Welcome to issue #7 of Jade Woodruff’s “Life on Anime” column here at Nerd Nation that’s dedicated to reviewing all of the great (and at times, not-so-great) anime titles out there — of which there are many, as most of you reading this already know! — from the perspective of a life-long anime fan.
For this installment, we will be tackling TMS Entertainment/FUNimation’s Gugure! Kokkuri-San – an anime series featuring Japanese folklore and moé undertones based on the 4-panel manga series by Midori Endou.
Here’s the premise:
Kohina Ichimatsu is an elementary school girl who thinks of herself as a doll, dines on ramen noodles, and lives alone. One day, she summons Kokkuri-san, a fox spirit who, after seeing her living conditions, decides to haunt her and ensure that she eats proper meals.
During the Meiji Era in Japan, the game of kokkuri was used as a way to communicate with the spirit world, much like the Ouija board. In the case of Gugure! Kokkuri-san, Kohina uses kokkuri to summon a fox spirit, Kokkuri-san.
Kokkuri-san is determined to help Kohina become a normal girl. He also wants to make good on a promise that he made to her when she was younger. Kohina lives alone and thrives on ramen noodles. It seems like Kohina is abandoned or her parents work abroad. This part of the story was somewhat interesting. By episode six, the plot and mystery vanish. Her reason for behaving like a doll and living alone take a backseat to poor writing and lame jokes.
Kohina is void of personality. It’s really difficult to care about such a boring character.
Instead of progressing plot, a drunkard Tanuki (raccoon) and pedophilic masochistic Inu (dog) spirit join the fray and more boring, overused tropes and jokes are piled onto an already burdensome series. The supporting cast is just as generic as the gags. The humor is unimaginative. Most of the gags have been heard at least a thousand times in other anime.
Promising moments are scarce. In episode five, it felt like it almost found its pace with some fresh humor. But Gugure! doesn’t know when to stop. Within moments of new characters and gags being introduced, they quickly become obnoxious, overstaying their welcome. It just keeps beating the dead horse. Each episode felt like it was at least an hour long because of regurgitated dialogue and distinct lack of anything meaningful happening.
Humor aside, the animation quality was poor. Arms and hands were drawn incorrectly and sometimes out of perspective. Characters pop in and out of animal form without reason. Kokkuri-San and Inu-Gami even walk around the neighborhood with their ears showing and no one says anything. But when they get to the school grounds, Kokkuri-San hides his ears to better fit in. When Inu-Gami arrives at school with his tail and ears, the kids immediately notice them. That aside, Kokkuri-san is animated without a tail unless he’s in his chibi animal form. Inu-Gami always has both ears and tail. This makes no sense. In another episode, Kohina can see other spirits and eventually takes one as a pet. When this plot point resolves (almost touchingly, at that), Tanuki decides to take away her ability to see other spirits as a way of protecting her from feeling sad. This returns the series back to its mundane routine.
I couldn’t help wondering why this wasn’t made into shorts. Other 4-panel manga adaptations like Hetalia have performed decently in that format. With Hetalia, the characters are relatable, likable, and energetic. The silly humor and running gags are used periodically instead of being shoved down the viewer’s throat.
Determined to abide by my “Rule of 6”, I forced myself to watch Gugure! until I met my 6-episode quota. “The Rule of 6″ ensures that I give an anime ample time to introduce cast, plots, and subplots before I write it off after a bad episode or two. Getting to episode six was torture.
It’s hard to say what this series does right. Even so, I could see it being entertaining for some young, female teenagers. Some. With several generically attractive male characters and some cute chibi animals, it could be mildly appealing to a younger audience.
A mixture of repetitive dialogue, mediocre animation and music, and boring characters make this series difficult to recommend. Don’t waste your time.