Anime Review: Ookami-san Episodes 4, 5, and 6

(Originally published on Livejournal on 9/4/10)

Anime Review:
Ookami-san Episodes 4, 5, and 6

About The Series: Ookami Ryouko is the member of the ‘Otogi Bank’, an organization at the Otogi Academy that helps other students with special favors or requests in exchange for requesting favors from them. Along with her best-friend Ringo (always dressed like Little Red Riding Hood), she is joined by Ryoushi (who has a paralyzing fear of being looked at and a professed crush on Ookami) and the rest of her friends in the Otogi Bank. Together, they try to solve the problems of their classmates, always seeming to get into trouble themselves along the way.

ep.4 tl;dr review: Otsuu becomes Ryoushi’s personal maid; Otogi Bank teams up to remedy the situation.

Episode 4 Synopsis: Otsuu takes her role as ‘maid’ very seriously, so when Ryoushi saves her from injury by deflecting an errant baseball she throws everything she’s got into becoming his own personal maid. Ryoushi is, of course, horrified by all the attention, yet is too meek to prevent it, so he ends up totally stressed out and without sleep. The other members of the Otogi Bank explain that when Otsuu gets it in her mind that she is indebted to someone, she won’t let the idea go. It all stems from an incident in her childhood when a friend pushed her out of the way of a truck to save her, losing his own life in the process. Ryouko and Ringo head over to Ryoushi’s place to talk with Otsuu, and Ryouko discovers that Ryoushi’s aunt just happens to be a very famous romance novelist that she secretly loves. During dinner, Otsuu collapses from exhaustion, and the Otogi Bank decides they need to solve her current obsession before it spins completely out of control. The next day, they all dress up in maid outfits and spend the day fawning over her, until Otsuu is hopelessly indebted to everyone – and if she tries to return the favors, they’ll just keep piling on the ‘debt’. Otsuu is forced to accept that there are some debts can never (and should never) be returned, especially among friends.

ep.5 tl;dr review: The boys at the Onigashima Academy are getting roudy; Otogi Bank mounts an expedition to confront the school prez.

Episode 5 Synopsis: Momoko is a member of the Otogi Academy student council, and also the second-place winner in the Miss Otogi contest, popular among the male students with her ample assets and no-holds-barred attitude. She also has a request for the Otogi Bank: she wants to confront the class president of the opposing Onigashima Academy because their students are getting a bit out of control. Liszt accepts Momoko’s request, and they all gear up for the major expedition. Momoko and her three Momotaro-inspired followers meet with Ryouko (in a ridiculously-cute battle outfit), Ryouko, Liszt and Tarou at the Onigashima gates for an all-out assault. It’s quite a fight, but in the end Momoko, Ryoushi and Ryouko come face-to-face with the ‘final boss’, Shirou, and deliver their message. Remarkably, Ryouko has a history with Shirou, foreshadowing conflicts yet to come.

ep.6 tl;dr review: Ringo meets Ryouko for the first time in middle school; A friendship is formed despite Ryouko’s protestations.

Episode 6 Synopsis: Sensing Ryouko’s unease over Shirou, Ryoushi asks Ringo about their history. Ringo says it’s not her place to disclose that information, but ends up reminiscing herself about the first time the two of them met, shortly after the “Shirou incident”. Ryouko has just entered the middle school, and was viewed as a scary delinquent without friends. Ringo has to take a school form to her apartment, and when she arrives Ryouko is delirious in bed with a fever. Ringo takes an interest in her, and stays until she awakes, forces Ryouko to accept her help, not taking no for an answer. Over the next few days, Ringo does everything possible to be friendly to Ryouko — who in turn is gruff and dismissive but grudgingly accepting of the attention (tough on the outside, softer on the inside). Ringo finally convinces Ryouko that she is someone she can trust, someone who will always be by her side and believe in her, and the two have been together ever since. Fast-forward to the present, and Ryoushi comes to a similar realization, vowing to Ryouko that he will change and become someone that she can trust and rely upon as well.

My Thoughts: I’m not sure *why* I like this series, so that has led me to thinking: If I can’t think of reasons why I like it, do I really like this show after all? Ookami-san started out as one of the most anticipated shows, but now I am mulling over the idea of dropping it. So, what has happened?

It boils down to one major problem: The Narrator. Previously I have expressed my disdain for the annoying, creaky-voiced off-screen commentary by one of my most-disliked voice actors. Probably what makes it doubly annoying is that it is completely unnecessary. Remember the cinematic version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which was lambasted by fans and critics for the superfluous voice-overs? Same thing here: taking away the narration does not diminish the understanding of the show one little bit.

As an experiment, I tried watching the shows by completely ignoring the narration. As I suspected, about 95% of the narration was completely unneeded, describing events that we could see on screen, or snarky side-comments belittling the characters — it’s like having someone sitting behind you in the movie theater giving a scene-by-scene of what they’re seeing with their opinions tacked on. Very annoying.

But what’s more, it just brought to my attention just how *much* the narrator speaks! I swear, it’s a third or more of the total spoken lines in each episode! I never noticed just how much the narrator spoke before, until I started paying close attention. The answer: A LOT.

And now, because I am focusing on it, I CAN’T UN-FOCUS ON IT. Before, it was a minor side annoyance, now I’m obsessed with it and can’t ignore it no matter how much I try. It’s like a giant red pimple on the nose of a television actress — once you see it, it seems like that’s the ONLY think you can see from that point forward. (Or, for you anime fans out there, perhaps a more apt analogy: A single terrible voice actor in a dubbed show can ruin it, no matter how good it may be. For example, the voice actress of the main character on Angelic Layer, so annoying that you can’t even focus on the plot and story, all you hear is that voice!)

In the *extremely* unlikely event that a U.S. production company that is bringing this show to America happens to be reading this, might I make a modest suggestion: Produce an alternate audio track on the DVD that completely omits the narrator. For the love of god, please.

Can I get past my personal obsession with the narrator, which is ruining the show for me? Dunno yet.

That aside, my other major gripe that I had through the first five episodes they seem to *start* to address in the sixth episode. I was particularly bothered by the shallowness of the main characters. It’s like someone reached into a drawer, pulled out “tsundere character” and slapped it on Ryouko, and took out “wimpy male lead” and slapped it on Ryoushi. Both very standard anime stereotypes that have been used to death over the past several years — and very boring. Want to know how Ryouko is going to react to any given situation? She’ll react just like the dozens of other tsundere characters we’ve seen before. Ho-hum. But with the sixth episode we see a bit of an explanation about the tough shell she’s constructed around herself, and a bit of hope that she’ll be more true to herself. Likewise, Mr. Wimp comes to his own realization about his meekness and vows to change as well — I think we have a game plan. Maybe Ryouko and Ryoushi will stop acting like predictable robots and grow some personality.

Also bugged at first by some of the more ‘fantastical’ elements in the series, like it was about two steps outside of reality. Then again, it is modeled after a “fairy tale” setting, so the story is being told in a fairy tale fashion. Furthermore, Liszt matter-of-factly sets us all straight in the fifth episode about the Otogi Academy’s true purpose. The uberconglomerate Aragami Company controls the Academy (and pretty much the entire town), setting up the Otogi Academy in its own little social bubble set apart from the harsh realities of the outside world, allowing the students wild imaginations run free. (The Onigashima Academy was set in place sort of a control check against this fantasy-like existence.) It’s rather disturbing to see Liszt so calmly describe the students almost as Aragami’s assets and as ‘branded products’, putting a rather dark-shadowed pallor over the carefree student’s activities. But it also helps put the whole show into perspective, allowing for the somewhat unreal tone of the show.

The Verdict:

Up Next: Highschool of the Dead, The Occult Academy, Nurarihyon no Mago, Shiki, Legend of Legendary Heroes

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