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Squid Girl Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

20 min read

It’s hard to invade a world when you can’t get too far beyond the beach.

What They Say:
Angered by mankind’s pollution of her beloved ocean, Squid Girl rises from the dark and mysterious depths in order to punish the loathsome human race! Unfortunately, that plan immediately hits more snags than a dozen fishing lines in a washing machine. Not only does her small stature not intimidate humans, but instead of unleashing a tsunami of destruction, her attempts only cause minor damage to a pleasant little beachside restaurant. And then, the unexpectedly aggressive Aizawa sisters, who run the Lemon Beach House, force her to work there to pay it off! They even make her provide her own squid ink for a tasty squid ink spaghetti!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are encoded with the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The serie is one that’s certainly fun with some of its wilder moments but it’s still kept within the standard design of a stereo mix, so it’s using some basic bits around the forward soundstage without going too awful far. For the most part, however, the series works your standard dialogue approach where it’s mostly center channel based with some fun bits here and there with with placement and depth for comedic effects. The two tracks definitely capture the show well as it goes for the comedy in the right way with solid levels and a clean approach. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2010 and 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With the three OVAs included, the twenty-seven episodes total are spread across five discs. Animated by Diomedea, the show has a great look as it handles the character designs really well but shines the most when it comes to the color design. Having the various shades of blue and really nailing some strong design elements for it there it stands out in high definition with some striking scenes. But it also keeps it on a regular basis with the blue in Squid girl’s hair so there’s always something that’s vibrant and catches the eye. The encoding brings all of this to life with bright and solid colors that aren’t oversaturated and there’s little to no visible banding or gradients to be had. I love the look of the show in simulcast form and here it just feels richer and more fluid.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a thicker than normal Blu-ray case where with the hinge we get the five discs spread across it. The front cover artwork gives us a good visual of the three leading women which wasn’t used too often and it’s colorful and silly with the expressions and the costume designs. But with it taking place underwater as well it has a nice feeling that separates it out a little bit. The back cover keeps it simple with just a character shot of Squid Girl along the left and a few varied shots from the show itself to highlight the look of it. The premises is well covered since it is very simple overall and we get a good breakdown of the extras as well. The rest is filled out with a lot of text covering the production information and technical grid. Sadly, no show related inserts are included nor is there any reversible artwork.

Extras:
The extras for this release are definitely solid and fun ones where there’s a good bit to get out of it overall. The basics are here with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and certainly some fun promos. But we also get some commentaries that are great to dig into if you’ve got the time and interest and we’ve also got the shorts that are just adorable with mini Squid Girl, which is one of my favorite things in the world.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Masahiro Anbe that had seven volumes when it first started its broadcast run and finished out last year at twenty-two volumes, Squid Girl is a series that’s definitely a very strong and fun work. This show is something of a rescue as the first season was picked up and released by Media Blasters and Sentai Filmworks went and acquired that after it lapsed but also picked up the second season and the OVAs, making for a really strong complete work here. Anime comedy material can be difficult to get done when you’re not leaning into sex related gags regularly as it requires a different kind of mindset. Though there are some minor arcs at play within the show these are not its strengths. Its strengths is in the character comedy itself and with episodes running variable length stories that are somewhat self-contained it’s easier to just talk about a few favorites once past the setup.

The show focuses on a young girl named Squid Girl who arrives at a seaside restaurant and declares that she’s there to subdue the world in a squidly fashion. Because of the way humanity has ruined the seas, she’s intent on taking it all back with a vengeance. Not that anyone believes her since she looks like a kid who is simply cosplaying more than anything else. Introducing herself as Squid Girl certainly doesn’t bolster her position either. Amusingly, because of the way she’s fairly polite, the manager there corrals her into working as a waitress. It’s fairly cute how she goes from trying to conquer humanity to working the tables without realizing it for a few minutes. It actually works in a way once she gets into it as she’s told that she can’t subdue humanity if she can’t handle a thirty table restaurant.

Anime logic at its finest, I must say.

One of the things that drew me to this show early on is its structure, which was reminiscent of some of the classic comedies of old in that you’d get half episode stories so that it wouldn’t run a gag into the ground, such as Urusei Yatsura. With Squid Girl established at working at the seaside restaurant, and doing her best to learn things so she can achieve her world domination goal, she ends up meeting people along the way while using her powers at hand. The most interesting one at this state is that she has ten tentacles mixed into her hair that allows it all to blend. She’s able to control them individually to great skill and she uses them to abuse people at times as well. Though some of them, such as a kid she befriends in the middle story, ends up finding her to be pretty cool and offers to help her along as her first underling.

Squid Girl’s introduction to how life on land works, just at the beach at least, gets her to learn about life guards (light sabers for her) and she actually comes to some fair respect between her and Goro, the one she meets at this section of beach. It’s a cute enough encounter and she plays well with him in the water, but when she ends up having to save a kid from being stranded out to sea, she gets all embarrassed and tries to remind everyone that she’s intending to conquer the world for all their trespasses against the sea. It’s something that fits with her bit of impotent rage about things and the way she’s unable to really advance any of her barely thought out plans.

Squid Girl also has a hard time with human traditions and one of the first ones she gets introduced to is the concept of birthdays and birthday parties. She can only view it as an evil event with all kinds of dark and dangerous arts involved, but she ends up being the one to cover it all in darkness. Squiddie darkness in fact. The shop folk are pretty good in humoring her most of the time but they also soundly put her in her place when necessary, a rather welcome sight considering how many other characters practically get away with murder. Even more fun is the final story in which Eiko’s friend comes by the beach with her puppy and upon seeing everyone adore him, Squid Girl insists she be treated the same. Seeing her in a collar is likely to fill a few doujinshi pages I’m sure, but it leads to her getting to see more of normal people and their lives, and homes, which helps her to start grasping thing more as well as revealing an interesting little secret.

One of the early episodes kicks off at an amusing point on how American characters are portrayed in anime. Unless they’re in a serious SF oriented piece, they’re typically goofy, pushy and outlandish. Which is a well earned perception based on experience to be sure. Squid Girl plays with that a bit as well as an American researcher has come to the beach to find her, thinking she’s an alien, and is excited beyond words at finding her. And ready to take her back to the lab for lots of experiments. Cindy’ doesn’t break any boundaries but it is amusing that she and Squid Girl go back and forth about her origins. So much so that Cindy’s actually able to convince her that she’s an alien, which leads to Squid Girl hitting several alien parodies that are pretty damn amusing. Strangely, Cindy sort of disappears rather easily from the episode not long afterwards, but that may be a big plus.

Just as much fun is when school starts up again and Squid Girl gets quite interested in all of it. Well, after she realizes that it’s not a big cosplay event. She wants to get in on this since it sounds like fun from what she knows of it and there’s even the possibility of learning things useful to taking over the world. With her getting in there before it opens, her exploration of the school is priceless as she views it as a big place devoted to all sorts of military operations of sorts and everything has a way of fitting into that. Her naïve nature and lack of understanding makes it for a very fun fish out of water kind of gag where it hits up so many little points to such good effect that it makes you grin throughout it. I particularly loved the portrayal of the principal since it harkens back to the ones of yore, a very recurrent theme to this series.

Where Squid Girl absolutely delights however is in the third act of the episode. The whole idea is about Eiko having found a bottle with a tiny Squid Girl in it that doesn’t talk all that much but is more simple, if such a thing can be true. Taking her home and putting her in a fish tank, it’s an adorable piece that has her raising a tiny Squid Girl that’s very much like a pet. It’s all done with only a few words here and there and mostly by music and simple playfulness. Squid Girl really shines in this segment as everything is monstrously big to her but she gets into all of it, even as some of the cute things from the series so far comes into play to mock and torment her. She’s the kind of pet that you’d want to have and enjoy, so seeing her going through this kind of silly experience really is highly enjoyable.

Considering she’s a creature from under the sea, Squid Girl has done well in her time on the surface by not coming down with anything. It’d be easy to believe she’d be susceptible to things that we aren’t, or can largely fend off easily, so when she gets a bit under the weather, she can’t quite understand why. It takes her down a few pegs, but it’s definitely cute in how she plays it up and tries to come across worse than she actually is. So much so that she insists the only thing that can save her at this point is to eat lots and lots and lots of shrimp. That and a lot of rest will get her back on track, something that Eriko can’t quite believe but Squid Girl is acting so childish that you can’t help but to give into her a bit. So when Eriko messes with her on it, it’s priceless since it just shows how well she’s actually feeling.

Where Squid Girl gets interesting is when a couple of the kids tease her about her sandcastle ability and then get a bit more on her about her poor choice of hat. It turns out that it’s not actually a hat but rather her fins, though she doesn’t use them all that much. In fact, she hasn’t used them at all in the show yet and what little she uses them here causes her to cramp them rather easily. Her view of them is quite comical, especially as she insists they’ll grow huge someday and she can fly using them, but it’s all minor compared to the way she makes little squick squick sounds with them by moving them just a little bit, like some people wiggle their ears.

The third story deals with something that apparently hasn’t happened yet in the background with a bit of rain hitting the ocean side town. Squid Girl is intrigued by this strange device called an umbrella which keeps people from getting wet. So she heads out with Eriko to do some errands though she doesn’t quite use the thing correctly and even keeps it open indoors since she likes the whole idea behind it. It’s this kind of child like naivety that is fun about Squid Girl. She becomes so enraptured by the different kinds of umbrellas there are and the designs but she also views it as a way to be a weapon. She takes it far in her own dream vision of it, but just the way she sees others using it and views them as hostile is precious. Precious!

During its simulcast run the show had me a bit worried that at the end it would try to get all serious with some sort of storyline that would take over the whole episode and really change what has made it fun. Thankfully, Squid girl decided to go out by being itself and that means odd kinds of silly fun involving Squid Girl getting into things that will bring her much gain. That means it kicks off with a beach tournament event where she and Eiko team up so they can win a brand new big screen 3D TV set. And that has them going up against a lot of other familiar characters, from the kids who are always in the area to Cindy and the scientist assistant trio. Squid Girl herself may never have played before herself, but she has a lot of innate skill and even uses her tentacles to great effect.

The challenges they face along the way are really amusing, from the scientist whose hand breaks upon smacking the ball because he’s so frail to the robot design made by the South Wind duo who uses projected toothpicks to try and take them down. Of course, it all comes down to a match against the lifeguards who are out there doing their studly best, but there’s a lot of fun little distractions and gags along the way as the game goes far longer and more intense than any other one. Things go a bit more over the top than usual, but the comedic effect of it is spot on, right up to Squid Girls interactions with the 3D TV itself.

While the show doesn’t go overly serious, it does add an element that isn’t a surprise as Squid Girl seemingly loses the power of her tentacles as they’re now rather listless. She’s been able to use them with ease for awhile as if they were they were just another hand or finger, but once she loses control of them and they just flop there, she’s at a serious loss. Even worse, she’s lost the ability to create the ink that has made her a key part of the restaurant as something they’d use in the food to spice it up some, which has Eiko being a bit snarky with her which in turn causes Squid Girl to wonder if it’s time to leave and move on. She does rightly start thinking that in her mind, she has conquered this place and it may be time, but she’s also hoping that everyone asks her to stay there.

The quieter nature of the show after she leaves is interesting to watch, as everyone goes into their normal routines but it’s still rather subdued as they lost something that has given them a lot of excitement and life. It’s an appropriate kind of quiet reflective piece to show us how they’re missing her in their own way, but knowing that she had to go off on her own. And just as you can expect, she does return, different than she was before, but that’s the kind of charm that she has in that there’s more to her than just her tentacles. But that doesn’t sit well with everyone as she becomes a normal girl as they want the exciting, outgoing and wacky Squid Girl that they’ve come to know. Watching the challenge she and others go through over this as she tries to figure out what it is she needs to do, is nicely heartwarming. It avoids being too serious, too somber, but rather provides for some natural growth and changes to the character while highlighting what it is that’s made her special.

When it comes to the second season, fans initially had a wait of about a year but it’s not even noticeable here as it essentially picked up where things left off as she’s dreaming of making her invasion plans a reality and feels like she needs to redouble her efforts. Of course, her efforts have not accomplished much over the course of the first season beyond making a lot of friends, having fun and coping with some amusing American’s that are nothing but trouble. She’s come up with some creative ideas in the past for invasion and is ready to hit up more here, though she has to basically meet up with the whole cast first to reacquaint us all with them.

With the structure of the series, having the opening story here about that works pretty well and it doesn’t take long to get us back on track with how she fits into things. She’s still got her invasion mindset and comes up with silly ways to do it. The show also introduces some new folks along the way, though one of them insists he’s not new even though Squid Girl barely even registers him. What gets things moving a bit though is with Sanae as she gets jealous of the new friends that Squid Girl is making and it pushes her to bad thoughts. What’s amusing is how everyone just gets along so well with Squid Girl even as she rants about conquering the world. For Sanae, it’s having to understand that lots of people like her and for good reason, so she has to avoid being jealous. And for Squid Girl, it’s another notch in the softening up of her ways with the surface dwellers.

The show also gives us an opportunity to see how silly the surface world looks to her eyes, such as when she goes on a tear in the final story about how silly it is to think a guy with a stick can take care of the ocean. Of course, she has a mishap of her own and that leads to her having a jellyfish catching competition with everyone. Some things blossom big quickly and when Chizuru is involved, that’s even less of a surprise. Having everyone in the water in their swimsuits looking for jellyfish is a lot of fun, especially as Squid Girl gets to use her tentacles to make multiple attack and capture runs in a really fun way, going so far as to swipe them from other people directly. But as we’ve seen before, she is her own worst enemy and it’s just comical to watch it unfold, especially as she gets stung repeatedly.

While we often see characters going about their normal lives, it’s rare to see any of them exercising unless they’re involved in a sports show. And even then it’s hit or miss whether they’ll spend the time on it. So it was actually nice to see the gang out for a jog together and doing fairly well with it and doing it without complaint at that. They end up running into Goro on the run, though everyone is easily distracted by food outside of Chizuru and Goro. Since Goro has the hots for Chizuru, the pair spend their time going off un a run while the other three go and enjoy the sights of the city, which are pretty new and fun to Squid Girl. As much as she harbors invasion plans for her hated enemy, she does enjoy their world a whole lot as she gets into exploring it more and more.

The middle story here brings back Sanae again and I continue to find her the weak link in the series with the way she gloms onto Squid Girl. And that does get to others as well as a bunch of the young boys do their best to get Sanae to knock it off. Unfortunately, Sanae figures out a way not only to get closer to Squid Girl but also to keep others away by becoming a bodyguard. And through a mishap or two, she shows that she’s up for the job, which in turn freaks out Squid Girl even more. Sanae takes her job very seriously and it continues to push everyone out of the way, making her even more annoying than usual. I do like that Squid Girl gets frustrated with her, but Sanae just pushes this in a less than humorous direction.

Thankfully, they follow up this piece with what salvages the episode as a whole by going with the mini Squid Girl segment. The one that we had in the first season was a real highlight of the whole season for me, so going back to this pint-sized version that only says Squii and has a big, Ghibli-esque view of the world in just a few minutes is fun. Her exploration is great, her fears are well founded and she has a great little sequence with some cats that was just priceless from the sound effects alone and her expressions. I love these little bits and am glad they’re not more regular as it would kill the fun of it. As a small piece within the overall episode, it gives you just enough taste to want more but still very happy with what you get.

Squid Girl’s conquest is one that has some really fun moments, especially when she actually gets all commandeering and the like. The final episode of the second season has her taking over the Lemon restaurant for a bit, or at least trying to, in an effort to make the place her first line of defense against other invaders. Raising the possibility of more invaders like her is a double-edged sword since it could be really cute but also start us down the path of even more girls with distinct personalities, taking the focus off the really solid cast that we do have. Unfortunately for her, the attempts to train don’t go well because of the way Chizuru and Eiko are far more powerful than one would normally expect, both physically and through sheer intimidation. So giving Squid Girl a real challenge like this is definitely difficult for her.

One of the things I do like about the show is that you have such different personalities for the sisters. While Chizuru is soft in a sense while being brutally hard, Eiko is outgoing with her harshness and that plays well with Squid Girls own stubborn and unthinking behavior. So when the second story here focuses on the two in the midst of a fight that boils over in a big way, seeing how they handle the fallout is a lot of fun. The two are friends, they have to be at this point, but they’re both stubborn enough to be how they are by ignoring each other and trying to go about their days like normal without interacting. Which is hard, considering they work together as well, which leads to the expected tense yet cute moments where they play against each other. Add in the age difference between the two and it just makes it even more fun.

What this leads to is a bit of an unusual moment where Chizuru actually steps in to deal with the situation by closing the shop early for the day. By getting them out of the work environment, that helps a bit, but they also end up going to the festival that’s going on. So with lots of dress up involved and time spent with other friends, the two get some much needed time apart. Unfortunately for Squid Girl, she ends up separated even further and it’s difficult for her since it’s not all people familiar with her and her disconnect from human ways, so it has some cute and mild tension to it that tries to force everything back into place because of it. As a way to close out the season, it works rather well since it keeps things focused on a relationship that’s natural but doesn’t get a lot of time really devoted to it outside of the usual gags. It’s a bit slower, a little more character driven, but still has some good humor to it.

In Summary:
Squid Girl has long been a show I’ve enjoyed and revisiting it only reinforces it. Sentai’s put together a very solid package here for those that just want the show (a premium edition was also produced) as it has a lot of content with both seasons dubbed and a good helping of extras to be had. This series is one that has always felt just a hair below the radar for how appreciated it should be among anime fans since it keeps to simple things with several stories per episode instead of the usual tomfoolery. The structure is appealing, the charm of the characters, the minimal amount of sexytime fanservice, it all comes together to give us a show that’s not easily dated and simply enjoys playing to goofy events and not getting too serious. It’s not perfect throughout as there are areas where it falls flat, and I do recommend spacing it out viewings, but as a whole there’s far too much to enjoy here and it’s simply a delight.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos & Commentaries, Mini Squid Girl Short Stories, I Th-INK That’s English?!, Clean Version Short, Clean Opening and Closing Animations

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 28th, 2017
MSRP: $99.98
Running Time: 675 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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