(Note: Contains spoilers, but they are confined to a clearly marked section)
The Winter 2013 anime season did not exactly bring with it a plethora of content that I would consider appealing to me, so instead I opted for something a bit different – I picked a couple of shows that I normally wouldn't have watched, but that caught my eye for various reasons. The first of those shows was Studio Shaft's new project, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, based on the light novel series by Akira. The only thing I knew about this show going in was that it was in the romantic comedy genre (according to the tags on Myanimelist) and what I read in the official synopsis, which described Sasami-san as a show about a hikikomori (compulsive shut-in) who experiences the world vicariously through her brother by using a special surveillance system. The synopsis has since been expanded, but that was the gist of it before the show aired, and that was the general idea I had about the plot. However, something about the previews for the show seemed a bit... off. There were little flashes of scenes that seemed to involve science fiction, action, and fantasy elements. Now, I am well aware that plenty of "regular" romantic comedies and school shows that have those elements incorporated as day dreams and the like (such as I am told is the case for Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! or, to a lesser extent, in Hyouka), but my Spidey sense was tingling, so I figured I would give it a shot.
My instincts turned out to be correct.
The first big problem with writing a "Three Episodes In" impression of Sasami-san is that those three episodes function as a complete arc. It almost felt like a short three part OVA that essentially concluded the story by the end, so the question of what comes next is a major one, and therefore I can't really judge where this is headed. However, based on what I saw, I am definitely curious.
So, for starters – If you don't like Studio Shaft, you might want to stop reading this and skip this show entirely, because they really broke out the Shaftiness for this one. It's like Madoka Magica overdrive, with crazy watercolor backgrounds, multiple art styles, head tilts galore, etc. Personally, I dig what they do, and Sasami-san has an eclectic visual library that keeps surprising me, and always feels refreshing, not to mention appropriate; because this show is bonkers. I mean flat out crazy, all over the place, and very weird. It also has elements of ecchi and incest, but for once, they actually bothered to come up with a logical reason for it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
You will need to give this show at least three episodes to form a proper impression of it. At the end of episode 2, I was still scratching my head and trying to decide if this show was brilliant or just silly for the sake of being silly. But then episode 3 does a fantastic job of pulling back the curtain on the madness you just experienced and putting it all in perspective. In fact, as I mentioned at the start, they do such a good job of explaining things that it feels as though the story ended at the end of episode 3. This show can now fall completely apart, or build on the very interesting things they've done and be quite the unique experience.
Without being too revealing in the non-spoiler part of this review, I will say that this show reminds me a lot of the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise, and it is even referenced directly in Sasami-san (for those who know that show, Sasami's brother does the Hare Hare Yukai dance from Suzumiya Haruhi in the first episode, as you can see below), but it really ramps everything up to 11 – the visuals, the storylines, the characters – it's all very over-the-top, but so far it all works, even the occasional gratuitous nude shot.
This show is definitely not for everyone. I see many people rolling their eyes at this or not getting it and walking away, but it certainly didn't bore me, it kept (and keeps) me wondering about what I will see next, and is simply just fun to watch.
Now for some plot spoilers for you undecideds. If you don't want spoilers, just skip to SPOILERS END HERE.
SPOILERS START HERE
So the synopsis is basically correct, but it conveniently left out the incestuous religious cult, giant ridiculous monsters, superpowers, android girl who shoots rockets out of her breasts and elbows and has laser canons in her torso, or the godly power to alter our reality at will.
Episode 1 introduces us to Sasami, a pampered shut-in, obsessive compulsive otaku, and acrophobe, who is clothed, bathed, and generally waited on hand and foot by her brother - whose face you never see since it is always obscured by some object. I have my theories as to why but it's too early to tell if it has a purpose or is just a weird stylistic choice. We are also introduced to the three Yagami sisters, who go to the school where Sasami's brother is a teacher. Then suddenly the entire world turns into chocolate, the Yagami sisters turn out to be magical fighting girls (one of them is a robot), and a gigantic battle ensues with chocolate monsters. At this point I was wondering what Shaft put in their office coffee pot, but episode 2 already takes us one step back. In it, Sasami reveals that she had once possessed the power of Amaterasu – a goddess capable of altering our reality (basically what we would refer to as God), but that for unexplained reasons, that power has passed to her brother (unbeknownst to him), and he is subconsciously creating "alterations" to our reality that must be set right by Sasami and the Yagami sisters. Episode 3 then goes even further and reveals the backstory of Sasami and her brother, the origin of the power of Amaterasu passing to humans, and the eventual consequences for both humanity and Amaterasu herself.
SPOILERS END HERE
I was genuinely surprised at how much of the initial bizarre aspects of this show had properly logical explanations to them, and aside from the crazy visual style, almost nothing was shown just for the sake of oddity. So far it all had a purpose, and that is something I wasn't expecting at all.
In any case, as I mentioned at the start, I have no idea where this show will go now that the mystery has been revealed, but I would definitely like to find out.