THE POWER OF GLASSES has won me over. Where I had previously only continued past episode 2 of Meganebu for director Soubi Yamamoto’s bizarre choice of color palette, pointing out a lack of funny jokes and uninteresting characters to carry the show, it’s continued to grow on me with every episode until somewhere along the way I just started gobbling up all of its nonsense and for the life of me I can’t figure out where it happened. While most of the shows from this season ended up being either exactly what I expected them to be or fizzling out like Coppelion, Kyoukai no Kanata, Galilei Donna, etc., Meganebu has evolved itself into the surprise of the season for me.
Currently sporting a proud 5.76/10 average rating on MyAnimeList, Meganebu seems to be the show that people love to hate this fall. I’d agree that the first episode, while not necessarily a bad episode, was a pretty weak introduction, and I was still on the fence by the end of the second episode (though it was a marked improvement), but having stuck with it a little longer, I can’t agree that its reputation for being terrible is at all deserved. There’s so much creativity here – in the visuals, as is clear from the start, but also in the bizarre scenarios the creators continually manage to conjure up. It’s easy from the premise to pass this off as yet another fujoshibait show about pretty boys with glasses and homosexual undertones (well, more like overtones – Mitsuki actually is gay for the club president), but it’s as much fujoshibait as Azumanga Daioh or Milky Holmes are otakubait.
Actually, speaking of Milky Holmes, Meganebu reminds me a bit of that show through the characterization of its leads and the source of its humor. The primary cast consists of a tight-knit group of worthless dame-dames segregated off to their own little no-man’s-land within the school – a colorful brigade of unfathomably stupid people – who indulge in antics as increasingly absurd as their endearingly broken heads malfunction to conceive. As much as from the loud personalities and wacky hijinks themselves, the humor flows from the constant punishment doled unto the glasses club for their stupidity (most of it self-inflicted) and the way the show sweeps you up into their fantastical delusions, giving these nonsensical developments the same magic that the club members have convinced themselves to see in them. The absurdity is much more low-key than the relentlessly energetic Milky Holmes, but it’s got the same habit of making you root for the band of lovable idiots as they take on a world that loves nothing more than to crap all over their plans with only an unrealistic amount of optimism, a twisted view of the way things are supposed to work, and of course, the power of glasses. Watch as they brave the rain with a five-man bicycle powering a pair of windshield-wiper glasses! Be amazed as the president takes on a full-grown praying mantis armed with only a welding suit! Solve the mystery of the ominous four eggplants! Cheer as they install 55-minute clocks all across the school, with the help of a ghost tied to this world by a lost pair of Ray-Bans!
The humor doesn’t all stem from the Milky Holmes vein of watching stupid people suffer for their sins, though. Another factor in it is the awe in seeing the sheer amount of glasses-related technology and showmanship the club puts on display. Not only are they on their central quest to build the elusive X-Ray Glasses, but they have such devices as Windshield Wiper Glasses, Adjustable-Prescription Glasses, Wakey-Eye Stickers, Spirit Glasses, Spare Glasses (such a novel idea!), Miracle Lens Cleaner, Frame Strength Testers, Exploding Glasses, Robot Glasses, Honesty Glasses, Glasses-Protecting Diving Helmets, Glasses Hovercraft, Glasses-Themed Bento Boxes, and more! Meganebu is a show that understands the glasses condition, dealing with such meaningful issues as glasses steaming up when you eat ramen, and the slight erosion of lenses caused by excessive wiping.
While it’s mostly the ridiculous situations the glasses club gets themselves into that provide the comedy for the show, the characters themselves lend themselves to a few jokes as well. Except maybe the one guy who likes cream puffs – he’s not really memorable in the least. Yukiya is the inventor of the group – he and his yPad are responsible for many of the zanier glasses-based technologies. He’s also the quiet, gloomy one, and leads to a lot of lower-key defeatist humor as he tends to step back and accept his punishment, such as the scene where he makes a mess of himself walking home or the many times that his creations literally blow up in his (or Akira’s) face. Mitsuki is more of a mixed bag, as his clinginess to the president and overall helplessness can be grating, but he leads the charge into some of the wackier hijinks, and his defensive aggressiveness towards Hayato – often manifested by way of wrenches to the foot or eye-stabs through Hayato’s lensless glasses – is quite funny. He’s the most annoying club member, but also the one who grows the most as a person and a character, with enough great moments to make up for the bad ones. But the driving force of the show really comes from Hayato and Akira. Hayato is possibly the most sane one of the bunch and consistently has the best interactions with other club members. One of my favorite running gags in the show is how, as a fake glasses wearer with perfect vision, he so tenaciously wants to be a part of the club, but the members so adamantly refuse to grant him official membership. It hits on both a very personal desire to belong and also a lot of comedy potential in the ridiculous ways he tries to prove himself and the bluntness with which he is consistently turned down. Akira is the reason the entire club exists to begin with. His hotblooded passion towards glasses is the show’s most memorable aspect, with his frequent shouts of “MEEEGANEEEEEEE”, and uncanny knowledge of and belief in the power of glasses. The very concept of glasses is so powerful a thing to him that it’s infectious – even as a viewer outside the show it’s hard not to get caught up in it (if only for how silly it is that he derives such pleasure from something so mundane) – it’s that passion that inspired the other members to join the club to begin with, and it’s that passion that holds the club together.
The aesthetics of the show reinforce this passion for glasses with a number of clever little glasses-related motifs. In addition to the occasional JoJo poses, the characters (especially Akira) will pose themselves in some glasses-like form. Glasses appear all over everything – from backpacks to backgrounds to stylish cutaways. Scene transitions often consist of an eyecatch of one of the character’s glasses, accompanied by that character declaring “megane” with a decisiveness that lends a curt finality to the scene. Then are of course the cheesy backup singers, who, as I mentioned in my previous post, will occasionally see fit to remind us with great aplomb that “ALL YOU NEEED IS… M-E-G-A-N–E~”.
And really, it is. Meganebu has surprised me by being a very silly show with a remarkably clever side that’s consistently able to make me laugh, and I’m glad I kept going with it after getting of to an uncertain start. I can’t wait to see what the climax of such an unpredictable series has in store.