Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 9th 2012
Ōkami-san & Her Seven Companions
Blu-Ray + DVD - Complete Series [Limited Edition]
In Otogibana City lies Otogibana Academy, home to the school club Otogi Bank. At the Otogi Bank, students trade favors for favors – want help getting your man? Sure, but at some point in the future, your debt will be called and you'll have to help The Bank in return. Working at the Otogi Bank are an assortment of seven fairy tale-based characters, including Ryoko Ookami, the eponymous Ookami-san, or “Wolf.” Together with her friend Ringo Akai (Little Red Riding Hood) and would-be suitor Ryoshi Morino (the huntsman), Ringo helps others around school and maybe even learns to accept help herself.
Once upon a time someone decided that it would be very funny to put fairy tale characters in contemporary settings and the idea stuck. Ookami-san and her Seven Companions is an entry in that genre, and fortunately for anime fans, it works quite well. Following the adventures of Ryoko Ookami (excellently voiced by Brina Palencia and Shizuka Itou), the story focuses on one of those “helping other students” clubs that populate anime high schools. This one is popularly known as the Otogi Bank, and it trades on favors. As might be surmised from the title, seven other club members complete the main cast – Ringo (Little Red Riding Hood), Ryoshi (the huntsman), Otsu (the crane wife), Otohime and Urashima Taro (from their own folktale), Majolica le Fey (Morgan le Fey) and Alice and Liszt, the ant and the grasshopper. Several of the episodes play out distinct fairy tales from either European or Japanese folklore, and there is an overall Little Red Riding Hood theme that runs through the show, borrowing from two of the tale's three earliest versions. Simply put, fairy tale buffs who pick this up just because of the title should be pretty happy.
Ryoko Ookami herself is a classic tsundere. The story begins with she and Ringo on a job for Otogi Bank when suddenly she hears a voice confess its love for her. That voice belongs to Ryoshi Morino, a boy in their class who has virtually no affect and a fear of being stared at. Ryoko treats him with vicious disdain for much of the show even though she clearly has warm and fuzzy feelings for him (and his dogs). Luckily the fact that she is meant to represent the big bad wolf goes a long way to making this more acceptable than it might otherwise be – after all, wolves aren't known for their loving dispositions. The novelty of pairing the huntsman with the wolf is also good and it adds just the right touch of unusual to go with Ryoko's cookie cutter tsundere personality.
The show's greatest failing is perhaps the way that it tries to throw in a serious subplot about Ryoko's past midway through. Episode six deals strictly with the horrible thing that happened to her, and that and series villain Shiro Hitsujikai (his symbolism may be figured out by the word for “sheep” in his name) make up about a quarter of the episodes. While those who are familiar with the popular theory that “Little Red Riding Hood” is a rape allegory will appreciate what the show is trying to do, it doesn't quite work in an otherwise lighthearted series, and those unfamiliar with the theory will most likely just feel that the show is running off the rails. On that same note, episodes 11 and 12 would have worked better in the opposite order, also bringing the overall show down a bit.
The dub does some significant rewriting in places – totally eliminating a little sister joke in the seventh episode – but for the most part doesn't change any of the overall meanings. To an English speaking audience, the dub is funnier, but voices are very comparable for the most part. Both Ryoshi's English and Japanese voice actors (Joel MacDonald and Miyu Irino) give him a credible earnestness, and Ringo has an acidic sweetness in both versions as well, although Monica Rial sounds an awful lot like she did as Coopa in The Tower of Druaga. A major highlight of the dub, though, is Luci Christian as the narrator. Her “granny voice” is hysterical and her delivery impeccable. In fact, both of the dub commentary tracks feature first the writers and then two of the actresses indulging in some Luci Christian hero worship.
Ookami-san is a very self-aware show, somewhat after the manner of Hayate the Combat Butler, with the characters reacting to the narrator and the narrator apprising us of fan service shots. Loli and maid fetishes are specifically lampooned, as are the bust sizes of Ringo and Ryoko, not to mention the incest genre with Hansel and Gretel. The narrator will occasionally comment that, “This is a flashback to episode two,” or that a character is “obviously a fan of the show.” Episode eight features some cameos from other shows, notably Toradora! and A Certain Scientific Railgun, and Ryoko's “kitty knuckles” boxing gloves bear a definite resemblance to Luna and Artemis.
The animation is above average while not being anything spectacular, with characters getting very flexible all of a sudden during fight scenes. The colors are suitably bright and the apparently customizable school uniform of Otogibana Academy helps to add to the picture book air that show tries to cultivate. The One Off note in terms of art is that the character meant to be Snow White (Shirayuki) is a blond, which is in direct opposition to the source character. Other than that, the show is full of nice artistic touches, such as changes to hairstyles when characters are younger, the fact that Ryoko always sits like a boy, and the rarity with which we see both of Ryoshi's eyes. Add in some theme songs that grow on you whether you want them to or not, and you have an overall high quality production.
While knowing a little bit about the history of “Little Red Riding Hood” and two slightly lesser known tales (“The Crane Wife” and “The Ant and the Grasshopper”) will help to appreciate some of the more serious parts of the show, Ookami-san and her Seven Companions is a fun diversion. At its best when it is being funny, this quirky little show is full of fairy tale and anime references and madcap plots. The first half is definitely stronger than the second, but if you're looking for a good laugh and a little escapism, put on your red hood and pop this in the DVD or Blu-Ray player, and if you don't live happily ever after, you will at least be entertained for a few hours.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Fun and funny, Luci Christian's narrator is like the dirty old granny you may or may not have. Some good fairy tale details and self-referential humor.
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