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"Okami-San and her Seven Companions": No Fairies in This Tale

You need help doing something? The Otogi High School Bank is there to help. They’ll do a favor for you, and you’ll just owe them one. Oh, don’t be afraid of the wolf-like girl Ryoko Okami, she’s just a bit rough around the edges, but she’s got a good heart. The little red girl in the hood is a sweetheart as well, but don’t look at the guy with the sharpshooter slingshot too much: he hates the attention. Okami-San and her seven companions are here to help fellow classmates, but these fairy tale-inspired cast and stories also break the doldrums of recent anime releases.

ImageOkami-San And Her Seven Companions is a short series that, smartly, has each episode largely mimic, or reference, fairy tales and other legends; the main three cast members are high school drama versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Hunter, for example. Basically, it’s a uniquely-set action/drama series with a unique audience. The main two girls aren’t bodaciously built, or hyper-sexualized (in fact, it’s commented that they’re under-sexualized), leaving any and all fan service to extra characters … and rather restrained at that. The series doesn’t exactly fit into any particular niche or stereotype; traditionally, boys wouldn’t want to watch a series focusing on a tough girl, and girls wouldn’t want to watch a series that has as much action as this, which tends to be pretty brutal as well.

That’s why this series stands out.

The heart of the series is Okami, and she’s a breath of fresh air in the anime scene. A strong-willed, physically fit, teenage girl who doesn’t take crap from anyone? Wonderfully voiced by Brina Palencia in the dub, Okami may fall a little into the category of “badasses with a soft interior” that characters such as Asuka Langley Sohryu stretched their legs in, but Okami stands out, and it’s a shame that her concentrated awesome is limited to these 12 episodes. Admittedly, a female boxer character just stands out on her own, as it’s a role that’s not often been filled. Unlike Gina Carrano, she keeps slim and slender, to a humorous extent. (The narrator comments that seeing her topless would be “fan disservice”.)

ImageGoing from there, one of the best (and most creative) characters is the narrator, who’s basically the old grandmother telling a story, but is somewhat of a *****. Humorous narrating characters are nothing new, although they might have reached their peak with Arrested Development, and while a character responding to a narrator is nothing new, it works well here: limited, but entertaining.

The plot is mainly episodic, but there’s the occasional advancement of a larger storyline, which mainly focuses on Okami’s dark past coming back to haunt her. A former boyfriend has plans to destroy her life, and it’s up to her friends at the Otogi High School Bank to return the favors they owe to her. The series has enough closure by the penultimate episode, but the finale implies that there could easily be more stories featuring these characters, and nobody would complain. There has to be a near-unlimited supply of fables and fairy tales to adapt, if it means we get more of this boxing battler.

Effectively, FUNimation has a series that stands out above most others.

The company has gotten better with extras, and this set is no slouch. Two commentaries and Japanese promos are steps above the “trailers and creditless op/ed” that they’ve run for years. Admittedly, while the show is available in BluRay/DVD combo set, we’ve only received the DVDs to review, so I can’t comment on the BluRay quality or packaging.

ImageThe animation and voice acting work great, with Okami’s VA being the strongest of the bunch, having the perfect voice for such a tough girl. The animation doesn’t exactly stand out, but is flawless enough that there’s nothing worth noting as a negative, and a few flashback scenes are appropriately stylized to get the intended emotion across.

Okami-San And Her Seven Companions is something of an oddity. It doesn’t pander, it doesn’t have over-the-top mech action, and while the cast is largely female (and not harem-like), its strong story bends any perceivable gender lines. It may fall victim to some tropes at times; Okami having a softer side, and much of the side-cast being stereotypical characters, remind viewers that it’s an anime from the past decade, but a few strong characterizations and unique elements make the series stand on its own as one of the strongest in recent years. Okami-San and her Seven Companions offers a one-two punch of badass storytelling.

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