By Annie Gallagher / January 14th, 2015
Denki-Gai is a slice-of-life comedy anime about people who work at a dojin shop called Umanohone. Really, though, the series is more of an excuse for a bunch of wacky and silly hijinks, and it does not focus too much on serious plots. The show also uses a format of having three plots spread out across an episode’s 24-minute run time as opposed to one larger storyline per episode. The show also has a focus on otaku culture, and most of the characters have a shared interest in the style. The question, however, is if Denki-Gai holds up as a good series.
Denki-Gai is not a very story-heavy series, so there is not really any central over-arching conflict. As a result, the show is mostly character driven. For the most part, our characters are likable and have a unique charm to them. Umio is a character that normally plays the straight man, but, occasionally, turns wacky; usually when anything perverted or anime-related is involved. Sensei is kind of like Umio except she is easily made nervous and she is a manga writer. Hiotan is the a moe girl that is easily manipulated emotionally. Fu-Girl is also a shy type that is overly paranoid about zombies and has a crush on Sommelier. Kameko is another cute moe girl who takes pictures of a lot of stuff and does not like it when people try to take off her hat. Kantoku is the director of the store and is caring, but also a bit teasing. Last, but not least, is Sommelier, who never really has a spoken line and is pretty serious, yet he is also shown to be very kind.
The good things about these characters are that they are all very likable and fun to watch. It is obvious that there is an intended moe factor with a few of the female characters, but it never feels like it is the only focus. I cannot think of a single character in this series that I legitimately disliked. This ends up giving the series a pretty cute feeling to it in addition to its comedic factor. I also liked how they managed to give Sommelier a well-defined personality with no dialogue and very little visible expressions.
While the characters are enjoyable to watch and are likable, there are a few problems with how they are handled. The first of which is that some that are given much more focus than others. For example, I cannot remember Kameko having a single episode themed around her, and she just seemed to be more of a background character. She was enjoyable to watch with whatever scenes she was in, but there wasn’t really as much focus. Sensei, on the other hand, has at least half the season focused on her. Considering that the series does not have a defined protagonist, I think it is safe to call this an unbalanced distribution of screen time.
Another issue is that the characters are a bit on the underdeveloped side. Pretty much everything I gave in the second paragraph was enough to get an understanding. While I do still consider them to be good characters, I cannot really say they are deep. One of the reasons this may be the case is that the episodes never really seem to have a conflict. The series often feels like it is just a bunch of back and forth gags. I do understand that it is a slice-of-life series, but it could have benefited from if they focused less on 10-minute plots. In addition to this, the series tends to reuse plot structures a lot. Within its 12 episodes, there are two storylines about Sensei trying to finish a manga on time, two Christmas-themed plots, and two Valentine’s Day plots. Granted, they are still good episodes in their own rights, but it is rather jarring to see that episode structure are already reused.
Denki-Gai’s animation is effective in the sense that it is very colorful and pleasing to look at. The character designs all stick out very well, have a unique feel to them and do a good job at expressing the light-hearted tone of the series. The series also does a good job at being able to switch between multiple animation styles. Technically, one can say that some effects, such as having the characters represented as paper cutouts in the credits, are just an excuse to go light on the budget. However, a minimalistic style can still be used to the advantage of the series, and it works well in Denki-Gai. The music is also appropriately placed and fits well. The opening theme, in particular, is a very beautiful song, while the ending theme is notably catchy. The Japanese voice acting is also delivered very well in a way that greatly enhances the script.
Denki-Gai’s style of comedy can best be described as familiar, yet effective. It relies on a lot of running gags and unexpected silly moments. One thing to note is that a lot of this relies on unexpected innuendos or fan service. One specific running joke seems to be book titles that have increasingly absurd perverted titles. Some examples of these include “My Sister and Girlfriend are Too Lovey Dovey,” and “1000 Ways to **** Santa Claus.” Some of the more amusing running gags were Fu-Girl getting paranoid because she thinks Umio is a Zombie, and Sensei’s “Girl Power” gag.
One other aspect of Denki-Gai’s storytelling that is handled very well is just how it goes about its portrayal of otaku culture. Rather than going the easy route and mocking otakus for, well, being otakus, it instead makes fun of them in a more playful way. For example, the third episode has a gag where Umio says he has a girlfriend, but he then holds up a dating sim and asks, “Should I fire it up?” Everyone else sighs at him, but the rest of them do end up playing it themselves. As a result, it is more like something you would joke about with a friend of yours rather than what a troll would say.
Denki-Gai was an enjoyable series overall. It had a likable cast of characters, good animation and music, and it was hilarious. I will admit that it doesn’t reach the same level of humor as something like Gintama, and it does tend to reuse a lot of jokes in different ways. However, it presents them in ways that are still funny, and the series is just fun to watch. I am personally hoping that Denki-Gai gets a second season because there are several things I would still like to see it tackle.
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