To ride the Roger Ebert remembrance bandwagon some more, he said: “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you.” Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is the sort of anime that left me confused emotionally but somehow excited intellectually. It’s like, I know this is actually really good, they managed to accomplish something special, but where are the feels?
I think we can agree that Akira’s light novel makes perhaps the most eccentric Shaft x Shinbo TV anime in a long while. Sasami-san is at a point where I think it’s so out there, that Shinbo had to play it straight at times in order to not lose everyone. Maybe it’s just because we don’t have that Shinto foundation, that one overlord vantage point, to make sense of it all. Maybe you can write about how animation direction is inherently western and Shinto is not even a little bit western, so it is a tough hash.
It’s unfortunate, really, because I wish I can recommend this show to people who like delicate and intricate plot concepts and themes that weave non-linearly and form a bigger picture about generational disillusions, about Japan’s youths and how they relate to the previous generation. It’s weird because I know it is really a tour de force of late-night TV anime and what it can do, except it doesn’t feel especially skillful or evocative.
That is, until you start to think about it and putting the pieces together. How do you do a body-swap story? How do you portray different people and personalities inhibiting the same physical body while expressing it, AND trying to disguise it at the same time? And sometimes only externally or internally? It’s a huge challenge but somehow they were able to do it.
And I guess I really need Ebert’s line to give me an out here. The bottom line is that as much as Sasami-san@Ganbarai is dazzling my mind, in the end it is no better than the source material for the typical viewer. Unless you are an anime otaku who would think about how iterative improvement of the late-night media-mix marketing machine can transform any trash light novel into something actually novel, or want a crash course on post-modern Shinto narratives, Sasami-san really needs to work harder to earn an audience. It’s a very special anime, because it engages the mind like few others, but that alone is not enough.
I guess that just means I am not big enough of a “funyaaa” fan (99% sure Hanazawa just phoned it in here) or an Asumiss fan or have a thing for Chiwa Saito voicing a loli-baba. Or maybe I think Aipon’s Tama is too precious to find her exploitative. Give me a hand here, Asa-nee!
PS… besides the massive fanservice vehicle that she is.