Uchouten Kazoku – 01

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In Kyoto, humans inhabit the city, tanuki crawl on the earth, and tengu fly through the sky. Shimogamo Yasaburou is a Tanuki who can transform to many human forms, including a high school girl. In this form, he visits his mentor and teacher, Professor Akadama, a tengu, who also taught a girl, Suzuki Satomi AKA Benten, how to fly. Yasaburou delivers a love letter from Akadama to Benten while she’s having a friday out on the town. Yasaburou and Benten have a drink and discuss the professor, whom Benten meets up with later in the night, then checks on him while he’s sleeping.

And now for something completely different…from P.A. Works, that is. Not that we should be surprised; from the by-the-numbers action of Canaan to the otherworldly Angel Beats! to lovely romance-tinged slice-of-life of Hanasaku Iroha to the somewhat disappointing Tari Tari to the stunningly tense, moody, bloody Another, the studio is every bit the chameleon our protagonist Shimogamo Yasaburou is. Without any explanation other than “he can,” he spends the whole episode, save a flashback, as a young high school girl. If nothing else, it’s quite strange seeing him in this form as he smokes hangs out in underground bars and gets drunk.

The point of the human get-up is that he’s trying to live his tanuki life to the fullest, and for him, that means simply living an interesting life. His older brother clearly doesn’t approve, as the Shimogamo family carries a long and venerable history and big things are always expected of its members, but Yasaburou’s more zen-like lifestyle. The Kyoto he inhabits is lush, gorgeous, and richly detailed. We’ve come to expect superb beginnings from many P.A. Works. We’re looking forward to watching more of Yasaburou, Akadama and Benten as they navigate the blurred spaces between tanuki, tengu and human.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Yasaburou’s older bro may not like what he’s up to, but his younger brother seems more okay with it.
  • The episode’s title is “The Goddess of Noryoyuka”, likely referring to Benten (the goddess) and Kyoto’s string of connected restaurant decks (the noryo yuka) where she entertains men on Friday evenings.
  • Benten is a hard nut to crack right out of the gate; the flashback shows a friendly, excited, possibly naive girl; the present Benten seems more world-weary. But to be able to fly from building to building? Pretty damn sweet.
  • While having a drink (in an awesome bar, by the way) a “demon king cedar incident” is brought up, one that cost the professor his ability to fly. Both seem guilty about it.

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Blood Lad – 01

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Charlie Staz Blood is a territory leader in the Demon World descended from vampires who loves manga, anime, and games from the human world. When a human girl, Yanagi Fuyumi, stumbles into his territory, he has his lieutenant Deku send her to him at once, and showers her with attention, even shrugging off an enemy challenge. When Yanagi herself suggests he deal with the enemy, he realizes he likes her and will do anything for her. After defeating the enemy, he returns to find she’s been eaten by a plant, with only her uniform and a skeleton remaining.

Just then, Yanagi appears naked in his bed, marked as a ghost. Staz vows to bring her back to life, and searches manga for the answer. She suggests they visit the spot where she first crossed over, a “black curtain” that leads to the human world. After sending her to Mamejirou and Saty to clear her for travel, and hires Mimic Yoshida, who can assume the form of anyone, to serve as his body double while he’s gone, Staz and Yanagi prepare to cross over to the human world.

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Soul Eater. Ao no Exorcist. Accel World. All deal with other worlds and are all big, bold, and showy, and so is Blood Lad. It’s animation is really nothing special but the colors are fantastic; it’s a vivid, fun thing to watch and that goes a long way for us. But of all those series we listed, it’s also the least serious, at least so far. The nearly constant levity could have been jarring, but isn’t. It indirectly spoofs those more serious series while surging along with its story very swiftly and confidently.

Staz is not the brightest bulb but he’s neither bland not boring. As for the girl, while we can understand her novelty from Staz’s perspective, she came off as pretty weak, helpless, and passive. That said, both the OP and ED (and a short moment in the episode) show a girl who may well be her opposite in every way; perhaps they’ll complement each other later on. We’ll also see whether Staz can really restore her life, or if her current situation becomes the new normal, and the demon world her new home.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)