The Summer 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs
How would you rate episode 1 of
Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs ?
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How was the first episode?
I wasn't planning on using the phrase “charmingly old-fashioned” in my preview of Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs, but here we are anyway. In many ways, this series goes back to the roots of the harem comedy genre: take a relatively good-natured guy and a cute girl, stick them in a house with a surplus of other cute girls, and let the mayhem and fanservice ensue. It's not usually a formula that lends itself to especially deep or clever shows, but this premiere manages to play up the strengths of the genre while minimizing its weaknesses as much as it can.
The key selling point here is that both ghost girl Yuuna and exorcist boy Fuyuzora are immediately likable protagonists, and there's some good chemistry between them. That's not a huge surprise in Yuuna's case; any decent harem comedy will go out of its way to give the main heroine as much charisma as possible. She falls into the “friendly but scatterbrained” category of moe anime girls, and some decent writing goes a long way towards making her personality endearing instead of annoying. Fuyuzora is more of a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. By harem hero standards, he's a treasure trove of personality and backstory. His exorcist occupation also creates an interesting dilemma for the two of them: the long-term goal here is to help Yuuna move on to the next life before her ghostly state turns her evil, but spending time together will likely make both characters reluctant to part ways. That's a solid little story premise there, and it has the potential to create some dramatic moments later on in the series.
The rest of the cast is significantly more forgettable, at least for now. With most of this episode's screen time devoted to the lead duo, the other ladies of Yuragi Inn don't get much of a chance to make an impression. Ninja girl Sagiri comes off the worst from the situation, with nearly all of her dialogue spent promising to beat the crap out of anyone who doesn't measure up to her moral code. I imagine there must be more to her and the rest of the supporting cast than what we've seen so far, but at the moment they seem an awful lot like stock characters.
As far as fanservice goes, it's a major component of the show, but it generally manages to walk the line between sexy and sleazy. Most of the raunchy stuff is played at least partially for comedy, and any naughty bits are covered up with copious amounts of steam (which I assume will be removed to some extent in the home video version). Above all else, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs just seems to be good as what it does, even if it's been done countless times before. If you're looking for a well-presented fanservice show, this may be the season's best bet.
While it wasn't one of my most anticipated series, I was looking forward to Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs because I enjoyed the first volume of the manga. The anime adaptation thereof isn't quite as good, but it's still a decently fun time in the vein of older fanservice shows, the kind where the guy gets the snot slapped out of him for perceived infractions that aren't actually his fault. That's my least favorite part of this episode, although more in terms of the way the trope is used for Sagiri's character than Yuuna's. Yuuna has more of a knee-jerk reaction but then thinks about it and realizes that hero Fuyuzora didn't mean to do whatever he did; Sagiri just assumes the worst and keeps on thinking it. That's part and parcel of her entire character, however: Sagiri's the “girl with a sword and a code” of this particular harem, and her actions are well within the realm of that particular trope.
In some ways this really is a very standard harem in its make-up, and the first episode doesn't do much to mess with the overall formula. We've got Sagiri, busty under-clothed lush Nonko, loli Chitose, and catlike Yaya to round out Yuuna's innocent vixen. Manga readers will already know that there's more going on here (and the opening theme provides a few clues), but essentially at this point it feels a bit like Love Hina with a slightly supernatural angle. The fact that Yuuna is a ghost Fuyuzora is supposed to exorcise does actually make up the episode's actual plot, and that's fairly well executed. While we don't know much about what happened to Yuuna (as in how or when she died), we do know that Fuyuzora was born with spiritual powers that got him shunted from relative to relative until he eventually ended up on the streets. He eventually learned how to punch ghosts and spirits as a form of exorcism, and that's how he landed at Yuragi Inn. But now that he's gotten to know Yuuna a little, the idea of punching her into heaven really isn't appealing.
There's an interesting conflict that's setting up there. Yuuna does need to pass on to the afterlife, because if she sticks around on Earth too long, she'll become an evil spirit and wind up in hell. Fuyuzora knows that, and he really doesn't want it to happen, which means that he needs to exorcise her. But he also likes Yuuna as a person, and reservations about punching a girl aside, he doesn't want to see her go yet. Of course, he doesn't want her to go to hell either, and the longer she sticks around, the more attached to her he'll become. It's a sticky situation and one that sets up an overarching plot that has room for interesting development, even as other ladies line up for their chance at Fuyuzora's heart.
My chief concern with this adaptation was the way that the manga's copious fanservice would be handled. The answer is “lots of opaque steam,” which admittedly could be a lot worse. It is distracting and annoying, but it also isn't too out of place in a series set in a hot spring, so it feels like an okay compromise. There's still plenty of other fanservice, mostly Yuuna and Nonko's breasts, although there's also one shot of Fuyuzora, but it doesn't feel obtrusive or shoehorned in. Basically this is how a fanservice show should work (censoring aside): it's a draw, but it doesn't distract or take away from the story.
Let's get the most pressing matter out of the way up front: this series is an unabashed fanservice-driven harem. Even its opener makes this clear, with Yuuna's normal apparel showing off generous cleavage, and boob, butt, and panty shots abound throughout the episode. Some appreciation for (or at least tolerance of) prurient fanservice is required to get through the episode, but what sets this one apart from many other series of its type is that there's enough worthwhile story to justify putting up with the copious fanservice even if it isn't normally your thing.
That's because Yuuna has a fresh-faced appeal that goes well beyond her sexy character design. Her personality is fairly typical, the antics she engages in are predictable, and her interactions with Fuyuzora are practically a textbook romantic comedy scenario. However, a combination of writing and a spot-on vocal performance by relative newcomer Miyuri Shimabukuro (who is also voicing Nagisa in Hanebad!, Narumi in Harukana Receive, and Shoop in Music Girls) makes her radiate a cloying degree of moe appeal, so it's immediately obvious why Fuyuzora decides to help her. Even the rampant fanservice and typical romantic comedy hijinks can't detract from how sweet and heartwarming the relationship forming between her and Fuyuzora comes off, and a scene in the middle of the episode where the two are talking while in their respective futons cements that connection.
The other all-female denizens of Yuragi Inn show little sign of being anything beyond the normal motley assembly of housemates. The manager seems overly young for the job, the blonde woman is your classic busty drunkard who always flaunts her assets, the petite girl with the cat ear hoodie likes to snuggle in warm places (even if it's Fuyuzora's futon), and the brunette is both the morally-driven one and perhaps some kind of ninja? I'm not expecting anything new from that lot, but the Yuuna/Fuyuzora connection is strong enough that they only need to be minor complements to the ensemble. The artistic and technical efforts are definitely nothing special; visually I'd put this series in the lower half of this season's debuts.
Still, the first episode does what it needs to do to lock in fanservice and romantic comedy aficionados and maybe even draw in audiences beyond that. Don't skip it just because of the prurient content; it may surprise you.
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