Company: Seven Arcs
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 6 Apr 2006 – 28 Sep 2006
Synopsis: Inukami are fox-like spiritual animals that take the form of cute girls in the human world, and Kawahira Keita comes from a long line of Inukami users. He and his Inukami, Youko, live in his single apartment and take cases involving troublesome spirits and magic. However, the real problem is that Keita is a perverted womanizer, which causes Youko to often get jealous and use her powerful fire spell indiscriminately.
Abusive relationship: Nothing says love like comic violence.
Harem: A gaggle of stereotypes for every taste.
Action: Sloppy animation and boring choreography.
Drama: Jarring, ineffective, and infuriating.
In his seminal book Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, Azuma Hiroki identifies one characteristic of the otaku consumer is the categorization of anime and manga works into discrete elements. A girl with glasses, another with a ponytail, a cute little sister-type; otaku desire a collection of characters that satisfy a checklist of traits. Enter Inukami!, an anime series cobbling together not just characters but genre staples from disparate origins: a tsukkomi-boke romantic relationship, Shinto mythology, magical battles, perverted harem humor, and more. But this pastiche shows the dangers of constructing a story with the database mindset. Including too many clashing ideas with half-hearted effort results an exasperating, frivolous anime that is less than the sum of its parts.
Inukami begins by introducing Keita and Youko, a dysfunctional master-servant pair with romantic overtones. He’s a pervert and she punishes him with comic violence; a set up that was eye-roll worthy in Love Hina, and hardly fares better here. The first couple of episodes follow cases that are filled with naked man bits and wacky homosexual humor. But suddenly and abruptly, no less than 10 more Inukami girls are dumped into the fray, shoving every standard moe archetype into the cast. A maid, tomboy, rich girl, miko, preschooler, twins, and other one-dimensional generic personalities make up this harem, which the series tediously features in consecutive episodes. This awkward turn to a harem dynamic was the first of many jarring tonal shifts Inukami would undergo.
It doesn’t take long for Inukami to make another bizarre transition, as the moe harem antics give way to action-oriented magical fights. The series surely wants these segments to be taken seriously, with obvious effort to build up the supposed dangers and showcase special attacks. Yet I never felt any excitement because the sequences are lamely choreographed and boring. Other times, the anime would sabotage its own tenuously built dramatic tension by making an ill-timed gag or pratfall. In addition to confused direction is the uneven animation. You could make a case that occasional facial distortions are stylistically intended, but there is appalling body proportions and lack of detail and in many shots not close-up. The title compounds its lackluster execution with inconsistent and plain ugly drawings.
But then Inukami changes gears again, foraying into what I dread most from a gag comedy: sudden, manipulative melodrama. One of my biggest pet peeves is a shallow gag show like this one suddenly laying on sappy emotional appeals when it has made no previous attention to making sympathetic characters. The first violation is a filler arc about an evil shinigami, but once it’s over it’s never mentioned again and we can act like it never happened. But the second attempt at drama is much more egregious. Remember the 10-girl harem I mentioned earlier? It’s actually someone else’s harem, a Gary-Stu type dude named Kaoru. He’s acts as a weird secondary main character barely introduced halfway through the series, but becomes the focus in the last stretch. It culminates into a stupefying finale that tries to mesh all of its sloppy and contrived plotlines together, but to no avail as the whole mess seemed to devolve before my very eyes. It’s an embarrassing conclusion where the only solace I could find in the experience is that it had to eventually end.
What else can I say about an anime built of elements I expressly loathe? While never truly offensive, Inukami is an uninspired, spastic, and confused anime. It would have been better served remaining a dumb gag comedy rather than painfully demonstrate that no plot is, after all, better than a bad plot. There is no grand narrative here, just a soulless creator exercise part of Azuma’s postmodern consumerist culture. And that may be the saddest thing of all.
The Rating: 3
Reviewed by: kadian1364