In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve stopped writing about Mayoi Neko Overrun! That’s because I kind of hate it. Really hate it. I just can’t stand to write about something so consistently bad when I could be writing about two of the best shows I’ve seen in years.
But the series has ended, so I wanted to write one last post to sum up my thoughts on the show. And I wanted to go out on one of the show’s better episodes.
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.
There’s something I probably should have mentioned earlier about Mayoi Neko Overrun, but didn’t because I wasn’t quite sure myself. The reason for the stylistic differences between every episode is that each has been headed up by a different director, who has also been responsible for writing and storyboarding the episode.
So episode 3’s excellence was because of Hiraike Yoshimasa, whom I hadn’t heard of before, but whose obvious talent made me want to check out his sci-fi bounty hunter show, Solty Rei (although I am not interested enough to check out his currently-running slice-of-life restaurant comedy, Working!!).
The table tennis scene in episode 4 was the work of Daichi Akitarou, who has been working in the industry (mostly on gag comedies) for as long as I have been alive. And the bewildering terribleness of last week’s episode is the fault of Ikehata Takashi, which shows that the brilliance of Otaku drama series Genshiken was due more to its writing and source material than its production.
Anyway, I was perversely excited for this week’s episode because its director, Kujou Rion, hasn’t directed anything besides a pervy harem series and some direct-to-video hardcore pornography in the 90s. What kind of horrible fan service bonanza was going to come out of such a warped mind?
Due to most anime writers being complete hacks, and many shows constantly scrambling to look good while staying within razor-thin budgets, there are plenty of episodes where absolutely nothing happens. It’s something that occasionally happens even in otherwise good shows: Tenchi Muyo, one of the first anime I saw and a true classic, has a few episodes that are a complete waste of everyone’s time.
One of the more famous examples comes from seminal anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, where the animation studio ran out of money at the end and threw together two bizarre episodes that consisted mostly of voiceover over still frames. Considering that the majority of Evangelion’s animation was already voiceover over still frames, and combine that with the surreal subject matter involved, you have two of my favorite episodes of the series. Pretty much everyone else disagrees with me, though, even director Hideaki Anno, who came back with a bigger budget and remade those two episodes as the film End of Evangelion.
All this is to say that anime filler has a long and storied history, even among otherwise great shows. Mayoi Neko Overrun, if you haven’t noticed by now, is not one of those shows, which makes yet another tedious filler episode all that more aggravating.
Ashamed as I usually am to admit it, I’ve watched a lot of anime. I’ve picked up a lot on the Japanese culture and mindset, or at least the mindset of people making and watching anime. I know the cliches, character archetypes and other lazy shortcuts that anime writers take. And I’ve seen a lot of truly bad writing. But it’s rare that I see something that’s just bewilderingly offensive.
This week’s episode of Mayoi Neko Overrun is bad. I don’t think it knows it’s bad, though. Watching a show like Kiss x Sis, you get the feeling that the writers were full aware they were writing offensively pandering garbage; they just didn’t care. They were essentially writing pornography; it’s not like anyone watches Kiss x Sis for the story. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it does make it more understandable.
So, last week’s episode of the show gave me some hope that maybe this wasn’t some mindless fanboy wank-fest. There was actual character development; there was a laid-back atmosphere to counter the rapid-fire sensory overload of its attempts at “comedy” and I got the sense that the characters existed for a greater purpose than cheap gags or exposed body parts.
There was genuine pathos there, plus half-decent writing and the show’s usual stellar animation. So I was looking forward to this week’s episode. After such a strong turn towards plot, I was curious to see whether it was going to take a more serious turn or slip back into the awful “comedy” episodes so many shows like it suffer from around this time in their run. I immediately knew which direction it was going when I saw the second shot of the episode:
I had some pretty harsh things to say about the previous episode of Mayoi Neko Overrun. I took issue with the exploitative way it treated its character; I implied that it was really dull pornography. But I still found it charming. I felt like there was some depth, as yet unexplored, that was waiting to surface.
It turns out my instincts were spot on, because the third episode of the show is easily the best so far. Most anime romantic comedies are starting to slip into repetition by this point, sliding into a dull rhythm until about the midway point, when things start to heat up between the main characters. Maybe that will happen next episode, but right now Mayoi Neko Overrun is still going strong.
Last episode ended with main character Takumi spending the night in the middle of a typhoon with exploited catgirl Nozomi, much the chagrin of tsundere childhood friend Fumino. And that’s where this one begins, except it opens with so much atmosphere it seems like a different series.
If you’ve ever been stuck in the house during a hurricane, tornado or really bad thunderstorm, you’ll notice that animation studio AIC has completely nailed the feeling of oppressive loneliness that hangs over those kinds of situations. There’s a thick wall of rain coming down in every shot of the outside, and the muffled sound of rain beating down on the ceiling and walls is perfectly captured.