The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Eccentric Family

Title: Eccentric Family aka Uchouten Kazoku
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Company: P.A. Works
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 7 Jul 2013 – 29 Sep 2013

Synopsis: There are three groups that live in Kyoto: humans, tanuki (raccoon-like creatures that can morph into anything they wish), and tengu (bird-like demons who can take on the appearance of humans while retaining the ability to fly). Shimogamo Yasaburou is an easygoing tanuki, the third son of the former leader of the tanuki community, Shimogamo Souichirou, who was killed and eaten by the human-run Friday Club. As the community searches for a new leader, Yasaburou navigates old grudges with his fellow tanuki and draws ever closer to the truth of his father’s demise.

The Highlights
Humor: Yasaburou’s interactions with the remaining cast are generally amusing.
Drama: Develops subtly in the first half, which pays off well in the second half.
Relationships: Family is at the very core of the series.

Family is a common theme in anime. The warmth and familiarity of familial bonds, and the fragile helplessness that results from those bonds being tested and broken, lends itself easily to strong drama and good humor. Eccentric Family is one of those anime that takes that theme and works with it incredibly well.

From the start, there’s a clear sense of how the relationships work in Eccentric Family. Whether it’s the subtle way Yasaburou handles the pride and prickliness of his teacher, Prof. Akadama, or the stiff formality of Yasaburou’s brother, Yaichirou, every interaction clearly defines the characters and their values, colors in the world and sows the seeds for later conflict. This is important, because the first half of Eccentric Family is relatively light on overt conflict. Yasaburou is simultaneously repelled by and attracted to Benten, a mysterious human gifted with a tengu’s powers, and there is some light feuding with the Ebisugawas, the family of the Shimogamo patriarch’s brother, but the real beefs bubble beneath the surface in the beginning.

What keeps Eccentric Family gripping in the first half is that the interactions are intelligent, humorous and often full of heart. When Benten teases Yasaburou, for instance, it’s both charming and threatening, because her expression is always a cool mask. It’s difficult to tell what her angle is; her wit makes the viewer laugh, but there’s a cunning to it that hints at potential danger down the road. There are also the conversations between Yasaburou and his brother, Yajirou, who has taken on the appearance of a frog and lives his days at the bottom of a well. While he’s clearly a good person, there’s a melancholy to Yajirou that sticks. He can be funny in a self-deprecating way, but there’s obviously something that gnaws at him. Nobody spends their days at the bottom of a well because they love life. Eccentric Family builds these questions to answer later on. It demands patience but also earns it by virtue of asking those questions in such an entertaining way.

The series is not always so serious, however. There’s a great deal of pleasant silliness. One episode revolves around an absurd feud between the Shimogamos and their Ebisugawa cousins that culminates in a hilarious mid-air brawl. The Shimogamo matriarch has her moments: the contrast between the tough-talking woman who hangs out at the pool hall and the unconditionally loving mother who dotes on her sons is wonderful. Yasaburou himself is an easygoing slacker, someone who flits around as he pleases and is a likable smart-ass. What’s great about the humor in Eccentric Family is that it develops character and relationships about as well as the subtler, more dramatic moments. That’s what keeps the show moving until the big conflict that dominates the second half of the series. It isn’t simply idle entertainment — everything has a purpose.

Most everything the show builds pays off well in the second half. The big question is who will succeed the Shimogamo patriarch as the leader of the tanuki clans, and the pieces tie into that in interesting and occasionally unexpected ways. The relationships and character work feed directly into the drama and inform it in satisfying ways, culminating in one of the most fun endings of any TV anime in 2013. Eccentric Family is a strong, solidly built story that is well worth anyone’s time.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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