When Noboru and Tooru Takagami arrive at their grandmother’s shrine, they are under the impression they are coming to attend her deathbed. Instead they are introduced to a dizzying sequence of surprises. One: their grandmother, apparently, is just fine. Two: the deathbed bit was a ruse to get them to the shrine where they could be protected from a wood aligned specter that was after Tooru. Three: their family is from a long line of water priests, capable of strong water ki casting, and while a lack of females has meant an end of priestesses in this generation, the power in their blood is still quite attractive to those that feed on water-wood. Thus the danger. Finally, lack of priestesses or not, the present head of the family is Noboru, and some things cannot be done without him. Like releasing the seal on the family’s ancient guardian spirit, an astral fox, imprisoned for centuries for gross misconduct and abuse of her power. She doesn’t seem very reliable at first…but something about the name of their deceased mother seems to soften her. Defeating the wood sprite doesn’t take much effort on her part, but a debt is still owed: can they really simply seal her back for another several centuries? And if they don’t, then what? She’s gluttonous, fun loving, and fey, not to mention having little regard for finesse of gender; ‘she’ is a he as often as not. And yet, inhuman though she undoubtedly is, she does have a heart…and as she once loved their mother, she seems willing to love them as well. And woe betide the specter that wants their blood now…
Fantasy, Supernatural, Comedy.
Twenty-four, plus three short short specials. It feels like there could be a sequel, but there are no guarantees.
Yukana(female) and Nakamura Yuuichi(male) as Tenko Kuugen
Miyamoto Mitsuru as Haruki Takagami
Hayami Saori as Kou
Mizushima Takahiro as Takagami Noboru
Shimamura Yu as Takagami Tooru
Ono Daisuke as Ebisu
Fox spirits seems to be something of a fad of late in anime. Thing is, few of them are really presented as the traditional inhuman trickster. Standard approach to non-human animal spirit in the house is, give it a cute girl form, some inhuman abilities and powers, and start talking about human bias and ‘exploring’ whether they are really so inhuman, all the while fostering a romance. Which is a big part of why Wagaya no Oinari-sama impressed me. With the traditional Japanese mythos so faithfully revived in so many areas in the anime, in pure pre-Buddhism style, Tenko Kuugen the Astral Fox is no exception. A true depiction of the classic endearing trickster, she is sympathetic and humane – but never, ever human. With an opening depicting her fox form, her female form, and her male form in equal proportions, the series never strays from this precept, representing the kind of thinking that makes the whole thing work. A small but noticeable crop of fillers mixed among the excellent true arcs keeps this series from a four, but as a three, it is still worth watching. Bear in mind, however, that three is the average entire-certain significant chunks of it are definitely four level.
Characters first, as always. Leading male, though one could argue he shares that title with Tooru, is Noboru, the oldest in the family. What seems like the stereotype anti-macho lead is subtly altered and redeemed by the fact that, with their true mother dead, he’s basically been filling in for her, both in general household maintenance and where his little brother is concerned. The attitudes that make his type, put against the role he plays at home as the substitute mother, especially towards Tooru, and the fact that he is truly good at it (we see later he has an affinity for children in general), become proper parts of his own personality. His brother, Tooru, is a very endearing child of about eight or ten, young enough to be appealing, old enough to think. His sincerity is his strongest point, and while someone meaning harm to Noboru is still playing dice with a nasty death, it’s Tooru who seems to attract the good will of all he meets, human or not. Tenko Kuugen, or Kuu-chan as Tooru calls her, seems especially fond of him, though it could just seem that way since it’s he who gets into trouble the most. His older brother seems to take after his father more, but the water ki in Tooru’s blood is much stronger. So, Kuugen herself. Though himself is equally accurate about a third of the time. According to her explanation, ‘after a couple hundred years, you forget which gender you were born as, and it doesn’t really matter much to you anyway.’ This seems to be a feature of all spirits of her class, we meet at least one other who is the same. Despite all her time as a captive at the Miduchi clan’s hands, she doesn’t seem to bear a grudge, preferring to leave it all behind and live blissfully in the moment. A true trickster type, loving fun and a dash of trouble, she certainly causes enough-until something threatens the family. At which point she is liable to morph half fox right on her still human shoulders. Apparently if she gets excited or otherwise distracted, she loses control of the transformation to some degree. Anger does the most, but if something catches her interest suddenly enough her ears are liable to pop out (causing no small consternation). She is both fun and sympathetic, not to mention awe-inspiring when her blood is up. Kou, the Miduchi shrine’s present guardian maiden, is the quiet type, in tone and demeanor. Beautiful, determined, and roughly Noboru’s age, she is asked by their grandmother to accompany them, to keep an eye on Kuugen, whom she doesn’t seem to trust much. Her take on this requires some adjusting. Nearly as clueless as someone brought in from the previous century, she is not too sure how the fridge works, how to cook, or what is considered normal behavior in the city; but she is certain that her duty requires her to brave all of these uncertainties daily. Clumsy but well meaning, she responds to every request with ‘yes, even if it costs me my life’, a response that brings sweat to the brow as you realize that not only is she serious (however low the odds of death occurring) but that in the process she will probably accidentally break at least two household items. Quite a bit of fun, but like Kuugen, not to be underestimated. There are no villains in this anime; it’s ‘that’ sort.
There is no overall plot. We have the setting, and stuff happens inside it. The first seven are establishers mixed with one episode fills; we meet people and watch what the basics of life here are going to be like, complete with a few examples of Kuugen’s battle prowess and bond with her human family, both present and past. They are actually a fair bit of fun, sometimes even touching, and it isn’t until near the end of it that it starts to feel like fillers. Which is right about where it switches to an excellent three or four episode arc (hard to say just where it started) that takes a theme I’ve almost never seen done convincingly and, well, does it convincingly. It was quite wonderful, and encouraged me not to give up yet. A good thing, because there’s another three like the first set before the next good arc starts. Again, the actual arc was excellent, it was getting there that sometimes got annoying. Once that arc ends (eighteen) we never see another like it; some of the fillers were enjoyable and there was one two episode arc that really didn’t compare with the others. Which left me with an interesting conflict of opinion. Most of the arcs and some of the fillers were excellent, but there’s just a little too many of the not-so-good fillers floating around. So in the end I’ve averaged it out to a three, saying that the series as a whole is worth the time to see. But some parts are more worthwhile than others.
Good characters, enjoyable interaction, and some very well told stories give this series plenty of appeal, but the overall watching experience averages out somewhat lower than the value of it’s better parts. But in the end, anything three and higher is a recommendation. I do believe it should be watched.
Final Rating: 3/5
This review is brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Information such as airtime and cast are courtesy of ANN’s encyclopedia entries: all else is and always will be the origination of the author.
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