by Amy McNulty,
A man tells his love that he'll come home as quickly as he can, and promises to call her name the moment he returns. The woman says she'll wait for him under a maple tree. "Every time I think of you," she says, waiting for what feels like forever, "the leaves turn red." Cue the beautiful music as a gentle wind blows through her hair and rustles the crimson leaves.
No, it's not the setup of a tragic love story, and we never discover the details of why the man left or exactly how long the woman waited. That's not important, nor would it be appropriate for a series like Gugure! Kokkuri-san. Episode 10 is another episode-length story, and it manages to tug at the heartstrings without asking viewers to check their sense of humor at the door. Kokkuri and Kohina make their way across the mountains for a supermarket sale (these intrepid cheapskates will go to any lengths to save five Yen On instant noodles) and meet a kimono-clad woman named Kureha, who sits under a red-leafed maple tree in the middle of winter.
Kureha explains that she's unable to leave the tree to search for the man who left her behind. Kokkuri and Kohina promise to investigate on her behalf, roping in Shigaraki along the way. He introduces them to Tengu, an avian mountain god. Tengu, who only appears in little animal form in this story, takes the otherwise spot-on episode into a nosedive, for he's a shotacon, and he makes no qualms about his love for handsome young boys. (He means young boys. Kindergarten age, by the looks of it.)
Gugure! Kokkuri-san has had no qualms about featuring pedophilia jokes in the past, like Inugami's ceaseless obsession with Kohina. To the show's credit, it's refrained from fetishizing Kohina, which is far more than many shows with loli characters can claim. Similarly, we don't see Tengu interact with any actual young boys in this episode—instead, he uses shapeshifting Kokkuri as a proxy—but his one-track mind may prove more irritating than Inugami's in future appearances. Ultimately, he doesn't play a prominent enough role in the story to take anything away from the episode. If you've loved the series so far, Tengu won't be enough to make you stop watching, but it's worth looking ahead with caution if this type of humor makes you uncomfortable.
There are fewer jokes at the expense of drama this time, but the episode achieves just the right balance, never letting the show venture into solemnity for too long. The pacing of the jokes won't leave you gasping for breath, but the humor is there throughout and on form as ever. (Tengu's brief appearance is the only exception.) The show has attempted drama before, during the strange almost-love affair between she-Kokkuri and Shigaraki, but this is the first time it actually sticks the landing. Kureha may be a one-shot character, but we get to know just enough about her that it works.
Gugure! Kokkuri-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for nearly two decades.
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