Every culture has its own eccentricities when it comes to humor and Japan is no exception. While many things are universal, there’s a feeling that you’re just not in on the joke sometimes.
Gal & Dino is a strange series this year with a very opaque sense of humor. While there are many warmhearted and laughable scenes, there’s something about it that just doesn’t sit right.
Gal & Dino
Studios: Space Neko Company, Kamikaze Douga
Publisher: King Records
Director: Jun Aoki
Premiere: April 5, 2020
Gal & Dino is an unusual series from its humor and style, and even to its format. Rather than a traditional series, each episode plays out more like a variety show.
The first half of the show is dominated by an animated portion that most people were expecting, telling two stories in about 3-7 minute chunks. In addition smaller segments done in stop-motion separate each animated story and the two halves of the episode.
The plot is simple and easy to digest (for the animated portion at least). The titular Gal wakes up one day after a long night and vaguely recalls bringing a cartoonish Dino back to her apartment.
The two are both surprisingly laid back, not letting anything get to them. Gal’s flippant attitude towards a cartoon dinosaur living in her apartment sets the tone for the series.
Gal seems to lead a normal life, she broke up with her boyfriend somewhat recently, she works a job at a convenience store, and she gets along with her landlady. The humor is meant to lie in just how absurd Dino is and despite that how normally Gal and others interact with him.
Rather than a comic and straight man setup, it’s more like both Dino and Gal are fools. Dino is almost aware of his own absurdity and is the closest thing to the straight man and his surprisingly rational anxieties being soothed by the affable Gal are a constant source of humor.
For instance one scene has Gal leaves the house with Dino, Gal tells Dino it’s time to go and Dino thinks he’s about to be asked to leave. However Gal simply meant that if Dino is going to be staying with her, he needs his own toothbrush and towel.
It’s a refreshing take on a typical comedic formula that utilizes absurdity with the absurd aspect (in this case Dino) being the only one to realize he’s absurd. Even Gal’s landlady and coworker seem to only momentarily question Dino’s existence.
The strangest part is how the episode segues into a live action drama for the second half with the titular Dino portrayed by a man in a mascot suit. The live action segments mostly show the events in the animated portion with drastic changes and strange differences.
Rather, it seems like the live action segment is trying to create absurd humor by having some over the top plot. At first, rather than the Gal, instead we’re shown aging drama actor Mieharu waking up to the Dino in his room.
Something is clearly amiss as Mieharu’s room is identical to the animated Gal’s with pink shag trim on the furniture and pastel pink bedsheets. Later that night, Mieharu suffers from stomach pain after eating Christmas cake and suddenly a flamboyant young man with a schedule book begins writing in it to go back and time and redo the day to try and save Mieharu.
After two episodes of watching Mieharu and Dino and also the invisible time traveling man, the live action segment shifts gears to Gal as the protagonist by the third episode. A cameo of the magical schedule book however implies that the convoluted narrative of the live action isn’t over.
This review might seem a little harsh towards the live action segment as it’s not bad by any means. But its relationship to the animated segment is irrelevant at best and redundant at worst.
The animated portion thankfully seems to side step the absurd attempt at a plot and relies on more conventional absurd humor. Where the animated portion is what most viewers would expect, the live action segment is a perplexing aside and will likely be a polarizing part of the series.
The animated segment is where it becomes easier to talk about the series both in terms of substance and style. While the art is simplistic with thick lines, it suits the series perfectly and grabs attention.
The titular Gal is cute and expressive as is Dino who largely expresses himself with facial gestures and sound effects. The overly cartoonish style makes it clear from the start not to take this comedy series too seriously, which is a relief and stark departure from the live-action segment.
One thing Gal & Dino excels at is the use of sound effects when Dino expresses himself. Dino’s movements and facial expressions are heralded by little sound effects.
Squeaks and boops mark each and every step he makes and the creasing of his eyebrows when concerned. A lot of Dino’s emotions and thoughts are conveyed readily by the sounds he makes despite being seemingly incapable of talking.
In the live action segment, his squeaks and boops are replaced with deeper sounds for some reason. Lightsaber swishes (I swear I think the sounds were sampled from Star Wars) accompany every wag of his tail and flail of his arms.
However the sound is the only thing the show does consistently well between the animated and live action segments. Frankly, the show would be better served if Funimation presented the two as entirely separate series.
The animated series suffers from being tied with the live action. Meanwhile the live action suffers for repeating the same initial story beats as the animated segment.
To be frank, there’s a lot to like about Gal & Dino; I like the cartoonish art style, I like the absurd humor of the animated sections, and I admire the effort put into the stop motion segments. If this review were solely about the animated segment or the live action segment then it’d be much higher.
However ultimately, watching Gal & Dino began to feel like riding a roller coaster, the animated segments were fun and lively, while the live action segments were repetitive and longwinded. The live action segments aren’t unenjoyable, but they’re longer, tell more of a story, and are better suited to be watched independently from the animated segments, not as half of the show.
Gal & Dino has a lot of heart, but it would be better if the live action segment were kept apart from the rest of the series. As far as absurd comedies go, other titles do it better like Astro Fighter Sunred and even One Punch Man.
Gal & Dino was reviewed via the reviewer’s anime streaming service account. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.