12 Days of Anime 2018, Day 11: Atarashi! – Exploring the gdgdverse

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Over the years short anime have kind of become my thing. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve switched to “watch nearly every short every season” mode. Because of that there are naturally some gaps through which shows which are extremely my sort of thing have slipped. This year I filled one of those gaps. Despite Straight Title Robot Anime; one of my favourite series ever being a part of it I had previously missed out on the rest of the gdgd series.

A loosely defined collective of shows, the gdgd series are… hard to define actually. They’re most obviously recognisable however by their continuing use of CG animation, ugly CG at that. The majority of the gdgd shows are fairly visually distinct if only for how bad they look. The visuals might be jarring but in a way that almost seems intentional. The actual character designs are generally surprisingly good, and accompanying 2D artwork is usually great (recent entry Himote House got a fair bit of backlash on this count from people lured in by the promotional artwork). gdgd’s bad CG feels like a stylistic trade off motivated by a desire to create anime that do something different, even if that difference is often received negatively.  The cheap crappy CG often actually serves to heighten the surreal, at times straight up nonsensical atmosphere that these shows project.

This loose atmosphere is also reflected in the series heavy use of improvisation based content. While the degree to which each show leans into it varies; the majority mix scripted segments with prompt based improv that’s (occasionally) related to a broader episodic topic. More often than not this improv just serves as an excuse for the cast to banter with one another, these sections tend to be the more obviously entertaining as the voice casts generally work well together and establish a solid rapport.

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Where the series really shine though is when those lines begin to blur. As elements raised in the improvised segments begin to be incorporated into the scripted sections, one-off jokes randomly become relevant to sudden plot turns, offhand comments by the voice actresses get incorporated into their character (poor Koharun). The real thing that sets these shows apart is to just get weird and meta in interesting ways.  This willingness to do new things even when those things are essentially just weird non sequiturs is what makes these shows special.

From the ascension of Mochida Fusako in gdgd Fairies to Tesagure’s “no animation” episodes and Straight Title Robot Anime’s existence as a single perfectly executed 12 episode long joke these series are consistently playing with expectations and finding new and inventive ways to push boundaries that possibly don’t need to be pushed. Even the weaker entries manage to do something interesting; Naria girls might not have clicked like the others but I can’t deny that the “maid monster” threw me for a loop. It’s in pushing anime in these weird and often nonsensical directions that these series really shine.

With that in mind, tomorrow we’ll be homing in on perhaps the most trailblazing of the lot.

12 Days of Anime 2018, Day 11: Atarashi! – Exploring the gdgdverse

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