Tuesday, January 22, 2013

:anime: Final Impression:: Teekyu

Not only is this a review, it's also the first "Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month" of the year!

Review: Teekyu
Alt. Titles: Te-kyu, Teekyuu

Official Site: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video: Crunchyroll

"Four high-school girls" series are a dime a dozen these days, though that isn't to say that there aren't any bright spots in the genre, as Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) and Hyakko have shown in recent years. A popular flavor has the girls involved in a club, where they often do zany, non- club-related things. Teekyu is one of those series, which centers on straight-laced high school freshman Yuri Oshimoto, who gets sucked into the inane escapades of her three senior classmates in the school's tennis club (which, as you guessed it, involves little tennis). At the same time, there is more to this little (and I mean "two-minutes-per-episode" little) show, whose behind-the-scenes notoriety maybe as sublime as the show's most notable accomplishment--being one of the very few, if not the first, show that can out Fooly Cooly FLCL.

Maybe that is not so much of a surprise when you consider that its director, Shin Itagaki (Black Cat, Ben-To) is also a staffer at GAINAX, who co-produced that fabled OVA with Production I.G and has a long-standing reputation for the crazy. While he did not contribute to that series, there is a distinct style to his direction, particularly in his rambunctious action scenes and use of silhouettes, and he does have credits on other shows of its ilk like Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (Ep. 9a) and Gurren Lagann (Ep. 6) (both GAINAX series).

Even so, Teekyu is nothing like anything he's ever done. As far as credentials go, he not only wrote and directed it, he also handled the bulk of the production work himself, character designs included (a career first). His most recent work in Ben-To saw him do some of the writing and design work and Mayoi Neko Overrun's first episode involvement ran a bit deeper, but Teekyu is virtually all him. It is pure, unadulterated Itagaki, as a result, albeit in the form of comedy, not action, and his wild style is naturally fitted with FLCLisms. The dialogue and gags come rapid fire (and I do mean rapid), the animation is lively and loose, and the outlandishness runs at critical mass.

Appropriately, even the production itself is an oddity. The 4koma source manga debuted just five months prior to the anime's debut, and was tapped as only the second production by MAPPA, a new studio created by Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama just the year before in 2011. More of a Madhouse off-shoot than anything else (even its logo looks eerily familiar…), it is strange to think that a studio built on the premises of doing projects that the venerated former would have had difficulty getting greenlit and for completing the late Satoshi Kon's final film would chose to follow-up their critically-acclaimed debut Kids on the Slope (aka Sakamichi no Apollon--by Shinichiro Watanabe, of all people) with a goofy four-high-school-girls show with a familiar set-up being spearheaded by a director with career lowlights like Devil May Cry and BASQUASH!.

However, as Maruyama's track record and Shin Itagaki's talent have shown, there was certainly some method to the madness. The director channeled some of his action scene energy into the crazed blur of puns, visual gags, pure nonsense, and non sequitors, not to mention his flare for the ribald in a few of the show's more lowbrow moments. Additionally, Teekyu does an amusing job poking fun at story conventions and supposedly tender moments, and the facial expressions are a hoot. The sheer amount, speed, and bizarreness of Teekyu's comedic bits can make FLCL look mundane, but the jokes are inspired and their blinding pace is actually befitting of its looseness and length. At two minutes a pop (and that's including the OP) and in all of its goofy glory, the visuals aren't going to peel eyes with high-budgeted amazement, but they are still solid and colorful enough to look like a quality product, and the characters managed to be rendered with consistency through all of the expressions and antics.

As far as shorts and comedies go, Teekyu is certainly one of the better ones around. The manic antics may not be to everyone's liking, but those looking for something very funny to watch or up FLCL's alley just might. One could even feasibly watch all twelve episodes in under 30 mins. (that is, if they can take that much condensed crazy…) and if you ever miss out on a few particular jokes that zip by, you can simply just rewatch the episode--they're worth it. Director Itagaki did a fine job transitioning from action to his first full comedy series and taking the lion's share of the adaptation's vision, as did upstart MAPPA in providing the opportunity and studio resources. The result is a very fun and hilarious entry that, in spite of its brevity, stands out in the shop-worn genre it is in.

Yeah, it's one of those kind of shows…

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