Allow me pitch an idea for an animated television series to you. Are you ready?
Here it is: a group of five, energetic young men at a technical school form a club solely based around wearing glasses. Their main mission is to create a pair of X-ray glasses to see through women’s clothing. We will call it “Meganebu!” or “Glasses Club!”
Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous – and potentially quite boring – but no more or less so than a club of three girls looking up random things on the internet and, like Yuyushiki, Meganebu! delivers genuine laughs and sentimentality through its ability to relate to the viewer, further proving that quality is more execution than premise.
First and foremost, Meganebu! is stylish. Director Soubi Yamamoto (This Boy Can Fight Aliens!, This Boy Caught a Merman) works wonders with what is obviously a limited budget. Backgrounds and additional students are highly stylized and flattened. The main characters also appear flat with limited shading (as Glasses Club President Akira Souma shows us in the screenshot above), trains look as if they’re being dragged by a computer mouse across the pillow shot that they are taking part in, and camera pans often simulate movement (with the characters themselves moving more infrequently than participants in an animated series would be expected to).
In spite of its limited scope in budget and premise, Meganebu! is interesting to look at. The stylized, cartoonish backgrounds’ use of print trappings like Ben-Day dots and screentone compliment the garish color palette. Characters pose (again, like Akira above) in stiff ways that reinforce the visual motif of glasses. Additionally, there are frequent cuts that allow for a change of scenery and pace, ensuring that the viewer is not visually bored.
I would have been happy enough if Meganebu! had simply been visually interesting with a silly premise; however, the series builds on this by adding purposeful dashes of sentimentality. Along with perfectly-timed comedic beats, Meganebu! knows when to relax and when to tug on your heartstrings, even when said tugging is being done while one of the characters is wearing ridiculous mechanical glasses that allow him to see ghosts.
That’s right, ghosts. One of the Glasses Club’s experiments to develop X-ray glasses goes awry (thanks to wordplay) and instead of creating glasses to see through things, they create glasses with the ability to see ghosts. The ghost who appears is discovered during a Glasses Club plot to change all of the school’s clocks to have five fewer minutes – in order to spend less time in class – and his refusal to move on to the afterlife involves, you guessed it, a specific pair of glasses. If this all sounds ridiculous and convoluted that’s because it is. However, Meganebu! manages to couple this with something that we’re all too familiar with as viewers: a sense of personal guilt.
How many times have you done something wrong and tried to cover it up? I’m not speaking of something overly dramatic like accidentally murdering someone (I’m looking at you, Kyoukai no Kanata) but a little thing like borrowing a movie from a friend and losing it, or breaking a friend’s sunglasses? Minute occurrences like this happen all the time and occasionally, if one party refuses to admit guilt and apologize, lead to serious rifts in friendships. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that at least half of you reading this post still have something small that you feel guilty about: unsent holiday cards, that borrowed video game collecting dust in a closet that you lied and said you no longer had, and various unfulfilled promises to friends. They all have simple resolutions, but you’ve allowed negative feelings to fester for so long that you now feel unable to act.
“Prescription sunglasses! I’ll buy a pair for each of us and bring them with me.”
-Tetsu Asahina to his dead childhood friend, Koichi Mochizuki, upon the latter’s ascension into the afterlife, Meganebu! episode 3
The ghost reunites with his friend and apologizes, allowing him to move on to the afterlife. His friend, Tetsu, now the owner of the café that the Glasses Club frequents, yells the line quoted above as he watches his friend disappear. The exclamation is as ridiculous as it sounds – made all the more so by the fact that Tetsu is wearing these glasses while saying it – but it’s no less poignant in all of its minute glory. Although their parting conversation is something incredibly personal to those two characters, the overarching message is something that anyone can relate to, and this is what Meganebu! is counting on.