From the creator of Tatami Galaxy and Character Designs by Kouji Kumeta(Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei), Uchouten Kazoku is the 2nd artsy anime to come out this season alongside the new Monogatari Series. Does it hold up to it’s high pedigree? I can’t say if it does so far, but it definitely looks like it’ll stand out with its unique take on slice-of-life, all through the eyes of a gender confused tanuki.
The whole ep takes place in modern-day kyoto, where shape shifitng tanukis and flying gods called tengu live amongst the humans. Our main character is a tanuki named Shimogamo Yasaburou, who despite being male decides to shapeshift as a highschool girl for the entire episode. He seems to know several other tanukis that are working as humans(including his older and little brother), but he doesn’t seem to have much worry. He flashes random people, runs at top speed, and his only hardship in life seems to deal with his tengu master, Akadama.
After losing his ability to fly, Akadama has become secluded in an old apartment, often cranky to everyone he meets. The only people he seems to keep in contact with is Yasaburou. He does however recall an old crush of his; a human women who gained tengu powers of flight named Benten(no, not Ben 10). Once graceful and majestic, she now works at a nearby bar with what can best be described as the “bad girl” act. Intimidating and often asking for fights, she has gone back to human company while isolating herself from the world of tanuki and tengu, even if she still keeps in contact with the two.
Of course old flames don’t die fast, as Akadama asks Yasaburou to meet up with her and hand her a cheesy love letter. Yasaburou meets up with Benten at a bar run by a fellow tanuki, where she comes off as semi-threatening and semi-friendly(she even gives a rough kiss that partially freezes his lips). Benten meets up with Akadama, but harshly declines his invitation, leaving Yasaburou to pick him up and saying all he needs is to make life interesting. The ep ends with Benten in Akadama’s room at night(Whoa, what could this be?).
Looking at life in modern day kyoto without focusing on normal people brings a more whimsical view of it all. Since we see the world through a tanuki’s eyes, everything seems more like how a stray cat would see Japan rather than a typical highschooler or salaryman. The human-like traits of both tanuki and tengu makes everything seem less alien than what we usually expect from the supernatural.
This is especially apparent in the comedy, which is both witty and childish, but also well-paced and unprovocative. The characters are also quite relateable despite them mostly not being human. Yasaburou’s mischivious but respectable, Akadama is the hopeless old grump, and Benten has a great mix between intimidating and alluring.
Animation is handled by PA works, so there is no need to worry when it comes to quality. The color pallete is bright and expressive, with just the right amount of lighting to keep immersion. The animation quality is great, but it’s especially good when it’s used for the supernatural moments. The rapid tanuki transformations and Benten flying throughout a tree were just breathtaking to watch, wishing that we could see this happen in our world. Music is nice, but like alot of shows recently, it’s not that memorable. The OP is pretty addicting though.
Overall, this ep had me fascinated from start to finish with a likeable cast, well-paced humor and good production values. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of these creatures and how they see what we perceive to be everyday life. Good or bad, it looks like it’ll be a unique experience.