Reviewby Theron Martin,
Kanokon: The Girl Who Cried Wolf
DVD 1: Sexy Like a Fox
Poor Kota Oyamada. He's a first-year high school student who's lost his parents, still looks like he's 12, and is attending a new school, but that doesn't keep him from being hit on by Chizuru Minamoto, a second-year who is also one bodacious babe and falls madly in love with him. The problem is that Chizuru, besides being a hottie, is also no ordinary girl in other ways; she's a fox-type yokai spirit (i.e. a kitsune), who can possess Kota in addition to displaying the expected animal ears and tail and utilizing other supernatural powers. She is also far from the only yokai of varying animal types inhabiting the locale and attending Kota's school in secret, but her aggressiveness at pursuing Kota unsettles the other yokai, who have an agreement not to reveal their true natures to humans in exchange for anonymity. It also causes all kinds of problems for Kota, as Chizuru has no qualms about public displays of affection and Kota's reluctance to flatly discourage such behavior earns him the nickname “King of Eros” from his classmates. Things only get worse for Kota when Nozomu, a more petite wolf-type yokai, also arrives at the school and soon becomes just as aggressively possessive. Caught (literally!) between two powerful and sexy warring love interests, neither of whom can cook well, what is poor, overwhelmed Kota to do?
Kitsune have long been nearly as intrinsic to Japanese folklore as faeries are to European traditions. Their common portrayals as both creatures of mischief and as beings able to transform into beautiful, seductive women make them a natural choice for insertion into the modern “magical girlfriend” trope, which is essentially what Kanokon does; the series even addresses the possession ability sometimes associated with kitsune, although in classic folklore kitsune only possess women, not a boy as Chizuru does on a couple of occasions here. Mix in other assorted henge (i.e. yokai that are animal-based shapeshifters) and you have a situation ripe for all manner of fun with classic Japanese legends.
Of course, that would require the series to have at least a modicum of sophistication, and the first four episodes of Kanokon are about as crass and earthy as non-hentai anime comes. Aside from the peculiarities of its particular gimmick, these episodes are a slave to the standard clichés of harem romantic comedies and magical girlfriend tales: a pathetically unassertive and indecisive male lead has the unbashed (and mostly unjustified) affection of two eligible girls and is overwhelmed by it; the girls outdo themselves to try to win him over, including climbing into his bed and smothering him in breasts; the girls are far more aggressive than the guy; a competitor tries and fails miserably to impress the guy with her cooking despite never having cooked before (only in this case it's both of the competitors); and so forth. Because the girls have vastly different physical builds – one is tall and full-figured, the other is short and slight – the expected squabbling featuring breast size insults commences on a regular basis, and naturally the two competitors have vastly different personalities despite their common interest in Kota. In other words, nearly everything going on here is as stale as three-week-old bread and most of it is stupid enough to rot brain cells. Rarely do these antics actually manage to be funny, although the side commentary by classmates observing the shenanigans does a little better.
Kanokon is a little more extreme in its fan service content than other series in its subgenre, and that may be (for better or worse) the series' one claim to distinction so far. Chizuru is constantly trying to get into Kota's pants and does this more aggressively than almost any other character of her type; another character's comments about her being in heat due to it being mating season seem accurate, although it does almost seem at times as if she has an ulterior motive for trying to jump Kota's bones. Kota's “late blossomer” look gives him a youthful appearance which makes Chizuru's affections border on shotacon, panty flashes (including deliberate ones!) are common, and both regular episodes and the opener animation feature small amounts of nudity. This is definitely a case where quantity does not equate to quality, however.
Good artistic merits can sometimes bolster trashy shows like this, but Kanokon cannot claim that as a strength. In fact, the artistry and animation are at their weakest in the series' earliest scenes, where many character renderings have a rough, unfinished look. That improves as the episode progresses, eventually settling into an average-level artistic norm which provides a good diversity of female character designs and gives Kota a thoroughly ridiculous-looking fox-possessed form but mutes everything with a drab, earth tone-focused color scheme. (Utterly unexplained is why Chizuru's hair can change colors depending on circumstances; the blond on the DVD cover and the busty brunette featured in the series are the same character, for instance.) The animation is actually fairly good when scenes are animated, but the content relies a little too much on still shots. On the whole, the artistry is decent but never even close to being in the same league as competitors like To Love-Ru or Asobi ni Ikuyo.
Each episode is book-ended by a pair of energetic light-rock numbers, both of which have respectable merits but neither of which is memorable. The soundtrack in between tries the paint the series as a goofball affair, complete with silly sound effects for things like jiggling breasts, which might have worked if it had done this more consistently and the series had more frenetic content. As is, the soundtrack occasionally hits the right note but more often is ignorable.
For the English dub on this one, Media Blasters turned to Arvintel Media Productions, a general dubbing company whose reputation with English dubs of anime is, to put it nicely, less than sterling; it is responsible for the audio atrocity that is the Green Green dub, for instance. Any hopes that Arvintel's efforts have substantially improved with time and experience die a quick and painful death. Some of the English VAs used here are long-time veterans who have done solid work elsewhere (Dororthy Fahn, Karen Strassman, Mona Marshall), but they are ill-cast and/or ill-used here and the relative or complete newcomers who round out the cast are hardly inspiring talents. The English script also shows the same annoying tendency as their Ah My Buddha dub towards softening or writing around the dirtier lines, which is blatantly incongruous with how overtly the artistry and story elements display Chizuru's lusty behavior. Even the subtitles show flaws, including one spelling error which pops up almost immediately. While the dub is not entirely awful – some of the supporting performances are decent, for instance – the series has decidedly more pleasant entertainment value in its subtitled form.
Extras, which are given directly on the disk's main menu, are limited to clean versions of the opener and closer.
Some have claimed that Kanokon gets better in its later stages, and the early episodes do vaguely hint that the particulars of the arrangement for the various yokai to attend this school could cause interesting complications down the road. The first four episodes provide little concrete evidence that significant improvement is even possible, however. Apart from the nods to Japanese folklore, this version of the Magical Girlfriend/Harem series does too little to distinguish itself in a positive manner and is, so far, too thoroughly outclassed by other series of its type.
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Lots of fan service, allusions to Japanese folklore, observer commentary is sometimes funny.
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