My thoughts on Denpa Onna after 5 episodes. Because sometimes I have more to say about currently airing anime than I can possibly fit in your standard monthly roundup. Or my alternative and more precise sub-title, why it should have stopped after episode 3.
Denpa Onna is about a generic teenage boy going to live with his barmy aunt and her illegitimate daughter, who she bizarrely refuses to acknowledge the existence of most of the time. The daughter doesn’t seem too phased by this either, spending her time wrapped up in a futon and declaring she’s an alien. It is up to our wise-cracking protagonist to discover what’s going on here and snap the poor girly out of her current state.
This scenario works fairly well for the first three episodes, mainly because of how well the characters fit their roles in the story. The aunt may be barmy, a 40 year old women acting like a teenage girl, but this all acts as a sign that she thinks she’s not capable nor mature enough to take care of a kid. She’s been feeling pretty depressed at her own inability to raise a child. She hides from her weaknesses by latching onto and teasing our generic main character, a person she can finally feel some degree on control over. She got on my nerves a bit, especially when they pushed her moe-aunt quotient a bit too much, but it works well for the story.
Erio is the batty cousin, wrapped up in the futon, convinced she’s an alien. This is pulled off incredibly well due to how utterly out there she is. So much so that she might as well be from another planet for all we know. The high pitched squeal of her voice is muffled by the futon, creating this bizarre creature spouting complicated lines of dialogue that actually represent something a lot more mundane, like “go get me pizza”. What’s equally commendable about her character is how, when the futon drops off, she still holds this air of mystique. Shaft really want to go all out here, showing her hair sparkling, zooming in on her face to show what a strange looking girl this is. The futon dropping also drops her defensive barrier somewhat, but it will still take some battling to get through to the heart of the problem.
And that’s where our generic male lead comes in. Obsessed with leading the perfect teenage life, keeping mathematical track of all his interactions with his cute girl classmates, he finds himself living with this elephant in the room at home. A problem that he can’t stop himself from trying to explore, which is exactly how the story is revealed and developed. The story becomes about single parents trying to raise difficult children and how they escape to a fantasy land to get away from the harshness of reality. Our hero discovers this problem and then takes it upon himself to drag Erio out of her fantasy alien land and get her to face reality, with him on hand to help her every step of the way.
As an aside, one thing I liked about Denpa Onna was how it based the story around E.T. I rather like the idea of the modern fairy tale. A popular piece of entertainment from years ago becomes a fairy tale or a classic story to base current stories off. I prefer the modern fairy tale approach than basing your stories from Shakespeare or that bloody bible again. Erio presents herself as the same sort of creature that E.T. looks like, wrapped in the blanket and everything. I love the little twist with how they incorporated that famous bike scene. Instead of taking off into the sky into fantasy magical land, the bike crashes down and that’s where Erio comes to the realisation that she’s not living the life of an alien. It’s cleverly woven into the narrative and I respect Denpa Onna for pulling that off.
The show must go on though, and here’s where the problems begin. With the characters functions gone from the original solved plotline, the author has to continue with the story he has set up. Now it’s about Erio settling into society. Thing is, that’s not what he wrote the story to be about originally. E.T. has long since lost relevance. The characters no longer fit this new plot that he has to explore. The Aunt has regressed from pretending to be a teenager because she can’t face her adulthood, to being totally indistinguishable from a teenager, with no hints of adulthood left in her. She’s regressed to a one-joke character, merely acting as a titillation device. Erio loses her mystique as an alien, but what we get in return appears to be one of those mentally challenged girls from a Key drama. This may be the natural direction her character had to take in this story, but stripped of her alien persona, she too becomes a one-trick pony. Whatever story there was has been lost beneath a pile of pandering and moeblobbery.
What this stinks of is a story being made drag out beyond its natural length. An author who wrote a story that could span one light novel, but hadn’t considered what to write next until his publisher told him to write the next volume. It’s like a TV show made a pilot episode that had the producers roaring with laughter, but when they were told to make more, they suddenly realise they had used up the shows one decent gimmick and weren’t sure what to do with it from here on. The story for Denpa Onna should have ended on episode 3, with perhaps the main characters spiel about adolescence points at the start of episode 4 acting as a final narration over the ending credits. You might say the story hasn’t ended yet. Erio still isn’t integrated with society. I say pah, we didn’t need to see that. The story was just about generic main character discovering what was going on with his bizarro cousin and dragging her out of fantasy alien land. All the show is doing now is killing time before they can finally call it a day.