The third part of this episode was very affecting. I think I know why. It seems like the folks in Japan are starting to pay attention to Pixar’s storytelling methods:
Consider this, both clips show a meet-cute between two characters, both clips show the developing relationship between the two over years’ time, both clips use music to great effect because both clips are also dialogue free, and both clips (nearly) end on the same sad note that highlights the ultimate and only truth of all of our lives.
Put that together and what do you get? BIG. FAT. TEARS.
Ebert mentioned in his commentary about Grave of the Fireflies that one of the reasons why that movie so affected him was precisely BECAUSE it was animated. He mentioned that the subject matter led many to believe that a live action treatment was necessary and would perhaps be stronger. But he argued against that, saying that in a live-action treatment the audience would be distracted by the fact of an actual hypothetical little actress baking mud-pies on screen, with the realism of the images somewhat clashing with the realism of the situation that the characters are in. He claims that the IDEA of the characters suffering is more resonant as opposed to being presented with the images of the live-action actors PORTRAYING characters that are suffering. After all, they are both occupying mental real estate as you consume the work, but animation is much more efficient at communicating these ideas.
The fact that so much can be communicated with a lack of dialogue highlights the undeniable strength of animation in that it can be incredibly efficient with how it elicits the desired emotion from its audience, I argue moreso than live-action which is why I’m such a fan of anime to begin with. If you go to the theater and see the latest movie with Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, the entire time you’re there a small portion of your mind is aware of the fact that you are watching actors in a movie. It’s even more pronounced if the actor has a large profile outside of acting (like recently Mel Gibson and his racist rants). That’s an issue inherent to all movies, because the actor brings his persona to the role. That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the quality of the work and the talent of the staff, but is a complete non-issue in animation. Each new intellectual property is a blank slate in our eyes, ready to be informed by the art, designs, plot, and characterizations.
Shinryaku! Ika Musume decided to exercise some power by highlighting some of animation’s strengths in its ability to allow the audience to empathize with the characters and the idea of their developing relationship with maximum efficiency though art, direction, and music, and nary a single line of dialogue.
That is mighty impressive, given that this a comedic cartoon about a squid girl trying to ineptly invade humanity.