The Fall 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Konohana Kitan ?
What is this?
Yuzu, a young foxgirl, has always lived alone with Bikuni, but now Bikuni has brought her to work with other foxgirls at Konohanatei, a hot springs inn owned by one of Bikuni's long-time friend. As earnest but somewhat clumsy Yuzu learns the ins and outs of the inn, she also interacts with its five other employees, including the perhaps-too-serious-minded Satsuki and cute little Sakura. As they are making an impression on Yuzu, though, so is she making an impression on them. Konohana Kitan is based on a manga and streams on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 8:00 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
Konohana Kitan is the first premiere of the fall to almost put me to sleep, but weirdly enough, that might be a point in the show's favor. After following Made in Abyss all summer, a show like Konohana Kitan is just the kind of chilled out, feel good slice-of-life show I could get used to. This first episode is literally filled to the brim with cheerful fluff, and the scripting could use some tightening up, but it makes up for a lack of direction with atmosphere and charm to spare.
I'll be up front with you here: I'm already on board for a show detailing the ins and outs of running a traditional onsen, but filling the cast with cute foxgirls sweetens the deal considerably. I could do without the episode's obtrusive fanservice, but otherwise Konohana Kitan fits within My Aesthetic™ nicely, especially when pairing the ditzy Yuzu with the straight-laced Satsuki. The near constant flush of Yuzu's cheeks and Satsuki's tsundere attitude seem to suggest some romantic subtext (or hopefully just plain text), but even if the series sticks with a more platonic direction, the two make for an entertaining and likable pair. Honestly, after getting Yuzu's introduction to Konohanatei out of the way, the story felt sluggish whenever Yuzu and Satsuki weren't onscreen together. The last third of the episode that dealt with Sakura was perhaps the only part of this premiere I didn't enjoy, simply because I didn't feel her chemistry with Yuzu in quite the same way.
I won't pretend that Konohana Kitan is a masterpiece or even anything but a simple slice-of-life show. The humor is more gently amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, and there doesn't seem to be much going on plot-wise, which is the one thing that might keep this series from being a must watch for me, at least for the entire season. As a fun diversion to check in on now and again though, it seems like it'll do just fine. Like a trip to the hot springs in the fall, sometimes you just need to turn off your brain and relax once in a while.
SimulDub Preview: With Konohana Kitan being so rooted in the traditional archetypes of a gentle slice-of-life show, it makes sense that Funimation's English dub would go in the same direction. Lindsay Seidel and Dawn M. Bennett take the reins as Yuzu and Satsuki respectively, and the rest of the cast falls into their roles pretty much exactly as you would expect. Bennett is especially good, doing a great job capturing Satsuki's tsundere qualities without losing the warmth that eventually comes out after being exposed to Yuzu's shenanigans. The only thing to really note about the dub is the looseness of some translations, which capture the spirit of the dialogue well enough but sometimes feel needlessly overstuffed. For instance, a line in the original Japanese is translated as “This is a special privilege”, but in the dub becomes “This is a rare privilege that we're lucky to have”. Another line in the original Japanese has Satsuki thinking to herself “He thinks I'm a kid”, whereas the English has her thinking “Does he think we're that naïve?” The changes aren't egregious, but they do carry subtle shifts in connotation that purists may take issue with and occasionally result in awkward English dialogue. Those wanting to enjoy Konohana Kitan in English will absolutely have a good time, but the Japanese version of the show will likely remain the best way to enjoy the series overall.
It seems every season features roughly one comfy-as-heck slice of life show, a staple food for a very dedicated audience. These shows don't tend to be my thing exactly, but that's not to say they're all the same - there are vast differences in quality between various slice of lifes, and I can certainly recognize an effective production when I see it. Such is definitely the case for Konohana Kitan - mixing mild humor, likable characters, and a beautiful setting, it presents a strong opening case for its world, nailing the whimsical, seductive tone this genre does best.
Konohana Kitan's best features are undoubtedly its setting and mastery of atmosphere. Set at a famed hotel in a fantastical world, its lively city and stately inn feel like real places in minutes. Offhand details like tiny workmen mice running through the city streets give this place a sense of whimsy and depth, while long shots of the inn itself really hammer home the appeal of this place. Narrative choices like focusing on protagonist Yuzu's anxiety as she watches her guardian leave help center us on the lived feelings of these characters, and long sequences of Yuzu exploring the grounds offer constant visual rewards. Konohana Kitan consistently sells its world as a place well worth visiting, a magical escape from the worries of the everyday.
The show's writing is a bit more routine. Yuzu is a nice enough lead, but doesn't really possess much of a distinctive personality. The other inhabitants of the inn fair a bit better, but the rapport between them is more assumed than sold - I can see these characters blushing at each other, but I can't see the root of their mutual fondness. The show's humor is also pretty simple, and leans very heavily on Yuzu's silly faces, but that's more a style choice than an outright fault. And to the show's credit, its mid-act conflict centered on “catching a star” both smartly illustrated its characters’ strengths and worked as a graceful metaphor for the show's emphasis on finding the joy in everything.
Overall, Konohana Kitan's premiere is a solid statement of purpose, offering a world that already feels fleshed out and extremely inviting. Its storytelling so far isn't the most enthralling, but even that demonstrates some clear potential, particularly if the show continues to lean on the fantastical parts of its setting. If you're looking for a slice of life, Konohana Kitan seems like a strong choice.
When I first heard about this one, I imagined an animal person version of Hanasaku Iroha, another series which focused on the day-to-day operation of a traditional onsen. That is partly what you get here, but also partly not. Instead of the more drama-oriented, coming-of-age approach of Iroha, this one opts for a lighter and decidedly cutesier touch. In other words, it's pretty blatantly aiming for a moe appeal and it somewhat succeeds at that. On the downside, that means that the first episode shows little sign that this is ever going to be a compelling series, but if you're looking for something fluffy and relaxing then it looks like this series will work just fine.
Certainly there's nothing special or complex about the cast so far. Yuzu is your standard earnest girl who wonders at everything that is new to her and can innocently charm people with her antics, something which actually proves to the inn's benefit at one point. Dark-haired Satsuki, meanwhile, is the standard serious professional, one who is apparently striving to outdo a sister who works at another inn. That this makes her uptight is hardly a twist, but that her being uptight is actually a detriment when dealing with one customer is a slightly fresher angle, one which suggests that the story will have a “learn from each other” aspect to it. Sakura, meanwhile, seems to exist just to be cute, while pipe-smoking head attendant Kiri seems a little too laid-back for her position. Hard to get a read on the other two girls yet since they aren't shown much.
The more interesting aspects to the series might be the setting and what, exactly, the series is actually aiming for. In the former case, all of the staff are minimalist foxgirls: animal ears and tails but otherwise human. The head matron, though, is full-fur fox. One of the guests is full animal person, but they seem to be living alongside full humans (including Bikuni). The time period is also ambiguous, as the nearby town looks like something out of the 19th century but humans in more modern dress are also shown in the opener. Some more elaboration here would be appreciated. In the latter case, for as much of a moe angle as the series is taking, it has an inordinate share of fan service. One bath scene maybe could have been overlooked, but when you have three of them in the first episode and are relying on obstructions to keep the frontal nudity out of sight in some cases then yeah, you're a fan service title. Their inclusion seems a little odd, though, given that nothing else in the series plays to sex appeal.
In other words, the main issues I see with the series right now are some stylistic inconsistences that hopefully will be resolved in future episodes. There is some room here for character development, and the soft art style results in some pretty visuals, so I'm cautiously optimistic here.
If you're looking for utterly harmless fluff this season, Konohana Kitan has you covered. Sweet and idyllic as all get out, this first episode brings us to the traditional inn Konohanatei with its newest employee, the young kitsune Yuzu. Apparently she's been raised in total isolation with the Buddhist nun Bikuni, so everything, from the amount of people in a city to the proper way to polish floors, is brand new to her. Her sense of open-mouthed wonder can get old if slow, sweet slice-of-life isn't your genre, but the whole thing is just so darn cute it's hard to get worked up about it.
Fortunately for the plot, Yuzu's wide-eyed earnestness is off-set by her relatively large cast of co-workers. While the one we see the most of, Satsuki, is very likely a by-the-book tsundere, the others seem a little less easy to stereotype as of this first episode. Partially this could be because they're all kitsune, or fox spirits. Mythology tells us that kitsune are shape-shifters and tricksters by nature, so taking them at face value isn't always a good idea. Given that the owner of Konohanatei simply looks like a giant red fox in a kimono (and that she may be Satsuki's older sister?), it seems that that the casts' humanoid forms may either be signs of immaturity or a deliberate choice on their parts. Therefore we can't assume anything about their ages – Yuzu looks distinctly younger than Satsuki, but we're told they're agemates, so that means that both Ren and Sakura, who look even younger than Yuzu, aren't necessarily so. How the mythology plays into the story and characters will be interesting to see. The other animal people/yokai we see this week are what I think is a tanuki who, like the owner, maintains his animal form rather than taking on a humanoid appearance (interestingly enough, he's also older than the girls) and a couple of ratmen, both of whom look more rat than man. They're also the focus of one of the best scenes, where the rats come charging towards Yuzu screaming to get out of their way only for the camera to pull back and show us that they're actually rat-sized, not people-sized.
To be perfectly frank, I don't think that there's going to be a whole lot to this story. This episode is just about Yuzu beginning to settle in and how much she throws Satsuki off-track. I would imagine that their budding friendship (or something more) will be a focus of the story, and that that will form the main drive of the plot. Given how pretty this looks, with attractive characters, beautiful traditional architecture, and more sakura petals than you can shake a stick at, just sitting and gazing at the screen is likely to be a chief attraction. I'm more of a plot person myself, but this could be just a soft and soothing way to start your Wednesdays.
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