Capsule Review & Commentary: Comic Girls

Director: Yoshinobu Tokumoto

Animation Production: Nexus

Music: Kenichiro Suehiro

Genres: Slice of Life, Comedy

Season: Spring 2018

Episodes: 12

Final say: SIPPABLE OVER A STREAM

(Note: This capsule review ended up becoming a tad longer than my usual entries to the ‘capsule review’ label…I am still working out a ideal word length for this category so it would be a brisk read without feeling like messy, rushed fillers. If people prefer a longer lengths like this, let me know in the comments.)

Comic Girls can at times feel like a cage. A cage that traps a creative spark that may well shine more brightly with a more freeing environment.

Consider the nature of this show and how patterns usually revealed themselves: a group of characters confined within a single space that slowly becomes familiar and lived-in, each sharing a common interest through which they bond, and their clashing personalities create situations through which the show can commentate on the interest of note.

When manga and otaku fandoms are revealed to be the central point of interest, I was at times surprised by how Comic Girls develops its cast’s personalities and waive a series of respectfully progressive studies on how these characters relate to their passions. This surprise may have come from a place of subtle wariness, with the show constantly hammering in the pathetic moe-ness of Kaoruko MoetaComic Girls ended up treating her as well the cast surrounding her with no less amount of respectful subversion and nuance.

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Kaoruko’s arc is motivational through a mix of ambient inspiration and persistence, such a spirit that is not made obvious by her presence as a petite crybaby whose stature is evidently too small to even look like a high-schooler. It is paramount to point out how the show frames her reliance on friends to function creatively and socially not as a weakness, but as a natural part of the process, one that is appreciated by her dorm-mates in return. Of course, my issues still stand with how the show ‘over-tropes’ her self-deprecating outlook, which at times clashes with the sentiment of her arc, but that point ties back to my earlier ‘cage’ analogy, which I will be returning to later.

Which leads to the ‘yuri-baiting’ elements of Comic Girls. Pairing Kaoruko’s…rather ‘tainted’ process of reading situations (thanks to her disposition as a shut-in otaku who binges anime) with the hardly subtle sexual tension of in-house ‘bishojo’ Koyume and tomboy Tsubasa means inevitable hyper-accelerated encounters. Koyume is trapped between romantic feelings for a girl, and admiration for the girl’s masculinity. Yet the show sends them on a date with little meandering like it’s the most logical thing in the world, though not without its fair share of shipping cheerleaders.

Even Ruki, the resident stand-in for the ‘otaku who’s ashamed of her line of work/hobby’, doesn’t get constantly harassed by the show. Comic Girls made a point in marrying her own personal reservations with the validity of drawing ero manga as ‘respectful art’, only to highlight how there is indeed a diverse fanbase who finds self-confidence and joy in her work.

All of these rich character tapestries are makings of a legitimately great slice of life comedy. But Comic Girls is encaged within the ‘requirements’ of genre: a slew of side characters that; while also shined occasionally, felt glued-in without consideration. I don’t have much to say about the resident ghosty creep, for instance. While I am not dismissing the narrative potential of the editor-artist relationships or the ‘adults who have since fallen out with their teenage hobbies’ angle, Comic Girls didn’t seem to dig deep enough on those fronts.

Recommendations: Alternate Titles

New Game!

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A workplace comedy that occasionally dabbles with drama, to varying success.

Tamayura

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An Enriching ode to the art of photography.

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