What They Say:
In Japan, it is said that if you pray to a deity with sincerity, you will surely feel the divine presence. However, as the successor of the Saeki Inari Shrine, Makoto Saeki can do more than that, since she’s been seeing and speaking with spirits, kami and other messengers of the Gods since her mother’s funeral. Which can be difficult, especially when her classmates can’t know about her latest “issues” with Gintarou, the irritable fox-like Herald who’s protected the Saeki shrine for hundreds of years. But at least Makoto’s father, who runs the shrine, knows that Gintarou is more than an imaginary friend. And between them, the shrine maid and mystical Herald can usually manage to cooperate long enough to help those who need it. However, when a young man with a similar “gift” to Makoto’s arrives with his own shrine and Herald issues, it’s going to take more than just prayers to sort things out. Because if there’s one thing that both human and supernatural can agree on, it’s that the Gods often work in convoluted and mysterious ways. And just because you’re working for a higher power doesn’t mean you always agree with their intentions.
While this disk set is only available in Japanese with subtitles, it is suitable for this series. Within this soundtrack, the school room chatter of Makoto and her friends, the gruff reprimands of Gintarou and the clatter of Haru’s geta upon the cobblestones are intermixed with the serenity of the shrine to produce a wonderful Dolby Digital 2.0 experience. This sound format has been optimised for this collection to resonate the tranquility of the isolated shrine which has been enshrouded within the cacophony of the city and yet, it all balances with the traditional bamboo flute and the enchanting classical musical interludes which bring the whole together.
The beautiful landscape of the Saeki Inari Shrine is used to full effect as the story is encapsulated within the majestic grounds littered by Japanese maple leaves and a dusty courtyard. You can almost smell the atmosphere as it unravels around the characters and paints the screen with a touch of sentimentality – an old temple trying to fight back the encroachment of a modern city. Thus, this revered setting is important to the story as Makoto and Satoru try to live in the present while the weight of the past keeps them grounded in tradition. It is a marvel how the series balances these two elements as they survive in the hustle and bustle of traffic and noisy crowds and still wish to live in the calmness of the shrine grounds. Echoes of the gods serve to keep them sane from the insanity of the future.
Sentai Filmworks has decorated the front of the case with a calming portrait of the Saeki family with Makoto, her father Tatsuo and the herald Gintarou sitting around the steps of the shrine. But the element that brings the most attention is the unusual choice of shades of tangerine orange as the primary colour palette for the DVD. Since this fruit is the favourite of Gintarou, it is appropriate since it links all of the components together; plus the inclusion of a stylised cloud motif brings a heavenly theme to all that it touches. With the inclusion of traditional torii gates to anchor everything together, Sentai lastly stamps super deformed images of Haru and Gin on the disks to add insult to the older herald and to enhance Haru’s cuteness factor. One last laugh before you watch the anime.
While Sentai may have used the same tangerine orange and background cloud motifs as they did on the case to tie things together, the menus of the collection are very basic. The usage of Makoto & Gintarou for one disk’s foreground image then Satoru & Haru for the other may spark your interest, but there is nothing else that interesting; you can play all of the episodes separately and access the Extras section from the base menu, but that is it. Although they did differentiate the cursor by shaping it into a stylised vajra, this symbol is used in Buddhism, not Shinto. Someone should have done their homework before they made this kind of mistake.
It would have been nice to add some historical background about Shinto and a breakdown of the temple and shrines which dot the Japanese landscape since the series revolves around this religion; then also take a little time to introduce how Buddhism is intertwined with this belief system. But instead, Sentai decided to only to give us the textless opening & closing animations and add some trailers for their other acquisitions. Extras are supposed to add to the content of a disk, not subtract from it by just tacking on non-essential materials.
Ever since the death of her mother, Makoto Saeki has inherited the Sight: a gift which allows her to view and communicate with spirits. Being the rightful heir of the Saeki Inari Shrine, she is the only one who can see the messengers of the gods, and this includes the one who oversees her home – a grouchy and ill-tempered fox herald named Gintarou. He has been watching over her since she was four, giving her advice on how to be a better person, but at the same time, this information is heavily salted by off-handed remarks and insults. However, this young miko knows that she has to put up with it since she is the only path through which normal humans may divine with the gods.
As she learns how to deal with this intolerable herald, her father Tatsuo, the head priest who cannot see any spirits, let alone Gin, mentions that they are expecting a new house guest from an affiliated temple named Satoru Kamio. Makoto does not take this well since she has enough trouble dealing with one human male and one male fox spirit … now she’s expected to accept someone else into her home? But, when she then finds out that he also has the Sight and can see Gintarou, this puts her mind at ease; however, her problems have only just started when she sees a small fox spirit is hanging off of him named Haru. She is nothing like the troublemaker at home – this annoying pest is a condescending, shrill braggart who does not let any opportunity pass for berating Makoto; and of course, she will never admit when she does not know anything or whenever she makes a mistake. What else can possibly go wrong?
This anime is not like most melodramas whereby spirits are bound into service to battle baneful ghosts; on the contrary, this series is a delightful and heart-warming story concerning the interaction of modern priests as they interact with the divine messengers; this is appropriate since Shinto can literally be translated into path to the gods. And yet this show takes a different approach whereby the heralds are not treated at the mighty representatives of divinity with the awe and respect due to them. Instead, these beings are regarded more as partners through which their wisdom and knowledge are communicated to those who worship their masters.
And in regards to that relationship, those humans who are blessed with the Sight, are seen in a different aspect than the normal people who cannot see them. It is in this rapport through which the comedy of Gingitsune shines. Since Gin has been observing the Saeki family for hundreds of years and understands them so well (or so he thinks), his exchanges with Makoto are more like a grumpy grandfather talking down to his annoying granddaughter – and with it comes all of the acerbity of an experienced veteran. However, the accord between Haru and Satoru is more like a little sister defending her doting older brother. Since she is a mere eighty years old, the younger fox lacks the experience and she will jump any opportunity to prove herself to her partner and the older messenger. These two opposing viewpoints to the same problems is what makes the anime so enjoyable.
In the end, Gingitsune interweaves the complexity of timeless relationships into the problem that all such divine beings will face: the undeniable tragedy of losing their partner to the cruel ravages of time. As it is so often mentioned in the series, the heralds all see human existence passes by them in the blink of an eye; and yet, they cannot but want to help those who can and cannot see them. It is this nostalgia that brings them to establish a new link to the ones with the Sight, even though they know that their friend will pass too soon. This bittersweet remembrance makes them want to live in the present and savour every minute they have with their chosen one for as with all good things, it will end without realising it. The old and the new can exist together if we wish it to be, and hopefully we will be able to see a sequel of this endearing series in the near future!
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation and Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player