Check-in Station: Uchouten Kazoku ep1 (foolish old man, foolish little girl)
Time for another preface, I’m checking this show out almost exclusively because of the art style/character design. I found nothing too particularly interesting about the plot or setting. Yet here I am. Checking out another new summer anime. Let’s see if a show about the intertwined lives of tanuki, tengu and humans can peak my interest.
In a world where humans, tengu and tanuki coexist, seemingly in harmony, we have Yasaburo Shimogamo. He’s a tanuki who seems to take great joy in his ability for mischief and transformation. We see him walking through town with a destination seemingly in mind. Along the way, we run into who I guess is his younger brother, a fellow tanuki of course, also in the guise of a human. Yasaburo is in the guise of a young teenage girl in a sailor school uniform. Apparently, such things are frowned upon by other tanuki, but Yasaburo doesn’t seem to care.
He then runs into his older brother, Yaichiro Shimogamo, while walking through the shopping district and is given a scolding this time for his choice of transformation. It looks like their family is frowned upon as failures, or at least that’s how I sum it up from listening to Yaichiro talk. Again, Yasaburo couldn’t care less. Matter of fact, he proves this point by flashing his tanuki panties at an old man standing nearby. (Thank god he didn’t flash his giant tanuki balls from underneath that thing.)
Yasaburo finally makes it to his destination. The apartment of an old man, actually and old tengu, named Akadama. Apparently the cantacurous old coot is Yasaburo’s master, and doesn’t take kind to being fooled into an erection by his student. Yasaburo appears to be just trying to get the old man out of a funk. The apartment looks terrible, and it’s overrun with trash and recyclables. The old fool just seems to languish in this place and complain about life. Not to mention, he seems to have a very bad back, so I can actually understand a good amount of that crankiness. Anyone who’s had a back or neck injury can sympathize.
We’re then taken to a flashback where we see a very well dressed and respectful Yasaburo delivering a gift to a slightly less cranky, slightly less drunken Akadama and very pretty, vixen by the name of Benten. She seems to take a liking to Yasaburo despite Akadama giving a very spot-on analysis of Yasaburo being sneaky and good-for-nothing. And then we witness a rather amazing sight, though it was initially confusing to me. We see Benten flying around the sakura tree they are under. It looks like Akadama’s been teaching her to fly.
Post flashback, Akadama and Yasaburo (thank goodness there aren’t a lot of named characters in this show yet) begin casual conversation that unfortunately for Yasaburo, sparks Akadama’s interest in contacting Benten again. It seems that Benten’s been less than hospitalable, or a frequent visitor in recent history. And for some reason Akadama is trying to spark up … a love affair? I’m quite used to the leacherous old man characters in my anime, I’ve watched more than enough. Still, this seems inappropriate, and horribly doomed from the start. But Yasaburo, being the surprisingly understanding and caring student he is, agrees to his request to deliver his love letter.
Still in his litte high school girl outfit (he just refuses to drop that thing), he scurries through town through the night to find Benten, a woman who appears to have fallen in with the “wrong crowd”. Is it yakuza that she runs with? I’m not sure as of yet, but I’d think that type of organization would be a good guess. For now, Yasaburo finds her across the river entertaining men as they dine as their host. Yasaburo takes the bow and arrow given to him by his tengu master, and uses it to deliver his letter – right through her pretty little fan open next to her head. Uh… nice shot?
Our tanuki protagonist (I guess it’s safe to call him that) then scurries off to a little bar where a fellow tanuki is the bartender… and he’s still in the guise of a little girl! Geez dude! Do you love transformations or wearing skirts and panties? Anyway, much to everyone in the bar’s chagrin, Benten actually isn’t far behind him and has a seat at the bar. It’s here that we see Benten’s reputation in action as most of the bar clears out, and only the bartender, frozen in his statue form, and Yasaburo (STILL dressing as a teenage girl) are left in her presence.
What we end up witnessing is a very charged conversation that I guess the viewers can’t fully decipher, but we can tell that there is a lot of history, some of it bad, between these two characters. We also learn that a part of that history involved tragically ruining their master’s back. Between all the subtle threats thrown by Benten, and then the nostalgic conversation, I really don’t know what to think of their relationship. The kiss that she ends the conversation with, also muddles the waters for me. But in the end, it appears that she’s agreed to see the old fool, though she won’t admit it.
After getting some more drinks at the bar, Yasaburo heads outside for some fresh air, when he sees Benten flying through the air. He tracks her across the rooftops and see that Akadama is actually waiting for her on the roof of a building. Yasaburo seems to have an additional talent for reading lips, as he deciphers Benten and Akadama’s rather quick conversation. It seems that Benten has only shown up to tease the old man, who wishes to go for a flight through the sky with her. She flies away laughing.
Yasaburo walks over to the building and finds Akadama on the steps, and helps him into a cab, and into his apartment where the old fool passes out asleep and probably perpetually drunk. Yasaburo leaves, but we then see Benten in the apartment, turning off the light and standing over her old master.
End of episode.
An interesting show. My initial thoughts for this show were that it was probably going to be slow, talkative and worst of all, boring. And boring is the death-nil for any show, especially one packed into a season with so many other popular new series and returning ones. But I will say that I’m the slightest bit intrigued. There’s a ton of set up and teasing in this first episode, which is par for the course, but also doesn’t get me very excited about anything. My interest purely comes from deciphering the relationship between these three obtuse characters who all seem to fight, but have very deep and strangely respectful relationships with each other.
On the technical side, the show is animated well enough. Though the way the ears are drawn on characters really irks me., it’s a very minor peeve. The character designs are distinct, cute and simple. And as I said before, they were the initial attraction to this series. Seeing various reactions of background characters that reminded me of those from characters in the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series is a treat all to itself. Though I will say that I’m happy that this first episode had more going for it than that.
Geez. My queue is piling up fast. I’ll give this show a very tentative test of five episodes. And its not because of the character designs and art style at all. I’ll give this show a shot surprisingly for the characters and their relationships. Hmph. Didn’t see that coming….