Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi (Ookami-san and Seven Companions)

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Once upon a time there was a series of light novels by Masashi Okita that played around with certain well known fairy tales. Due to a strange twist of fate (or a complete lack of ideas), the series was chosen to be adapted into anime form, and they all lived happily ever after.

Well, not quite.

Directed by Iwasaki Yoshiaki (Gokujou Seitokai, Wagaya no Oinari-sama, Gunbuster, Love Hina), Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi (Ookami-san and her Seven Companions), follows the adventures of Ookami Ryouko and her colleagues from the Otogi Bank as they solve people’s problems, right various wrongs, fight delinquents, and generally act as all round busybodies.

Now where have I heard that before?

The main problem with Ookami-san is that it suffers from the same flaw that almost every novel adaptation has – an inherent lack of detail. That’s not to say that the story doesn’t work as there are plenty of things already in the tale that are interesting enough. The plot, however, is haphazard in its approach, and a number of points never get explained over the course of the series. Because of these two factors, the story never really reaches the level where the viewer can become engrossed, and in all honesty the only reason I finished it was because I was playing “Spot the Fairy Tale”.

As I mentioned before, the franchise plays fast and loose with several well known fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood (complete with wolf and hunter), Momotaro (with dumplings), The Hare and the Tortoise (which was changed to a turtle for some reason), Urashima Tarou, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hansel and Gretel, The Little Match Girl, Puss in Boots, and probably a bunch more. Unfortunately, there’s a side effect to incorporating specific elements of other stories into your own and that’s exactly what happens here.

If one is able to disregard the lack of focus and detail, there’s still the creativity barrier to overcome, and it’s here where the everything falls down. While the story may have some interesting aspects, the usage of fairy tales places quite a heavy dampener on innovation, and it shows in Ookami-san in many ways, from  relationships (Usami Mimi and Ryuuguu Otohime are inclined to hate each for example), to character design.

In all honesty, J.C. Staff have produced a fairly decent looking show for the most part. The animation is generally fluid throughout the series, but there are one or two telltale signs of corner cutting during the fight scenes. The backgrounds and settings are pretty standard fare for anyone familiar with high school anime, and while there are no real feats of originality, there are also very few noticeable flaws. The real problem with the overall look of the show though, is the inherent lack of innovation I mentioned earlier.

This is where it all gets a bit tricky. On the surface the casual viewer may consider the design of certain characters to be quite original, for example Akai Ringo is supposed to be Little Red Riding Hood and this reference is prominent in her clothing throughout the series. Certain other characters follow this design pattern to highlight the fairy tale they are based on, while others are a bit more subtle in their approach. One of the main issues with this approach is that it impacts on the relationships between the characters, and the reason for it may not be obvious at first. Once the viewer understands the reference then everything becomes clear, however Ookami-san only really works on that basis.

One point in the show’s favour is the sound quality, as the effects are fairly well realised and choreographed. Unfortunately, the music isn’t up to the same standards. That’snot to say that it’s bad, no, it’s simply that it’s all been done before.

Here’s what I mean. The OP, “Ready, Go!” by May’n is a boppy J-pop track that doesn’t leave any impact whatsoever. The ED, “Akazukin-chan Goyoujin” (Careful Akazukin-chan), by OToGi 8, is a strange mixture of J-pop and chip tunes that is equally forgettable. The rest of the music throughout the series doesn’t really add much to the atmosphere of a given scene, and the proof of this lies in the numerous occasions where no music is used as there is very little difference in terms of impact.

One of the main sound problems with Ookami-san though, is the narration. There are far too many occasions where the viewer will be trying to pay attention to what the characters are saying, only to have it drowned out by Arai Satomi pretending to bean old time storyteller. As for the acting itself, the seiyuu are generally pretty good, with Itou Shizuka and Itou Kanae playing the roles of Ryouko and Ringo with a degree of aplomb (one does have to wonder if the casting was purposeful though). Irino Miyu gives a respectable performance as the sociophobe and prospective beau Morino Ryoushi, especially when he switches between coward and manly mode.

The rest pf the cast deliver some good all round performances but, like the rest of the series, the lack of originality means that they simply can’t sink their teeth into the roles. The prime example of this is the fact that Ryouko is, yet again, quite literally the “sheep in wolf’s clothing”.

Now I will be honest here. I’m tired of the typical tsundere loli character, and would personally like to see more variety when it comes to characters, and it seems as though Ookami-san has made some efforts to move away from the archetype. There are attempts to justify the persona of each character to a degree, and although the results are a bit of a mixed bag, the fact is that this makes the show more interesting than it would otherwise have been. The series takes great pains to delve into the personal history of its lead characters, and some of the resulting stories are handled rather well.

But that’s all there is to it. Once their stories are told the characters go right back to how they were before, with the only real exceptions being Ryouko and Ryoushi. But that’s not my main gripe where the characters are concerned, no, the real problem here is that there are no reasons or justifications, either in the story or otherwise, for the actions of Hitsujikai Shirou, and the lack of any information leaves the viewer wondering what the hell is going on.

Now, while Ookami-san is a truly great show, it’s not actually that bad on the whole. The series has a number of interesting aspects and relationships, and is entirely watchable as long as you aren’t overly critical about it. Unfortunately, there are occasions where there is simply too much going on at once, and the viewer will find themselves going back over certain scenes in order to fully understand what has occurred.

One thing I did like were the cameos from ToraDora! and Toaru Kagaku no Railgun as, while they may not be my favourite shows, it made the anime into something more of a visual game (spot the reference).

It’s strange how many shows these days are adaptations of other media, and it does make one wonder if anime studios have hit a creative wall. Whatever the case may be, Ookami-san is a decent attempt at adapting a novel series, and while it does have its flaws, the show is entertaining enough for at least one viewing. Granted it may not be everyone’s gingerbread house, but those that like school based romantic comedies won’t find themselves too disappointed.

Now can we please find a different character type as I’m tired of of all the tsundere lolis.

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