A silly and pointless series that tries to shoehorn in plot at the last moment…yet manages to be one of the most fun and entertaining series I’ve seen in the last few years.
What They Say :
Ryoko Okami, the “wolf,” and her BFF Ringo, also known as Little Red Riding Hood, are members of Otogi Bank – a high school club that helps classmates out of grim situations. One day, a meek young man proclaims his love to Ryoko, who does nothing but bite him in return. “You’re much too weak for me,” she huffs. So the boy joins Otogi Bank to prove he has the stuff to protect his beloved – even if it means taking a blow to the head with a lead pipe. He’s no Prince Charming, but will Ryoko allow herself to have her own happily ever after?
Set in English Dolby Surround Sound in both stereo and mono, Japanese in standard 2.0 stereo, I was very impressed with the sound quality when it came to the English dub track – I had to reduce the volume a lot more than my standard set because it really shines through in both languages, even the Japanese track I had to reduce my standard volume. No issues with transition between audio and subtitles, in full screen effort there was a little bit of issues with animation showing blurry when needed to pause so not quite there in terms of that sadly. Audio however is superb.
A 2 disc release, with a very differently drawn style Ryoko on the right hand side (very artistic) to what you see her as in the anime, whilst in the white background you can see faint clips of the show, both discs have the same format, with the selections on the top, choosing between Play All, Episode Selection, Set Up and Extras. Selection process isn’t difficult as per standard either from the menu or from the show, it nicely do a transition from main menu to sub menu unless you pick all which is smooth and nice to look at. Very nice overall and no problems.
There are some small extras on each disc – on Disc 1, we have the Tokyo International Anime Fair Promo Video which for our purposes is an intro video of the characters, location, the plot/confession…all introduced by the show’s best character, the snarky narrator. There is also a promo video which is almost the same, just a lot shorter.
Disc 2 have the original TV Commercials which are 4 short commercials which in total only last a minute, and the clean opening/endings, as well as the US Trailer (basically the promo video from the first disc but in English). Nothing major and all quite short.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Okami-san was another show that I came into absolutely blind with no knowledge of the novel series or the anime prior to this, so I just went in, wondering what I’d get. The series at first seemed very generic, and to be honest, it is. It’s not a harem anime as the lead male only has eyes on one of the girls and has no interest in any of them, and all the other characters have unique personalities – but with it being 12 episodes, it gives us snippets of what everyone is about, rushes over the two main ‘plots’ and ends with silliness.
And I was laughing throughout due to the interactions, the running gags, and of course, that damn narrator.
The nature of the show is one ongoing issue, combined with an episodic setting, which introduces us to more characters or a new scenario for the group to deal with. We are introduced to our lead heroine, Ryoko Okami, a tough girl who is usually in the gym practicing boxing techniques or outside in the streets practicing boxing techniques…on street punks. One of these excursions introduces us to our male lead, a shy boy named Ryoshi Morino, who has a phobia of being stared at, and seems a bit of a stalker-ish type character to our main female. She rejects a confession from him, but Okami’s best friend, a cute little girl named Ringo Akai seems interested to see if this guy can bring out a different side of Ryoko. Thus, she wants him to join a group she is part of, the Otogi Bank, a school club/hire service which hires out their services to anyone who needs them, on the promise that they return the favour at any point, no questions asked. Ryoshi is put on trial to see if he can get accepted by the bank as a way to get closer to Ryoko – it turns out his ‘stalker’ like tendencies are more stealth and not being noticed, which actually leads him to protecting Ryoko when a thug from earlier tries to take revenge. He gets accepted into the group, which brings up the mostly episodic nature of the series.
Each episode for most of the first half and some of the second half, revolves either around one of the characters of the bank, a new job the Otogi bank goes through whilst Ryoko and Ryoshi have to go through being friends, or a combination of both. The Otogi Bank and most of the other minor characters have a fairy tale motif going on, and it leads to some fun stories with some fun characters. The second episode focuses on that Ryoshi can avoid his problem with being stared at by hiding in the dark and actually from a family of hunters, which causes him to be pretty good with a slingshot and making a good team with the boxer Ryoko. Episode 3 gives us an in depth look at the character Otohime, a beautiful girl with a very unique relationship with the bank’s playboy and unwilling/willing (depending) boyfriend of her, Taro – which is actually surprisingly touching as we see how she fell in love with him, a school past (which is nicely rectified in the final episode with that episodes’ character of the day), whilst Episode 4 focuses on the bank’s resident maid Otsu, who is obsessed with repaying back favors due to a surprisingly tragic situation back in her youth. These episodes are fun, but surprisingly in-depth for basically a one episode look on a side character.
The other main plot starts around Episode 5 as we get introduced to the character Shiro of an opposing school, and the hints throughout the remainder of the series suggests that he may have done something rather untoward to Ryoko in the past (the show never explicitedly says it, and he says it jokingly, but Ryoko is rarely afraid, and the suggestion is possibly she was sexually assaulted) however this really doesn’t come full circle until episodes 10 and 11. In between that, most of the episodes are a combination of one day scenarios for the bank and some really good comic moments, combined with some surprising heartwarming moments (the episode involving Ringo both with her friendship with Ryoko, and my favourite episode where she reunited with her stepsister Shirayuki are extremely touching), combined with Ryoshi becoming more dependable and wants to be someone who can be an equal to Ryoko – it doesn’t diminish how much of a badass Ryoko is in general, and whilst cliché with her being a tsundere, it’s still told well and is very sweet at times.
Some of the episodes fall a little flat with the theme of the day – like the episode where a child is looking for a bride, or the one where they force a double date between Ryoko and Ryoshi with a girl who gets a date with someone she likes…the relationship with Ryoko/Ryoshi didn’t really need to be forced as it was working well little by little. When it hits episode 10 and half the bank are kidnapped as well, it again feels very tacked on to bring back Shiro as the villain of the series, because you never really got to know most of the bank characters, and whilst there are hints of each characters identity (like the president’s ability of disguise), as only two of the characters had an episode arc (and Otohime being far more memorable than Otsu), the only real care you get behind is Ryoko. Sure, seeing Otohime’s rival Mimi feel regret when she lures Alice into a trap is nice, but the problem is we knew very little of Alice so it doesn’t really develop well as a plot device. If the show was a pure episode show with comedy and the odd romance development I felt would have worked much better as a show, because the final episode actually is another role of the day, which just stirs up Ryoko’s jealousy more than anything, which just makes it out of place after the final arc.
With that said however, the show itself is extremely fun to watch. The running gags all take a different twist (Otohime dragging Taro, the kitty gloves invented for Ryoko, Ryoshi’s stare of phobia, Ringo’s schemes, etc) and whilst some jokes are quite predictable and they do fall into standard anime clichés (Ryoshi getting misunderstood and punched by Ryoko we’ve seen a million times), it still is overridden by some of the pure comedy done. Especially by the snarky narrator (one of the few times it works better than English, Luci Christian does a WONDERFUL job as a snarky British like narrator) who is worth the price of the show itself – breaking the fourth wall, mocking the fact she has to repeat the same opening over and over, she always interrupts the proceedings to give her thoughts on whatever the scenario is – it’s one of the few shows where this really works well and adds a really funny element to an already funny show.
The main draw aside from that is that the leads are interesting enough – my favourite character outside the narrator is Ringo, a cute little schemer who enjoys teasing Ryoko whilst trying to get her and Ryoshi together. However, she has a sweet side, especially during the Shirayuki episode and we get to see her past – the times it does do serious, the show does well, and Ringo is a lot of fun as well as a bit of a tragic character. Ryoko herself is kind of stereotypical, but she’s still fun in her own way (her love of Ryoshi’s dog’s is adorable), and Ryoshi is interesting because he seems typical for a harem show, but he never loses his love for Ryoko and the show does a good job in developing that at a slow, but steady pace. It showcases how well the two work as a team and that development continues up until the battle with Shiro and the episode at the end when another girl apparently wants to marry him – it is never lost on the viewer.
I think it’s one of the few shows that didn’t really need to try and have a story – the conclusion to the Shiro arc was basically faded away and whilst implies and sequel I haven’t seen any news about one as of yet, so feels more of a cop out. It would have been better if it stuck to its comedy and romance angle, as the romance was developing nicely without it, and the comedy was still fun. A combination of some good leads, a snarky and hilarious narrator, good voice acting in both languages and genuine fun and heartwarming moments, makes this a decent enough series just to enjoy after a hard day’s work.
Plus it has Toradora cameos. That makes it win automatically.
Okami-san is a series that tried too hard when it just needed to stick to what it was good at. That said, what it was good at was very good. As an attempt to do a plot-driven story, it didn’t do that good, and combined with a big cast in just 12 episodes, it wasn’t one for character development. However, focusing on its likeable leads, a fun wall-breaking narrator, and some excellent comedy with a tinge of romance and heartwarming moments, the wolf doesn’t need to gobble up Red Riding Hood to see this is a nice little series. Recommended after a hard day’s work.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 8th, 2013
Running Time: 276 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.