Okami-san and Her Seven Companions (Blu-Ray/DVD) Review
Before I start, let me get something straight: I wanted to like Okamisan and Her Seven Companions, I really did. With Yoshiaki Iwasaki, one of the creative directors of Love Hina, at the helm and J.C. Staff, who animated Toradora! as well as the Shakugan no Shana series, producing the series, Okamisan and Her Seven Companions couldn't possibly have failed me.
It is a harem anime, pure and simple, which is one of the easiest genres to create, in my opinion. Throw in your obligatory lovable loser, elite love interest, and swimsuit hijinks and you pretty much have the genre in a nutshell. However, just like someone who misjudges a potential date from the internet because they get over excited about their profile, I had an overabundance of preconceived notions that all turned into one huge ball of disappointment. What I thought was full of promise has me now nitpicking its every flaw thanks to the way that the series ends and the lack of potential for a second season.
Before this develops into a full-blown rant, let's get you caught up on the gist of the series. Revolving around the protagonist Ryoshi Morino, whose sudden affection for the titular character Ryoko Okami leads to his coming of age, Ryoshi suddenly finds himself as a member of the so-called "trading" club, the Otogi High School Bank. This club consists of nine characters who try to solve their clients' problems in exchange for future help. While each member is full of stereotypical harem clichés, such as the emotionless tsundere and the eccentric magician, the most intriguing aspect of the characters is that each of them is based off of characters from fairy tales such as "The Tortoise and the Hare" as well as Japanese folklore such as the crane from "Tsure no Ongaeshi."
Unfortunately, novelty can take a series only so far as Okamisan and Her Seven Companions meanders into a self-created mess. At a mere twelve episodes, it struggles to find a balance between character development and parodying individual fairy tales. The first few episodes introduce us to Ryoko, Ryoshi, and Little Red Riding Hood based Ringo while they attempt to solve problems for clients. For example, the first episode consists of them helping their client Kakari Haibara by preventing her senpai, Akihiro Oji, from quitting the tennis club. Just like Cinderella, Akihiro attempts to look for the girl who lost her shoe after Kakari kicks him in his face. The connection to the tale of Cinderella is interesting, but not very engaging or clever.
This is easily the series' greatest strength and the height of its entertainment value, but like I said before, this is also its greatest weakness. The main trio and their interrelations are based off of the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, which is cohesive enough of an idea, but the series concludes with a lot of unresolved storylines. From Okami-san's history between her and her former lover to how she became the figurative "wolf" to the progression of her relationship between Ryoshi, the "hunter," a lot of things are presented in the series never reach a proper conclusion. I was left with the feeling that I wasted my time watching the series because the characters and plot never develop past episode two.
While this can be attributed to the fact that the series and novel are both ongoing in Japan, a second season is really needed to flesh out everything as there's just simply too much left on the table for anyone to be satisfied with the conclusion. Unfortunately, we have not heard anything regarding a possible sequel since the series finished its original run in late 2010, and thus it really becomes hard to recommend the series despite decent voice acting from Shizuka Ito and Miyu Irino.
As decent as the voice actors and subtitles are, however, it's still a struggle to follow the flow of dialogue at times thanks to the ever-present and ever-annoying omnipotent narrator who tends to talk over everyone. I found myself having to replay certain scenes on more than one occasion as there was simply too much going on at one time. Although I can appreciate the fact that the director added this in order to attempt a unique flair to the series, it often distracts more than it adds which ruins the presentation.
Extras-wise, the series interestingly enough has two full episodes of hilarious commentary for episodes one and six; a rarity for English anime. Aside from that, it consists of your typical FUNimation extras such as the textless opening, "Ready, Go!" from May'n to the 8-bit inspired ending theme, "Akazukin-chan Goyoujin" from OToGi8. Although, just a word of precaution, I found the ending to be highly annoying and skipped it every episode. Thankfully, using the magic of the forward button on my remote, I didn't bypass the epilogues at the end of each episode. Kudos to FUNimation for that, as they were often quite funny and somewhat meaningful, tying a bow around each episode.
At its current MSRP, Okamisan and Her Seven Companions is really hard to recommend due to how incomplete the series really is even though it's packaged with a lovely mouse pad. Although there's some entertainment to be had with its cast and decent production values, unless you're the type who doesn't mind not having definitive conclusions you will more than likely want to stay away from this series until we receive a second season, if ever. Except for that masochistic sort of group, it's best to hit the "ignore" button and move on to the next suitor. After all, there's plenty of yummier fish in the harem sea.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher
Images copyrighted:FUNimation/Bandai Visual, Kinema Citrus