Shinryaku! Ika Musume

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Of course they moved. She’s a squid girl.

Beyond Helck, beyond citrus, beyond even Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun and so on, there’s probably no manga I’ve spoken of yet as well-known (at least to the West) as Shinryaku! Ika Musume (侵略!イカ娘, Invade! Squid Girl) by Anbe Masahiro (安部真弘). Still, I’m going to write about it for a few reasons. One: people might know about the anime adaptation of it better than the original manga, especially since although the anime was officially translated into English, the manga never was, and right now there aren’t consistent translations of the series at all. Two: I really like this manga, so of course I want to promote it. Three: the manga ended this year, so now’s as good a time as any to tell people about it. And four: I read Spirit Circle last week, planning on reviewing it, but decided to hold off because the final volume (and possibly an epilogue) comes out this week Friday. I needed another series to review, and fast, and it just so happens that I’ve read the vast majority of what’s available of this series just by reading it lightly for the last couple of years. Well, isn’t that perfect? Or, まあ、完璧じゃなイカ?

ごめん。

とりあえず、Ika Musume is a comedy/slice of life series with a simple premise, short chapters (8 pages each), and no real attempts at anything very serious (which some comedy series like to do). It is a series that seems a lot like Keroro Gunsou, if you’ve ever heard of that, in that they’re both about strange animal-like creatures invading the daily lives of an ordinary family and the zany things that result from the invaders’ weirdness, or their failures at triumphing over humans. They’re not the same though (Keroro is much more knowledgeable about human society than Ika Musume, for example), it’s just tough to not recall one if you’ve perused the other. The series is pretty good! Excellent for light reading, and never actually bad. It’s a consistent and reliable chuckle and relaxation source. I would say that reading Ika Musume is probably a very good idea.

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The sea is in peril! Humans, careless in their actions, have mistreated it terribly! This disrespect will not do! Ika Musume! Invade the humans’ land and punish them! Teach them to fear the sea, the source of all life!

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Huh. Cute.

So there’s your setup. Ika Musume (literally “Squid Girl”) begins an invasion of humanity, starting at a beach house. She meets employee Aizawa Eiko (the girl in the lower right) first. Eiko is a “straight man” character and doesn’t want to deal with this, so even if she recognizes that this strange girl’s weird, uh…hair(?) is moving somehow, she can’t be bothered and ushers her off to the side, out of the way of business.

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After hearing Ika’s mission, Eiko takes her no more seriously than before. If anything, she recognizes that Ika is not threatening at all. After seeing her unable to even handle an annoying mosquito, Eiko mocks her while barely holding back laughter. Frustrated, Ika decides to demonstrate her true power.

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Oh.

Her “hairs” are actually tentacles — powerful ones. Surprisingly enough, the squid girl is dangerous.

Eiko is scared, but only for a moment, and in short order she noogies Ika and forces her to work for the beach house to pay for the damages to their restaurant.

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End of chapter 1. There’s the premise of the series. Chapter 1 establishes the pillars of the series: Ika’s mission, her desire to protect the sea, her bizarre abilities, her dynamic with humans, and so on and so forth. There are still more regular characters to be introduced, and more strange things about Ika yet to be seen, but with this you’ve got the feel and vibe of the series and nothing too radical is going to happen from this point forward. The series follows Ika’s vague attempts at invasion…rarely. Instead, it mostly follows her daily life as she learns things about humans and the surface world, often misinterpreting the world in a very naive way. It’s an episodic series through and through.

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Oh yeah, “de geso” is basically a mix between using a cliche Japanese verbal tick (desu) and “geso”, which is a “squid sound” in Japanese. Furthermore Ika Musume tends to end questions with “ja naika“, an unsubtle pun combining “squid” and “isn’t it?”

Although she looks like perhaps a 14 year old girl, Ika is really more of a kid. She’s new to land, yes, but it seems she is utterly void of common sense in most cases. Furthermore, she’s very gullible, so she’ll believe almost anything (such as “when lightning strikes you can lose your bellybutton”) assuming it’s fact. Overall, she’s adorable. She’s cowardly, excitable, a bit foolish, and very prideful/smug. It should come as no surprise that she’s completely the star of this manga. If only because, well, it’s named after her. By the way, that thing on her head isn’t actually a hat, and overall she has some very baffling physical (and sometimes mental) traits. That little element of surprise can keep things fresh, but even though this manga is mostly the same sort of things happening in expected ways it doesn’t really get “old”. It’s a comfortable series which is great to sit down and read at any time.

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Anyways, unsurprisingly this series doesn’t only take place at the beach house where Eiko works/the nearby beach. The beach house (“Beach House Lemon”) is owned by Eiko’s family, and soon enough Ika’s endearing nature manages to help her worm her way into their hearts. She eventually starts living in the Aizawa home, rooming with Eiko. The family consists of Eiko (the middle sister), Chizuru (the eldest sister), and Takeru (the youngest brother, who is a child). Their parents are conspicuously absent, with Chizuru acting as the head of the household. Chizuru is the beach house’s main chef, Eiko is the manager, and Takeru is…just a kid, so he doesn’t work there.

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Your heart may be warmed by Ika’s moving into the Aizawa home, but this isn’t quite a “heartwarming” series, so don’t go into it expecting family values or anything like that. Ika basically becomes another sibling over time, though, and I must say that that’s nice, especially when this comes in conflict with her desire to actually proceed with her invasion of humanity.

That said, to briefly mention the characters of the Aizawa house…

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Chizuru possesses a mature, gentle air, and is an “eyes (almost) always closed” character. In spite of her relaxed regular demeanor, she can be truly terrifying.

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Chizuru possesses hidden wrath, overwhelming physical prowess, and a low tolerance for nonsense. She acts as a beast whose cage you should never like to rattle.

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Takeru seems at first to just be a completely ordinary fun-loving kid, and for the most part that remains true, but he’s actually rather mature for his age, sometimes coming across as wiser than Ika (who at least seems to definitely be older than him). When Takeru is introduced, it’s revealed that Ika is a surprise hit with kids (her cuteness, quirky outfit, tentacles, and ability to spit ink make her delightful, among other things). Although she’ll complain about this popularity several times, she enjoys it, and Takeru is one of the humans she’s closest too.

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Arguably the human she’s closest to is Eiko, who operates as a kind of secondary protagonist and got tied up with Ika before she knew it. Eiko is a tomboyish girl who likes video games and hates studying (a wonderful girl, basically) and she’s the one who most often is involved with whatever nonsense Ika Musume is getting up to, even if all she’s doing is providing the final word for the chapter. She starts off by finding the weird invader little more than an annoyance, but it isn’t very long before she cares about the girl, if only grudgingly.

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Other than the Aizawas, there are several other characters who regularly reappear. I won’t go through all of them, since that’d take some time, but a number of them are quite strange or have jokes associated with them you’ll pretty much always see when they show up (not a bad thing — it works in the series’ favour if only by keeping things peaceful/relaxed in their predictability). For example the character above is Nagatsuki Sanae, who is an “Ika Musume” lover. She’s essentially a more extreme version of Wakasa from Anko-san of the Deep Sea Fish, who is way into mermaids. Sanae is way into Ika Musume. She is in fact, a registered danger to Ika Musume. Her affections are powerful and her desires intense, so if she’s about Ika is likely to run away. Sanae is probably one of my favorite “crazy lover” characters in fiction. She does some truly mad things at times.

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And with this, you ought to know pretty much all you need to know about Ika Musume. I can mention the characters of Cindy and her cohorts, but it’s not fully necessary. With them, just know that they throw in an element of sci fi into the mix. At any rate, I consider this a very good manga. I don’t think it’s hilarious, really (at least not often), or overall amazing, but “consistently good” isn’t something one comes across often, so I can’t help but appreciate Ika Musume‘s existence. From the silly characters and their silly relationships, to the very cute art style that’s good from the start yet still improves over time, everything about this manga is, in my opinion, “good”. I am sad knowing that the series is over, but also glad knowing that there is still quite a bit of it left for me to read. Ika Musume was Anbe-sensei’s debut work (starting in 2007) and a very big success (the anime adaptation is really good, by the way). It ended at a satisfying 22 volumes in this year (2016) with a finish you’d probably expect. I wish Anbe-sensei all the best, and am eager to see what he does next.

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You may purchase volumes of Shinryaku! Ika Musume from Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. As I mentioned around the start of this article, oddly enough this manga has never been licensed in English. Even I find that somewhat disappointing. The anime, however, can be purchased from an official English source…somewhere. That said the whole manga series is available in English, so that’s something.

That is all. Thanks for reading, see ya next time!

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