Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a ★★★☆☆︱The Apotheosis of an Otaku

“Sasami-san@Ganbaranai” is something you don’t see everyday. The manic, hybrid-fusion between Japanese mythology and niche, otaku neologisms. Despite the slathering-on of Studio Shaft’s sensual sense of comedy, the light novel adaptation (originally written by the author, known as ※Akira) rivals NISIOISIN. Ameliorating common bishōjo tropes, to create a series full of twists, turns, and towering lore!

※Akira is famously known for the writing the series, Kyōran Kazoku Nikki. The aforementioned series received an anime adaptation in 2008! 

⚠️ This review will be spoiler-free ⚠️

—Story/Characters

Synopsis: The Japanese call them hikikomori—people who’ve become so withdrawn socially that they refuse to leave their homes for weeks and even months at a time. For Sasami Tsukuyomi, who’s attempting to pass her first year of high school despite being a shut in, it’s more than just a word. Fortunately though, she lives with her older brother Kamiomi, who just happens to be a teacher at the school Sasami is supposed to attend. Not to mention, her “Brother Surveillance Tool” which lets her view the outside world via her computer and will, theoretically, allow her to re-adjust to interfacing with people again. What it mainly does, however, is let her view her brother’s interactions with the three very odd Yagami sisters, who inexplicably seem to have had their ages reversed and have various types of “interest” in Kamiomi. And then things start to get really weird… magical powers? Everything turning into chocolate? Is life via the web warping Sasami’s brain, or is it the universe that’s going crazy?

Usually Shaft Studios is hit-or-miss for me, but I feel that Mr. Shinbō’s animation style suites it perfectly. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how Nomad adapted Kyōran Kazoku Nikki, but the otaku-humor and zaniness fits Shaft’s approach to storytelling, like a tight glove! The progression of Sasami’s character, from being a typical NEET (with a brother complex), is framed in a grander perspective—as the plot begins to thicken and her backstory comes to light. The revelatory context, about her family’s enclosed community and how that warps Sasami’s view-of-the-world is very disturbing, at first. By the end of the series, the finale makes the harsh reality easier to accept.

There are clashes between deities, who make grandiloquent entrances, akin to the eccentric characters in the Monogatari series. Every character has a strong aura and a duplicity of traits and hang-ups! There’s even a character that struggles with being intersex! To be more specific, she is what is referred to in Japan as a “※hangetsu” (半月, half-moon). All the while, Sasami is blissfully unaware of her own abilities.

※In my “Intersexuality in Anime” essay, I go more in detail about this mythological trope. There’s a karate technique with the same name, but it’s also a term used to describe a person who changes genders, with the differing moon phases.

Whether it be from a chocolate-covered dragon that is accidentally summoned, to the ghost of Sasami’s deceased mother, to Kagami’s detachable homing missiles… this show is very weird, but in a way that’s palatable. Some issues that I have had with past scripts, that Shaft has adapted is, this: the experimental nature of series feel contrived. With Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the avant-garde explorations feel exceedingly natural with the characters and setting. 

—Technical

Luna’s Favorite Works by Each Respective Creator = ✅

Akiyuki Shinbō (director), notable works:

  • 3-Gatsu no Lion (series) 
  • Arakawa Under the Bridge (series)  ✅
  • Cossette no Shōzō
  • Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
  • Detatoko Princess
  • Fate/Extra: Last Encore
  • Ginga Ojō-sama Densetsu Yuna: Shin’en no Fairy ✅
  • Hidamari Sketch (series)
  • Katteni Kaizō
  • Kōfuku Graffiti
  • Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregototsukai
  • Mahō Sensei Negima!: Mō Hitotsu no Sekai
  • Mahō Sensei Negima!: Shiroki Tsubasa Ala Alba
  • Mahō Shōjo Lyrical Nanoha ✅
  • Mahō Shōjo Madoka★Magica ✅
  • Mahō Shōjo Madoka★Magica (film series) ✅
  • Maria†Holic (series) ✅
  • Mekakucity Actors
  • Metal Fighter Miku
  • Monogatari (series) ✅
  • Natsu no Arashi! (series)
  • Negima?!
  • Nisekoi (series)
  • Ojōsama Sōsamō
  • Paniponi Dash!
  • Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei (series) ✅
  • Shihaisha no Tasogare
  • Shin Hurricane Polymar
  • Shina Dark: Kuroki Tsuki no Ō to Sōheki no Tsuki no Himegimi
  • Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru
  • Soreyuke! Uchū Senkan Yamamoto Yohko (series)
  • Tenamonya Voyagers
  • The SoulTaker: Tamashii-gari
  • Triangle Heart: Sweet Songs Forever
  • Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase
  • Uchiage Hanabi, Shita kara Miru ka? Yoko kara Miru ka? (“Fireworks”)

Commentary: “Sasami-san@Ganbarenai” has a pastel color palette, similar to series like “Hidamari Sketch,” there are also rotating facial reactions and visual references, akin to the likes of “Bakemonogatari.” The characters are distinctly vivacious and colorful, and the comedic-timing is always right on the mark. Is it even any wonder that Mr. Shinbō has accrued accolades in the industry for his unique style?

Katsuhiko Takayama (script, series composition), notable works:

  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Enishi
  • Aldnoah.Zero (series)
  • Ange Vierge
  • Asobi ni Iku yo! ✅
  • Baka to Test to Shoukanjū ✅
  • Big Order
  • ef (series)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) ✅
  • Ga-Rei: Zero ✅
  • Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora
  • Kagaku na Yatsura
  • Katteni Kaizō
  • Ken En Ken: Aoki Kagayaki (“Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary”)
  • Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
  • ルガーコード 1951 (“Lugar Code 1951”)
  • Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!
  • Mirai Nikki
  • Mouse
  • Natsu no Arashi! (series)
  • Negima?!
  • Paniponi Dash!
  • Saurada Reset
  • Shiawase Sō no Okojo-san
  • Shuffle! ✅
  • Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru
  • Stratos 4
  • Takunomi.
  • Tasogare Otome x Amnesia
  • Tokyo ESP
  • Triage X
  • Two Car

Commentary: Mr. Takayama is probably the weakest link, in the production. The biggest flaw in the series is the confusing composition of certain scenes. Perhaps, in this regard, “Sasami-san” should have been longer. The series composition often felt like it had entire novels crammed into a single episode. Episode 7 is one of the most egregious examples of this! There was so much information and dialogue in that one episode, that I had to rewatch it to understand what was going on in the plot.

Kana Asumi as Sasami Tsukuyomi, notable roles:

  • Mio Kitahara, Ano Natsu de Matteru ✅
  • Yū Kōtari (“Strength”), Black★Rock Shooter ✅
  • Kana Ushiro, Bokura no ✅
  • Arnval Mk.2, Busō Shinki
  • Blanc, Hyperdimension Neptunia ✅
  • Kyōko Todayama, Ebiten: Kōritsu Ebisugawa Kōkō Tenmonbu
  • Aina Yoshiwara, Grand Blue
  • Nyaruko, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san ✅
  • Yuno, Hidamari Sketch ✅
  • Kikuno Shōkanji, Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara
  • Asuka Morisaki, Karadasagashi
  • Mikoto Kondō, Kämpfer
  • Natsumi Hirakawa, Kyō no 5 no 2 (TV)
  • Nagisa Momoe, Mahō Shōjo Madoka★Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari ✅
  • Komari Koshigaya, Non Non Biyori ✅
  • Megumi Kayano, Persona: Trinity Soul
  • Tensai Ikkyū, Ryūgajō Nanana no Maizōkin
  • Ran, Shugo Chara!
  • Kaoru Hanawa, Tamayura
  • Marin, Umi Monogatari: Anata ga Ite Kureta Koto
  • Popura Taneshima, Working!! ✅
  • Hinata Kuraue, Yama no Susume ✅

Commentary: Sasami’s voice is very charming. As I said in my Black★Rock Shooter, she is an underrated gem in the industry. She has such a calming, normal, girl-next-door-kind of voice. Her characters are the type that you would want to have as either a friend or a little sister. Ms. Asumi is absolutely precious! Magnificent job!

Kana Hanazawa as Kagami Yagami, notable roles:

  • Tōko Amano, “Bungaku Shōjo”
  • Sakuya, .hack//Quantum
  • Hinata Kawamoto, 3-Gatsu no Lion ✅
  • Ichika Nakano, 5-tōbun no Hanayome
  • Kanade Tachibana, Angel Beats! ✅
  • Zessica Wong, Aquarion Evol
  • Aoi Futaba, Asobi ni Ikuyo! ✅
  • Ichiko Sakura, Binbōgami ga! ✅
  • Mato Kuroi (“Black★Rock Shooter”), Black★Rock Shooter ✅
  • Yuki, Cencoroll ✅
  • Aoi Fukasaka, Coppelion
  • Honey Kisaragi, Cutie Honey Universe ✅
  • Roka Shibasaki, D-Frag!
  • Chiaki Nanami, Danganronpa 3 ✅
  • Suō Pavlichenko, Darker than Black: Ryūsei no Gemini
  • Shiro, Deadman Wonderland ✅
  • Anri Sonohara, Durarara!! ✅
  • Nessa, Fractale
  • Rana Linchen, Freezing
  • Raphiel Shiraha Ainsworth, Gabriel DropOut ✅
  • Kuzuha Dōmoto, Hagure Yūsha no Aesthetica
  • Satō Matsuzaka, Happy Sugar Life ✅
  • Sekkekkyū AE3803, Hataraku Saibō 
  • Charlotte Dunois, IS: Infinite Stratos ✅
  • Akane Sakurada, Jōkamachi no Dandelion ✅
  • Ezekiel, Junketsu no Maria
  • Zange, Kannagi
  • Miyu, Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows
  • Kobato Hanato, Kobato. ✅
  • Misaki Takasaki, Koi to Uso
  • Yuriko Mifune, Kotōra-san ✅
  • Tsukimi Kurashita, Kuragehime ✅
  • Vanabelle, Kūtei Dragons
  • Katrielle Layton, Layton Mystery Tanteisha: Katri no Nazotoki File
  • Mayumi Saegusa, Mahōka Kōkō no Rettōsei  ✅
  • Mari Kozakura, Mekakucity Actors
  • Nadeko Sengoku, Monogatari (series) ✅
  • Chiaki Kurihara, Mōretsu Pirates
  • Shiika Anmoto, Mushi-Uta ✅
  • Manaka Mukaido, Nagi no Asu kara ✅
  • Kosaki Onodera, Nisekoi ✅
  • Minori Nakazawa, Nōrin ✅
  • Naho Takamiya, Orange
  • Ruri Gokō, Ore no Imōto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai
  • Susukihotaru, Otome Yōkai Zakuro ✅
  • Sharon Rainsworth, Pandora Hearts
  • Marie, Persona 4
  • Potemayo, Potemayo ✅
  • Akane Tsunemori, Psycho-Pass ✅
  • Kagari, Rewrite ✅
  • Tomoka Minato, Rō-Kyū-Bu! ✅
  • Kuro Matsumi, Saki Achiga-hen: Episode of Side-A
  • Misora Haruki, Sakurada Reset
  • Natalia Vasylchenko, Sekai Seifuku: Bōryaku no Zvezda ✅
  • Kusano, Sekirei
  • Ieyasu Tokugawa, Sengoku Collection
  • Nanako Yukishiro, Senryū Shōjo
  • Maria Akizuki, Shinsekai yori ✅
  • Yūka Kobayakawa, Shōjo-tachi wa Kōya wo Mezasu
  • Yuki Shōmetsu Toshi
  • Sora Kajiwara, Sketchbook: Full Color’s
  • Shirase Kobuchizawa, Sora yori mo Tōi Basho
  • Mayuri Shiina, Steins;Gate ✅
  • Marimo Bandō, Teekyū ✅
  • Mikan Yūki, TO LOVEる ✅
  • Natsume Tsuchimikado, Tokyo Ravens
  • Rumi Yokoi, Tonari no Seki-kun
  • Yuki Minagawa, Tsurezure Children
  • Momo Hanasaki, Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka?
  • Yū Naruse, Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! ✅
  • Kurokami no Otome, Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome ✅
  • Sonoko Nogi, Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru ✅
  • Ryōko Kaminagi, Zegapain
  • Konoha Amagi, Zetman ✅
  • Aika Fuwa, Zetsuen no Tempest ✅
  • Syrup, Zettai Bōei Leviathan

Commentary: Ms. Hanazawa is wonderful as Kagami. Although she’s a deadpan tsundere/kūdere, she’s easily one of the most lovable characters in the show! From what I read, Ms. Hanazawa earned the fan-nickname “tenshi” from playing this role, that would then extend to her part as Raphiel in Gabriel DropOut! One of the greatest seiyū-talents, in the industry!

Chiwa Saito as Tsurugi Yagami, notable roles:

  • Konoha Inōe, “Bungaku Shōjo”
  • Yona, Akatsuki no Yona
  • Aika S. Granzchesta, Aria the Animation
  • Schierke, Berserk
  • Miina, Brave Story
  • Sigyn Erster, Break Blade
  • Paya Livingston, Dai Mahō Tōge
  • Yuki Saegusa, Dance in the Vampire Bund
  • Aoi Asahina, Danganronpa 3
  • Neneko Izumi, DearS
  • Nanoha, Double Circle
  • Chloe von Einzbern, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya
  • Kirie Kojima, Girls Bravo
  • Inugami, Gugure! Kokkuri-san
  • Tatenashi Sarashiki, IS: Infinite Stratos
  • Chroniko, Kaiba
  • Tama Hitotsubashi, Kamichu!
  • Chitan Tsubōchi, Katte ni Kaizō
  • Kemeko, Kemeko Deluxe!
  • Natsumi Hinata, Keroro
  • Kokoro, Kokoro Toshokan
  • Riko Aida, Kuroko no Basket
  • Lavie Head, Last Exile
  • Nureha, Log Horizon
  • Subaru Nakajima, Mahō Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS
  • Homura Akemi, Mahō Shoujo Madoka★Magica
  • Louise Halvey, Kidō Senshi Gundam 00
  • Hitagi Senjōgahara, Monogatari (series)
  • Ayame Akimo, Mōsō Kagaku Series: Wandaba Style
  • Nancy Lee, Ninja Slayer From Animation
  • Adele Roland, Nishi no Yoki Majo: Astraea Testament
  • Rebecca Miyamoto, Paniponi Dash!
  • Anita King, R.O.D -The TV-
  • Kotori Kanbe, Rewrite
  • Komachi, Samurai 7
  • Meru Otonashi, Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei
  • Chihiro Uomi, Seitokai Yakuindomo
  • Imu, Senran Kagura
  • Mao, Shining Teas X Wind
  • Honoka Mutsu, Stella Jogakuin Kōtō-ka C³-bu
  • Francesca Lucchini, Strike Witches
  • Hazuki, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase
  • Tenko, Ueki no Hōsoku
  • Futaba Yoshinaga, Yoshinaga-sanchi no Gargoyle
  • Miku Miyama, Zettai Shōnen

Commentary: Ms. Saitō is an incredibly talent, she really made the role of Tsurugi, the snarky (900-year-old) teacher! As always, wonderful work!

Ai Nonoka as Tama Yagami, notable roles:

  • Kanade Takatsuki, Asura Cryin’
  • Binchō-tan, Binchō-tan
  • Hororo, Binzume Yōsei
  • Beauty, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo
  • Fūko Ibuki, Clannad
  • Mika Inamori, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight!
  • Kana Iriya, Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu
  • Tokino Akiyama, Kujibiki♥Unbalance
  • Konoka Konoe, Mahō Sensei Negima!
  • Kyōko Sakura, Mahō Shoujo Madoka★Magica
  • Ichijō, Paniponi Dash!
  • Rika Kagura, Platonic Chain
  • Kafuka Fūra, Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei
  • HK416, Girls’ Frontline
  • Hajime-chan, Shinya! Tensai Bakabon
  • Shima Katase, Uchū no Stellvia
  • Koyomi Morishita, Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahō

Commentary: Although Tama gets less attention and spotlight than the other heroines, Ms. Nonoka gives her a very cute, slightly guileless, voice! Great job!

Conclusively, I would recommend this series to anyone who wants a series drenched with a contemporary take on Japanese deities, and doesn’t mind the prevalence of ecchi in the narrative. Even with Shaft’s definition of original, “Sasami-san@Ganbaranai” takes originality to a new level. Very slapstick, sometimes serious, occasionally geeky, with a milieu all its own! I give the series a solid 6/10!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Published by eggheadluna

H.E. Rodgers is the author of the Juniper's Tree series, also known as the 真柏Project. MyAnimeList: https://myanimelist.net/profile/Egghe... Twitter: https://twitter.com/EggheadLuna #真柏Project #JunipersTree

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