[Author’s Note: In keeping with the spirit of the anime, this post will feature as many ocean-related puns as possible. I couldn’t kelp it. Just keep clam and carry on. It’ll be fin.]
Now, thanks to the ubiquity of Nintendo in video gaming and thanks in particular to an aggressively, ruthlessly catchy initial advertising campaign, when one thinks of squid-kids, one probably thinks of Splatoon‘s Inklings — not, of course, to be confused with the Oxford Inklings, the group of authors counting among their number the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien (“John Ronald”, “Jonald” to his friends) and C.S. Lewis (which I really had to restrain myself from writing as “Sea S” for the porpoises of making another ocean pun…).
So, yes, Splatoon in general and the Inklings specifically have indeed become inkredibly popular and not only earned themselves a place on Smash Bros. roster, but played a central role in Ultimate‘s initial trailer:
However, Splatoon is neither the only, nor even the first, franchise to focus on squid-kids.
Manga artist Masahiro Anbe beat them to it by nearly a whole decade — which is, of course, ten(tacle) years — with Squid Girl, which delivers exactly what it promises.
Sidebar: The manga has not yet officially been released in English, so this recommendation is going to focus on the anime, which is available legally via Sentai Filmworks‘ HIDIVE streaming service.
And if you squidn’t know about Squid Girl, let’s get kraken.
To be honest, there’s not really that much in common between Splatoon and Squid Girl other than the inclusion of squid-kids as central characters. However, that much has proven suf-fish-cient to to foster a lot of common ground between the two fanbases.
In brief, Squid Girl, is the shark-warming story of a squid girl (named, based on all available evidence, “Squid Girl”; I guess they’re not very imaginative under the sea) who makes her introduction by declaring her intent to conquer the surface world.
And then promptly finds herself ab-shell-loutely unsuited to that task.
For one thing, her plan to conquer the surface doesn’t go any deeper than “conquer the surface.”
In fact, the first human character she encounters ends up pointing out the obvious shortcomings with her plan: how is she going to control the entire human population of billions (her estimate at the total human population was about 1000), how is she going to fight every military power by herself (she doesn’t know what a military is), does she have weapons or missiles (for some reason, she does know what miso is…).
And Squid Girl’s inkapability to conquer the surface is compounded by the fact that, despite all her pretensions, she isn’t nearly assertive enough to carry out a protracted military campaign of conquest.
She is almost immediately conscripted into working at a beachfront cantina mostly by virtue of the human characters asking nicely.
It’s quickly fish-tablished that the surest way to defeat Squid Girl’s conquest of the surface is to just ignore it.
In case you couldn’t shell, it’s a comedy…
I’ve mentioned several times now that one of my favourite plot devices is “fantastical character doing everyday things.”
And that’s basically what Squid Girl is.
Squid Girl spends most of her time kelping out at the aforementioned cantina run by the siblings Chizuru (the surprisingly badassful eldest one), Eiko (the short-tempered middle child), and Takeru (the kid), while also interacting with the recurring human cast: the co-worker at the cantina who is precisely the one human actually afraid of her, the lifeguard who hangs out with the three siblings, the schoolgirl with an obsessive crush on her, the scientist with an obsessive academic interest… that may be masking a crush.
There isn’t much by way an overarching plot. Every individual episode is sub(marine)-divided into three shorts, and each short has its own plot/problem to solve: mistaking an umbrella for another squid, teaching Takeru to swim, entering a volleyball tournament, coming into money.
Gorging on shrimp. Something to which I can not at all relate…
The (sea) lion’s share of the humour comes from the fact that Squid girl understands very little about life on the surface, so pretty much every aspect of day-to-day human life is a novel source of bewilderment to which she invariably reacts in the most ludicrous(tacean) way octopus-ible.
It’s not really a novel concept. The various permutations of what TvTropes calls the “Fish out of Water” (for once, that pun is entirely unintentional) are very old, very well-established plot devices in Pop Culture.
Squid Girl could be an alien, rather than a fish, and not that much about the show would have to change. Perhaps worth noting that there are several characters whose immediate assessment of Squid Girl is that she is, in fact, an alien.
But, like, I’ve said it before; just because it’s an old idea doesn’t mean it can’t be well-executed. And why mess with a concept that’s proven to work?
And the fish puns.
So many fish puns.
In conclusion, 10/tentacle.