What helps keep the comedy fresh and entertaining each week are a multitude of factors, including the story, script, characters, and blah blah blah you already know that. But Ika Musume frequently does something that many comedy anime fail to even try to do and that’s play around with role reversal. The versatility in the cast of Ika Musume allow the show to switch up characters to create new dynamics for provide different approaches to its comedy.
You already know which skit I’m going to focus on with that intro but the English skit has been the best example thus far. There was a juggling act with the roles for this skit which ended up placing Eiko as the ‘funny man’ (a job for Ika Musume or whoever), Cindy as the ‘straight man’ (usually reserved for Eiko) and Ika Musume, our darling star, as a mere support character.Cindy has always been a little zany and obsessed with Ika Musume, so seeing her be the sensible mind is a new take for this character, especially since she refrained from all her usual behaviors during this skit. Have we ever seen Cindy actually be intelligent and act like an ordinary person? This is probably the first or second time we’ve seen her out of that striped bikini and in pedestrian clothes. Her humor was also altered; instead of being the actor, she was on the receiving end of jokes with her reactions often being the gag. This role is very different than what we usually expect from this character. Likewise, Eiko is generally the only level-headed character in each skit, regularly pointing out the jokes made by all the crazy characters she has to deal with (and adding a nice end to these jokes too, often with a witty comment and angry reaction). But this skit had her be the odd one out. How often do we get to laugh at Eiko for something like this? She almost never plays the role of the abnormal character but she performed extremely well, especially since she never felt out of character (no changes to her standard personality or behavior). And Ika Musume, who usually stars every segment, was slipped gently to the background, only being used in a handful of jokes. And even with all these changes, the skit still had the same feel and entertainment as any other Ika Musume skit.
This versatility in the cast of Ika Musume really helped make this change be possible. Most comedies never try to take their characters out of their defined roles, usually sticking with what works for them or with the situations. But this can get stale after a while and causes some comedies to drone on without changing a beat. But with Ika Musume’s cast and scripting, they’re able to insert any character they want and create an entertaining segment. This skit did not have to have Eiko be the ‘funny man’ but it did so to vary up the presentation and comedy in this anime. The skit could have easily been about Ika Musume learning English, but we already see her do some new learning, observations, and commentary in every episode. While Ika Musume is this anime’s strength and I always enjoy those skits, it’s nice to see the anime try something different, especially with a character who is almost always a ‘straight man’. It’s this innovation that helped make this skit complete, both with the comedy and the distinctiveness. It’s the versatility of the cast of Ika Musume that helps keep this comedy diverse, fresh, and above all, hilarious.
Still on the same topic, I’d like to see more of the cast used this way but I think it does make for weaker comedy than the standard approach of Ika Musume being involved with everything. I’d love to see more sides of Sanae and Chizuru, like we saw with Sanae and her dog Alex or Chizuru struggling with weight issues, so I was happy to see Cindy and Eiko developed in this episode, too. But each of those skits weren’t my favorites or the funniest (that exercise segment is still on top for me). They do a good job of showing how talented the writing is for this show and provides some interesting character development but the strength of this anime lies with its star, Ika Musume. It’s interesting that we’ve had so much development on the characters thus far and I wonder if this is something to expect for this season. If it continues like this, I won’t be disappointed, especially if the Ika Musume-centered comedy continues to be lights-out.