First Impressions – Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (roughly Sasami at Doesn’t Try Hard) is the latest show from Shaft of course, a 1-cour adaptation of a light novel series by the same title. Besides the omnipresent director Akiyuki Shinbo, there’s writer Katsuhiko Takayama, a Shaft regular who also happened to work on the last non-Shinbo directed Shaft shows, the Ef series. Tack on an impressive and indeed familiar cast of female talents, and it’s obvious why this show has been drawing so much hype, even before knowing much about its premise, which hasn’t been the most clear from its hectic promo material. I must admit, I’m always a little skeptical of new works by Shaft, but I’m also enough of a fanboy that I know I’m going to have fun no matter what. So, on how much of the hype did Sasami-san deliver?

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One would hope that she’s good at this by now.

What caught me first was the watercolor effect on the house interior. I was somewhat reminded of the famous 18th episode of Sengoku Collection which had a pastel or crayon thing going with its backdrops. Shaft is no stranger to making use of different and highly unusual art styles for various effects, such as the witches’ realms in the Madoka series. The soft lighting and bright colors gave everything a comfortable and safe feeling, fitting for this hikikomori’s home.

The effects when Sasami attempted to go outside, on the other hand, were not so pleasant, and in a very believable way to me. I’m not a hikikomori (though I used to be borderline one), but I’ve had an anxiety attack before, and some of the visual depictions felt spot on. The blinding light of the sun, the nearby objects feeling impossibly far away, hazy tunnel vision. I’m not saying it was giving me flashbacks, but that was actually a pretty intense scene.

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As cliche as it may have been, I liked this scene.

The believability of Sasami’s anxiety attack made her much easier to feel sympathy for, a good thing for the title character. Up until that point, her bratty entitled selfish possessive attitude toward her brother had just made her kind of a hard person to like. I still think she could be handling the whole situation better, but she’s really just a lonely girl with (at least) one majorly debilitating psychological issue that her brother’s doting personality wasn’t helping her with.

Is Kamiomi the main character of Sasami-san? I assumed so going in, but he was just so blank and simple that I couldn’t really see him as a person. What was the point of his constant face covering? The obvious reason, often invoked for characters like Master Chief, is that the lack of a face makes one easier for the audience to insert oneself. This is a very common theme in this medium dominated by wish fulfillment, usually in the form of an overly average and typical main character (with maybe one unusual thing). But Sasami-san’s male protagonist actively does it to himself blatantly. I’m not sure if it goes beyond simple Shaft self indulgence. They’ve usually hit the self-deprecating meta jokes pretty hard, and he showed all the signs of that, such as his Hare Hare Yukai dance in the library, or the fact that he knew nothing of Valentine’s Day. He’s a little too obviously a viewer stand in in that Shaft sort of way.

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In some ways, Sasami seems like the better stand in, in some ways not.

Along with the watercolor, the house interior scenes featured a plethora of faraway shots, often single-cut and still camera, showing the characters moving around the frame much like actors on a stage. Those who have followed Shaft’s shows for a while might have been reminded of some of their older works like Tsukuyomi Moonphase and Pani Poni Dash!, both of which featured meta jokes depicting the characters as performing on a sound stage (also both had Chiwa Saito as a powerful loli character, as she was again here). Sasami’s double-speed changing stuck in my mind for its obvious gimmick and the background music reminiscent of Tatami Galaxy‘s ending theme sung by Etsuko Yakushimaru. The episode used quite the variety of background tracks, most of them energetic and lively. The piece with the saxaphone (or whatever brass instrument that was) that played during the climax was certainly a lot of fun. Even when a monster is destroying the city, this is a happy show.

When the world was turning into chocolate before Sasami’s eyes, I first thought that it must be another one of Shaft’s abstractions, a peek into the mind of a girl obsessed with getting chocolate for her brother. The truth was a lot cooler, as the world literally became chocolate – the whole universe, actually, by the looks of it. I hadn’t done much reading into this show, so I was quite caught off guard by all this. The climactic battle wasn’t exactly jaw dropping, but it was still a quality bit of animation, plenty filled with excitement. Kagami’s ample weapons were quite the sight.

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Massive guns.

Of course, one was left wondering the explanation for the chocolate monster in the first place. My first thought was, did Sasami’s chocolate obsession turn into a monster that came to attack the city, a la Haruhi or Panty & Stocking? That seems a little far-fetched, to be honest, but the show does have the audacious spirit to do anything that might be unexpected. There’s probably a reason why the sisters had to go to her house when turning the world back, so they wll probably keep barging into her life, at least.

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Lesser Shaft shows needed 7 whole episodes to build up to this sort of scene.

I must admit to enjoying this episode much more than I had expected. When I observed that the staffing and cast was sort of a throwback for Shaft, I thought we might be in for something like them from the late 2000s, and that’s more or less what it was. Well, except if they actually had a budget to work with, as the action bits showed off. I wonder how large a focus that will be to this show. The way this episode played it was right, throwing us into battle with the Yagami sisters without needless exposition. But I do hope that some explanation is forthcoming. There is still so much to learn about these sisters, but the show has that Shaft boldness and quirkiness and great production to boot, so I’m loving how Sasami-san is turning out. Can’t wait for more zaniness next episode.

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Shaft certainly knows how to deliver with the visuals. That’s all I’m asking for, really.


A math/science geek and a self-dubbed cynical optimist. I don't care if it's deep, if it can make me feel something or laugh, it's fine in my book. @lvlln
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43 Responses to “First Impressions – Sasami-san@Ganbaranai”

  1. Highway says:

    This show was a bit of a tough watch (and even tougher for me to write about). The complete lack of any explanation for anything, anything at all, leaves me wondering if they’re going to actually explain *anything* throughout the show, or if they just threw all this out there at the beginning to make a ‘different’ first episode, and are going to make more explanation up later. I could see it going either way, but it doesn’t leave us with much to go on from this first episode. It just kind of sits there as a whole, “There it is!”.

    I thought Sasami was a better character than the rest of them, and I don’t really get Kamiomi at all. I thought the scenes of Sasami getting fired up, actually going through the trouble of getting dressed and walking out the door, only to be smacked in the face with whatever psychological block she has, twice even, did a lot for making her a good character. In contrast, Kamiomi just seemed to do things randomly, and was a complete idiot throughout. And the Yagami sisters were just kind of there cause they needed more characters to do things, it seemed.

    • lvlln says:

      Actually, hitting the ground running like this with no justification is not a terribly unusual thing. It’s just that anime often treats its viewers like idiots who need every little detail spelled out meticulously (see: Fate/Zero, Btooom, Accel World, among others). Throwing us into the middle of things gives us a visceral feel for the series before we can intellectually understand it, and that’s generally a good thing. Just, this show does need to start explaining to some capacity soon.

      • Highway says:

        I think what struck me most wasn’t that it was just throwing us in, but more that it was, for lack of a better term, self-contained. The show wrapped up neatly, finishing the story, without giving us any idea of future direction, without any idea of where it’s been in the past, just “story’s done, go home.” It didn’t even give any real mysteries for the future besides *everything*. No “hey, this is what we’re going to get to” or “This leads to something later.” Instead, we get the impression that this kind of phenomenon has happened before, will happen again, and happened this time, and was cleaned up by the Yagami sisters and that’s all you need to know.

        The other thing I didn’t mention in my previous comment is how much I thought it looked like Hidamari Sketch, especially the colors and the fill textures.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Highway falls into a pit of despair at the sheer mention of BTOOOM! He can feel the dark aura slowly surrounding him.

        • Highway says:

          Pfft, I’m tougher than that. Btoooooooooooom!!!!!! sucked Baaaaaaaaaaalls.

          I do like how lvlln mentioned 3 series, one that people love, and two that were really crummy. 🙂

          • BlackBriar says:

            Indeed. Your fort is holding out strong now but there’s no guarentee of it staying that way if another show of the same caliber or something more intense comes along. What will you do then? Or if it was something like Shining Hearts?

            • Highway says:

              Pfft, childs play. Shiny Bread just lulled you to sleep, and when you woke up, you’d be “Did something happen?! Oh, nope, never mind.” Heck, I even watched Campione!, thinking “Oh, Erica, why is someone as gorgeous as you in such a terrible show!”

              But I’m not afraid of dropping terrible shows anymore. 🙂

  2. Liza says:

    Whut. That was my response after watching the episode. Like, what in the world is going on? Chocolate….really? I mean, it was cool and I agree with that I originally thought it was all in Sasami’s head….until the Yagami sisters got involved.

    I’m hoping the second episode explains SOMETHING, any little thing to what is going. From the premise, I thought it was going to be a romantic story of sorts with Sasami watching the love…square, between her brother and the Yagami sisters but I guess not. It’s something crazy instead.

    • Yukarin_YY says:

      I thought it woud be like a RomCom too, up until mister ChocoDoragon smashed through reality and destroyed that possibility

      well, atleast I mean, its not just a normal RomCom. possible harem for Sasami’s brother, I’ve seen more female characters in the covers, also Tsurugi seemed to be slightly tsundere

    • lvlln says:

      I was also expecting a light romantic comedy, and given that this is Shaft, still expect that is the case, punctuated by the occasional high flying fight scene. Even Shaft’s more action heavy shows like Madoka and Vampire Bund only occasionally featured brief fits of violence.

  3. Metalsnakezero says:

    Shaft being Shaft is a good thing.

    • Yukarin_YY says:

      I really love Shaft’s animation direction °v° always so trippy

      also Shaft has a thing for awesome bgm
      love this OST right from the start =w=

    • BlackBriar says:

      Shaft has a high batting average with shows like the Monogatari series, Dance in the Vampire Bund and Arakawa Under the Bridge. It’s almost like they can do no wrong.

  4. Yukarin_YY says:

    Guessing from the opening Sasami and her brother are like onmyoji or something. And from this episode, we saw the Yagami sisters are also.. err a.. fight raging gods. can’t really call them onmyoji, more like an android, esper, and.. wtf Tsurugi is just superhuman.

  5. d-LaN says:
    Pretty much how I feel when watching this. (No water were vomited btw) First half were normal for SHAFT standard and then the 2nd half come…. Chocolate World + Boob Missile + Chocolate Dragon –> SHAFT wut r u high on again? XD

    I’ve read several post on this episode and to my surprise there some pretty interesting Shinto subtext in it… I thought the OP was just faux symbolism lol. Tsukoyomi eh… IIRC its a moon God ryte?

    • Yukarin_YY says:

      Tsukuyomi no Mikoto is indeed the moon god I believe. maybe Kamiomi and Sasami are descendents?

    • ckuri says:

      Yes, their names are highly mythological.

      The three sisters are called Tsurugi, Tama und Kagami. Their names refer to the Imperial Regalia, i.e. the sword Kusanagi no tsurugi which was used by the god Susanoo to slay the many-headed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi, the jewel Yasakani no magatama and the mirror Yata no kagami which were both used to lure the sun goddess Amaterasu out of her cave to illuminate the world again.

      Furthermore, Amaterasu, Susanoo and Tsukuyomi are closely related to each other.

  6. Yukarin_YY says:

    Okay spammy just ate like 3 of my comments. the fuu I felt accomplished, but now he’s. just gobbling down all of them lol

    • Jrow says:

      Sheesh, spam monster must’ve been really starving just earlier.

      Got ’em out for ya. ^_^

      • Yukarin_YY says:

        lol thank you °v°

        I think I have a good idea on how to deal with Spammy.
        this first ecounter was very informative :<
        you really try to bypass him by commenting again

        are there like calcs for Spammy? lol
        Spammy's average consumption daily
        Amount of comments a user posts before one is attcked
        Spammy needs to be added to Wikipedia

        • Yukarin_YY says:

          Ughh mobile I meant you *can’t really bypas

        • Highway says:

          If you hit submit, and the page refreshes, then your comment got submitted. So whatever you wrote is somewhere, even if it doesn’t show up. Best thing to do is either wait a bit for someone to clean them out, or to wait a bit and then say you’ve got a comment caught.

          And sometimes Spammy just gets grumpy.

        • BlackBriar says:

          You have just received the Metanorn Spammy comment survival manual. It’ll help you endure Spammy’s insatiable attacks at any given moment. Learn it, live it, love it. Here’s one of our theories: Spammy goes after comments of those that are considerably large.

    • BlackBriar says:

      Hahaha!! Welcome to Metanorn, Yukarin_YY.

      • Yukarin_YY says:

        lol one can only call themselves part of the Metanorn community once their comments have been devoured

        • BlackBriar says:

          Nope. That’s the rite of passage here. The initiation to be part of it is by signing a contract with the community blogger by putting your first comment on their post (The drawback is they get your soul as collateral). For example: me signing my otherwise binding contract with one of Metanorn’s queen sadists, Overcooled. LOL.

  7. Kyokai says:

    Big question: will we ever see onii-chan’s face? :3

    • lvlln says:

      I would wager no, like the company president in Idolm@ster. I expect the show to play the face-obscured character trope perfectly straight.

      It would be great, though, if we caught a glimpse at some intense plot critical moment, or at an epilogue, seeing him smile. Not the style of anime to subvert expectations like that.

    • BlackBriar says:

      I was asking the same thing. What is he hiding? I assume something happened that disfigured him and now he’s too ashamed to show his face. No one acts like that without a valid reason.

  8. PrimeHector says:

    Shaft showing off their budget now.

  9. BlackBriar says:

    “What exactly am I watching?” was what was mostly going through my mind with this trying to piece together what the story is actually attempting to show. Points for unpredictability. So far, what I got are two siblings who have a complex for each other. One is a light sensitive girl who’s a shut in and stalker while the other is a brother who is also a teacher but waits on her hand and foot and the world is easily manipulated (Seriously, chocolate?) while harboring super powered humans. The question is, why is the brother always hiding his face? Is he so disfigured he can’t bear to let anyone see?

    I definitely see Shaft’s work in this like the Monogatari series and Tsukuyomi Moonphase with the animation jumping back and forth between and rich and faded colors with Sasami’s room and the rest of the world. It seemed as the whole setting changed because of one word that constantly being repeated. Kagami caught me off guard not only with Kana Hanazawa as her seiyuu but how she used her weapons and the places they were coming out of.

  10. Overcooled says:

    I love love love what SHAFT does with animation (and this time with the music choices as well). That will never change. Sasami-san looks and sounds amazing, but I’m still a bit lost about what this show is actually about. I suppose that was the point though. Pretty much everyone seems to be at least slightly confused. I doubt I’ll really be able to tell if I genuinely enjoy this until they start explaining what is going on.

    When I was first watching I thought that maybe it was the brother’s mind that was affecting the world and turning everything to chocolate. I mostly thought this because her brother was perfectly fine in the end whereas Sasami was still coated in chocolate. Then again, it doesn’t make much sense for the cause of a worldwide choco-makeover to be a no-faced pushover with no personality. :/ It’s probably more likely to be Sasami.

    The real question is what on Earth are those 3 other girls?!?!

    As a side note, while I still think Sasami isn’t the most likeable character, I’m glad she actually has a reason for staying inside (unlike a certain Btooom! protagonist). It makes me actually feel a bit sorry for her instead of just pissed off at how bossy she is. I have a friend who used to have severe agoraphobia as well and couldn’t go outside for almost a year. Even if you want to leave your house and change your lifestyle…sometimes you just can’t. It was a nice little touch to her character.

    • lvlln says:

      Confused wonder seems to be a pretty common reaction to this first episode, definitely. Having the chocolate source be the brother certainly makes a lot of sense. Maybe it was because both him and Sasami were thinking so strongly about it; they’re pieces of a puzzle or lock & key to create these monsters.

      • Overcooled says:

        Ohhhh, 2 people as the cause! Interesting take. Truly, the possibilities are endless. If the plan was to confuse people to get them to try and continue watching to make heads or tail of the story then it worked.

  11. Gecko says:

    …So lost. I watched this in between a few other shows as almost a first episode preview night of sorts.
    This one stuck out as the oddest. The animation and effects and great to see as they feel different. But it seems that this is almost in the middle of everything, as there is little explanation. And the three sisters seem used to doing this kind of thing. They’re veterans at destroying chocolate-takeovers… or whatever that was a metaphor for.
    But I feel like this is the kind of story that wouldn’t need explanation even though it would be confusing. Maybe making sense of the story is the trap for the viewer.

    • lvlln says:

      A saying that I always try to keep in mind is, “If you have to ask what it meant, it didn’t.” Right now, Sasami-san is still very much a mystery, and I think trying to read into the meaning of its quirks is a futile endeavor at the moment. The show as it has presented itself is just a random comedy about a man, his reclusive little sister, and 3 sisters who each has the ability to kick ass in her own awesome and crazy way. That’s all that Sasami-san is offering, and I’ll take it.

  12. PrimeHector says:

    There a post somewhere on omno’s blog that explains most of the characters

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