Uchouten Kazoku Episode 1 Anime Review

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Along with the swell of my oddly-shaped ears.

Set in Kyoto, we are introduced to the presence of two other types of living beings that live alongside humans – tengu and tanuki. Tengu (avians) are able to fly through the air, though with some training, while tanuki (raccoon dogs) are able to shape-shift. The surprise I got when the girl in sailor uniform above had a male voice should have been recorded down. In case you’re wondering, he is able to control breast size, shrinking them down when he needed to fire an arrow.

We haven’t been introduced to too much of the plot yet, as the anime drops us directly in the middle of the tension between characters without much exposition. I love this style of story-telling, personally, though it does take some time to decipher what is going on. From what I’ve been able to tell, Yasaburou was involved in a plot with Benten and caused his master, to break his back and become unable to fly anymore.

It doesn’t sound like much has happened, but it was still an enjoyable watch. One of the “characters” in this anime is the background. From the crowded, animated streets of the city to the peaceful scenic views of the suburbs, the backgrounds are artfully drawn and are rich with character. Some aged, some new. Busy, empty. Daytime and night to signify time has passed while Yasaburou is still in the same room. Perspective shots are also tossed around like free candy, to help us emphathise with different characters at different times. It is a lot more time-consuming to draw things from an up or down perspective compared to just drawing everything at eye level and slapping some talking heads on it, because the size of the character’s body as it leaves the eye has to be taken into account

Another often over-looked part of an anime is a character’s room. Most are spartan, and at best have one or two interesting objects. But when we step into Yasaburou’s master’s room, we immediately know that he is messy, drinks a lot, hoards stuff, likes busty girls due to the poster he has up in his closet, and eats a lot of takeout food. Just from one shot of his room, we are able to understand the man as a character. And if that wasn’t enough, we also see him throwing things at Yasaburou, and Yasaburou cleaning up after the man. It shows that Yasaburou respects and looks after his teacher a lot, even when that isn’t said out loud, but shown in actions. Interaction with non-essential plot objects in most anime is non-existing. Most of the time, we only see people handling items that are part of their magic equipment or a plot point, like a love token. Here, as a viewer, we are told so many things just from how everyone is interacting with items, even Benten’s elegant finger lingering on a whiskey glass rim.

This immersion into the world with detailed backgrounds helps add to the surreal nature of the anime, where “people” are flying through the sky alongside passer-bys and changing their breast sizes at will. The magic is done so subtly and in such an understated way, that you believe that those are natural parts of the characters. Instead of the flash and bang that accompanies most magical acts, here the magic is gentle and harmonious, even if it is used in rather cheeky ways.

Great first episode, though I am wondering if the beautiful scenery can be kept up for the whole series.

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