Popularized during the 1960’s, the high concept situation comedy juxtaposed the ordinary with the extraordinary. In theory, the technique was seemingly simple, taking one of more fantastical characters- such as the eponymous djinn of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched’s spunky sorceress, and uprooting them to the banality of the American suburbs. But upon closer inspection, each episodes’ march of mistakes, mix-ups, and misconstrued meanings were the work of a crack team of capable writers. Continually, they crafted a succession of comical scenarios capable of entertaining viewers long after the original airing.
Dexterously, the second season of Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! (released as Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W in Japan) shows a similar approach and aptitude. Mahiro Yasaka assumes the role of the conventional lead character, as a Tokyo high-schooler who is fond of the mythos created by real-life science fiction/horror author H.P. Lovecraft. The inaugural episode set up the series’ main premise, with Yasaka attacked by a colossal creature and a seemingly attractive young girl named Nyarlathotep coming to the teen’s aide. After the incident, she adopts the name Nyaruko, explaining that she’s part of the Space Defense Agency and entrusted with guarding Mahiro. Those protective duties cultivate sentiments of desire, with Nyaruko trying to win the affections of the lead- who constantly refutes her to comic effect.
Subsequently, a number of other comic foils are introduced, such as a space alien known as Kuko, whose yuri feelings for Nyaruko result in resentment toward Mahiro, while Hasuta resembles a cute blonde girl that is actually a male, with yaoi feelings of his own. Collectively, these characters endow Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! with enough pervish permutations to fuel another season, forming a delightfully twisted love polygon with harem-esque undertones.
The first episode of season two, entitled “Attack on Deity” starts off incredible strong, offering laugh-inducing send-ups of everything from Bewitched (which was quite popular in Japan), doses of gender-bending humor, and an ample supply of otaku-aimed hijinks, as the cast visits Akihabara’s game stores and maid cafes. While Crawling with Love! Isn’t shy on fan service, the series doesn’t rely on one type of approach to generate guffaws, employing both visual gags and fourth-wall breaking practices, such as when the cast comments about an extravagant animation effect leaving little in the budget for the remainder of the episode.
Subsequent entries largely continue the madcap incidents and humorous interplay, but add a bit of action and intrigue as the trio enters a cosmic library and stumbles upon a gang of alien interlopers in a two-part story arc. While these kinds of bits provide a sardonic sendup of conventional shōnen, the sequences aren’t as amusing as the antics set in commonplace settings. Inevitably, Crawling with Love! is at its best when it apes the ‘fish out of water’ approach of traditional sitcoms or parodies pop-culture, such as the lampooning of Monster Hunter in the fourth installment.
The situation comedy genre can feel a bit unfulfilling, with characters who grudgingly cling to their tropes. Pleasingly, Crawling with Love! attempts to elude this transgression, providing tidbits of Nyaruko, Kuko, and Hasta’s curious backstory. Meanwhile, secondaries like Mahiro’s schoolmates Tamao and Takehiko, as well as his mother, Yoriko earn additional screen time, extending additional avenues for exposition and amusement. The finale of the second season also helps to remedy the feeling of episodic redundancy, offering a payoff that should satisfying fans.
Housed on two Blu-ray disks, NIS America’s edition flaunts a faultless transfer, with none of the visual artifacting that can undermine streaming broadcasts. As such, Nyaruko devotees will want to add the collector’s edition to their anime library. Xebec’s production offers several visual virtues, from arresting character design to delightful number of background details, but a few corner-cutting measures can be distinguished. Most evident is the use of static, non-animated stills, which are snuck into the show and held for a millisecond too long. That said, the anime’s selection of OP and ED sequences are joyful, energetically bookending each episode. Likewise, Crawling with Love!’s voice-acting is top-notch, although Eri Kitamura’s performance as Mahiro is unmistakably male.
Skewering everything from shōnen, games, manga, and maid cafes, the second season of Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! provides a pleasing example of high concept situation comedy situated in a context that’s destined to delight otaku. Unapologetically frothy and rich with fan-service, Nyaruko’s antics are apt to ensnare you like a set of Cthulian tentacles.