The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Wagaya no Oinari-sama

Title: Wagaya no Oinari-sama
Genre: Comedy/Action
Company: ZEXCS
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 7 Apr 2008 – 15 Sep 2008

Synopsis: Takagami Noburu and his younger brother Tooru are members of the Mizuchi family, masters of the Water Ki.  Their late mother, Miyako, was the head family’s last priestess, but she raised her sons uninformed of the nature of the Mizuchi family.  When the head family finds out that a yokai is after Tooru’s life, they decide that they need the help of their guardian fox deity, Tenko Kuugen, who the Mizuchi had sealed away hundreds of years ago.  However, after the way the Mizuchi had treated her, Kuugen isn’t immediately cooperative.

The Highlights
Genre-mixing: A strange mix of numerous genres that somehow works.
Characters: The cast is massive, but the characters that are explored are developed well.
Comedy: Generally amusing, except for Sakura Misaki who is downright hilarious.
Episodic fights: Plague the earlier episodes.

Wagaya no Oinari-sama is a challenging anime to review for a number of reasons.  The big one is that it’s not completely obvious just what it is.  The anime is a mix of a number of different genres that one initially wouldn’t expect to gel: episodic shounen action, slice-of-life comedy/drama, supernatural lore steeped in mythology, and harem romance.  The resulting concoction does occasionally stretch itself thin, but the fact that Wagaya no Oinari-sama manages to avoid the dreaded “identity crisis” is pretty admirable.

Wagaya no Oinari-sama isn’t the clichéd formulaic supernatural action series that is initially hinted at, but elements of it permeate through the early episodes.  While each of these episodes unfortunately ends with a generally tedious battle sequence that almost seems appended on as an afterthought, the first part of the series is redeemable, even enjoyable, mostly because of Kuu and Kou’s fish-out-of-water attempts to adjust to the ordinary world.  Many of the characters introduced early on are a lot of fun, particularly the neurotic Sakura Misaki, whose overactive imagination often takes her to strange and hilarious places.  The cast balloons over the course of the series, and while some characters get much less development than others, the ones that do are shown to be multifaceted and make the most of their limited time in the spotlight.  While the show is essentially about spirits and gods, almost all of these characters are shown to be essentially human; they’re flawed and swayed by their emotions and experiences.  This is what makes them interesting to follow.

Within the rich and atypical mix of genres is a touch of subversion.  Noburu, in high school and surrounded by girls at every turn, many of which are magical, wouldn’t be surprising to see in the middle of a harem.  However, only two of these girls have a romantic interest in him (describing his platonic relationships with either Kuu or Kou isn’t straightforward; either relationship is some unusual conglomerate of friend, pseudo-sibling and master-servant), and while Kuu is clearly the female lead, I’m not even sure I’d nominate Noburu as the primary male character over his much younger brother, Tooru.

With such a large cast, an eclectic feel and a plot consisting of multiple, fragmented arcs, it’s no surprise that the show is sometimes stretched thin.  Numerous side characters go underdeveloped, playing little more than bit roles in the plot, and several interesting themes are brought up (such as the role of modern technology in facilitating mythological rituals) but aren’t explored all that deeply. And while this is my personal preferences talking here, I did want to see Noburu’s love triangle play out to some sort of conclusion.

This isn’t an award winning anime, but it’s far less generic than it initially lets on.  It has its share of minor flaws: Kuu’s childishness can be grating at times and her ability to swap between genders is pretty pointless except for in one instance.  However, while it tries a lot of things, from slice-of-life comedy to action/drama, there’s nothing that it really executes horrendously.  This is an entertaining anime, but every now and then it’s a little more than that.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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