On some metaphysical, spiritual level, I really grok Anime-Gataris.
It has all the trappings of a typical anime– clubs and character types and visuals and all that. It has all the trappings of some meta critique on anime– self-awareness and commenting on all the things mentioned above. It’s both the normal norm and the faux-trend breaking other norm. But at the same time it’s also kinda “off.” Which is to say it’s doing things that neither typical sort of anime would do.
Scenes transitions aren’t quite the same the baseline– they don’t quite end on the same beats you expect. I think that has to do with it being an anime original. It isn’t adapting a manga or novel, so there’s no original flow to follow. The way they go from showing the main girl’s athlete buddy jumping or doing some other exercise and transitioning into the title sequence is a good example of that. It doesn’t “feel” like an anime thing.
Then there’s the way it approaches its self-awareness. They do a bit about how anime (I imagine they’re referring to late night 12 episode shows here) tend to have a big reveal or tone shift or whatever during the third episode. Most meta anime would leave it at that– a mention of the trend, then either acting out the trend or blatantly disregarding it with a big wink to the audience. We kinda get a bit more than that. The characters get into a Genshiken-styled argument about the merits of dropping a series after watching the third episode. The “younger” characters are adamantly against doing that. They argue that a series is just getting started and established its tone, and that you aren’t really giving it a chance if you drop it that early. It’s one of the non-freshmen who argues in favor of it, saying that if it hasn’t met expectations by then, you’re better off moving on.
That dynamic is pretty important here, since it mirrors a lot of what I see in the fan community in general. While the age disparity between sides in Anime-Gataris is a year at best, it’s usually the younger kids with more time and less experience with the material who expound seeing an anime through once started, while the older “seen it all” types like me are the ones who will drop something with ease, whether it be at the third episode or even earlier. We’ve given enough shows a chance to know how we’ll feel about something fairly quickly, barring major revelations or whatever.
With that established, we’re threatened with a possible situation-breaking deal: the student council is working to shut down the anime club before it starts, and is putting it to public vote whether the club gets to open or not. Both sides have to present an argument to a school assembly, and the student body will vote afterwards. It could go a few different ways. Maybe the “twist” is that they lose the club before it starts, and they have to be the out of school deal the younger characters refuse to acknowledge (again, because it wouldn’t be proper, since that never happens in an anime). Or maybe this is the main girl’s big turning point, where she musters courage and whatnot and becomes the leader a main character is supposed to be by giving a rousing speech in favor of the club.
They save the club through a speech, but it’s the glasses-wearing, big time chuuni, battle anime fan dude who goes “Super Saiyan” by laying bare his passion for anime to the crowd. The moment undercuts the possibility that Anime-Gataris becomes a non-club anime and denies the main girl her prophesied moment in the sun– we don’t get a series-defining episode so much as we get an episode defining someone we figured was a one-note type.
That could be its own turning point. This dude isn’t one of the main three girls, yet we’ve probably seen more “development” from him in this one episode that we’ve seen in any of the main girls who sing and dance in the credits. If it is, it’s certainly not a traditional third episode moment. Whatever way it plays out, it’s decidedly not like the trend expounded on in the episode.
Oh yeah, and we get some quiet, sinister undertones about a history of denying the anime club at this school, as if it were some grand conspiracy or something. But nothing’s really revealed, so it isn’t a third episode deal either.
I could be projecting here– seeing more than there is because I’ve duped myself into believing in something because of my apocalypse fetish (yeah, no mention of that in this episode, but I have theories)– but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. My senses are tingling much like how they were during not only Haruhi Suzumiya, but Occult Academy as well.
Yeah, I went there. Yeah, Occult Academy is one of my all-time favorites. Watch it if you haven’t.