Sunday, 01 March 2009 04:16

Wagaya no Oinari-sama (TV, 2008)

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Overview


Awesome pillows...  I mean... tail...

So, what should you do when you find out that yokai are hunting you? I mean, it's not like you can run over to the local Qwik-E-Mart and buy a can of Yokai-b-Gone. You could always find a priestess and ask her to exorcise you... but with your luck, she'd misunderstand, and you know how anime Miko are... Well, fortunately for Noboru Takagami and his little brother Tooru, they can call on their family's house guardian, the kitsune Kuugen Tenko. Then again, considering she's been locked up for so long because of the mischief she caused the last time she was let out that she's forgotten whether she's a she or a he... The cure just might be worse than the cold...

Fields USA Info Japanese Info Image
Title Wagaya no Oinari-sama I wonder if those ears would qualify her as being out of uniform...
Alternative Coo ~ Our Guardian, Our Home's Fox Diety, 我が家のお稲荷さま。
Dates 2008.04.06 - 2008.09.14
Company ZEXCS
Creator Jin Shibamura
Director Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Genre Occult, Humor, Action, Slice of Life
Related Wagaya no Oinari-sama (Manga), Wagaya no Oinari-same (Light Novels)

Review


The two sides of Kuugen Tenko

The Takagami brothers take a trip to visit their grandmother, who runs a temple in their mother's hometown. While there, they find out that their mother was the last Priestess of Water that guarded that temple, and that as her eldest son, Noboru Takagami is now the new head of the Mizuchi family. At the same time, they discover that Tooru is being targeted by a yokai who wants to steal the latent powers that he possesses. The grandmother suggests, begrudgingly, that they release the guardian spirit of the Mizuchi family, a kitsune named Kuugen Tenko that has been sealed behind the temple for almost eight hundred years.

Turns out that Kuugen isn't too wild about the idea of having to protect Tooru either – actually, she's still a bit irritated about the whole sealed in a stone shrine for eight hundred years thing. Things aren't looking too good for Tooru – until Granny reveals who it is they're asking Kuu to protect. As it turns out, there was some connection between Kuu and the Takagami's mother, who was the last head of the Mizuchi family. Reluctantly, Kuugen finally agrees to help protect them from the yokai, and Noboru, as the new head of the family, releases her from the seal.

Wagaya is mixed parts monster of the week (well, story arc, anyway), slice of life, drama, and humor. Once the fox is out of the bag, she moves in with the brothers in order to continue protecting them, along with the Guardian of Water, a young shrine maiden named Kou (not to be confused with Kuu)... did I mention that Noboru is still in high school and little Tooru is still in grade school? As I'm sure you can imagine, varying levels of mayhem and time-traveler-meets-the-future type misunderstandings ensue. That's before we even get into the larger cast that gradually gets introduced throughout the series, including Ebisu, the local god of the town Noboru and Tooru live in, his stone dog guardians, Mubyou, the wandering deity with lamb and wolf hand puppets, and Sakura, a girl from Noboru's school with a rather wild imagination and no sense of reality.

A little something for the girls...

Actually, that's one of the complaints that I have to make about the series. The biggest problem with Wagaya is that it never quite seemed certain what it wanted to be – occult, romance, humor, slice of life... For the most part, it's handled pretty well, but honestly, I think that they needed to settle on a single genre and put the better focus on it. Eventually, I got part of my wish – they started running longer storylines and playing some decent mysteries, but I think that it took them too long to settle into that main plot.

So, let's talk about the characters a bit. Noboru is played off as a fairly normal high school kid – and it'd work, if he didn't have a house full of foxes, priestesses, and gods eating him out of house and home. As typical for a series like this, rather than being about the business of just being a typical student, Noboru is saddled with things like handling the home budget, worrying about what sort of trouble Kuugen and Kou are getting into, and whether or not he'll make it to the market in time to get the really good sale on meat for tonight's dinner. I know that it's supposed to be part of the humor of the series, but really... where's Noboru's father in this? I know he exists – in fact, he's one of the best 'straight men' I've seen in anime. Any guy that could look a huge, talking golden fox in the eye and give his son permission to keep it in the house without so much as batting an eye – and then go so far as to mildly remind the fox that talking in front of the neighbors would be a bad thing in the same calm tone – deserves respect. So I have to ask, why is it that Noboru has all the responsibilities heaped on him that he has?

Tooru is your basic anime little brother. Y'know, naïve, cute, understanding, and childishly trusting and forgiving. Needless to say, there's not much to talk about there. Seen any series with a kid that's too good natured for his own good? You've met Tooru. He's there as a plot point, even in the episodes where he's technically the focus. Eh, moving on.

You could say that she's trying to be real foxy...

The star of the show, as might be obvious by now, is really Kuugen Tenko. She's a classic example of the 'out of her element' character – I mean, she's been locked up in a stone prison for so long that she can't remember whether she's a she or a he! Kuu is a shape shifter, and freely takes the form of a real bombshell of a babe, or your typical bishounen guy – regardless of the form, she's a hit with the 'opposite' sex. When she gets particularly angry or excited, she has a bad habit of slipping partly back into her fox form – either her ears pop up, or her face goes vulpine, that sort of thing. In a lot of ways, she's really quite childlike – especially when she gets excited about something – and true to her nature mischievous, but as you see develop through the series, when she gives her word, she keeps it, and she is remarkably loyal. More to the point, when Noboru, and especially Tooru are threatened... just get out of her way...

I have one other character to touch on, but I'll do that a little later in the review. For now, I'll turn to the animation, which is pretty solid all around. There's a lot of little details put into the outfit designs for Kuu, Kou, and really all the female characters, which makes for a nice effect in contrast to the standard – and honestly, fairly bland – high school uniforms the guys wear. Animation wise, I wasn't impressed, but I also wasn't disappointed. The work is good and consistent, nothing special, but it got the job done, and done right. I might have liked a bit more work on hair animation – in a series where so many characters have long hair, it becomes more important – but I really don't have anything to complain about.

Hello!

I rather liked the voice acting in this one, folks. Tone and vocal expression was well handled, and the actors sounded like they were enjoying their roles. I've said often enough before, that really counts for a lot when in comes to animation, where you don't have the same range of facial expressions to infer a character's emotional state. Voice actors that enjoy their roles usually result in better carried off characters in general, so it's an easy way to get a high mark from me. On the music side of things, Wagaya was pretty solid. The opening theme is a bit bubbly, but in a good way, I thought. The first ending theme was pretty average, but the second and its dancing chibis was a saccharine-shock inducing bit of awesomeness.

I said I wanted to touch on another character briefly before I closed out the review, and that character is Sakura Misaki, one of the girls at Noboru's school. A girl with a crush on Noboru big enough to blot out the sun. A girl so infatuated with him that the words creepy stalker ease across your mind every time you see her. Now, in and of itself, I wouldn't mind her. She's harmless, and it's your standard anime crush, played up for comedic value. The trouble is, Sakura has a habit of going off into her own little world at the slightest provocation – by slightest, I mean everything from seeing Noboru... period. She's got a wild imagination, and spazes out at every little thing. She drives herself nuts seeing Kuu and Kou hanging around Noboru – and doesn't, I'd add, bother actually asking HIM why they're around. And the worst thing of all? She actually, after twenty six episodes of being completely, totally, and absolutely treated as 'casual friend that happens to be female' without the slightest hint of anything deeper beyond her spaztastic imaginations, thinks she has a chance with him.

Folks... she's not even in the same UNIVERSE that he is, from all evidence in the series.

I mean, how else can I put this? In one of the episodes, she asks him if he thinks she might be a little too heavy. Yes. She asked a GUY that question. Now, every single guy reading this review should know the correct and automatic answer to that question. This is how Noboru sees her... he doesn't even hesitate to, CASUALLY, tell her she could maybe loose a couple pounds. There's no spite at all. It's just his honest opinion... One that NO MAN would EVER voice if there was even the tiniest chance of emotional involvement somewhere down the line. THAT is how little of a shot she has with him, and how much of a waste she is as a character. He ACTUALLY ANSWERED THAT QUESTION HONESTLY. She's meant to be comic relief, and all she ends up being is fucking annoying with her constant spaz attacks and wild imagination. Far too much of the series is spent wasting time with them.

Overall


Three flavors of foxy goodness...

If you set aside Sakura, Wagaya no Oinari-Sama is a pretty damn enjoyable series, though it does have its problems. It takes too long to settle into the main storyline, and has perhaps too many characters to be truly effective. On the other hand, there's good story telling ability to be found in the main plot and the major characters are well fleshed out by the time that the series ends. There's plenty of good material to be found here without having to look too hard to find it, so for that, I give the series pretty high marks. The animation is solid but nothing spectacular, but the voice actors made up for that with a great performance. If you can ignore Sakura – kinda like you really had to ignore Winner in Karin – the series is really quite watchable. Those that liked Wolf and Spice would probably like Wagaya – there's a certain amount of character familiarity between Kuugen and Horo, though of course the two series as completely different animals... so to speak. At the broader cast, I'd say Wagaya is worth looking at the first couple episodes. If you like what you see, keep watching. If not? No harm done.

Additional Info

  • Format: Television
  • Animation: Groovy (+5)
  • Writing: Groovy (+5)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: Groovy (+5)
  • Soundtrack: Groovy (+5)

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