The Helpful Fox Senko-san
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?
There's nothing quite like the unique despair of waking up to a fresh snowfall and realizing how much extra time it's going to take to get to work. Snow days are a magical delight when you're a kid, and the fact that adulthood twists them into vehicles for pain and disappointment should be all the evidence needed to prove that we've done something wrong as a species. This is where The Helpful Fox Senko-san chooses to begin this week, and Nakano's immediate wry assumption that he'll be expected to go into work is very relatable. I've been working at the same place for over five years now, in a part of the country that gets fairly decent snowfall in the winter, and I've been told not to come in precisely once. But there's a magic in the rarity of that moment as well.
The first half of the episode boils down to “snow is fun!” and I can't argue with that. There's an inherent childishness to a snow day, and with some gentle prodding and not-so-gentle snowball throwing from Senko, Nakano realizes he can't let this day go to waste. Sometimes you gotta embrace your inner kid (or inner fox pup). Hands down the best part of this scene (and potentially the best part of the entire show) is seeing Senko jump head-first into the snow just like a fox on the hunt. If you haven't seen the real thing for yourself, please fix that immediately. It's such a good gag out of nowhere, and it embodies the kind of silliness I like to see from Senko-san. The later shot of her rolling an impossibly giant snowman torso is similarly cute, as is Koenji's subconscious commitment to ignoring Senko's goddess-hood. People from snowy regions just know how to roll snowballs five times their height. It's normal.
Senko-san also focuses on another important aspect of playing in the snow: going back inside. The show's warm and fuzzy aesthetic nicely matches the mood of warming up on a chilly winter day. For most of us, we have to settle for a hot bath, soup, hot cocoa, or a warm blanket, but Nakano has a fox demigod's tail and he's going to use it. Poor Senko has to put up with gratuitous fluffing on top of a bad back from too much jumping, and Nakano literally calls her “mom” later, so it ends up being quite a day for her. Overall, it makes for a cute snow day segment that plays to Senko-san's strengths.
This follows through into the B half of the episode, with Senko and Nakano submitting to the infernal allure of the kotatsu. I don't doubt that Nakano would have spent the remainder of the series under that table if not for the intrusion of our third and presumably final magic kitsune goddess, Yozora (Lady Sora to her friends). She's the eldest of the three who puts her ample bosom proudly on display, and that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about her character. It seems her earlier frustrations with Senko's approach to taking care of Nakano stemmed from her doing too much pampering and not enough “pampering,” and Sora makes no effort to disguise her attempts to bone down with our hapless salaryman.
The performativity of this scene is especially egregious as Senko-san briefly devolves into rote harem cliches. Senko's relationship with Nakano brims with romantic subtext whether you like it or not (I'm not a fan), and the show doesn't do itself any favors by bringing that to the forefront by introducing a sexual rival. What makes their relationship interesting, if problematic, is that it's never clearly defined—Senko isn't his wife, or his mother, or his pet, but an amalgam of all that and more. She's a very specific kind of fantastical wish fulfillment that doesn't slot itself neatly into established archetypes, so I think the show does itself a disservice by making her play the jealous girlfriend role. Then again, for a show whose entire purpose is delivering a variety of fanservice opportunities to the audience, it makes sense that we would eventually broach the more straightforward use of that word.
In the end, this all leads to the punchline that Nakano couldn't care less about boobs in front of his face when there are four discrete tails to be fluffed on Sora. It's a riff on the clueless harem protagonist archetype, but at least it's a riff in line with what we already know about Nakano: the dude likes tails. This was more about Sora messing with Senko than her showing any affection toward Nakano, which is more believable than all these fox goddesses inexplicably having the hots for this scruffy pencil pusher. Still, there surely were better ways to communicate the gentle antagonism in their relationship, ways that were more line with the dedication to comfiness that makes The Helpful Fox Senko-san stand out from the crowd. Horny-ness for its own sake shouldn't have to be the be-all and end-all.
A shaken Senko feeds Nakano some bitter fish for dinner as punishment, but they seem to have made up despite the portents delivered by Sora about making Senko upset. I'm sure those chickens will be coming home to roost (before getting eaten by adorable foxes) in the coming weeks. Its contrasting halves make this a particularly odd episode of The Helpful Fox Senko-san, but if you're a fan of peaceful snow days and big anime boobs, you'll find something to enjoy here. As for me, I'm going to use the cool crunch of this episode's fresh snowfall as a ward against these soon-to-be sweltering summer months.
Steve does 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 100 squats, runs 10km, and watches 1,000 hours of anime every day. You can read all about it on his Twitter.
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