The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ookami-san

Title: Ookami-san aka Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi aka Okami-san and her Seven Companions
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 1 Jul 2010 – 16 Sep 2010

Synopsis: Ookami Ryouko is a member of the Otogi Academy Student Mutual Assistance Association, or the Otogi Bank for short, a club which gives out loans to fellow students in the currency of miscellaneous favours.  Ookami is at the muscle end of the club, while her best friend, Ringo, forms part of the brains.  The president of the Otogi Bank feels it’d be a good idea to recruit more help, which eventually comes in the form of Morino Ryoushi, an extremely timid classmate of Ookami’s who’s also madly in love with her.

The Highlights
Characters: Shallow at first, but are fleshed out and share a genuine sense of friendship.
Episode: Feature some very creative modern interpretations of fairy tales.
Tone: Confused; occasionally gets surprisingly dark.
Ending: Comes in the penultimate episode; disappointing.

As an anime about a tsundere, it’s fitting that the only way I can describe my relationship with Ookami-san is “love-hate”.  But Ookami-san is more than just an anime that follows a standard tsundere relationship… it’s also a series filled with gimmicks.  Occasionally, they work: the modern interpretations of classic fairy tales are often well executed, especially the one about Snow White.  Just as frequently, they don’t: narration from Arai Satomi is at best superfluous, and at worst, distracting.  It’s an infuriating anime at times, but little glimpses of creativity shine through… I just wish those glimpses were better developed.

Ookami-san is at its best when it focuses on the friendship between the main three characters, Ryoushi, Ringo and the titular character herself.  The three characters start out as gimmicky archetypes, but each of them are developed admirably, especially after the rather touching background story between Ringo and Ookami is revealed about half way through.  One of the surprising things about Ookami-san is just how dark the background stories become at times.  Ookami’s past revolves around an instance of sexual abuse and betrayal, while some of the other characters’ stories involve death, family breakdown, and destitution.  The contrast is stark when yet another episode follows two moe archetypes duking it out in a beauty pageant.

This is one of Ookami-san’s biggest problems: it’s filled with ironic contradictions that don’t really work together.  Ookami’s past itself has enough ambiguity to bring into question just how much sex was involved in her case of sexual abuse.  If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is, and the unresolved mystery at the core of Ookami’s history left me unsure of just who was more confused by the entire ordeal: the audience or the writers.

The show’s attitude towards Ookami’s femininity is also confused.  Ookami is presented as a strong girl with her own underlying weaknesses and insecurities, which isn’t atypical of an anime female lead, but, presented through Ookami’s relationship with Ryoushi, the show doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to celebrate her strength or claim that her weaknesses are innate of her being a girl, and essentially tries to cut it both ways.  Well, shounen anime isn’t generally the first place I go for incisive statements on femininity so I’m willing to let this slide.

What I can’t let slide is the climax, which actually comes in the penultimate episode.  The way the characters are arbitrarily split into a whole heap of disparate, contrived confrontations makes it feel like something out of the ending of a Police Academy movie, but even worse is the fact that hardly anything gets resolved.  The main bad guy goes free and the questions about his relationship with Ookami linger.

Ookami-san could have been a good anime if it managed to figure out exactly what it wanted to be earlier on.  A small handful of episodes are completely pointless and a slightly larger number are mildly entertaining.  There are about three exceptional episodes overall.  Whether this makes it worth watching is up in the air, but it did exceed my expectations.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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