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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