I first found out about this series while researching for one of the news sections for the Neko Desu Radio show (every Saturday frin 9pm!). While reading about Nyarko-san, my eyebrows were raised to such an extent that they almost flew off of my head. Lovecraftian horrors and outer gods, turned into anime characters? Transposed into a comedy of all things? What unspeakable nonsense in this?! So, I thought I had better check the show out, with the same attitude as someone who feels condemned.
Nyarko-san concerns the life of dull straight-man protagonist Mahiro, whose boring life is upset by the appearance of Nyarlathotep, who has been assigned by whatever higher power to guard him from attacks from outer-dimensional forces which are after his life. Of course, this is an anime so Nyarlathotep takes the form of a short, silver-haired and hyperactive super-nerd. As well as slaughtering any foul beings that threaten Mahiro with her overpowering strength and abilities, she also wants to get into his pants. Of course.
As if the description did not clue you in, Nyarko-san is a dumb show. A really dumb show. However, it isn't dumb by accident - from the three episodes I have watched it is clear that the series has tightly embraced this fact and run with it as far and fast as it can, revelling in its idiocy to a degree that is refreshing to see. Each episode sets up a rather basic plotline for the week in its intro, only to soundly ignore developing or resolving it for the bulk of the show in order to set up gags or generally mess around. Actual plot events (such as they are) happen almost by accident, usually as the side effect of a comedy set piece or ongoing joke. The sheer flippancy and irreverence of the show not only enhances the comedy but helps maintain suspension of disbelief as any considerations like "wait, that doesn't make sense" are utterly buried by the constant stream of gags. So bonkers are the events which are unfolding that you begin to feel the same creeping sense of insanity you might felt if accosted by a Lovecraftian horror itself.
The characters themselves seem more than aware of the absurdity of the show they have landed in and so play up how dumb their situations are to great effect. The cast, particularly the immortal-gods-transposed-into-anime-girl members of it, think, do and say daft stuff with such relish and without care for consequence that it is almost charming. Some of them exclaim the names of obscure mecha from giant robot shows when physically abused (this happens often), which is funny even if you don't know something is being referenced. References to other shows and tropes of all kinds are thrown at the screen at a breakneck pace, the show thankfully not stopping to say "hey, check out this sweet reference!" and risk slowing down the rate of stupidity.
A lot of this comedy is ably pulled off by the performances of the voice actors in the show, particularly that of Asumi Kana, who voices Nyarko herself. The sheer range and manic energy poured into her performance really lifts the show - the excitement she displays is infectious and really helps to pull you into the show, especially when she drops a hilarious tidbit of "Engrish" every now and then. Again, the cast seem fully aware of the dumb show they are in and play things up to a great degree.
This mania and infectious insanity is all well and good, but is it actually any fun to watch? Well, personally, I'm not sure. In the space of an episode I find myself oscillating wildly between adoring the show and wanting to close the Crunchyroll player and never watch it again. While it has moments of brilliance, the show is exhausting to watch due to how dense it is and I had to frequently take breaks to decompress; any time that the pace of the show took a slight breather it gave me the time to realise I was mostly exclaiming "what?" at my screen instead of laughing along with it. The series also looks to be falling back on a lot of creepy sexual-harassment based gags that, particularly in its third episode, it seems more and more willing to dig up and re-use for its own ends. There is something slightly depressing about being able to write "oh, they have the perverted over-bearing stalker character in this show, that old chestnut again" and not have it be hyperbole. A lot of these issues are concentrated into the character Kuuko, who starts out as an amusing foil to Nyaruko but then slips into just being a creepy pervert. By re-hashing these uncomfortable elements the show manages to water down its own original comedic elements by shackling them to creepy tat. But perhaps this will lessen in future episodes... I certainly hope so.
There are some other mixed elements of Nyaruko-san, in particular the art. While the manic action is certainly captured well in the hyperactive and fast-flowing art, the colour palette is sickly sweet and the liberal use of blinding highlights can make characters look like they are either made of PVC or are coated in a thin sugary glaze. Perhaps both. The monster designs also vary from inspired to utterly tedious and dull. Sadly, the dull designs are the ones that turn up in every episode so far and are used as fight scene fodder for Nyaruko and others to wail on in a amusing manner. Some of the fight scenes are very well done if only for the sheer absurdity of what is going on rather than any actual drama or conflict. If I outlined what goes down in these scenes you would think I was making it up, honest.
There are also outright bad parts of Nyarko-san - some of the supporting characters (as alluded to above) feel like a mistake and are flat out irritating whenever they appear on screen. There is also the soundtrack - while the sound effects are all present and correct and what you would want for a wacky comedy, the backing music always sounds laughably shoe-horned in, even when it matches the mood of what is occurring. Some tracks you will hear so many times you may well end up involuntarily thinking "oh man, this again?" whenever it starts up. Perhaps all the music budget went into the opening and ending themes, which fit the rest of the show's manic tone and are good fun to listen to.
I honestly feel somewhat torn by Nyarko-san. Having gotten past the premise, I really like what the show sets out to do with its manic comedy and cast performances, but as a whole it falls apart. The sheer level of manic energy on show can be wearing, and whenever the show falls back onto creepy "romantic" comedy tropes it feels like it is letting itself down. This is especially true in the third episode, when the sheer volume and intensity of these scenes began to overpower my desire to keep watching. As I mentioned above, I hope this is a passing fad and that the show does not keep going back to this rather slimy well. When it is firing on all cylinders, Nyarko-san is a fun bundle of unbridled silliness, for those occasions when all you want is for a show to be dumb, referential, and amusing.
You can currently watch Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos in streaming form right here on the UK Anime Network.