Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a show that, by all indications, I should like. It’s got Shaft animation which means it’s a pleasure to look at. The female lead is both cute and capable of independent thought. And the two lead characters are a teacher and a hikkikomori, both professions that I can relate to to some extent. There were a few laughs of recognition scattered throughout this episode.
I could definitely empathize with the part where Sasami was getting bored and annoyed!
But the problem with this show lies in the supernatural elements. I was worried at the end of the last episode that we wouldn’t get an explanation for what was going on when the whole world turned into chocolate, and that they’d try to string the audience along forever like Penguin Drum did. But this episode, we got an explanation, of sorts. Apparently there are gods living inside everything in the world (the animist belief system). These gods all serve the ultimate god, Amaterasu, who happens to be instantiated in the form of Sasami’s older brother. And so, then, obviously, the explanation for the Chocolate Incident:
I’m not sure why they needed to turn the whole world into chocolate to achieve that, though.
From that perspective, it becomes a little bit easier to see why Sasami might have fallen into hikkikomorism. She has a strong aversion for the outside world, but if it’s a world filled with capricious gods who’ll turn you into whatever foodstuff seems appropriate to the occasion, it might not actually be unreasonable to try to hide away in your room. (I wonder how Lot’s wife turned out, for example.) Perhaps Sasami-san is not trying, but in a world where the gods just do whatever nonsense they feel like, what’s the point in trying? Even if you try, a god could just decide to inflict you with boils or whatever based on pure whim. (I’m looking at you, Job.) In a world as religiously active as Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, mere mortal hikkikomoris have no agency, no control over how their life goes. And so instead of trying, they will stay shut up in their rooms, with their eight different computers and their enormous collections of media, because that’s something that they can have control over. Or at least, they can have control over it until their brother’s asshole friends come in and start smearing their greasy potato-chip hands all over everything.
But just as unpredictable divine intervention robs Sasami of her agency, it also destroys my interest in the show. I like when events follow sensibly from one another. I like a plot that I could in principle follow. I like stories about people figuring out what needs to be done, and then doing it, and then not having that victory overruled by a god who happened to be feeling feisty. I think it’s instructive to look at the difference between Sasami-san@Ganbaranai and Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. Haruhi has superficially a similar premise. There is a foolish and erratic character with the power of the ultimate god, there is a snarky narrator who is that character’s romantic interest, and then there are three more characters who exist to try to control the damage done by the ultimate god being foolish and erratic. But Haruhi is a great, classic anime, because fundamentally, Kyon ends up doing stuff that relates to the stuff that is happening. He kisses the girl or hits the home run or instructs Yuki to use her cheaty magic or whatever. He’s trying, and that makes the difference between one of the best anime of all time and an anime I’m going to drop.
Sasami is cuter than Kyon though.
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita has awakened me to the joys of messy hair.