Religious mumbo-jumbo and a transsexual fox god – Wagaya no Oinari-sama (我が家のお稲荷さま。) leaves you with 24 episodes to figure out what’s going on, Sundays at 24:00 JST on Chiba TV.
The original light novel series by Shibamura Jin was awarded the 10th Dengeki Novel Prize‘s Gold Prize (2nd), and last year the seven books were joined by a manga adaptation. This will be the third light novel-turned-anime in a short time to feature supernatural canids with human forms, following Spice & Wolf and Kanokon. The director is Iwasaki Yoshiaki, who’s quite the veteran with Love Hina and Zero no Tsukaima (s1) under his belt, while the screenplay is being written by Yoshida Reiko, and this lady has so many shows on her CV that I don’t even know what to pick – there’s ARIA and Kaleido Star and Marimite, but also Canvas2 and Romeo x Juliet.
Two brothers, Takagami Tooru (11) and Takagami Noboru (16), are suddenly called to their late mother Miayko’s family home, after young Tooru has a peculiar dream where a woman asks his name and his great-grandmother (?) reckons he’s in danger. The two boys are informed that their mother belonged to the Mizuchi family, whose priests can control water (one of the five elements), of which Miyako was the last. As youkai feed on this power, the old woman decides to counter their imminent attack by awakening the family’s guardian spirit, a tenko. This turns out to be the powerful fox spirit Kuugen, who doesn’t seem very interested in helping them until it hears they are the children of Miyako. Some old affection stirs within the being, and it is unsealed from its rock prison. When Tooru and Noboru next meet Kuugen, it has taken the shape of a blonde young woman, and at their surprise of its gender, Kuugen explains it has lived so long that it can’t remember if it was born male or female, and can switch if it bothers them. But there’s no time for pleasant chat, as the youkai approaches, and assisted by a water power wielding young miko named Kou employed at the residence, Kuugen battles the intruder.
This anime features yet another incomprehensible HV logo, since it looks about as high definition as my old shoes; maybe it’s this particular broadcast that’s poor. The entire visual style can be described in one word – dull. The character design lacks a unique feel, and the animation by ZEXCS remains simple throughout. The music by Takanashi Yasuharu doesn’t stand out much, but fits the setting. I was hoping for something more out of the voice work when I heard Yukana (CC in Code Geass) was voicing the female version of Kuugen, but the character just isn’t written in a way that grabs me. This season’s popular choice Nakamura Yuuchi (Tomoya in Clannad) is doing the male version, but he won’t show up until next episode. The brothers are played by Mizushima Takahiro (Romeo in Romeo x Juliet) as elder Noboru, and Shimamura Yuu (Luxe in Wings of Rean) as younger Tooru. The most interesting cast member is undoubtedly Hayami Saori (Momoka in Touka Gettan) as the sober Kou, who at a mere 16 years of age is displaying an impressive voice, even singing the ED.
Everyone will indubitably compare Wagaya no Oinari-sama to Spice & Wolf, and I’m no exception. This is where this show instantly stumbles, because Kuugen is nowhere near as charming as Horo was, with the latter’s amazingly written dialogue and delicious accent. Kuugen can’t seem to figure out if it’s a girl or a boy, resulting in something that feels awkward coming out of the relatively cute face of its female appearance. Perhaps it’s unfair to only compare the main characters, but the rest of Wagaya no Oinari-sama holds no appeal at all, excepting the brief comic moment of Kou at the very end of the episode. In addition it’s all wrapped in so much spiritual jargon that it’s impossible to stay fully attentive of what’s being said, and with the likelihood of a monster of the week plot I’m probably skipping the rest. Well, unless it starts showing something of why the books won that award.