Electromagnetic Girlfriend (Denpa Teki Na Kanojo)
A heroine with a psychic sixth sense who's a bit touched in the head. A lead male who's more a reluctant follower than a hero. Bloody murders in the night and secret plot twists. If you've been into anime the last five years, you could be forgiven for thinking I was describing the infamous film series Garden of Sinners. Instead, today I'm writing about Electromagnetic Girlfriend, a two-OVA program that happens to share a few quirks with the former. While it's too short to generate a lot of excitement, it's a straightforward mystery/horror show that is better than I expected.
Juuzawa Juu isn't exactly on the popular list. He gets into scrapes and scrapes by on his exams, not bothering with cleaning duties expected at school or much else, for that matter. When a strange girl named Ame approaches him, pledging her loyal service to him based on their relationship in a previous life, he's not so much freaked out as annoyed. While he believes her story about as much as he believes in the Easter Bunny, she does have an unusual knack for knowing when he's in trouble...which is useful when there's a killer running loose in the streets. By the second episode, Juu has become a bit more accepting of his unwanted bodyguard. Framed as a pervert and targeted by a group of girls determined to destroy him, Juu and Ame have to get to the bottom of it before others suffer the deadly consequences.
Electromagnetic Girlfriend was apparently packaged along with a secondary manga series by the series' creator. It follows in the growing trend of what I call GAVA -- Give Away Video Animation. (Yeah, I know it won't stick.) They tend to exist as an upsell -- you like the mangaka, you like the video that came with the manga you bought, you go seek out the mangaka's other work. These giveaways don't always feature great animation, and there are a few spots where EG's artwork is a bit suspect (particularly in the framing of some extreme closeups). Nevertheless, on the whole it's competent; here and there, it's quite good. Also of note: the ending music actually has something to do with the anime for once, which enhances the overall experience.
EG has a simple problem: it's been done. The storyline doesn't have enough time to resolve the central mystery of the show -- is Ame a freak, or does she have a genuine supernatural connection to Juu? We don't know. And while the running time of the two OVAs together is about an hour and a half, the leads don't have that much in the way of personality. The show focuses more on the mysteries and the people behind them, which makes it feel a bit more like a procedural cop show than a plot-driven adventure. It's hard to give a show a great rating when you feel like you've been over this ground before.
That said, EG is a case of making the most out of what you've got. The two stories are genuinely creepy; they don't rely on gore, but instead explore the tortured psyches of people you would see on the street and never think twice about. Very few people know a Hannibal Lecter, but most of us never suspect the seemingly normal guy who pays his taxes and serves on the PTA. That's where EG succeeds. It also uses some techniques to ramp up the tension in ways I've not before seen. (If the flies in episode two don't eventually creep you out, I don't know what will.) There are some really disturbing concepts explored here, even if just in dialogue, so the squeamish might want to steer clear. But for a dark thriller, it fits.
It's been three years since the second episode of Electromagnetic Girlfriend was released, so I doubt we'll see more of it. That's a shame, especially since EG does show promise. While the program wasn't strong enough for me to seek out the manga light novels, I have to admit it raised my curiosity. Those who've finished Garden of Sinners and are looking for something similar won't find this nearly as deep, but it might still give you a few goosebumps.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As my change reflects, Electromagnetic Girlfriend was originally a light novel series by Kentaro Katayama, who also dabbles in manga. Hence the confusion. My apologies, and thanks to Zergplex over at the boards on THEM Anime for the correction.
Electromagnetic Girlfriend -- violence and minor gore, profanity, adult sexual themes (though no nudity) -- B+