I never had any expectations for Sabagebu. It was never given any attention when I made that “season previews are worthless” post sometime before the summer season aired. I just saw that it was one of those “girls using weaponry” anime, remembered how I didn’t give C3-bu much of a chance when it aired a year ago, noticed that it was the first thing to air in the season (even though it was due to being a pre-air), and gave it a shot. Was kind of surprised at how fast-paced and violent the premiere was, so I watched the second episode. And then the third. And now I’ve finished the entire series.
– Watch out Witchcraft Works, because I think you’ve got competition for the best “hidden gem” of the year. And considering how fucking insane you turned out to be, that’s saying more than America’s word that West Africa will be ebola-free within the next five years.
What the advertisements for this show failed to get across to me is that Sabagebu is a black comedy, a genre that’s kind of rare in anime and even rarer in shoujo. Sure you have plenty of 90s-era John Hughes slapstick knockoffs getting produced every season, but in terms of comedies where the humor deliberately comes from the characters being assholes (on purpose) in the vein of “the only good sitcom airing right now” It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? With no attempts at being heartfelt, and whenever it does, it pulls the rug from under you? I don’t think even Milky Holmes at its peak was this cruel.
And whilst the other characters contribute their fair share to the proceedings, the main reason this show works is because of the main character: Momoka. Why? Because she’s just so impossible a character to sympathize with to the point that she becomes extremely interesting. While not exactly on the level of great British assholes like Blackadder or Bernard from Black Books, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Momoka is quite frankly the biggest asshole you’ll ever see in any other anime this year, and quite possibly the last few. Nothing about her is kind. She’s not someone you’d ever want to be with in reality. If this was a romantic drama, she’d be that character that single-handedly ruins the series with forced conflict and a deal with the devil.
– Thankfully, Sabagebu is a skit-based comedic series that actually has a “reset button” license. Oh, one of the girls caused a helicopter to crash and killed two pilots in the process, sending them to meet the devil? Eh, nobody cares about those extras, so let’s not turn her over to the police and just publicly humiliate her for the fact that she couldn’t flush a toilet.
Once Momoka’s behavior grounded me into the series, all the writers had to do was create short scenarios that exploited her, as well as the rest of the cast, for comedy and creativity. There’s quite a few gags that don’t really work (the fat stuff, the stalkers on the mountain, the school president thing that went on twice as long as it should have), but each episode always had one that was really great and it’s paced quick enough so that you don’t stare at a skit for too long trying to extract a laugh from your dirty ugly mouth.
– The punchlines get a little predictable as time goes on because it’s pretty obvious before too long that someone’s going to suffer by the time a skit ends. But it’s done cleverly enough, again similar to Sunny, that it never really grows stale.
– And even if the jokes don’t satisfy you, at least you can’t deny that Sabagebu has great action chops. I haven’t actually seen Aldnoah Zero’s fight choreography despite the praise for it, but I’d be surprised to hear that it was of much higher quality than this show’s “old people riding jeeps whilst shooting at youngsters” action.
– This ain’t like the shitty “punch one spot multiple times and use stills for dramatic effect” stuff that Akame ga Kill seems to think qualifies for action. It isn’t unstylized powerpoint like Tokyo ESP. It’s not the utterly incompetent “couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn” crap that Jormungand indulged in. No, this is hands-down expert gun stuff that isn’t quite as good as Black Lagoon, but is worthy enough to stand in its shadow. And that’s better than most gun action we get in Hollywood these days (fuck you shaky cam!).
There’s not really much more I can say about Sabagebu considering it’s a plotless comedy that never takes itself seriously. I do urge people to give it a shot if what I said appeals to you, because I don’t think it deserved the low amount of attention it received whilst airing. Just be aware that the first episode is a little rocky and the second is when it starts to find its footing. If you’re not hooked by the third – you monster – then the rest probably won’t appeal to you. I definitely don’t consider it the best anime of the year (Space Dandy, Tiger and Bunny: The Rising, maybe Terror in Resonance but I need to see how it ends first). Has a few too many “mehs” for me to really rank it too high, let alone consider it my favorite “cute girl” anime.
– That said, barring some explosion of quality next season, it’s definitely going into my top ten anime for this year.