(11 episodes, 2010)
My previous exposure
It’s a noitaminA show whose OP sequence was among JesuOtaku’s “best of 2010”. Beyond that, I knew nothing of it.
What’s it about ?
Our unnamed protagonist/narrator is a young college student who has spent the last two years in a quirky club ; he thought that’d be an occasion for socializing and having a great time, but it made him miserable and the only “friend” he made was Ozu, a backstabbing asshole who even looks impish. Well, there’s also this Akashi girl from the engineering department who might be a possible prospect… but our protagonist has by this point made such a mess of his life by this point that he thinks it’s too late to make a move, and really wishes he’d joined another club and never met Ozu.
The joke is that each episode has him joining a different club as he enters college, still meeting Ozu somehow, and still making a mess of his life in a completely different way. The series plays quite a bit on the format, first in #6-8 by having him join three clubs at once (with three different endings to about the same series of events), and then by climaxing in a tale where he never joins any club and things get really weird.
What did I think of it ?
Well, this is certainly a different anime from about everything else I’ve watched. I’m reminded a bit of some of the works of Satoshi Kon, with a stream-of-consciousness kind of storytelling that leaves a lot of room to dreamlike imagery. The character designs are deliberately cartoony, which helps when the plot gradually becomes more insane. I also love the ED sequence, which can only be described as “blueprint porn”, as rooms shuffle around rhythmically and thrust into one another along the tune.
This is a very wordy series. The characters are very talkative, and when they shut up, the protagonist takes over and never lets go. It could be tiring (and it is a bit), but the series is funny enough to get away with it. There are some great gags in every episode, the highlight probably being ep #3’s Cycling Club and its feud with the Illegal Parking Brigade.
What truly makes the series remarkable, though, is that the repetitive structure works. Each episode is different enough to entertain, and through each iteration we get a better handle on the supporting cast and how they all fit together. Especially remarkable is the final reveal about Ozu : he does have a purpose and a plan beyond random mischief, and it’s actually quite endearing. The weakest link may be Akashi, who doesn’t show that much personality beyond “ideal love interest”, but there’s still enough depth in her for the romance not to be forced. (It helps that some episodes have the narrator pursue some completely different women… or approximations thereof.) The ending is a bit weakened by the obviousness of the fractal structure of the narrative being made into the actual text, but there are enough pay-offs to what initially looked like throwaway bouts of weirdness for it to work.
This is a very good show which tried to do something very different from the norm and pulled it off. And it’s a lot of fun, too.