I can hear someone shouting it already: “Not another weird
Yes, another weird Japanese thing.
The anime Okami-san
and her Seven Companions is based on a series of light novels by Masashi
Okita. A light novel, for the record, is
like a novella that’s primarily aimed at middle school and high school
The anime and light novels revolve around a high school
student named Ryoko Okami (note: Okami translates to “wolf”).
She works for the Otogi High School Student
Aid Society, colloquially known as the Otogi Bank.
The way the Otogi Bank works is that students
come to the bank when they need a favor and in return the student will owe a
favor to the bank when they need it.
her duties at the Otogi Bank, Okami often works with her best friend Ringo, a
young girl who always wears a red hood and cape and Ryoshi, a shy boy who has a
serious crush on Okami and is a crack shot with a slingshot.
She also works with a number of other
eccentric characters at the bank.
comes across as a tough girl but she’s also got a softer side that she hides
because of traumatic events of her past. For the record, this is one of those shows where I can't find any free use pictures to post, so here's a link
to all the pictures I can't use.
If I wrote that out right, then you should have at least
picked up on the aspects that allude to “Little Red Riding Hood”. Okami is the wolf, Ringo is Red Riding Hood
and Ryoshi is the hunter (yes, I know that it was actually a woodsman in “Little
Red Riding Hood” as in a tree chopper, but people often seem to confuse
Woodsman with Huntsman which they seem to have done with this show).
Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure how to approach this type
of show. This is unfortunate, seeing as
along with stuff like Grimm and RWBY, I seem to be watching these types
of shows more and more. I’m not even all
that sure what to call it. There’s an
element of parody for sure. However,
there’s also something else that I’m not sure what to call. Is it homage?
Is it pastiche? My vocabulary
Basically, it’s a show that’s made to function on two
levels. There’s the show itself which is
a romantic high school comedy sort of thing about a tough girl who’s not so
tough underneath helping others for her job.
But then, underneath that, there are all sorts of references to European
fairy tales, Japanese fairy tales and Aesop’s Fables.
I mean, the laid back Bank president is clearly the
grasshopper from “The Ant and the Grasshopper” while his super-industrious and
organized assistant is the ant. Bank
flirt Tarou Urashima and his girlfriend Otohime Ryugu are clearly the fisherman
and the turtle princess from the Japanese tale “Urashima-Taro the
Fisherman”. And . . .
And that’s one of my problems with shows like this and it’s
sadly a problem that lies more with the audience than with the show’s
creators. While it’s great if you can
pick up on the underlying references, some people (including myself apparently)
can be a little too dense to pick up on them.
It should be okay if you can’t because of the show’s two layers but if
you can’t and feel you should, you’re going to feel like a real dummling for
not getting it.
Take the character of Otsu Tsurugaya, for instance. She’s a character who works at the Otogi Bank
and spends most of her time cleaning up while dressed as a maid (yes, I know
there’s some weird Japanese-ness there, you’ll have to bear with me). She’s also very fixated on repaying
favors. In one episode, Ryoshi saves
Otsu from an errant baseball. So, Otsu
swears to be his servant and works herself to the point of exhaustion. Then her friends step in to try and help her
break from her “repayment fixation”.
When I first saw this episode I just thought Otsu was a completely
original character and they just decided to create an original story around
her. Then I looked online and found out
that Otsu is based on the crane from the Japanese tale “The Crane Wife”. And it all hit me like a brick. The episode matches with that story on a lot
of levels. That’s the thing though. I know that story. I’ve read that story in both prose and as a
comic (it was one of the tales in the first Storyteller graphic novel). But I simply could not recognize it out of
its usual context.
Don’t get me wrong, there are other stories I recognize
within the show. I recognized the
“Little Red Riding Hood” elements right away.
The first episode has a Cinderella theme that’s easy to pick up. There’s a Momotaro-based episode which is
easy to recognize. I just feel kind of
thick for being a fairy tale blogger who didn’t pick up on any of the other
It’s not a bad show, really.
The idea of the Otogi Bank is an interesting twist on the way good deeds
are often repaid in fairy tales. The
show has kind of a slyly dirty sense of humor, which I don't usually go in for but which works here. For example, the character of Momoko who is
based on Momotaro often makes reference to how she gets followers by use of her
“dumplings” (read as: breasts). Also, whenever
Tarou is being too much of a flirt, his girlfriend drags him away for some sort
of unspecified “activity” and he always resurfaces acting like a perfect
gentleman. The characters are fun. Okami herself, with her tough girl attitude
and soft heart underneath is a good protagonist. It’s especially heart-rending when you find
out about her back story. I won’t give
much away but it features a really dark inversion of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.
The show just has a tendency of making its best assets also
be its biggest flaws. One particular
example is the narrator. Yes, the show
has a narrator. It’s kind of a throwback
to fairy tale anthology shows of the past (think the narrators of Folktales from Japan or Edward Everett
Horton in “Fractured Fairy Tales”).
However, the difference is that this isn’t your typical dutiful storyteller. Instead, the narrator in this show is snarky,
opinionated, prone to editorializing and often a little bit inappropriate. There are moments when the narrator will just
say something so out of line that the characters will actually look straight at
the camera as if they were calling the narrator out on it. It’s hilarious. There’s one problem: the narrator has a
tendency of talking over the characters so you can’t hear them. I’m not sure if this is the case in all
versions or if it’s just the English dub.
But it is so annoying and ruins what was really a fun idea.
I like the show despite its double-edged sword moments.
It might not be for you, though.
Before seeking out the DVD or paying for
episodes on Amazon Instant Video, check out the first
episodes which Funimation
posted for free on their YouTube page.
And if you’re having fun with Okami-san on YouTube, you might as well
check out some of the fun AMVs that fans made of it like this one
and this one
Before I go, I’m also just going to direct you folks to some
articles about fairy tales in anime.
Here’s the Geek and Sundry article
that helped me discover this show.
And here’s another article
because someone retweeted it into my Twitter feed.
There’s some interesting stuff in there.
Until next time, keep looking for that happy ever after.