The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Denpa Teki na Kanojo

Title: Denpa Teki na Kanojo aka Electromagnetic Girlfriend
Genre: Drama/Horror
Company: Brains Base
Format: 2 OVAs
Dates: 4 Feb 2009 – 4 Dec 2009

Synopsis: Tall, blond and belligerent, Juuzawa Juu is “the King” of his school. Few dare approach him, fearing his bellicose attitude and tough demeanor. However, a girl named Ochibana Ame appears in front of him, claiming that Juu and her share an unbreakable bond from a past life. Much to Juu’s confusion and consternation, she pledges her undying allegiance to his cause. Begrudgingly, Juu accepts Ame, and together, they attempt to stop a series of spree murders plaguing suburban Tokyo.

The Highlights
Visuals: Appropriately grungy.
Antagonists: Larger-than-life, but Denpa never made any claims to reasonability to begin with.
Pacing: Flawless, with nigh a wasted second.
Ochibana Ame: Hirohashi Ryou’s greatest performance.
Flawless? Not quite: Dialogue scenes exhibit several questionable editing decisions.

Denpa Teki na Kanojo is Brains Base’s greatest achievement. Though the studio has found both acclaim and success with series such as Durarara!!, Baccano and Kure-nai(1,2), no series better showcases the creative staff’s artistic mastery. Through two diametrically opposed 40-minute episodes, Denpa Teki na Kanojo analyzes happiness, fear, schadenfreude and spite. In essence, it is an essay on the limits of human reason.

Fundamentally, Denpa Teki na Kanojo explores the ways in which humans rationalize trauma. The villains of Denpa are unable to come to terms with traumatic events within their own past, and thus seek to inflict pain and suffering upon others. Spite plays a critical role in motivating their actions and the show invites viewers to question the rationale behind such malicious behavior.

The show’s two episodes present differing ways in which spite can be used to rationalize past trauma. In the first episode, the antagonist is a rape victim who develops an obsession for fear, going so far as to take pictures of her victims immediately before strangling them to death. Through her production of fear, she assures herself that her rape was not a unique incident – other people are capable of feeling fear and despair, just as she did.

The second episode of Denpa Teki na Kanojo, titled “Happiness Game,” explores the role spite plays in the production of happiness. Juu and Ame investigate a “happiness club,” whose members seek to gain happiness by “stealing” them from others. By relishing in the demise of others, the club members make themselves feel better about their own miserable condition, creating a false sense of joy.

Watching Denpa, one can conclude that its antagonists are insane. But are they really? Throughout the series, the sanity of all characters comes under close scrutiny. The series demonstrates that even the most insane of actions are motivated by some form of rationale. And indeed, the actions of the antagonists are internally consistent within their own frame of logic. The show asks us: are we, the viewers, sane? More broadly, does objective rationality exist, or is rationality dependent upon a subjective frame of reference?

The visuals of Denpa complement the show’s action and message perfectly. Throughout the first episode, a sense of gloom prevails – most of the episode’s action occurs at night, under heavy rainfall, in urban landscapes littered with graffiti. Murders are depicted in grisly detail, complete with blood, gore and mutilation, accentuating the senseless nature of the antagonist’s violence. In contrast, the second episode is visually bright, with most of the action occurring during the day. The overt blood and core are gone, replaced with more subtle images of decay and ruin – rusty signs, trash-filled streets, crumbling apartment buildings and broken-down electronics – symbols of a collapsing fantasy of happiness. The music, too, is stellar: long, sustained tones and minimalistic piano riffs in the upper register create soundscapes that evoke tension and suspense without intruding upon the characters’ dialogue.

Ultimately, Denpa Teki na Kanojo is a short, concise and intelligent exploration of human irrationality. By illustrating the consequences of taking spite to its logical conclusion, Denpa Teki na Kanojo demonstrates how this simple emotion can drive us to utter madness. Aesthetically unified, with near-perfect pacing and flawless voice work, Denpa Teki na Kanojo is the crown jewel in Brains Base’s brilliant corpus of work.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Akira

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