Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi (Ookami-san and Her Seven Companions)
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: J.C. Staff
Brief Overview: Ookami Ryoko is a spunky high-school girl who belongs to a so-called "fixer club," Otogi High School Bank. She fixes the school's problems with her partner, Akai Ringo, in exchange for help later.
Episode Summary: Ookami Ryoko works for a school association called the Otogi High School Bank, feared for its prowess in accomplishing tasks for the student body. Her most current assignment is to beat up a stalker, which she does soundly, though she suspects that there may have been some interference from some outside force at work to aid her. The Otogi High School Bank is currently on the lookout for another male member, and one (un)lucky kid falls in their lap - Ryoushi, a classmate of Ryoko's who has a major crush on the more forceful girl. His failed confession of love somehow grants him an audience with the secretive organization, and despite Ryoko's protests, they decide to give him a trial run due to his experience having hunted in the rural mountains and learning to stay hidden from his quarry.
The downside to Ryoushi's skill, as it turns out, is that he's deathly afraid of anyone catching a glimpse of him, something that cripples him in most situations. A new job involving the task of keeping a star tennis player from quitting the team due to his injuries almost fails due to Ryoushi's awkwardness in trying to steal his resignation form. Eventually an odd contraption provided by the Otogi Bank's resident inventor, as well as a convenient blindfold, help Ryoushi to break from his shell and aid the organization's client in her goal to rescue her tennis club senpai from a terrible decision.
Thoughts: While reinterpretations of classic Japanese stories aren't entirely unheard-of, using fairy tales (both Western and Eastern) as inspiration for modern anime seems more uncommon, at least within the past few years. Yet 2010 brought us not only Lilpri, a dismal, uninspired magical girl series about a singing idol troupe of classic princess characters, but also this series, which, so far, seems to throw itself more wholeheartedly into its fairy-tale gimmick. What's unfortunate is that, while this episode's evocation of the classic story of Cinderella is quirky and has some strong moments, overall the writing and characterization so far is just too flimsy to do anything effective with the basic premise.
Amusingly enough, much of the publicity leading up to the first episode's broadcast seemed to revolve around the titular character, a hard hitting tsunderekko with a passing resemblance to arguably one of the most iconic characters in recent anime history, Aisaka Taiga of Toradora fame. In spite of having been personally underwhelmed by that series, one thing that I have to give it is that Taiga was a standout character. I didn't like the character one bit; I dislike characters who are defined by their bad attitudes, and the occasional references to her small stature and appearance as "doll-like" really dialed up the creepiness for me. But at the very least it was clear from within an episode or two that she was dealing with a mess of insecurities, even if the source of those feelings wasn't clear yet. Ookami Ryoko, on the other hand, doesn't betray even a hint of potential depth within the first episode. Her attitude is all cranky, all the time, without a hint of inviting mystery to it, as if the creators simply took a few items from the tsundere playbook and forgot to put in any more work towards making her likeable in some way. Ryoushi isn't much better off, his cowardliness and penchant for screwing up serving as no more than a setup for him to get punched in the face by the abusing Ryoko. It's clear where the relationship between the two is going, but it's nowhere near compelling.
Their boring, humorless exchanges are right at home amongst the other comedy (but not comedic) missteps. Much of the episode is narrated, in storybook style, by some sort of grandmother-like narrator. The gimmick fits to some degree and helps to emphasize the show's focus on fairytales, but the narration isn't used well at all. On one hand, it tends to get in the way of on-screen dialog, not a problem if those providing subtitled versions had decided to leave the character conversations at these points unsubtitled, but the reason I bring this up in the first place is because, even in Funimation's official stream of the show, both lines of dialog appear on screen at the same time, and I found it next to impossible to keep everything straight. Also, there's a certain amount of fourth-wall-breaking that goes on and while I appreciate those moments as probably the most successful attempts at humor in the entire episode, the narrator has a preoccupation with pointing out the smallness of Ookami's and Akai's chest sizes. This happens three or four times during the episode, usually with the narrator apologizing to the audience for having to show them such unimpressive sets of breasts, even during a supposed "service" scene (Ryoko in the shower). I'm never a fan of flat chest jokes, they're patently tasteless and every time I'm subjected to watching a show that features them I'm reminded just how terribly small anime creators are making their potential audiences by insulting roughly fifty percent of the potential viewing population. I don't seem to recall nearly the same amount of "small penis jokes" being told in anime, so there's really no need for creators to go this route. Yuck.
One aspect that partially redeems the episode is the surprisingly good battle animation. The few times where Ryoko is really able to engage in battle feature some nicely-choreographed fist-fighting and some above-average character animation. The rest of the episode contains some more subtle character movement to appreciate, and generally goes beyond what you would expect to see in other more throwaway series. One thing that kind of puts a damper on this is that the Hulu stream of the show (the version that Funimation has streaming on their website's video portal) is presented in especially dismal video quality. Some of the series that I've watched there actually look pretty good in spite of their small frame size, House of Five Leaves being a good example. This show, however, looks muddy and lacks a lot of the fine detail that's more apparent in, *cough*, other less legal versions of the episode.
While the show's twisted use of fairy tale imagery and parody may turn out to be more well-executed than it was in episode 1, I have a difficult time believing that it can somehow manage to repair its already-damaged comedic reputation with me. Most of the show's gags are just plain not funny, some jokes even managing to tread into offensive territory. For the many people who may have seen a screenshot or two and might think that they're going to see something on par with Toradora just because Ookami happens to resemble Taiga, this show may turn out to be even more disappointing.
- The fight animation is nice to watch, as is some of the more subtle character animation - nice touches that weren't necessary but help to make things tolerable.
- The narration is cute for a while but then becomes obnoxious and distracting, especially when trying to keep track of the subtitles.
- Flat chest jokes by the narrator cross the line. Cheap and unnecessary.
- The Hulu stream is pretty poor quality.
Recommended? No, there's really nothing special here. While it may have been tolerable enough to become a "maybe," Ryoko's clich� tsundere behavior and some of the trashy humor don't do the show any favors.