Mayoi Neko Overrun Episode 8 – Do You Want to Play a Game?
In the late 90s, there was a splendid little anime called Excel Saga. Very, very loosely based on the manga it took its name and characters from, it was a series of parodies of 90s anime genres before turning into flat out lunacy in its second half.
The characters were idiotic archetypes taken to extremes (that was the point), the framing story was stupid and I hadn’t even seen half the shows being parodied, but it was absurdly funny. In fact, anime humor being what it is, it might have been the first genuinely funny anime I ever watched.
I’ve been waiting years for another show to ruthlessly mock all the stupid crap anime does the way Excel Saga did. Instead, when anime references other anime, it’s either the very gentle parody of shows like Hayate the Combat Butler, or, more often, the self-indulgent “hey look, we’re fans like you” nods to otaku culture that shows like Mayoi are chock full of.
As an aside, Anime creators: WE KNOW YOU’RE NERDS, TOO! If you weren’t, you wouldn’t working for a pittance just for the golden opportunity to make a show about high school girls taking off their clothes. You don’t have to prove it by throwing in truckloads of pandering nonsense. Well, pandering nonsense of a different kind from the pandering nonsense that makes up the rest of the show.
Mayoi Neko Overrun could, theoretically, have been the Excel Saga for a new generation. It has the same careless attitude towards its source material, it has the freedom of being an anthology series and because it doesn’t take its reality seriously and has a stock idle rich girl as a main character, it could theoretically do anything. In fact, one of the reasons nearly every episode has sucked massively is likely due to that limitless freedom. With no direction and 25 minutes to do their thing, the creators have just been floundering around, engaging in the same pointless excesses that characterize most other bad late night anime.
In some way, it’s indicative of the utter lack of creativity of the anime directors in charge of these episodes. Imagine if you were an up-and-coming director given one episode in an adaptation of a reasonably popular series and given the freedom to write and animate your own episode? Even if you hated the source material, you could find some way to subvert the things that make you hate it, or poke fun at it mercilessly. Either way, you’d want to make something interesting.
Anyway, the last two episodes have taken a distinct turn towards…imitating other styles of anime. I don’t want to call it an homage, because it’s basically just a transplant of Mayoi characters into the genre. But I can’t call it a parody, either, because in order to be a parody something has traditionally needed to be funny, or at least have jokes, and each of these episodes fail miserably on both accounts.
Anyway, this episode has the cast playing some big budget arena-style game that seems to be the popular game Jenga, but not in a potentially actionably way. It could be that no one owns the Japanese rights to Jenga, and thus the producers aren’t worried about lawsuits. Specifically, they’re playing something like the Truth Or Dare Jenga variant sold by Parker Brothers (even more legally dubious!), although in this case the truths have been removed and the dares replaced with items more befitting an anime whose sole consistent purpose through 8 episodes has been to put its female characters in sexually suggestive or revealing positions.
The episode makes a few feints towards being a parody of toy battling kids shows like Yu Gi Oh and Beyblade, with Chise pretending to have the same superhuman skills and ridiculous special moves that dominate the genre, and the overblown production of the game screams Serious Business in the same way those shows do. And what passes for a plot gets caught up in the same stupid mind-games that seem to be a staple of the genre (I must admit, I haven’t really watched any of those shows, since they tend to be repetitive and go on for 50 episodes at a time). But the whole thing is pretty half-hearted and not nearly funny enough for this to be an actual parody.
It plays the whole thing straight, which makes me wonder why they even bothered. It’s not like the people watching Mayoi are the same audience watching Yu Gi Oh. It’s just another reference, a way for the director to prove to fans that he, too, is familiar with anime genres by imitating them to the letter.
I’m really starting to hate this show now. It quickly burned through any chance it had of being good, and for a few episodes it was instructively terrible, by doing all the same things that make me hate these genre-less, color-less blobs of perverted starch. But now it’s not even bad anymore. I mean, if you’re going to be bad, you could at least have the decency to be an affront to human decency, like KissXSis. It’s just this mindless mediocrity that’s bereft of anything of interest. I mean, I had to go on a serious tangent about Jenga to make this post any significant length. Frigging Jenga! What I’m trying to say is, don’t be surprised if there’s not a post for episode 9. You are neither hot nor cold, Mayoi Neko Overrun—I spit you from my mouth!
Late Breaking Intellectual Property Update: According to the Jenga Wikipedia page, there is a Hello Kitty version of Jenga, and thus the game is almost certainly available in Japan. Watch your back, Mayoi Neko Overrun Production Committee, Parker Brothers is comin’ fer ya.