It's stuff like this that makes you wonder why you'd try and review things. It's not that it's bad, crap anime is easy to review. It's just that I'm not entirely sure what to make of this latest, and most extreme, example of Gainax weirdness...but that's alright, I don't know that anyone is going to be entirely sure what's going on.
Synopsis? Um, that's a tough one. In reality these short ten minute episodes (with two screened in a one hour block of mixed anime) don't have a strong background story. But they might have a strong background intent...or not.
Effectively we get to follow a very different view of Japanese domestic life. The point of view being the eyes of a 10 dollar house maid hamster named Ebichu. Ebichu is clearly intelligent, yet at the same time capable of incredible stupidity. With a talent for `accidentally' saying the wrong thing, letting slip secrets and making dirty jokes with such devastating social effect that it couldn't cause more chaos if it tried. Add in the fact that it's completely loyal to its master, except for when its willpower fails, and acts in a sickeningly cute way and you've got a very strange mixture. And while ebichu is mega-cute its talent for causing trouble sees it frequently kissing wall and lying in a pool of blood.
Not that the social environment in which ebichu exists doesn't give lots of opportunities. Its master is a 25 year old office lady, which is apparently considered the upper boundary at which a Japanese woman can hope to find a husband. She's in a relationship, primarily driven by sex, with a male of, shall we say, loose morals and relaxed ways. Lots of fighting, lots of bonking and little domestic squabbles and stories fill up the time available. It's mature while being childish, and very different.
Is it any good? well, that's the tough part of the question. I will say first off that it has a certain sick fascination, and there is undoubtedly a large amount of hidden skill in making it work. The uselessly cute Ebichu, its unsuccessful attempts to understand the real world, the foibles of people and the realistic but less than ideal relationship are filled with potential meaning. And the question of how it will develop and where it will end is intriguing.
It's possible to see this as a comment on the realities of Japanese life I suspect. The disconnect between dreams and reality, the direction-less nature of life and the natural human desires that keep the situation both together and unstable. And it's quite willing to have complex dialog and adult language in order to enrich the situations presented. There really is the palpable suggestion that there are many more thoughts built into this series than the obvious ones the story presents us with. It's certainly a nice antidote to the idealized anime view of love, romance and happily ever after.
Then again, there's no shortage of simple smut, dirty jokes, sex-references and hamster violence in each episode. Ebichu's uselessly cute nature, inability to fight its desires and inability to actually be particularly useful as a housekeeper are always good enough to fill in some time. Cute items like ebichu wetting itself when scared, interrupting sex scenes with `helpful' pointers and `defending' the honor of it's master ("she does not have a green dildo") become almost running jokes. It would be very possible to argue that this is just another example of Gainax testing the boundaries while throwing whatever fevered idea they could come up with into the mix, with the adult angle primarily to make it appear more mature than it really is.
It would be nice to be able to present the `ultimate' analysis that made the true nature of the show clear, but I'm not that clever. And I don't even know that it is possible. The show includes both depth and shallowness, complex thoughts and cheap jokes, an organized message and simply a bunch of random ideas. But then, this is a Gainax production, so that's not too surprising. In the end discussions on the merit of this anime will probably come down to personal choice. But it is undoubtedly sufficiently different and interesting to make viewing it worth the effort.
Now, for those who've been salivating at the thought of lots of sex scenes, let me disappoint you. The animation for this is very simple and direct. The characters are drawn very simply, the coloring is very minimal and the depiction of action is simplistic. It's almost like an animated `gag' manga. This actually works quite well to support the `surreal' nature of much of the content, and allows some excellent visual jokes. It also means that, technically, the animation is of limited interest, little flash and very little erotic potential. The voice acting is good, although ebichu's voice is a touch too successful at being sickeningly cute. The music is cheery and happy, although the lyrics to the opening are an interesting hint to the content. Incidental music is intentionally cheesy.