The novelist John Gardner once said that every story comes out of one of just two basic plots. The first is when somebody leaves home and goes on a journey. The second is when a stranger comes to town and changes the lives of the inhabitants forever. Squid Girl is exactly that, even if we don’t realize it until the end.
The Squid Girl universe, minus Squid Girl, is an exercise in patience. While Squid Girl was terrorizing those around her, we wanted nothing more than for her to lighten up a bit, to leave them in peace. Suddenly, in her absence, it’s hard to care about their feelings at all. Through the duration of the series when the spotlight was on Squid Girl, I wanted to see much more character development about the Aizawa family — what is the cause of their unusual family unit? Have they gone through hard times? — suddenly nothing mattered without her. Surely their lives were interesting before Squid Girl; Eiko’s temper, Chizuru’s feats of strength, and Takeru’s gradeschool curiosity could have made a lively slice-of-life anime on their own. But once Squid Girl entered their lives, they changed. Rather, she changed them.
Even Squid Girl’s return, nearly a year later, isn’t enough. Minus the tentacle hair, minus the “da geso” peppered speech, minus the larger-than-life proclamations of subjugation, even Squid Girl can’t fill the hole left by the Aizawas’ memories of Squid Girl. Poor Takeru lashes out at this girl he sees as an imposter, demanding that the “old Squid Girl” come back.
At the moment when all seems lost, the familiar old plot comes circling around. A stranger comes to town. With her oversized hat and monochromatic clothes and eyes, she seems to be an oceanic comrade of Squid Girl. Without revealing a word about herself, she provides the advice that Squid Girl needs to return to herself. Who is she? Does it matter?
You already know the ending to Squid Girl before I tell you. It’s the only ending the show could have. Let’s focus on what is missing: the other possible plot, the journey. Squid Girl came to town a stranger and changed lives. But then, once we got to know her and she was, in fact, just one of the townspeople, she left town again for the ocean floor. What happened there? Remember, at this point she has no squid powers to help her adapt underwater.
The journey, like the mysterious adviser’s identity, will probably never be revealed. There’s nothing deep about Squid Girl. But there’s some comfort to be taken in that fact that Squid Girl follows the same literary plot line as told through time immemorial.
Note: I’ll be on vacation for the next couple days. See you soon!