Just mini-review triplets!

GJ-bu title in green overlaying a photo of the main characters pinned to a board with their names signed over each characterGJ-bu is pointlessly cute and yet strangely appealing to me. I’m almost embarrassed how effective it was at roping me in. Based on a yonkoma (and it shows), the story is non-existent. You’ll get gradually introduced to characters but that’s about the extent of things. They’re ostensibly in a school club but from what is shown it seems like they never are actually in class. Other than a few brief times the scenes rarely leave the club room. Speaking of which, what the hell is their club and why is it called GJ-bu? (Aside from the obvious play on words: if you say it out loud it sounds like “good job” in engrish and yet also means “GJ Club” which could also mean “Good Job Club” perhaps). Why does Kirara eat cartoon meat all the time and no one questions it, etc. Very little is ever explained despite the show having more loose threads than a homeless man’s sweatshirt. And yet it really doesn’t matter because the true appeal is in the characters, both visually and comically. (For an excellent break-down of slice-of-life shows and how GJ-bu in particular excels, see this other review that is far better than my short blurb here.)

A photo of the main cast standing together in a group shot

Above all the show is just moe eye-candy and disturbingly good at that. Everything is so archetypical, colorful, bright, and a lot of fluid moe-ments to keep you melting in your weeaboo pants. Like I said, it’s almost embarrassing how effective it is. If K-On! is at all like this then maybe I’ll have to reconsider my knee-jerk irritation at that series. Here we’ve got just about every base covered: there’s a tomboy, a short, spunky fang one, a tall and smart one that lacks common sense, a nice-to-a-fault angel, a cat-like girl, a dark lolita, lots of little sisters, a maid, and even a foreign girl (who they try to have speak English all the time which, while kudos for attempting some kind of realism, the actress is obviously terrible at English). All of them are trope-styles you’ve seen before but pleasingly simple ones. The show is very careful never to take things too far so as to be annoying, which is actually a difficult and fine line to walk.

Comically, the show does a surprisingly good job at cultivating atmosphere and timing, having scenes, awkward pauses, and hesitations linger just long enough, or just enough weirdness or fourth-wall-breaking. The dialogue is often witty and silly, if subtle and pointless. A lot of the show is just watching the various girls verbally screw with the hapless harem-ish-lead boy’s head. They are like lionesses with prey and it’s amusing to say the least.

A wide shot of the GJ club room with the various characters sitting around doing their own thing

GJ-bu never really ventures into any sort of romance, drama, or action. It is squarely in the slice-of-life genre but even more firmly in the “nothing really happens” category. There’s no moral of the story, no climax, and no real point, with lots of skipping of time (only a total of 12 episodes and we manage to see Valentine’s Day come around twice) despite no real progression elsewhere. And yet the show has just enough variety and amusing tangents to keep things fun, plus it likes to build on the gags over time with callbacks and so on. For me the show never really dragged (unlike, say, YuruYuri every now and then), though it keeps a languid pace for sure. The various girls fit the usual clichés but show a lot of thought and skill into their designs: they have distinct, recognizable silhouettes, color schemes, movement and mannerisms, as well as just being a pure and excellent distillation of their respective archetype. Their interactions, too, (especially with the male lead) tend to have a bit more nuance and subtlety than you’d expect. Making a stock character is easy, but making a good stock character is hard, and it is here where GJ-bu succeeds, pulling off a show with no attempt at originality but doing it so well that it stands above a lot of the rest for that alone.

I had a lot of fun absorbing the cuteness and mild humor with this one, but I have to say that with it’s very short length it was somewhat forgettable. A real shame too, because it impresses every step of the way seemingly in spite of its pedigree/genre. It’s really good at what it does but that tends to be very narrow. Great animation, some excellent endings, so-so theme songs, fun boopy 8-bit soundtrack, and good voice acting. If it sounds like your type of show, don’t miss this one.

Promotional image for Poyopoyo the anime, a close up of Poyo's round happy face with the various Sato family members jumbled in the sky behind himPoyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki (lit. Poyopoyo Observation Diary) is an incredibly cute, fun, and just plain good little series of 3-min shorts (though there are 52 of them to keep you occupied for awhile). It concerns a rather round, ball-shaped yellow cat (named Poyo) and the family that finds him as a stray one day. Each episode tends to follow a theme and explore all sorts of random hijinks and silliness.

The style is very super-deformed and yet the animation quality is quite good. The timing, pacing, and structure of the episodes is also noticeably excellent, and the content tends to be just the right mix of weird, silly, cute, and fun. It’s a joy to listen to as much as it is watch. I’m afraid I haven’t got much else to say other than I really liked it and was wistful when it ended.

Promotional image for Ai Mai Mi showing the four main girls huddle together cutely wearing their school uniforms and the title in yellow text overlays above and belowAi Mai Mi is another set of 3-min shorts, though an incredibly brief 13 of them. It concerns three girls (named Ai, Mai, and Mi if you haven’t guessed yet) who purportedly are in a manga club or something. Not that it really matters because most of the time is spent on random weirdness. Yeah, it’s another one of those bizarre little things that is a lot of Japanese humor that if you don’t like you won’t like this series at all.

The animation is simple and mostly super-deformed and cheap, though it shifts around styles a lot and tends to be a bit erratic for effect (though not nearly as fast or erratic as Teekyu). It is pointless and hallow but lots of bizarre fun. I liked the 8-bit ending sequence, the wackiness, and the style. It’s probably an acquired taste and with its brevity and pointlessness it’s even more difficult to really recommend. But you know what? Who cares! I liked it just fine and it’s so short how much of a waste could it really be?

As of this writing, you can watch GJ-bu, Poyopoyo, and Ai Mai Mi for free on Crunchyroll.

No comments:

Post a Comment