Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko Episodes 1, 2, and 3 – A Little Loony

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko Episodes 1, 2, and 3 – A Little Loony

We here at antiotaku have something of love/hate relationship with Shaft, which as an animation studio has been almost completely beholden to the vision of Akiyuki Shinbou. Known for incredibly experimental artistic styles, Shinbou has been the creative force behind one of the best shows of the past year, some relative stinkers, and a bunch of stuff that falls somewhere in between.

If you take the time to read through the above reviews, you’ll find that in general we like it more when Shinbou is being melodramatic than when he’s being funny, although I have slightly more patience with his comedic style than bear does (and I still haven’t seen enough of Arakawa to back his opinion on it). Here Shinbou is taking a backseat on the production, letting his Madoka (and Arakawa) co-director Yukihiro Miyamoto take the lead.

Aside from viewers not having to pause the video every five seconds or so to catch the flashes of wry fourth wall breaking text in the background, what does that mean? Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (loosely: “Crazy girl and young man”) has plenty of surface similarity to Arakawa, with a female lead who claims to be an alien and the male lead who has to put up with it. Unlike Arakawa, and probably more a result of the source material than anything else, there’s an underlying current of seriousness to the whole affair. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s the show’s main flaw or its saving grace.

I'm not going to talk too much about the girls in Makoto's life who aren't related to him. Know that Ryuuko Mifune is short, really energetic, and inexplicably attracted to Makoto

Certainly, nothing seems to be all that serious about Makoto Niwa at first glance. As his parents leave for overseas work they entrust Makoto to his aunt Meme Touwa, who fits the “beautiful yet childish and irresponsible authority figure” mold to a T. He adjusts to a new high school where he is immediately and inexplicably befriended by two of the prettiest girls of his grade, who have plenty of quirks, but only of the lovable kind. Everything seems to be falling into place for a absurdist comedy/harem show.

And then there’s the quirkiest, prettiest girl of all, Erio Touwa, the daughter Meme never told anyone in the family she had. Erio disappeared for half a year without any memory of what happened int that time. To fill in that gap, she first claimed to have been abducted by aliens, and then claimed to be an alien herself. Growing more and more reclusive in behavior, she eventually sequestered herself entirely, to the point of becoming a shut-in and wrapping herself in a futon.

... and Maekawa (no given name) is tall, works odd jobs requiring costumes in the dead of night, and is inexplicably attracted to Makoto

Makoto is alternatively frustrated and fascinated by her, and makes “fixing” her something of a pet project. But what’s also worth noting is the reaction from everyone else, particularly on the part of Meme, who seem to think that she isn’t worth the effort, and/or that Makoto is simply interested in Erio because she’s pretty.

While I’ve said that irresponsible authority figures are a dime a dozen in anime, I don’t think I’ve ever had such contempt for one as I have for Meme. Even before Erio’s disappearance and mental problems, Meme kept her daughter’s existence a secret from the family; it doesn’t seem like she’s ever accepted that she has responsibilities to Erio beyond providing basic sustenance. The two don’t interact and Meme spends most of the first episode pretending that Erio doesn’t even exist, even when they are in the same room.

Meme's ability to misdirect conversation away from the obvious is absurdly well developed, even if Makoto isn't satisfied with the result

Absentee parents are another common theme in anime (including here, as demonstrated by Makoto’s original situation), but here Meme manages to be absent even when present. On perhaps one or two occasions she’s actually shown have grown-up thoughts, but only briefly before reverting back to childish or inappropriately flirtatious behavior. It’s quite likely that all her evasions and manipulative games she plays with Makoto are meant to hide the guilt she feels about her failures as a parent, but that doesn’t make her less of a failure.

That being said, Erio’s delusions are taken seriously, at least to the extent that Makoto feels compelled to do something about them. An ordinary show would try to keep Erio crazy (and perhaps make her even crazier as the story progressed) to keep the stream of gags going. Erio would be nuts, but that would only make her more cute.

Aside from basic misdirection techniques, Meme also lays the seduction approach fairly thick. Makoto is appropriately grossed out, at least most of the time

But Makoto’s not willing to settle for that, since he knows full well that Erio’s madness will keep her forever isolated if left untreated. Eventually, Makoto hits upon the idea that proving she can’t fly (one of her delusions) will convince her she’s not an alien. So he takes her on a quasi-suicidal bike ride and, what do you know, it works.

Just two problems: First, the writers have just eliminated the major conflict of the show—that we’ve seen so far, anyway—when the series isn’t even half done. Second, insanity isn’t nearly that easy to break; in fact Erio’s previous solo attempt at flight, which ended in exactly the same way, merely caused her to start wearing the futon as a new denial mechanism. The only reason it works now is because Makoto tried it (and because, ultimately, the writers said so).

Obligatory disclaimer: Do not try this at home

Maybe this is another attempt to lay Meme’s failures at the feet of the audience (showing if she had supported her daughter like Makoto did, Erio would have been fine from the start). It still seems rather cheap, and leaves me wondering what the heck the show will do for the next nine episodes.

Given the capacity of every female character in the show to engage in non-sequitur conversations, the extremely bizarre and hard to follow banter will likely continue, but I doubt that will be enough to carry the show even for those—like me—who enjoy it. As Makoto’s classmates are mostly ciphers at this point, it’s possible that other plots will emerge as the two open up, but it’s really impossible to say where the show will go from here.

UFO sightings are common in this city, so it's possible the alien theme has yet to be exhausted

What that ultimately means is that even three episodes in, I can’t give an opinion on the show, either good or bad. If the show repeats its pattern with each of the girls in turn, it could muster some decently good drama in working through the psychological issues of its cast (including Meme). The show could also just switch standard harem antics, have Erio revert back to crazy whenever needed for the plot, or just meander along for the rest of its run. I can’t even predict what will happen in the next five minutes of this show; trying to predict what it will do in the long run is folly.

For the moment, though, I’m going to keep watching. For those curious, see if you appreciate the first episode. If you don’t, then I can guarantee you that the rest of the series will have all the same problems. If you do … we’ll have to wait and see.

  1. cuc
    May 14, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Generally, a light novel author writes the first volume of a tentative series as a self-contained story. If it’s considered a success, the publisher will greenlight the sequels. That’s why anime based on LNs often have an arc structure.

    I think by now it should be obvious that the first 4 episodes of Denpa Onna is based on such a self-contained Vol 1.

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