What is this?
The anime follows the daily lives of six high school girls as they face struggles working on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects in the western Japanese city of Sanjō.
Do It Yourself!! is an original anime and streams on Crunchyroll on Wednesdays.
How was the first episode?
I have to hand it to Do It Yourself!!. It takes a whole lot of gumption to put together a delightfully animated and surprisingly heartfelt hobby anime about the general art of DIY crafts and repairs, which presumably cost a truckload of money and a hell-of-a-lot of work to produce, all for the sole purpose of setting up an absolutely shameless pun. I will admit that my Philistine ears didn’t pick up on the joke, no matter how many times characters said Serufu’s weird name out loud, right until the end, when Do It Yourself!! made sure to spell out its ridiculous joke, and in so doing won my heart over absolutely.
I think I wrote something the other day about how a hobby anime would need to appeal to one of my niche interests before I could fall in love with it, but that turned out to be a complete lie. It turns out that all it really takes is for a talented group of artists, writers, and actors to come together to build a charming and softly science-fictional world of the near future, and then populate it with a cast of completely loveable ladies who will all eventually unite under one slightly ramshackle roof to celebrate their love of making shit with their bare hands. Who would have thought it could be so easy?
Granted, my wife and I bought our first house just a couple of years ago, and it turns out that owning a home is just the secret sauce that I needed to awaken the middle-aged dad that was always inside of my heart. I’ve been relying on internet tutorials to try and teach myself how to be the kind of man who would make my father proud, which is to say someone who would gladly curse and scream at broken inanimate objects rather than call a repairman or a plumber. If Do It Yourself!! can help me continue to pursue that dream, except with adorable cartoon characters doing the teaching rather than sweaty YouTube men with questionable cinematography credentials, then it will easily land a spot near the top of my fall watchlist. Plus, it’s got a little piggy with sunglasses! What’s not to love?
To be clear, that missing half star? That’s for Serufu’s weird side-switching flesh fang. I hate flesh fangs, which always look like skin tags to me. No, thank you!
Otherwise, this was pretty much a ridiculously charming premiere. I’ve found over the years that cute girl hobby anime tend to lack humanistic character writing, but Do It Yourself!! overcame my trepidations admirably. I have a feeling that much of that success stems from the director, Kazuhiro Yoneda, who proves comfortable working on stories about relatable female struggles through his excellent adaptations of Yona of the Dawn and Kageki Shoujo!!.
The setup is not unlike pretty much any other given hobby anime, in which a schoolgirl stumbles across another girl working on her hobby and is inspired to take it up herself. Countless other series have followed the same formula, so what makes this one of the good ones? The main thing is that there’s a kind of naturalism to the characters so that they feel like tangible people rather than a grab bag of preset personality traits. Serufu is an over-friendly, clumsy weirdo with an adorable assortment of pets. She struggles with the growing divide between her and an old friend. She’s energetic and optimistic, but also hates the uphill bike commute back home, which was kind of endearing to me, whose bike ride home from work is three agonizing miles of slow, constant uphill riding.
The unique style further adds to the show’s distinct charm. The art is simple, even cartoony, characterized by sketchy lines and flat colors with backgrounds that look like they were painted with watercolors, giving it almost a picture book feeling. Despite that simplicity, the characters are animated with careful attention to body language and gesture. It’s not the most lavish or fluid, even choppy at times, but they had their priorities in exactly the right place for the kind of story they’re going to tell. The sense of weight as Rei drops her shoulder to take off her bag, Yua’s meandering gait—these things make the world feel lived-in and homey, even with its near-futuristic touches.
I’m kind of mad Do It Yourself!! is as fun as it is, because my watchlist is getting unwieldy. It’s a great season for anime starring girls, and we’re not even halfway through!
I can’t count how many first episodes I’ve seen of anime about cute girls picking up some new obscure hobby or sport. However, few have handled themselves as well as Do It Yourself!! does. That’s because, more than anything else, this episode is focused on one thing: establishing our main protagonist Serufu.
I think we’ve all met at least one “Serufu” in our lives—the person so clumsy or forgetful it’s astonishing they are able to make it through the day. In this episode alone she crashes into a light pole, almost stabs herself with a drill, and is buried under a pile of paint cans and lumber. We see that this has always been the way things go for her and childhood injuries were commonplace. Unfortunately, Sefufu’s friends and family chose to deal with this in the worst way possible. Instead of showing patience and teaching her how to do things correctly and safely, they simply stopped letting her do the things that injured her. If you treat a person like they’re useless, you shouldn’t be surprised if they turn out that way.
This is why meeting Rei changes her life so much. When making a small bookshelf, Rei explains what she’s doing, why she’s doing it, and then lets Serufu try herself. Even after Serufu fails spectacularly, Rei doesn’t admonish the girl. Heck, she doesn’t even redo the damaged shelf. Instead, she just smiles and says that it adds character. She lets Serufu’s work stand as it is and offers to let the younger girl try again at woodworking despite what happened. This is the first time in years that she hasn’t had her work taken away from her and redone by someone else once she got hurt. How can she not be attracted to Rei and her club?
Now that she’s in the DIY club and separated from her childhood friend—i.e., the girl who has become a full-blown tsundere through enabling Serufu’s learned incompetence—Serufu has a real chance at growing as a person. No longer will she be a clumsy child to be protected but a young woman capable of making mistakes and learning from them. That’s some good stuff right there.
Here’s everything you need to know about Do It Yourself!! to understand why it’s a perfect anime. In the first 45 seconds of this premiere, we open with our dopey lead girl Serufu sleeping in, accompanied in her bed by a big fluffy poodle and a smug-looking cat. It’s adorable, precious even. And just when you think that’s going to be the peak, it’s revealed that there’s a miniature pig snuggled into the hood of her pajamas – and that pig? It’s wearing sunglasses. If that isn’t proof to you that DIY is the peak of anime as an artistic medium, then we can never, ever be friends.
Seriously though, DIY has an absurd amount of charm that exudes from every second, every frame of its premiere. On paper it’s a pretty typical cute girls show centered on a particular hobby, and in practice it manages to channel the kind of relaxing atmosphere only the most powerful of iyashikei shows can manage. The character designs are wonderfully expressive, packed with individual details that instantly give each character a unique identity without saying a word. That goes doubly for Serufu, whose disheveled uniform and ever-present bandaids immediately tell you she – as my grandma would say – was blessed with more whimsy than sense. There’s a million little flourishes to how characters move, emote, or just interact with the world around them that brings them to life, and tempted me to screencap nearly the whole episode. Even the distance models are adorable in their own way, and perfectly channel the energy of the cast when they’re naught but tiny scribbles in the corner of the frame.
The only point where the show dips away from that loose style is, fittingly, with the tools and lumber of the titular carpentry club. The hammers, nails, drills, and clamps are all rendered in a way that really captures the tactile satisfaction of clicking a drill bit into place, or getting just the right angle to thread your screw in. I’m not much of a woodworker, but as somebody who loves the sensation of piecing models and machines together, this captured that feeling better than any other piece of animation I’ve seen in years. This episode is mostly about establishing Serufu’s character than any carpentry projects, but I cannot wait to see these girls get to work.
That’s a lot of words about the visuals, but only because DIY is a kind of show that thrives on atmosphere more than narrative or even comedy. It’s about channeling a mood, and it does it expertly. But that isn’t to say the characters aren’t pulling their own weight. Serufu is a delightful disaster child, clumsy in a way that’s believable rather than your typical fumbly anime girl. She gets distracted with daydreams or flights of fancy, and ends up listing her bike into a street pole. She gets excited about using a power drill and cashes a check her dexterity can’t cash. After her mom banned her from handicrafts as a child, she moved over to eating her crayons because when you’re four those things sure do look like candy, right? It’s simple characterization, but her laidback yet chaotic energy works perfectly for what this premiere is going for, and it gave me a smile on my face the entire time.
DIY is not going to set your pulse on fire. Its aims are simple and humble. But it’s executing on those ideas with a level of artistry that’s both masterful and effortless, and if you’re at all in the mood for something chill and pleasant, this is easily the best pick of the season.