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As you can tell from the header, this is a tricky series to summarize. Half the time, it falls under the 'wacky hijinks' category of anime. Aliens that look like people and who want to take the main character fishing all the time? Check. An international organization called DUCK that includes a duck as a member? Check. But it's more than that, as becomes evident around the 2/3rds mark, when the plot gets darker (those funny dances in the opening? Not funny any more). The main character has to learn how to deal with his crippling social anxiety (cleverly depicted from his point of view as drowning; hilariously shown as appearing to others like he's angry or constipated), make friends for the first time, and otherwise handle taking on more responsibility as a young adult. Even if you hate sci-fi stories, stop by for the fair handling of anxiety and realistic depiction of developing teenage friendships.
I also want to praise the animation. It is often several steps away from the common, and avoids being boring and flat. Rotoscoping is used deftly, and it makes the seaside town that is the primary setting gorgeous. The character movements are fluid (hah) and the lighting successfully conveys the time of day effortlessly. It is a joy to watch.
***Small note: some viewers have complained about a touch of orientalism/exoticism regarding the members of DUCK. Your mileage may vary; I let it go because it didn't seem like the anime was making their culture/ethnicity into a joke, and it's a nice change of pace to have a fictional international organization that isn't an excuse for American/European characters.
***Trigger warning: there is mind control in this story, used nonconsensually and repeatedly. At first, it's played for laughs, but eventually it's treated as the horror it is.
My reviewing system for films and shows that are NOT anime: 1-5: I hated it. I also don't think it has redeeming qualities, so you shouldn't watch it either. 6: I didn't like it. It's not my thing, I didn't like the execution, I don't want to see it again. However, I don't think it is a BAD film or show - it has qualities that will recommend it to those who like that kind of thing. 7: It was fine. I didn't love it, and I don't need to see it again. I won't be sad if I never see it again. 8: I liked it. I didn't love it, and while I'd like to see it again, I wouldn't want to see it often. 9: I loved it. I would be sad if I never saw it again. I might want to see it every few years. 10: I loved it beyond description. I wouldn't mind re-watching it every year.
Clarifying my Anime rating system: My number key below is an attempt to parse the small differences between 5 and 6, 7 and 8, & 9 and 10. When I rate, I consider my own enjoyment, the characterization and the plot, the appearance of the animation, and occasionally the soundtrack - in roughly that order. An anime will lose at least 1 point for presence of deal-breaker tropes (for example, comedic pedophilia), and more if the trope(s) ruined my enjoyment. On the other hand, it will gain at least 1 point for artistry in animation or sound.
Never Recommend: 1-4, inclusive. Further clarification: I don't expect to rate anything 1-4, as I would probably never finish watching something in this range of rating. It's likely to have bad plotting, subpar animation, bland characterizations, silly and/or irritating tropes, etc.; I would consider it to be pure excrement.
Cautious Recommending: 5: In this case, it started out with a higher score and slipped over time... because I normally don't watch anything that I would score below 6, except for movies (small time commitment). 6: I may or may not have watched the whole show, but I recognize deal-breaker issues in it, and I'm unlikely to rewatch. It just wasn't enjoyable enough for me to forgive its flaws. There would be huge caveats to any recommendation.
Likely to Recommend: 7: Not my thing, but usually I at least respect it. Generally, I didn't like it enough to think I would rewatch it, but also didn't see huge problems in the plot, characterizations, etc. and thought it was worth finishing. I might suggest it to someone if I know they like the specific sub-genre or other work by the studio. 8: I had a good time watching it, but it didn't move me the way a 9 or a 10 does; it's possible that over time I would upgrade it if I liked it more on reflection. I would be willing to rewatch it. I'd recommend it with the occasional caveat.
Highly Recommend: 9: I enjoyed it very much. It may have had one or two issues, but not enough to diminish enjoyment. It's possible that over time I would downgrade it to an 8 (changing tastes) or upgrade to a 10 (realize it's never left my mind). I'm likely to rewatch, and likely to buy the DVDs. I'd recommend it to most audiences. 10: Virtually flawless. I'd definitely rewatch, and definitely want to buy DVDs. I would shill this to anyone.
EDIT: for 2021, I'm participating in the MAL Anime Challenge. Any anime in the Completed section with a * in the note was watched for the challenge.
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