Image source: アニメあいまいみー3期OA中！ on Twitter
A light, whimsical story of four high school students in a manga club? No, it’s a journey into Lovecraftian madness. It’s Ai Mai Mi: Surgical Friends.
[Note: This article talks about Ai Mai Mi: Surgical Friends. Not a spoiler warning, just a warning in general…]
Based on a four-panel-style manga series, on its surface, Ai Mai Mi: Surgical Friends is a short form anime and the third season of a series depicting the continuing story of four friends, Ai, Mai, Mi, and Ponoka. The four girls are members of their high school’s manga club and the series follows their everyday antics. One could almost be excused for calling the series a “slice of life comedy,” but that would be assuming that anything that happens in any given episode could be considered something even resembling real life.
Regularly the events that occur are so random and outlandish with no anchor in realism. In one episode you’ll have a character winning a pet hamster that turns out to be the vessel for an ancient fallen angel bent on world domination. In another, you’ll have a character so desperate to prove she actually has real friends that she sells five years of her life and makes a golem out of clay, sticks, and weeds. Things don’t make sense and often result in the cute anime girls contorting their faces into absurd and freakish expressions that have to be seen to be believed.
Image source: アニメあいまいみー3期OA中 on Twitter
The series is very much of the “not for beginners” category. Its random nature makes it seem like a show you could just turn your brain off to see and enjoy, but at the same time, if you let your guard down for a second, it will take off without looking back and leave you in the dust. The characters are fairly unremarkable–I still have trouble distinguishing which character is which unless they specifically say each other’s names. The series seems both shallow and deep at the same time. It essentially throws everything plus the kitchen sink at you and tells you to find whatever meaning you will in it. Watching an episode can honestly sometimes feel like like looking at a cubist-phase Picasso painting–quite literally, in some instances.
At its heart, Ai Mai Mi: Surgical Friends is an exercise in surreal randomness. Watching it can be an almost visceral experience–like watching yourself slowly go insane. It’s similar in nature to something like Gakuen Handsome or Chō Shōnen Tantei-dan NEO, only with the crazy cranked way up to eleven. It’s aware of its nonsensical nature and is completely unapologetic about it–and, as such, ascends to a level that places it above reproach.
Ai Mai Mi: Surgical Friends can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.