Dino Dicember #28: Gyaru And Dinosaur anime (2020)

I’d figured we do at least an anime series on the subject, not really up to review stuff like My Girlfriend Is A Dinosaur (which doesn’t have an anime adaptation anyway… yet), and it’s not like we’re drowning in “dinosaur anime”, so yeah, Gyaru And Dinosaur has been chosen as champion.

Even though this is an exception for me, not so much the subject, but the fact i choose it despite being still incomplete at the time of vetting the candidates for Dino Dicember, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed this one as well, so despite starting in April 2020, the series went in hiatus from May 17, 2020 to then resume November 20, 2020.

So this is by far the more recent piece of media to be featured here, as it just finished airing a week ago. Very, very very fresh, i’d say.

I don’t think i fully understant the term “gyaru”, but for what concerns this anime (based on the manga of the same name), it means there’s a “gal” and a cute dinosaur that look like a stuffed doll or a children mascot, especially a Sesame Street character. They’re roomies, watch TV together, eat, even enjoy being fashionable. That’s really it as far as premise goes, the only explanation for the dinosaur is that the girl, Kaede, drank too much last night and she brought it home with her.

It’s also basically a reunion for the staff behind the Pop Team Epic anime, and that’s…. a thing you can tell just by the opening, who already mixes animation and stills of someone in a dinosaur suit. But that becomes even more obvious as the episodes are comprised of short animated vignettes or chapters put together, with animate interludes (usually in stop-motion) between them, often with some modern meta gags, like the fake thumbnail with countdown to auto-play that you never get to interact with (but there’s a twist as in you get to see these shorts later), sudden shifts in animation style for another quick segment parodying children programming, and custom eyecatches made by various people in different styles, all with complete with credits.

This reminds me of modern Homestar Runner, which i never expected to say, but then again, i don’t think this is a children show by any sense of the “term”, as it doesn’t tell moralistic stories, but just slice of life scenes often depicting young adults in everyday life (going out, cooking dinner, having people over at the house, social anxiety, etc), with the oddball presence of the dinosaur for some cute and harmless comedic bits. And yeah, it never goes raunchy or mean spirited, there’s romance, but it’s platonic due to the gal’s ex-boyfriend showing up again.

But yes, the live action segments are frigging weird, from these you really can tell it’s the studio that did the PopTePic anime. At first, i felt about these live-action segment as i did with most of PTE anime… i really didn’t really like it. Then i was intrigued when they followed a cliffhanger with a quasi-“Groundhog Day” X Death Note scenario, then i had enough because they were often just annoying as fuck. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and i won’t deny, for best or worst at least this is an interesting way to try and make something out of it instead of looping 12 minutes of contents again and just switching the VAs. It’s interesting but not entertaining.

Still, the live-actions parts really don’t complement the animated parts, sometimes they have a similar tone, sometimes they go completely insane quickly, and take half of the episode’s runtime regardless. Even when they’re not going bananas, they still feel somehow still “off” in some way. Sometimes i just don’t know or care to know what the hell that was, and i grew to kinda fear these segments, because there’s no guarantee they will even be interesting, in some cases i just didn’t even know how to react, i just hated myself because i decided to watch all episodes, and even 1/3 of the series in, i wanted to just skip the live-action segments all together, but morbid curiosity compelled me not do so, as you never know exactly what the fuck is gonna happen in these.

Odd as it may sound, i respected more the completely “shit-post” attitude of the Pop Team Epic anime, i think most of that series was complete, boring garbage, but at least that kind of meme laden sensibilities fit with a self-described “crap-comic”. Here you get the feel of them wanting to go “shitpost europe express” but being restrained from doing just that (most of the time, anyway), so it feels even more out of place than it was intended to be. And plain unsufferable, tiresome, at times, it just feel some of the live action parts are just there to waste time, to take the piss and indirectly (but not subtly) mock the viewer that has decided to witness whatever comes next. Or most likely because it was cheaper to do that instead of creating and animating original scenes.

I side with people complanining this should have been a 12 minutes show with just the animated main vignettes, leaning even more into experimental territories with the stop-motion animation interludes. Or just make it one of those 8 minutes show, like you could have done that, and i feel most people wouldn’t have minded.

Heck, Sekko Boys is a perfect example of how to do it.

But i also don’t (totally) begrudge why they choose to do the adaptation like this, because i’ve read a lot of the manga this series is based on, and while the animated parts do faithfully replicate the look and tone of the series… there’s really not much to it, not even from simply a content standpoint, so they would have run out of content to adapt quicker than expected with 24 minutes episodes.

Sadly, i feel this whole gamble often doesn’t pay off at all, quite the opposite, as it makes the whole experience feel bloated to appease a production committee and format obligations. I do enjoy the dinosaur suit they made and the expressions they made for it via interchangeable cardboard parts, and some moments are cute, but overall they make the show more interesting to discuss and screenshot than to actually watch. Some cute moments like the dinosaur camping, him transforming into a plush version of himself just to play that metal ring game, or the “cup noodles chase” in old timey stopmotion are enjoyable, but aren’t worth slogging through the rest of the live action stuff.

Still, this doesn’t justify some fansubbers outright cutting the live action parts from the episodes, i’m sure that will go well with the crusadery attitudine of anime fans on “censorship” (you know, once upon a time that word actually meant something when used), and it won’t make you look like an arrogant gate-keeping cretin, worse than these licensing companies, as in, at least they don’t sponge content for some ill gained sense from the series they don’t make available for streaming.

Overall, i’m not really sure if i would recommend the Gyaru And Dinosaur anime, or to whom i would even recommend it, as it’s so uneven, with a decent, cute and colorful slice of life animated part having to share existance with the live action segments, handled by the team behind the Pop Team Epic anime.. and they don’t really work, even more because the shitpost sensibilities are neutered when not dropped midway, resulting in episodes having this weird, often just “off-putting” quality to them. Mildy offbeat at best, grating piles of nothing at worst, often… just there, so you can wonder what the hell you’re supposed to make of them. I still don’t fully know.

I understand they wanted to try and experiment with a series that might come across as “boring” or “too normal for the premise”, and probably it was also a choice to save animation budget, as there’s isn’t that much source material to sustain a single 12 episodes season with 24 minutes per episode, but it doesn’t pay off in the long run, and frankly i’d be okay with them cutting all (or most) live-action segments and just making this one of those smaller series with 8-12 minutes episodes. But they didn’t do that, and so the result is a mediocre mess that’s bound to frustrate, irritate and alienate people more than charm them, a shame because the manga is a very cute slice-of-life, nothing special, but maybe it deserved a different, more traditional type of adaption.

I could have worked just fine if they even went further with experimenting various types and styles of animation (which is pretty good, btw), and just didn’t bother with live-action bullshit like this (which works at times, i must admit), i don’t even know who might enjoy it more or why, but if you want to see something weird and with plenty of stuff coming out left field, it might be worth a look. I mean it, overall i honestly enjoyed more things in it than i expected, when i wasn’t alienated.

Or i had to witness shit like this.

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