Transformatively amusing – Gugure! Kokkuri-san

65665Title: Gugure! Kokkuri-san
Format: TV series
Genre: comedy, supernatural
Series Creator: Midori Endo
Series Director: Yoshimasa Hiraike
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: October 5 – December 21, 2014
Reviewed format: high def with fan subs


Synopsis:

Kohina Ichimatsu is an expressionless elementary school girl who lives alone, proclaims herself to be a doll, and eats nothing but instant noodles. One day, she plays the Kokkuri game by herself and summons the fox spirit Kokkuri-san who, upon seeing her unhealthy lifestyle, takes it upon himself to become her guardian and raise her properly. Thus starts Kohina’s new life of being haunted by various unique spirits.


Critique:

Once again, this year has proven that the best anime have been 4koma adaptations, such as Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun, & now Gugure! Kokkuri-san stands a top the list of the best anime series of 2014.

The premise is simple but clever but also tricks you into thinking that it’s going to be worse -in terms of hypersexualisation & fan service- than it really is. Whilst it does rely on a bit of both, it actually twists it around a fair bit into very humorous scenarios. This is seen especially when the titular Kokkuri first appears, panting & flushed when accidentally summoned by Kohina. This is meant to make that think that Kokkuri is a stalking pervert who’s been waiting for the lonely Kohina to summon him so he can devour her, body & soul. Where, in fact, he’s been following her around because of her odd behaviour & habit of referring to herself as a doll, which turns him into her over-protective, yet doting, guardian, who only wants to correct her strangeness so she can have a happy life.
kokkuri-san-10
Unfortunately, due to Kokkuri’s neat-freak & overly controlling nature, this means that he basically becomes a housewife -cooking every meal so Kohina won’t eat nothing but Cup Ramen & cleaning because Kohina doesn’t concern herself with looking after her huge yet strangely empty house.

Like all great 4koma adaptations, the humour is mainly derived from the various characters & their interactions with & reactions to each other. Kokkuri & Kohina more up the core of the series, with much of the perspective being from their point of view, but the ensemble cast is also utterly brilliant -even if they do bring in many of them late in the series.

The other great strength of the 4kmoa format is quick fire & running gags, which Gugure! Kokkuri-san does exceptionally well by being able to hark back to a joke in an earlier episode without making it seem like it’s just telling the same joke again & again like other (mainly American series) tend to do.

The one problem in talking about the jokes themselves & what makes so them funny &/or clever is that it’s like a child dissecting a frog: you don’t really learn anything & the frog dies.

What does make the jokes work however is how they are tailored or based around the various personality quirks & habits of the various characters, with the narrator often adding a little stinging tail to it all at the end.

Such as with the titular Kokkuri, who as mentioned before acts like an overprotective guardian and housewife but he is also exceptionally vain, demanding & prone to hysterics when overwhelmed by various situations or other characters. This often means that other characters, such as the sadistic Inugami, go out of their way to torment Kokkuri over his appearance (such as looking older) or getting him so worked up that his temper explodes & or he goes into an emotional melt down.

The other strong running gag in the series is Kohina’s claims that she’s not human but rather a doll. She talks in a semi-staccato almost robotic tone (another running gag is her getting dolls & robots confused & Kokkuri having to point it out). She is also incapable of smiling; whenever she tries to force a smile her face collapses, terrifying everyone around her. Only when something genuinely makes her happy -such as Kokkuri assuring her that he’ll always be by her side- is she able to show genuine emotion & her depiction changes from a stripped down semi-chibi form to a beautifully animated character.
Gugure-Kokkuri-san-gugure-kokkuri-san-37842385-1920-1080
Kohina’s other running gag is her utter addiction to Cup Ramen (the instant noodles that you cook in the bowl-like container by pouring hot water into it); doing anything in order to collect rare types or eat them without Kokkuri finding out. This usually means some mischievous on her part, such as goading one of the others in the house into distracting Kokkuri. Her desire to eat & obtain Cup Ramen shows a certain moral flexibility on her part but she’s a good girl deep down.

The most interesting aspect of the series though the gender fluidity of the characters. That is: how some of the characters can switch their genders at will. This is one of Inugami’s primary traits, since he/she’s a dog spirit who can’t remember their own gender when they died, so even though he primary has a male form, he changes to a female one whenever the mood takes him. Kokkuri, also being a spirit, has this ability but refuses to use it because he’s a pretty woman who’s good at housework, everyone wants to marry him. Unfortunately, he’s transformed into a woman because of a spell he found in Kohina’s family store house (one basically designed to mess with people). The humour of this situation is that they keep asking him how it feels to be a woman but he still retains his vanity from his male form, so he sticks with is usual beautification routines, but it also explores some ideas of male-female interactions & emotions.

The fem-Kokkuri that laughed a million hentai comics
The fem-Kokkuri that laughed a million hentai comics

There are also random side characters that are constantly drawn to Kohina & Kokkuri’s life. Which include the aforementioned gender-swapping sadistic dog spirit Inugami -who is utterly devoted to Kohina after a single act of kindness during his original life as an abandoned puppy; yet he’ll destroy or torment all who aren’t Kohina, especially Kokkuri who thinks Inugami is a demented pervert trying to seduce a child. They are joined by the shiftless tanuki (racoon dog) spirit Shigaraki, a NEET who was Kokkuri’s former roommate who is after a free place to live -targeting Kohina because she owned a large house but was unaware that Kokkuri already was living there. Shigaraki has a habit of bringing bad luck to houses he dwells in but this is actually from his stealing money to go gambling with, yet he has a soft side, as he often uses his winning to support the orphanage where the children of the homes he destroyed ended up. More whacky characters enter the mix later in the show, such as the doll obsessed cat spirit Tama who keeps stalking & trying to steal Kohina because she believes her to be a possessed doll.

Whilst this show is incredibly funny there are a few let downs & annoyances. Aside from a bit of random fan service, which isn’t so bad compared to other shows, you don’t get any sense of Kohina’s personal history or backstory. Especially she’s living all alone in such a huge house & why she wants to believe that she’s a doll so she doesn’t have to engage in normal human interaction. This is vexing because even if you have Kokkuri’s reasons for wanting to look after Kohina, you don’t know how/why she’s abandoned in the 1st place, which means that you’re still at a distance with the character. The ending is also left open, so there is no resolution for the characters & backstories outside of a token effort to conclude things.

After those few negatives, I’d like to end with one other great positive & that’s how cute the entire series is. Each of the animal spirits has a chibi animal form, with Kokkuri turning into a fluffy golden fox & Inugami turning into a tiny wittle purple dog in a suit! So Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!

cough

At any rate, even if I can’t really talk about the jokes, I can strongly recommend this series as something that is painfully funny to watch as well as being very clever in it’s visual gags. It’s a great series to watch if you are feeling low & just want to see something utterly silly to cheer you up.

fafuru fafuru!!!
fafuru fafuru!!!
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2nd verse, worst then the 1st! – Anime Critique: DATE A LIVE II

Title: DATE A LIVE II Format: TV anime Genre: harem, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, ecchi Series Creator: Koshi Tachibana Series Director: Keitaro Motonaga Studio: Production IMS Series length: 10 episodes Original Airing dates: April 11 to June 13, 2014 Reviewed format: high def download with fansubs


Synopsis:

Thirty years ago a strange phenomenon called a “spacequake” devastated the center of Eurasia, claiming the lives of at least 150 million people. Since then, smaller spacequakes plague the world on an irregular basis. Shido Itsuka, a seemingly ordinary high schooler comes across a mysterious girl at the ground zero of a spacequake and learns from his sister Kotori she is one of the “Spirits” who are the real cause of the spacequakes that occur when they manifest themselves in the world. He also learns that Kotori is the commander of the airship Fraxinus, crewed by the organization Ratatoskr, and is recruited to make use of his mysterious ability to seal the Spirits’ powers thus stopping them from being a threat to mankind. However, there is a catch: to seal a Spirit’s power, he must make her fall in love with him and kiss him.


Review:

Sarcastic w00t! Checklist time again! Play along at home if you want, children!

  •     One male protagonist with hidden power? Check!
  •     Also slightly perverted? Check!
  •     Redeems himself by having a pure heart & protects his friends to the risk of his own life? Che. . .

Actually, screw the list, you can just read my last review.

Date A Live II is another series that I wondered why I bothered watching. Whilst I didn’t review the 1st series, it was decent enough for what it was -that is when it wasn’t objectifying the female characters & playing into adolescent male power/sex fantasies of having a hoard of strong women slavishly devoted to you for no obvious reason then you show a form of decency that is quickly seen as hypocriful (yes, that’s a word that I actually use). The 1st season had some decent jokes, minor interesting characters (such as the masochistic but exceptionally competent 2nd in command) & plot development (the mystery behind the Spirits as well as some of the human characters who were victims of the Spirits) as well as some decent satire on the whole harem & dating sim subgenres. The 2nd season misses all that & adds to all the annoying things that the 1st dig yet still strips everything in terms of plot, pacing & development out. It might be due to there only 10 episodes; everything feels rushed & underdeveloped -leaving you with a sense that you missed a big chunk of story that wasn’t even there in the first place. The central protagonist is still in charge of keeping Spirits such as Tohka & Yoshino in check through exploiting their affection & happiness, he is also tasked with capturing 3 new spirits. Twin/split spirits Kaguya & Yuzuru & aggressively faux-lesbo songstress Miku. At the same time he still fends off the yandere like advances Origami -who is still trying to kill Spirits out of revenge for killing her parents- as well as stop a plot by DEM Industries -who develop all of the anti-Spirit technology & want to turn Tohka evil for some unexplained reason.

What it does have in spades is utterly useless Fan Service, especially cleavage, bikini, maid outfits & bath scenes. But luckily the Loli character is spared such things (she barely appears in this season at all).

The series also carries over some annoying running gags from the 1st series, such as Shido’s female classmates Ai, Mei & Mii -who always complain about Shido’s relationships yet always screw things up for him. Plus, the only thing that the bespectacled Mii says is the word for “Gross”, which was OK when used in context but when it’s the only thing that she says no matter what, it becomes pathetic & annoying. Which is pretty much what the entire series becomes. Rushed yet drawn out, forced yet withholding, pretty yet ugly. So many visual & narrative conflicts, especially around the depictions of the characters. The new Spirit, Miku, suffers worse from this. Her power is to use her voice to control others to do her bidding & she despises all men because she was a human idol who refused to sleep with a TV producer, so her career was utterly trashed. Shido has to disguise himself as a woman in order to gain her confidence so he can seal her power -which is basically making girls fall in love with him so he can kiss them. The crossdressing & voice swap could’ve been used for some clever deconstruction of gender roles but it’s just used to turn Shido into the sexual plaything of the more dominant Miku -who uses women as her personal toys. With this deception Shido almost tricks her into sealing her powers but cracks when Miku goes on about how people are her dolls to use, leading into more pointless conflict, until he proves to her that he’s a good & noble man worth of her love.

The whole device of making women love him so they lose their powers & submit to him (& by extension the organisation that he is forced to work for) reeks of the pathetic Mens’ Rights Movement adage: “Woman are like vending machines. Keep using your kindness tokens until they put out a prize”. Mens’ Rights Movement members are scum & I think that the original author who came up with this conceit is scum as well. Yet I still watched the series, so what does that make me? (Like I want your answer, it’s just a hypothetical ponderance). I honestly can’t even get all that mad with this series, not after watching Seikoku no Dragonar -which utterly took the piss on the hypersexualisation front. What once made it semi-forgivable & interesting is lost in a muddled rush & over sexualised images. It’s not something I recommend nor would I recommend going back to the 1st series or watching the upcoming movie. Those ships have sailed & left in port a huge steaming pile of shite instead of decent entertainment. But, hey, sexual fantasies sell, so the franchise will keep going.date-a-live