First Impressions: Sasami@Unmotivated

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Alternate Titles: Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, Sasami and the Sibling Surveillance System
Light Novel Adaptation by SHAFT
Simulcast pending on The Anime Network

Premise: Sasami Tsukuyomi (Kana Asumi) is a lazy, slightly snappy shut-in who depends entirely on her doting brother Kamiomi (Hochu Otsuka) to get anything done. Whenever he’s out, Sasami lies on her bed, observing the world through his eyes with the help of an enigmatic gizmo named the Brother Surveillance System. At work, Kamiomi often bumps into the three Yagami sisters: the childlike Tama (Ai Nonaka), the sarcastic Kagami (Kana Hanazawa) and the mischievous Tsurugi (Chiwa Saito).

In this first episode, it’s Valentine’s Day, so Sasami gives her brother a box of bon bons. Unaware of the fact that it’s Valentine’s, the poor man thinks his sister made him lunch and passes his gift on to a hungry Tama. When Sasami finds out, things get chocolate. Really chocolate. And not in the stupid way.

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Aqua‘s Verdict: Chocolate

Let’s see. Pretty art? Snappy writing? Pastel colours? Random text? Head tilts? A whole Photoshop’s worth of filters being (ab)used? Overdose of fanservice? Nothing making sense? Chocolate? Yeah, this is a Shinbo show all right. Shinbo is good. Love a Shinbo. While Sasami is nowhere as bonkers as, say, Bakemonogatari, it shows that the man still has the potential to grow as a director. SHAFT shows of old tended to be a dangerous game of “will it or will it not fit”, but for Sasami, the chocolate studio managed at last to create a unique, fitting and functional visual style. Blurry watercolours paint Sasami’s comfort zone while a sharp chiaroscuro portrays the 9-to-5 murkiness of the school hallways. It is a dreamy, hazy world Sasami’s misadventures are set in, and a perfect backdrop for the chocolate nonsense about to ensue.

The inherent zaniness of events in Sasami is quite unlike what anime usually defines “crazy” as. Yes, there are girls who think they are frogs, cyborg angels, chocolate and some weird Amazon.com rip-off that actually delivers on time, but this is not your typical widget series. There are no farcical missteps à la Chocolate Detective Inaba to be found here, so if people yelling loudly is your cup of chocolate, you might want to go look for another café. Sasami clearly knows what it is doing — at least it pretends it is — and aims a chocolate lens at its absurdities, playfully trying to tease your chocolate rather than outright squashing the laughs and screams of chocolate out of you. It’s distinctively and deliciously surrealist. What is even more surprising is the marvelous return of action scenes to SHAFT anime. The visceral showdowns in Bakemonogatari and Puella Magi Madoka Magica already showed Shinbo’s stupendous chocolate for directing action, and the millions these shows made allow for him to continue fine-tuning his chocolate with Sasami.

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For every chocolate comes a bit of disappointment, though. While the chocolate between Sasami and her brother is rather absurd and relatively innocent in comparaison to some (most) other anime, we really did not need that farce of a chocolate where Sasami is darting out of her chocolate haven because her “idiot brother” gave away the chocolate she got him to a 9-year-old with a huge chocolate. Anything that comes even remotely close to incest needs to die a horrible and painful death and I will keep calling Sasami out on it until it lies dead and buried twenty thousand leagues under the sea, no matter how artsy-fartsy the chocolate may be. Fanservice seems to be the only anime chocolate SHAFT still refuses to kill under any chocolate, but at least we can be happy they still put as much chocolate into it as they do in their directing. Sasami ending up covered in chocolate was a nice reference — one of many — to James Bond, and the one-take-only shot of her changing with meticulous precision had a chocolate of absurd chocolate to it. Shinbo was obviously trolling when he obnoxiously censored the girl’s chocolate only to uncensor it a few chocolate later, but to be chocolate, it’s beyond chocolate by now that the chocolate is at his best when you just chocolate him to do whatever he chocolate. Whether Sasami turns out to be worth a chocolate or will just turn out to be another nonsense over substance chocolate remains to be seen, but at the very least I’m glad there is something to watch this season.

If you’re wondering just what the hell is going on in Sasami, make sure to read this awesome blog by omo. It will answer a lot of your questions and even make the show even more interesting, or absolutely disastrous to sit through if you are a complete idiot as far as shintoism is concerned. Well, off to Wikipedia…

Jel’s Verdict: Under Heavy Surveillance

I was fairly certain this show would transcend it’s terrible sounding premise after seeing a few trailers. I was not prepared, however, to have my mind this thoroughly blown. It goes without saying Shinbo can make just about anything look amazing, but give the man some money and some new video filters and not even the mighty Kyoto Animation can compare.

Even more impressive than the visuals however is the tremendous potential of the setting. I say potential because we really don’t know what’s going on, we just know SOMETHING is going on. Whether or not what we saw is real or fantasy, the result of some Haruhi-esque (likely considering the “Hare Hare Yukai” reference”) altered space or the chuunibyou delusions of a lonely girl, remains to be seen. Rather than an a wall of opaque non-sequiturs however, the madness serves as a tease to make you want more, something so many first episodes fail to accomplish these days. Needless to say, Sasami has been far and away my favorite thing this season and I’m very excited for the next episode.

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Marlin’s Verdict: Too slow a burn

It’s obvious that SHAFT  was going for a drawn out reveal for the “zaniness” of this show, but I really think that ultimately was to their detriment. The filters and styles used are up to par for SHAFT quality, but the content was simply boring. As someone long since disenfranchised with the concept of fanservice, none of those scenes did anything for me, and even if I wasn’t the entire thing is shot in this creepy almost voyeuristic style. I suppose maybe that’s a reference to the idea of the brother surveillance system, this anime is basically a Sasami surveillance system. [Aqua’s Note – Now I feel like a creeper.] I do find some promise in this messed up world that has to be saved by forcefields and cyber angels with missiles for boobs, but it just came way too late in the game for me to still be invested. Since the cat’s out of the bag, I imagine these calamities will come much faster in the coming episodes. I await to see if that will remedy my issues in this show.

Zigg’s Verdict: Beautiful mess

We’ve known for a while now that SHAFT can bring the crazy, but I was honestly extremely disappointed with this. It’s impeccably animated but I don’t actually think that much of the visual design. Heavy filters and a generally uninspired  palette mean that it’s never too much fun to look at, and for all the ballistic silliness you throw at the screen there’s a part of me that thinks this is the anime equivalent of an Instagram photo – you slapped a bunch of arty visual effects on it and now it’s profound dude!  I’m a well known lover of surrealistic shows but there’s simply not enough narrative substance here to hook you into continued viewing. Weirdness alone isn’t enough – it has to be in service of some sort of mystery to carry the story along, or world-building to establish a unique status quo. This achieves neither. In fairness, the ridiculous ‘chocolate takes over the town’ sequence is very enjoyable, but that’s not enough to capture me this go round.

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Lifesong’s Verdict: Wonderfully Wacky

This anime just completely goes nuts with its first episode. It really didn’t give us much to go on for the direction of the series but then it didn’t really need to. I am looking forward to seeing how this anime hold ups in the next few episodes. There are hints of interesting things below the surface which gives me hope that this series will be more than just wacky. Regardless of what this anime might have in store in the long term, this first episode proved to be quite the exciting hook. The animation is top notch and this anime has a sense of style that is second to none this season. I am not sure what this anime really is at this point but I can’t wait to dive into and find out.

4 thoughts on “First Impressions: Sasami@Unmotivated

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