It’s said that of the 70% of planet Earth covered in ocean, mankind has only explored a small fraction; it’s practically an alien world down there. Indeed, when video game developer Tomihiro Nishikado created the iconic aliens of Space Invaders, he drew inspiration from author H.G. Wells and designed them based on marine life such as octopus and squid.
It cannot be a coincidence that Squid Girl, too, is an invader.
In Squid Girl (Shinryaku! Ika Musume), the invader comes not from space, but from the bottom of the sea (as the subtitle, “The Invader Comes From The Bottom Of The Sea!”, emphatically declares). A self-proclaimed ‘messenger of the sea’, Squid Girl comes ashore with determined ambition to conquer the surface world, punishing the human race for polluting her home.
Any underlying ecological themes are, however, promptly brushed aside; as it turns out, Squid Girl is no better at subduing humanity than Invader Zim was. Despite her special squid abilities (bioluminescence, a personal armada of tentacles and a seemingly never-ending supply of squid-related puns), she only gets as far as a beachside café before she, herself, is subdued by the kitchen staff; a demonstration of her squidly powers only results in her being forced to work there to pay for their newly tentacle-damaged wall.
Having presumably lived as an ocean-dwelling squid her entire life, Squid Girl harbours a childlike naïveté when it comes to land matters; many episodes feature Squid Girl discovering a new, exciting aspect of human culture, getting to grips with it and factoring it into her plans of conquest, often with hilarious consequences. But as the series goes on, Squid Girl makes many human friends & acquaintances and discovers that there’s much more to the surface world than she anticipated…
Broadcast last Autumn, Squid Girl is one of Japan’s latest animated series to make a splash online, inspiring many fan tributes. And it’s not hard to see why; the title character’s counterpoint of cute innocence and overzealous would-be dictatorship stirs up appeal in all facets of the Japanese – and international – fandom. But it’s more than just a simple cute-‘em-up; Squid Girl’s interactions with the colourful cast of characters (including a scientist who’s convinced that Squid Girl is a space invader; a young boy who becomes her playmate; even her own personal fangirl) provide some great scenes, and there’s even the odd moment of melancholy: the final act of episode five, in particular, is a beautiful dialogue-free short subject guaranteed to leave you in tears.
At just twelve episodes, Squid Girl doesn’t require a huge time investment, and earns a hearty recommendation from me. With its cute, clean character designs and universal appeal, Squid Girl is a charming comedy with real laughs and real heart. Squidalah! ㋼
An English-subtitled version of Squid Girl can be watched for free on Crunchyroll.