The fun thing about re-watching shows is that it gives you an opportunity to really crystallize your reasons for why you did or did not like a show. I’ll admit; I don’t re-watch shows often, because as a relative newcomer to anime, I’m constantly feeling like I haven’t seen enough of the classics, haven’t seen enough “good” shows, haven’t seen enough of anything. And then, sometimes, I just kick all that to the curb and watch something I know will make me happy. For the last few weeks, this has been Haiyore! Nyarko-san (Xebec, 2012).
You’ve heard this story before: a boy is living a normal life until an absurdly cute female alien god from H.P Lovecraft’s mythology literally drops from the sky to save him from a monsters and claim his love. Heck, forget about hearing this story, who hasn’t had this happen to them? For Mahiro Yasaka, the incarnation of the male tsundere archetype, this girl is Nyarko, and she’s madly in love with him. She’s accompanied by her eternal rival, who is also in love with her, Kuuko. And later they are joined by their space kindergarten friend, the trap Hasuta, who also falls for Mahiro. Ah, such is a life as a Japanese schoolboy.
Haiyore! Nyarko-san is trashy fun, and it knows it. But I’d argue that it’s rather competently constructed trashy fun, because it succeeds in pulling off tricks that other shows (both shows in a similar vein and those not) attempt and fail. The show is very much conscious of the fourth wall, but takes a unique tack towards making jokes about it. Blatant fourth wall jokes strike me as unfunny and trying too hard most of the time; subtle references to it tend to go over much better. Like Kill la Kill, which spent almost the entire show going “we know the fourth wall’s there, but we’re going to pretend we don’t,” Nyarko-san lets the characters consider the effects of being characters in a show, without going, “HEY! WE’RE IN A SHOW!” This kind of unaware self-awareness creates a kind of irony that is amusing at the least, and hilarious at best.
The rest of the gags in Nyarko-san are either parodies of other shows, random lines, sexual innuendos (or more), and straight up jokes. The show can be pretty hit or miss in all these categories, but the glut of references to other anime actually give Nyarko-san some pretty good re-watch value. For example, I hadn’t seen The World God Only Knows the first time I watched Nyarko-san, but when I saw the first image of this article pop up on screen this time, I knew exactly what was going on. There are also some actually hilarious jokes scattered around the show (episode 11 has one of my favorites, as two aliens face off in an increasingly absurd attack naming battle), but even the jokes that flop have some charm due to the unbridled exuberance with which they are delivered. Kana Asumi as Nyarko is one of my favorite VA/character pairings ever, as Asumi deliver’s Nyarko’s hyperactive personality with the energy that has made this (of all things) an iconic role for her in my eyes. The rest of the cast is very good, and the whole anime just leaks energy and fun. This is, honestly, the main draw of the show for me: the manic drive to have fun at the expense of sense, good writing and intelligence.
One final trait that sets Nyarko-san a little in front of the pack is its ability to produce dramatic and serious scenes with actual weight. I think this may have actually stood out to me a little more during this season, as I’ve watched/have been watching two shows that struggle desperately with this balance (Brynhildr in the Darkness, The World is Still Beautiful). I don’t know how Nyarko-san does it, but somehow this little bundle of irreverence and parody manages to eek out scenes that have real emotional potency.
And this brings me into my final point of discussion: Nyarko’s love for Mahiro. Now, this isn’t the first show I’ve seen where the girl is throwing herself all over the guy. It is, however, among the very few shows I’ve seen where the girl backs up her words with action. Nyarko says she loves Mahiro, over and over again. Episode 7 (which I won’t spoil) ends with a really beautiful scene between the two of them, in which Nyarko tells Mahiro why she’s always joking around. It’s an amazing line, one that explains her behavior and cements the reality of her love for him. Nyarko’s not perfect, but there’s no doubt that she really does love Mahiro. It’s rather stunning that something as pure and beautiful can exist in a show where the status quo is inappropriateness and nonsense, but it’s there nonetheless. And I really do love that about this show.Nyarko-san only gets a 5/10 from me, but there aren’t that many shows I’ve re-watched. Let that speak for itself. It’s ranked over on the Ongoing Rankings Page.
It’s a guilty pleasure show for me. Watch it, but don’t tell anyone it was me that told you to.
Reason to Watch:
- Innumerable parodies of other anime, often very clever.
- Hit or miss jokes, where the hits are great and the misses make you laugh at how bad they were.
- A show with an energy level propelled by seemingly limitless rocket fuel.
- Kana Asumi delivers a fantastic performance as the titular Nyarko.
- Nyarko truly loves Mahiro. The show could be worth watching just for that.