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Foolish land-born air breathers! Behold the terror from the depths, the tentacled conqueror of humanity: Squid Girl! With your pollution and stuff you really deserve it, so prepare for menacing, inky doom! Squid Girl has come from the depths of the sea to conquer humanity for its pollution of the ocean. Within moments of arriving on the surface world, our easily distracted little invertebrate is promptly bullied into working for the Aizawa sisters as a waitress, supplying their restaurant with squid ink. If poor Squid Girl can't handle two pushy Japanese girls, how will she ever subjugate the human race...?
Originally airing on Japanese TV in the autumn of 2010, this first season of The Squid Girl, based on the weekly manga Invade! Squid Girl by Masahiro Anbe, is comprised of twelve episodes over two discs. With the scenario of the titular Squid Girl's planned vengeance on humanity being curtailed by her forced employment at a seaside restaurant quickly established, the series settles into a pattern of two or three short storylines per episode, a gambit common to comedy anime series. With a rapid turnover of quirky comic scenarios, it's an easy series to enjoy, although the show's light touch - it's short on the manic energy often seen in comedy series like Excel Saga, instead aiming for a relaxed air in keeping with its seaside setting - belies some of the odder content.
Series director Tsutomu Mizushima, while not exactly a widely known name, can lay claim to a quietly impressive CV, ranging from fanservice-laden romance (Ichigo 100%) and gory supernatural horror (Blood-C, Another) to ribald comedy (Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, Haré+Guu and Yondemasu Yo, Azazel-san). It's in the latter field that his strengths seem most apparent, and while The Squid Girl doesn't share the explicitly filthy comic content of some of his other shows, disquieting touches occasionally creep in: the questionable nature of Squid Girl's near-enslavement by her 'employers' is played for laughs but may be uncomfortable viewing for some. An uncanny doll from friend Aiko's childhood is the cue for some traditional horror fare, but the story in which ardent fan-girl Sanae's obsession with Squid Girl's cuteness sends her into temporary insanity is brilliantly creepy. Even the irresistibly cute dream sequence in which a miniaturised Squid Girl becomes an adorable household pet has an unexpected payoff.
The darker material on display doesn't dominate the series, though, merely lends shade to what's otherwise an exceedingly refreshing and charming comedy. With the superficial environmental message quickly cast aside - perhaps to its detriment - Squid Girl and her human chums get into plenty of enjoyable scrapes as she discovers such terrestrial wonders as maths lessons, ghosts, mountain climbing, make-up and beach volleyball, while trying to avoid the attentions of a gormless group of American scientists (who never fail to mention their academic background at MIT, something they have in common with seemingly every other American-educated character in anime) who are convinced that Squid Girl must be an alien. It's a fun, accessible show with a well-made English adaptation, the reversioning staff taking every opportunity to fill Squid Girl's dialogue with all manner of groan-inducing cephalopod-based puns.
With a second season already aired in Japan and optioned for English-language release in the US, it's great to see an odd and yet highly appealing series like this one make its way to our shores, and it seems likely the iconic Squid Girl will become one of anime's more enduring comic characters. In any case, it's the best comedy series I've seen this year.