As the anime started, I heard the cheesy sounding school flute tune, then these 4 girls just appeared and talked to each other sideways, in the most awkward way possible.
“This is Xebec, after all…” I told myself. However, despite that horrid opening, I find myself conflicted and divided as to what I think about the show.
So the basic premise for Upotte!! is that the 4 main girls are all guns, from different countries, studying together in a military school, with teachers dressed as the most ridiculous representation of the armies from different countries, with an American drill sergeant and what seems like a German SS officer. On the one hand, the girls are guns. How’s that even possible? How could they have been born? How do they even work? Abandon all logic, this is anime land.
This is where it gets tricky for me. On the one hand, it appears to be higher comedy. Anthro dogs and cats in anime aren’t too uncommon, really. (Judging from the OP there’s probably going to be one in this show as well.) Entire shows like Dog Days are created on the basis of the existence of such catgirls and …doggirls, with their behaviour often imitating their animal cousins. This makes for some small laughs, but the humour dies quickly since there were so many shows like this on the market. Upotte!! seems to parody this by having girls who, not only do not look anything like the guns they’re supposed to be, are even closer to their object forms than the catgirls of anime. Their bodies function like rifles: one of them goes to the infirmary because her spring is ‘jammed’. All of these makes for somewhat surreal humour, which is something I really like. Like Nichijou or Azumanga Daioh. The humour comes from the absurdity and the parody Upotte!! delivers.
Yet on the other hand, if we analyse the episode on its own, we find that it’s incredibly low-brow and generic. The starting scene, however poorly animated it is, just depicts the show as yet another generic slice-of-life anime. The teacher, who obviously has never talked to a girl before in his entire life or obviously has had to bribe the inspectors to let him become a teacher, spends his entire existence in the episode feasting his eyes upon a middle-schooler’s thong and making multiple references to it afterwards, as though he could not understand the basic concept of social conventions.
And the fanservice is heavy as well. I get that when FNC squirms thinking of the teacher firing the rifle as though she was being ravaged was because she’s also a gun. It was funny at first because we instinctively knew –haha, she’s a gun and she’s feeling it, how ingenious~! It was funny because it made absurd the way the girls’ bodies worked on the basic level. Yet after a while it’s obvious that it’s nothing but an attempt to put fanservice into the show as it soon becomes pretty much her defining trait: squirming and almost cocking (snigger) her hammer. What’s worse still is that it is her defining trait in the manga as well, making it pretty much impossible for us to escape from it for long.
So in the end I still can’t decide whether the show is clever or just generic. I suppose it’s safe to say it’s a little of both. The surreal humour from the girls being both girls with emotions and working, functioning guns at the same time while only having a female anatomy , as well as being able to pull rifles of themselves out of nowhere, all lead to the show being incredibly absurd and thus evoking humour easily, despite its tendency to use cheap fanservice-y ecchi tropes and Hetalia-style subtle racist humour. I won’t complain too much about the animation, given how the manga somehow managed to look even worse than the show itself.
However, as a person who has fired a gun before (this feels good to say right Carillus) the stance jokes and the gun jokes were still much more appealing to me. One of my officers used to tell us to ‘treat our rifles like our wives’ – despite the fact that they were pretty much fake rifles used for drilling. Yet the humour was still there,if not as a result, greater. How can one really turn guns, tools used for killing and wars, into moe moe schoolgirls? The scene at the infirmary and the first time FNC started to squirm really cracked be up. The mere thought of it is amusing. Oh, Japan, you card.