OP Sequence

OP: 「有頂天人生」 (Uchouten Jinsei) by Milktub

「納涼床の女神」 (Noryo Yuka no Megami)
“Goddess of the Noryo-Yuka”

I wasn’t exactly blown away by Uchouten Kazoku’s introductory episode, but don’t take it the wrong way. I was still captivated by it. Everyone should take note; the potential for an incredible sleeper hit definitely lies here.

Before all this, I was declaring Uchouten Kazoku to be a breakout hit of the season to whomever would hear me out. It’s no surprise, given the incredible pedigree behind the anime; With the typically well-received PA Works helming a bestseller from Tatami Galaxy’s author Tomihiko Morimi, there’s always been a huge potential for success here. Sure, the director’s a fresh face, but the formula was already established for a thematically and artistically exciting show. So you can imagine my surprise when the general hype for this was utterly lukewarm, even after PA Works showed off its tremendously enticing trailer. Maybe now that this first episode has aired, I can understand the reaction a little; Uchouten Kazoku doesn’t exactly blow your mind with a sensational first episode that packs the best of comedy and drama. It opts instead instead for an introduction that lulls us into its world. But like the slow-to-start Tatami Galaxy, the depth of imagination and creativity on display makes watching Uchouten Kazoku a captivating experience, and I have high hopes that it’ll turn out to be one hell of a sleeper hit this lazy summer.

Being a fan of Tatami Galaxy has definitely helped here, since Tomihiko Morimi’s brand of whimsy and surrealism in his stories isn’t exactly the kind of thing that immediately draws people in. And make no mistake, Uchouten Kazoku definitely feels like a Tomihiko Morimi story. His quirky-comical influence is present not just in the premise and setting, but also in how the narrative carries itself, as well as in the light banter between characters. I’ll admit to being a fan of his unique style, and devotees like myself can definitely jump into Uchouten Kazoku heartily, expecting more of the same we got from Tatami Galaxy. But then, there was always that camp that found the tone slightly excessive, maybe even a little self-indulgent. To them, I say take heart; Uchouten Kazoku is noticeably restrained compared to its spiritual predecessor. Both the indulgence in abstract storytelling and quirky comedy feel much more subdued, and to that end, Uchouten Kazoku feels much more accessible –if less unique- a story than Tatami Galaxy ever was.

If anything, it’s symbolic of the kind of story Uchouten Kazoku wants to tell: a more nuanced, subdued story compared to the exaggerated comedy that Tatami Galaxy was. Not to say that the premise wasn’t pretty silly from the start. Take for example Shimogamo Yasaburou (Sakurai Takahiro), our shapeshifting-tanuki protagonist with a penchant to assume the form of the fairer sex. And he’s not the only wacky character in the bunch. But it’s in Yasaburou’s relationship with his old tengu master, Professor Akadama (Umezu Hideyuki), that piqued my interest greatly as I watched this episode. There’s that refreshingly light banter between them as teacher and student, but their relationship obviously goes deeper than that; both are shown to have romantic feelings for Suzuki “Benten” Satomi (Noto Mamiko), a human that has gained the tengu power of flight. All three are purported to be involved in the Demon King Cedar Incident, which seemed to have caused Akadama to break his back and lose his ability of flight. And the incident seemed to have resulted in the atypical master-disciple relationship we see between the two; Yasaburou helps Akadama with his odd requests, silently watches over him, and helps the old tengu back home from his escapades. I’m throwing out one of my favorite buzz phrases again, but I like how there’s a sincere quality to the way their relationship play out, and the conversation in the taxi was especially representative of this; Akadama, noticeably depressed, muses about his lack of the tengu’s flying ability, to which Yasuburou sympathizes and offers a few gentle words. It’s a very natural exchange between the two characters -a result of an excellent script and incredible voice acting- and this compliment can be extended to much of the character dynamics here; the exchange between Yasaburou and Satomi, for example, carries the various nuances -from animosity to intimacy– you’d expect out a complicated history.

As a result of Tomihiko Morimi’s tone, there’s incredible life and vibrancy to the way the show carries itself. To talk about Uchouten Kazoku is to also talk about the thing of beauty that is PA Works’ art and animation. Spectacular art has become a trademark of theirs, and this wasn’t any different here; Kyoto is depicted as a lovely, beautiful city, packed with moving crowds, and full of the flourishes you’ve come to expect from a PA Works production. But perhaps the most surprising aspect for the animation house is that Uchouten Kazoku’s visuals carry with it a touch of whimsy. Their history of animated works generally prioritized photorealism, so I’ve never quite seen them subscribe to such a playful, loose, and incredibly vibrant style of art before. Does it work? Hell yes it does. Honestly, I think it might be the best looking PA Works show to date, if only for how adverse it is to the sterile feeling their art usually gives me. (But then, that’s just my opinion.) It’ll be remiss to not also acknowledge the influence of (in)famous character designer Kumeta Kouji (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Tatami Galaxy) whose original artstyle for the novel have been largely adopted by PA Works.

Maybe the thing I’ve spent way too many words trying to get at is this: there seems to be a lot of genuine heart to Uchouten Kazoku, both in the presentation and in the way it depicts its characters. There was a lot of promise shown in the character dynamics shared between the focal three here, and even then, we’ve hardly been introduced to Yasuburou’s family – only little brother Yashirou (Nakahara Mai) and older brother Yaichirou (Suwabe Junichi). Seeing as how the title itself is literally “Eccentric Family”, I expect a core part of the narrative is going to shine the emotional spotlight on a family drama. If they can carry over that sincerity of these relationships across, we might just be in for a real treat here.

Author’s Notes

As we mentioned in the schedule, I’ll be covering Uchouten Kazoku in Zanibas’s place until he gets back from his…um…what was it again, Stilts? Bigfoot Hunting Expedition? Yup, that. Hope to have a few good weeks with you guys!


ED Sequence

ED: 「ケセラセラ」 (Ke Sera Sera) by fhána



  1. Okay. This was on my watchlist, and now I am totally sold. The animation looks excellent, and the studio apparently has a good track record. I was hoping to see more fantasy creatures, but I trust this show will improve.

  2. I will add what I think is the easiest prediction of the season: this is a title that the blogging “critics” (lostinanime, psgels…) will love to death and the general anime viewing population will largely ignore.

  3. I love the character designs and the animation style that PA Works went with here- it’s quirky and gives the show a lot of charm, definitely one to look forward to every Sunday, that’s for sure.

  4. It goes without saying that P.A. Works never fails to deliver when it comes to creating brilliant animation. The detail that goes into the backgrounds is always something I look forward to seeing with this studio and the bright palette of colors accompanied by such a light and easing soundtrack also helps to accentuate a tone that boasts just how character driven this is looking to be.

  5. https://randomc.net/image/Uchouten%20Kazoku/Uchouten%20Kazoku%20-%20OP%20-%20Large%2002.jpg
    This sums up my opinion of this first episode pretty well.
    The dynamic of the character interaction is much better than in all other shows of this season I have seen so far.
    And then there is the thing about the differences between Yasuborou’s outward appearance (cute schoolgirl) and his inner character (keeps his male voice, drinks and smokes), as well as the difference between actions and their meanings (that kiss felt more like a thread than anything romantic).

    I am also interested in seeing why everyone is scared of Benten to the extend of running away and hiding when she enters a room.

    1. They are probably afraid of her due to being in the “Friday Fellows” a group known for eying tanuki’s I would be afraid of her too. Also I don’t think Benten is human, because she flies for one and if you watch carefully when she kisses Yasaburou when they seperate ice forms, and that’s not in tanuki folk lore so I think she’s definitely hiding something.

  6. I really liked this first ep. Everything seems to flow and blend together quite well, especially the BGM.
    The only thing that bothers me are the characters’ ears. The animation and character designs are great, but the I find the ear design to be very distracting and out of place. They kinda look like Chobits ears, which I’m not a huge fan of.

  7. In a way I want it to be lukewarm in advertisement, so that, unlike Guilty Crown, should it fail to be super perfect, we can still cherish it for its artistic worth, rather than by its visual budget.

  8. Sasuga PA Works!

    Definitely a very nicely animated anime with potential for a good story.

    According to JA wikipedia, the source material only has 1 volume and 7 chapters, not sure how this is going to be paced but I suspect 2 episodes per chapter.

    1. Animes like that will always be slow.
      That’s not a bad thing, but it may not suit your taste.

      If you watched animes like Mahou Tsukai Taisetsu na Koto Sora, House of 5 Leaves, Mitchiko to Hatchin, or any slow, mature animes then there’s no doubt you’re gonna enjoy it.

  9. Having gone to Kyoto multiple times (including once just less than 2 months ago), and it being perhaps my favourite city in the world, the backgrounds in this show really struck a nostalgia chord with me. I suppose being in those locations and feeling the atmosphere of oldern times in several districts (i.e. Gion) all the more brought the story to life. Will definitely be keeping track of this series!

  10. Honestly, I hadn’t seen the PV before this, nor had I seen Tatami Galaxy (or even know any of the staff beforehand) but the show was always on my radar ever since I saw the poster. Imagine my reaction when I discovered a show having that same vibrant, whimsical art style that Spirited Away had, and it was a novel adaptation to boot!

    Also, at the time of this writing, my iTunes playlist (it’s on shuffle, I swear!) started playing the One Summer’s Day track from said movie.

    1. Benten is not a Tengu but a human with high spiritual power. She was taught how to fly like a Tengu by Prof. Akadama.

      Not sure but because of her name, she might be related to the goddess Benten. This would explain why everyone refers to her as Benten-sama.

      1. I was under the impression she was mainly human, but had some tengu blood in her, so no transforming just being able to fly; also her relationship with the professor seems like more of a pervy grandpa and grand daughter rather than a pupil teacher type of thing, that’s the vibe I got at least.

      2. well, when Yasaburou is crawling with the bow he is mumbling “Shichi Fuku Jin” – Seven lucky gods / gods of luck and Benten was one of them. its either the name of that place or he means it in relation with Benten?

        alse Nasu no Yoichi was famous for shooting down some fan from the ship and our hero shots down the Bentens fan, quite funny 🙂

      3. Add that to the fact that the title references Kyoto’s Noryo-Yuka, which I understand correctly was the riverbank featured so prominently in this episode. Uchouten Kazoku is a decidedly Japanese show; there’s a lot of cultural and folklore references in this show that could easily go over my head.

  11. this episode was simply amazing. honestly, i feel like it’s a masterpiece in the making. the overly simplistic artwork put directly in the context of an obviously long and complex character history, outstanding atmosphere, and an interesting setting is really just.. wow. you really get a sense that you’re just dropping into a world that has always been constantly in motion, and i’d like to think that this feat is no simple one to accomplish. i’m really taken in and i just want to know everything that’s happened and that’s going to for those three.

    it’s definitely slow, but intentionally and rightfully so.

  12. This one will be really good too , got 4 anime to watch this season , best season for me!!!!!
    Hope I’m going to have enough time for watch 4 anime shows , some time I have not enough time for 2 and I’m 7 episodes behind from the last season sniff .
    Last season was 2 shows , the titan one and valvrave and the one before was only psycho pass and shin Sekai Yori… YAYYYY

    1. If it’s Tsuritama art you’re after, there’s Gatchaman Crowds this friday, which I’ll be covering as well. Team Tsuritama’s behind that one, so there’s plenty to be hopeful for. 😉

  13. This was almost a total surprise. I expected just light whimsy and got something else. I don’t even know what it is yet but I didn’t expect Benten nor did I expect a sex shifting tanuki on top of a shape shifting one. The sexual tension (and something else) was down right palpable.

  14. This is a well-written review, Asobi — like how you described that “there seems to be a lot of genuine heart to Uchouten Kazoku,” there seems to be a lot of passion and sincerity in your review. To me, this is the best show premiered so far — still awaiting Silver Spoon to rival that. It’s not to say that Zanibas isn’t as good, but it will be a delight to continue reading your review on one of the best shows of the season.

    1. You know us bloggers; we just can’t resist hearing compliments. Thanks a lot, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      I’m eagerly awaiting Silver Soon as well, since I absolutely loved the manga. I’ve a feeling its adaptation can give Uchouten Kazoku a run for its money. It’s a pretty great win for us watchers, having these two amazing character-driven stories to choose from.

  15. Even though the first episode seemed dull, I was somehow captivated by it’s music, dialog and characters. If you ask me, this show has a lot of potential, and I will most likely be watching it.

    1. I forgot to add this:

      Your describtion of the P.A.Works art is exactly the same way I see it Asobi. I’ve always been a fan of their art, this time is not an exception.

      1. The art was what especially surprised me from when I first saw the PV. Look at True Tears, their earliest animation, and work you way up through to their latest RDG. They’re up there in artstyle consistency with Shaft and Kyoto Ani. It’s pretty much the first time I’ve seen PA Works eschew their trademark hyper-realism look for something dramatically different. And I’m loving it.

  16. Benten is a beauty normally I don’t say that about anime girls, but she’s top notch her shift from long haired teen to short-haired business women seemed so realistic that I was just left me in awe, but that scene with the tree was *whistles*

    Now that I got that out of my system I’m really enjoying the main character he looks like he’s what 16-18 and he smoked and drank in the same episode I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before :p I’ve got to say though the scene with his chest and the arrow shocked me I doubt I’ll ever see something like that again :\ And that kiss was so hot and he was in female form to boot.

  17. I really enjoyed this. I’ve always been a big fan of Tanuki(s) in general. With a series that’s full of them this is a real treat. I loved the music and laughed at the comedy parts. Oh and I’m a fan of Mamiko Noto and she does a great job here.

  18. …. I think these kinds of episodes that don’t bang you over the head with action. It makes you examine characters, and what’s going on in their heads and what they may think of others. Of course… it’s weird that this kind of episode is the PILOT, so it’s less comedic, or action-packed, or even dramatic, than I expected. The rest of the show will definitely see more variation in tone, but if this is the kind of tone the WHOLE show will be of, I may get bored. I surely hope not. I found it odd that I couldn’t place an actual plot, but, maybe this is more of a slice-of-life than I thought. We have fantastical creatures living in a modern day society after going through centuries of lives, so it would be a shame that we only get a ton of talking!

  19. I’m a little late beginning this show, but I watched the first episode the other day and read your review today. You really wrote a great review, thank you for all your time that you spent on it. I will be keeping an eye out for your posts from now on.

    I only tried this anime because it’s by P.A. Works, and I’ve always been pretty happy with their animes. Was not disappointed and will definitely catch up.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *