Uchoten Kazoku First Impressions – Japanese Mythological Shapeshifting Raccoon Dogs

[HorribleSubs] Uchouten Kazoku - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.51_[2013.07.07_15.12.50]

Uchoten Kazoku is the one of the few series running that isn’t a sequel of some sort, and it has the added benefit of a main character than can and will change genders.

Been craving an anime about Japanese mythological creatures and spirits? Well Uchoten Kazoku is your go to anime when it comes to a setting about Humans, Tanuki, and Tengu living in “harmony”. Now I was at first skeptical when Donny recommended that I watch this anime, as my inital impression of P.A. Works wasn’t the best, but I do have to say that the visuals are pretty and easy on the eyes. Of course an entry barrier of watching show, for me at least, was that it was about Tanukis. Considering that most of my knowledge of them comes from Nintendo games, I was expecting to miss a few things if it got heavy on the mythology. However the show is primarily about the hijinks of Yasaburo and his affinity for taking the form of a human schoolgirl, which may or may not be the driving motivation of our resident writer McNagah, to watch the show.

donnyDon Don Kun: While there’s been no shortage of shows involving humans interacting with youkai (Natsume Yuujinchou immediately springs to mind), Uchouten Kazoku is told from the perspective of the otherworldly denizens. This gives the show a distinctive type of supernatural feel to it, without feeling overbearing in this regard either. The tanukis and tengus of legend adopt human forms in order to mingle with the humans and live out their lives. With that said, they still have their own cultural norms, as evidenced by Yasaburo being both scolded and ridiculed for adopting a female form.

[HorribleSubs] Uchouten Kazoku - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.45_[2013.07.07_15.22.54]

As I mentioned the visuals before, they are good and I like them, everything looks clean and just all around copacetic. However for the character design, you may notice a similarity to the style of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, which is not that much of a surprise, but it’s rather simple looking in general although this primarily applies to the people in the background.  P.A. Works did a good job of making Kyoto look vibrant and colorful.

donnyDon Don Kun: P.A. Works usually excels in the visual department, though their writing leaves much to be desired. Thankfully, Uchouten Kazoku is in competent hands under acclaimed writer Tomihiko Morimi (The Tatami Galaxy). Once again, he conveys his talents, albeit in a less-pronounced manner with Uchouten’s script. Although this episode was not exactly event driven, the dialogues between the numerous characters contained a multitude of tongue & cheek responses – most of which were in response to Yasaburo’s rebellious breach of Tanuki customs. This lead to the tone of the show feeling quite laid back, but at the same time quirky enough to maintain interest (fitting, considering the title roughly translates to “Eccentric Family”).

Going back to P.A. Works, they did an excellent job on their end with the animation. In stark contrast to their usual palette defined by dynamic lighting and dark tones, Uchouten Kazouku’s vibrant art direction certainly felt more influenced by Morimi’s unique narrative. Many of the interior environments were beautifully detailed – so much that one could even make smaller subtleties such as the peeling wallpaper. On the other hand, the outdoor locales employed some elements of live-action photography with objects such as buildings. As such, each area in Uchouten Kazoku possessed its own distinctive atmosphere, furthering the show’s visual immersion.

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Uchoten Kazoku is a good show to watch when things slow and you just want to relax and watch something that isn’t too intense or dramatic, or features more ribs and abs than a barbecue. Perhaps you may like the concept of gender swapping or Tanukis? What ever your preferences, this show is worth a look.

donnyDon Don Kun: Overall, I was really quite pleased by Uchouten Kazoku. I found the quirky dialogues between the characters to be enjoyable enough, while the art direction and setting added a nice flair to the show. I can see how some audiences may be bored by the lack of events, but I’d definitely encourage those with an open mind to give this one a try.

[HorribleSubs] Uchouten Kazoku - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.39_[2013.07.07_15.10.33]

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