Mahoujin Guruguru (2017) and Retro Vibes and You

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In an era of entertainment where nostalgia is among the most powerful stimuli, Mahoujin Guruguru’s presence seems pretty appropriate. This particular series is technically a reboot/remake, with a series under the same name being developed over twenty years ago, specifically in 1994. That interpretation of the 1992 manga series (again, under the same name) was more geared towards a family-friendly and optimistic nature. The year is now 2017, and audiences have been desensitized to a vast array of topics due to the rise of the internet and all it displays. That could be why this version of the now-famous manga series is rated for audiences a little older than its original demographic.

Now I haven’t seen the original Mahoujin Guruguru, so I can’t say for sure how extensively its potty humor or graphic themes were displayed, only going off of the “Rated G for Everyone” tag found on MyAnimeList. With Guruguru (2017), however, there are various instances of things I certainly wouldn’t expect to see in a rated-G flick. Half-naked women (and men) and mostly sexual innuendos, though there’s also a large display of disregard for the fellow man… so that might count? Whatever the case, there’s a bit of an edge to this representation, which could signify the changing of the times and what audiences wish to expect from an already known commodity. Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel like I was living in the late nineties once again.

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Regardless of its manner of execution, the content shown is delightfully retro, harking back to the time where JRPGs were on the rise within the video game community. Guruguru (2017) provokes this feeling of nostalgia with title cards, text-boxes, pixel art, and various video game references scattered among its comedy library. Even the characters themselves feel like roles straight out of the original Final Fantasy; the magic user, the “Hero,” the support character no one likes or wants to use. It projects a time and place where video games were very simple, yet effective in how it managed to twirl with the gameplay to make an impactful and invigorating experience. This 2017 anime, based on a 1992 manga, does a splendid job of reinvigorating that nostalgic tingle of years past.

Energy is also a major role in the series’s success. I found the first few episodes absolutely captivating with how off-the-walls the characters interacted and the plot progressed. So much personality burst through with the animation and character reaction/expression. Its incredibly simple premise and an almost improvised style of plot devices feel much like those games of old, yet with the gloss and shine of the advances in technology of today. Inevitably, this slowed down as the series progressed and the situation became more “dark,” killing a lot of what I found so riveting about the series in the beginning. (Fun fact: based on the first episode alone, I would’ve given this an 8/10.) The fast start and laborious end is almost indicative, and hilariously iconic, of the feeling people playing those old games get when they start the adventure, evolving into how they feel when the final areas provide more stress than casual escapist mentalities.

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Parody is one thing, comedy is another. The former is pleasantly presented here, yet the humor is something of a mixed bag, which for me, is basically an indicator of lacking humor. What one needs to understand should they embark on this journey is that, despite the rating, the comedy is fairly juvenile. I’m twenty-four-years-old. I don’t find potty humor funny. I don’t think it’s funny when a character suddenly grows five times more powerful so that they can get the battle over with and poop. While the series isn’t plastered with this kind of humor every episode, it’s enough to become a notable aspect of the humor presented—and in hindsight, is another dimension to its retro feel. Remember book series like Captain Underpants and how all sorts of helicopter parents were calling for it to be banned? This is almost like a callback to those who wished to fling dirty underwear in their faces.

And then there’s simply slapstick and “ZOMG RANDOM” moments. Most of the time, there’s no clear logic behind why these things happen, and due to its parody genre, should simply be accepted as a part of the genre’s template of humor. However, there are instances where jokes are cleverly implemented to parody actual things from older video games or JRPG clichés, which are among the funniest parts of Guruguru (2017). This, to some extent, makes the anime somewhat inclusive in its audience, where fans of JRPGs and the like will find more humor and intrigue with this series than those who play nothing but EA’s gaming library. Ultimately, though, if the knowledge of these themes and the potty humor don’t get to you, the energy of the characters’ interaction with one another may very well do it. Believe it or not, Old Man North North was actually a humorously-repetitive addition.

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Part of the critique of animation has already been covered, as the energy and the use of old JRPGs displays is enough to paint a picture of how this anime tries to present itself. In a more general sense, Guruguru (2017) has a fairly good style, with little in terms of outright “bad” animation or design. And hey, thanks to its genre, it can just play off any shoddy animation as intentional! There’s a lot in can do with it thanks to its non-serious persona, which it takes advantage of in many cases. That said, I’ll move on to sound quality, which is full of what one expect it to be full of: overexaggerated screams and reactions. Voice acting is not quite as eccentric as, say, Konosuba, but they do enough to make it lively at all times. This can definitely be tiring after a while, and during segments of an episode where it starts to become overbearing it becomes nearly annoying. “Standard” would be a good indicator here, as based on what one would expect from the genre, it does just that without breaking any new ground.

I ended up liking the show more than I thought I would, yet am still left with just a hair of disappointment after having such a promising first quarter. Despite the satirical nature, it ended as one would expect it to, with a happily-ever-after ending and an emotional overflow of seriousness only tampered by… poop jokes. I was close enough with the characters to be saddened by the series’s end, while also close enough to my own cynicism for the way a show so dependent on breaking expectations wandered within the lines of the subjects it wished to parody. It’s definitely recommendable as a form of entertainment. As a recommendation of something impactful on a deeper, emotional level, I hold my breath—and consult my lukewarm heart.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

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