Review

by Nick Creamer,

Inari Kon Kon

BD+DVD - The Complete Series + OVA

Synopsis:
Inari Kon Kon BD+DVD
Inari Fushimi doesn't have all that much going for her - she's not particularly bright, not particularly graceful, and not particularly popular. What Inari does have is a great fondness for her local shrine - and when she ends up saving a fox in the woods around that shrine, the shrine's god Uka grants her one more talent. Now, blessed with the ability to transform at will into any human form, Inari will have to get used to her new powers before she can even think about abusing them to win over her middle school crush. But magical actions always have consequences, and Inari's new gifts might not let her change quite as much as she'd hope.
Review:

If forced to describe Inari Kon Kon in a phrase, I'd likely go with the classic “mostly harmless.” Inari Kon Kon is neither an impressive nor offensive show - it's pleasant enough, has a couple strong elements, and has its heart in the right place. It's not the best seinen romcom you'll run into, and basically nothing in the show is likely to impress you, but it does its best within its standard genre confines.

Inari Kon Kon stars Inari Fushimi, a well-meaning but bumbling middle schooler with a crush on her classmate Tanbabashi. Inari can't think of any way to catch the object of her affection's attention, but when saving a fox at her local shrine ends up getting her a wish granted by the shrine god Uka-no-Mitama-no-kami (Uka for short), she discovers all manner of great ways not to get his attention. After first failing to solve anything by being turned into her classmate Sumizome, Inari asks for her wish to be revoked - but instead, Uka gives her some of her own divine power, granting Inari the power to transform into anyone at will.

The rest of Inari Kon Kon plays out roughly how you'd expect - there's a mixture of light romantic drama and occasional fantasy conflicts, with Inari slowly learning that divine power is generally a lot more trouble than it's worth. The show's best conflicts are actually its platonic ones. The relationship between Inari, her old friends Keiko and Maru, and her new friend Sumizome ends up sparking some drama in the show's middle act, and these issues are handled with a refreshing honesty and sensitivity. There are few wacky misunderstandings when it comes to this group - instead, the show leans on natural insecurities like Maru's sense that her friends are growing past her, and Sumizome's belief that the feelings of those around her are her own responsibility. The conflicts between these characters feel real and earned, as do the friendships that blossom out of them.

This strong articulation of platonic friendships extends to the relationship between Inari and Uka, which forms the heart of the show. Though Uka initially cares about Inari for her dedication to the shrine, we see the two of them sacrifice for each other throughout this series, and their friendship grows into an endearing bond. Inari's ability to bring people together acts as a nice if unsurprising counterpoint to her bumbling personality, and Uka's godlike demeanor is tempered by silly faces and an addiction to visual novels. Their moments together can sometimes come off like bland friendship truisms, but are also sometimes very sweet.

Unfortunately, the drama outside of these central relationships feels pretty arbitrary. There's little excitement to be found in Inari Kon Kon's occasional trips to its uninspired spirit world, and much of the relationship drama relies on canned misunderstandings. The show's final dramatic arc might be the worst offender here - Uka ends up in serious trouble for reasons that essentially make no sense for any of the characters involved, and the last two episodes are a “race to the finish” that use very few of the characters and tell us little that we didn't already know. Additionally, the fact that Inari Kon Kon is based on a continuing manga means the majority of the conflicts and potential relationships seeded in this show just don't go anywhere - they're raised and then abandoned in favor of one particular dramatic finish.

When Inari Kon Kon attempts romance, it generally just slips into shoujo-style cliches, with the worst of this falling on the relationship between Uka and Touka, Inari's brother. The chemistry between these two relies entirely on knowing looks and gruff “I wasn't worried about you” declarations from Touka, instead of, you know, actual chemistry. Inari Kon Kon's roots as a seinen manga are actually clear all over the production - the style of characterization, pacing, shot framing, and even silly faces seem directly drawn from manga panels. This is particularly apparent because Inari Kon Kon as an anime has essentially no unique aesthetics. Every shot feels like a translated manga panel, with virtually no dynamic direction or shot composition enlivening the experience. Whether it comes to the color work, the articulation of the spirit world, or the show's general shot framing, there's not much about this show that's visually interesting.

This visual lack extends to the show's animation, which is pretty much nonexistent, and the show's occasional CG elements (a train to the spirit world, the shrine gates), which are egregiously bad. Inari Kon Kon's music is likewise limited - there are some very occasional classical tracks, but most of the show simply lacks music. Overall, outside of some occasional nice backgrounds, Inari Kon Kon's aesthetics are not much to speak of.

And yet, in spite of its limitations, the show is endearing enough. Its characters are likable, and there's some spark to their relationships. It's nice to see a show that's ostensibly focused on romance treat simple friendship with real respect. This collection comes in a simple slipcase, with the on-disc extras including a collection of “Pub Fox Theater” shorts (essentially just Uka's familiars bantering after work while introducing the ‘next episode’ clips), a lackluster bonus episode, and various promos. If you're looking for a cute seinen manga adaptation and aren't bothered by the weak aesthetics, Inari Kon Kon might be a pleasant time.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C+
Animation : D+
Art : C
Music : C+

+ The platonic relationships between the central characters are strong.
The show dips into cliche or uninspired drama whenever it goes for more than friendship, and is also an aesthetic wash.

Director: Toru Takahashi
Series Composition: Touko Machida
Storyboard:
Chu Higashino
Toru Takahashi
Episode Director:
Makoto Bessho
Yasuo Ejima
Yoshihiko Iwata
Makoto Katō
Geisei Morita
Hideki Okamoto
Kazunobu Shimizu
Toru Takahashi
Kaoru Yabana
Music: Takeshi Senoo
Original creator: Morohe Yoshida
Character Design: Yuka Takashina
Art Director: Osamu Onishi
Chief Animation Director:
Hong Shen
Yuka Takashina
Animation Director:
Masami Inomata
Yasuhiro Kimura
Yuji Mukoyama
Yoshiko Nakajima
Hong Shen
Yuka Takashina
Sound Director: Kazuya Tanaka
Director of Photography: Ryosuke Tsuda
Executive producer: Takeshi Yasuda
Producer: Kenjirou Gomi

Full encyclopedia details about
Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha (TV)

Release information about
Inari Kon Kon - The Complete Series + OVA (BD+DVD)

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