The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
The Eccentric Family 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Eccentric Family 2 ?
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How was the first episode?
Can you believe this little show of all things is getting a sequel? It's a weird but pleasant surprise. While I remember enjoying The Eccentric Family back when I first watched it three years ago, I couldn't remember enough about the details of season one to feel comfortable plowing right into season two, so I spent yesterday revisiting the original series. As it turns out, this show not only deserves a sequel because it's good, but I daresay it almost needed one because of how abruptly season one ended.
Season one's finale packs like two climaxes and a minimum of denouement into twenty minutes, without much time to devote to plot resolutions (who gets the title of Trick Magister now?) or character resolutions (what happens to evil Uncle Ebisugawa?) that result from the madness at the end. There's also more than enough underexplored characters in the middle (lookin' at you, Benten) to fill out another season, so by the end of my revisit, I was not only excited for more Eccentric Family, I was surprisingly relieved. Understandably, a significant chunk of time in this new premiere is devoted to resolving the fallout from season one. Uncle Ebisugawa has apparently been banished, his sons are still as terrible as ever but mostly harmless without his destructive influence, and the election for Trick Magister has been put on hold. I'm happy with all these choices, since the end of season one almost seemed to imply that the Yasaburo family would just forgive the Ebisugawas, which would be hard to swallow given the number of attempted murders (one successful) their uncle arranged. At the same time, just handing the crown over to Yaichiro doesn't seem right either, since he clearly still has a lot to learn about being a leader. Developing these ideas over the course of another season was a good call.
That's not to say this season will revolve primarily around tanuki politics. Fans of Benten will probably be intrigued by the immediate increased attention on the tengu side of the story, as Akadama's unusually aristocratic son sails into town for an antagonistic reunion with his now-decrepit father. I'm not a fan of Akadama myself (he's an alcoholic perverted child kidnapper at best), so I can't wait to see what his estranged son can offer us on their screwed-up family dynamic and how it changed once Benten entered the picture. It's a solid new storyline loaded with promise, and the production design and animation look slightly better than they did for season one, so if you remember all the important bits and bobs from season one, this looks to be a faithful continuation of Tomihiko Morimi's uniquely charming story.
Oh Eccentric Family, I've missed you so. The first season of The Eccentric Family stands as one of my all-time favorite shows, a beautiful and heartfelt exploration of the meaning of family and the difficulty of finding your own place in the world. Based on a novel by the tremendous Tomihiko Morimi (the same author responsible for The Tatami Galaxy) and adapted into a gorgeous celebration of Kyoto and the people who live in it, The Eccentric Family seasoned its thoughtful meditations on love and loss with astonishing fantastical moments. I can still vividly recall scenes like Yasaburo watching his crush Benten pull on a whale's tail, or the whole family rising in a teahouse above the Kyoto skyline. The show was truly a wonder.
So far, The Eccentric Family's sequel seems to have a fine grasp on the show's underlying strengths. The replacement of series composer Shotarou Suga with his longtime collaborator Ryou Higaki doesn't seem to have disrupted the series' talent for naturalistic storytelling. This premiere bounces lightly through idle events in Yasaburo's recent life while quietly establishing a solid dramatic framework. Nothing is directly explained, but much is inferrable, leaving us with a clear picture of the modern tanuki-tengu political situation and a number of seeds for future conflict. The warm relationships between Yasaburo and his various brothers are again a joy to witness, as shifting events prompt different sides of their nuanced bonds into the spotlight. Yasaburo banters idly about Yaichiro's ambitions, but always supports him when it counts. Yaichiro is tough on his brother's work ethic, but reveals their closeness even through his unguarded snark. The Eccentric Family's cast don't feel like characters filling roles, they feel like people doing their best to love each other.
I was worried that P.A. Works handling both this and Sakura Quest at once would have a negative impact on Eccentric Family's execution, but so far the show is as visually striking as ever. There are moments when the show's style of painted photography backgrounds results in a somewhat flat effect, but most of the backgrounds are still beautiful in their own right. It's not surprising to me that the original Eccentric Family was appointed as a Kyoto tourism ambassador. The city looks absolutely gorgeous through the show's eyes, and even just this first episode sees us traveling from the shaded hilltops to the downtown markets, riverside restaurants, and beyond. The Eccentric Family's excellent character acting also makes a welcome return, breathing life into small exchanges between Yasaburo and his companions. The show's animation isn't fully consistent, but it's used very well. There's a sense of weight and character to the ways the different members of the cast compose themselves; Yasaburo's worldview is clear in his loosely dangling limbs, while Yaichiro carries himself with nervous pride at all times.
Overall, this is a fine homecoming for a fantastic show. This episode didn't offer any of the transcendent peaks that the first season managed, but it nailed the Eccentric Family fundamentals, and I'm already excited to see where Akadama's son takes the story next. It is wonderful to have The Eccentric Family back.
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