The Helpful Fox Senko-san
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 3 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?
Senko has been dwelling in our mortal realm for all of three days and Nakano has already turned her into both a gamer and weeaboo. That's not to say fox deities aren't allowed to be nerds like the rest of us, but this hardly strikes me as a fair exchange for cooking all the dude's meals and keeping his apartment clean. It's similarly unfair for Nakano's next-door neighbor Koenji; after hearing one too many heated gaming moments through the walls, she marches over to deliver a piece of her mind and walks in on Nakano preparing to grab Senko's ears. Obviously, Koenji calls the cops, because apparently The Helpful Fox Senko-san has to make this joke at least once per episode.
Rough start aside, Koenji feels like a natural and welcome addition to the cast. Continuing the theme of people overworking themselves, she's both a student and one of the growing number of people working from home (possibly a manga artist, given the brief look into her apartment last episode). That kind of lifestyle leads to all sorts of complications when it comes to establishing separation between your professional and personal lives, or just taking care of yourself in general. This is a good opportunity for Senko-san to compare and contrast the stresses that plague Nakano's life, and I hope it digs into that in the future. For now, the most information we get is that Koenji hadn't eaten a proper meal in two days, which is a lifestyle I'm sadly familiar with. Thankfully, Senko's stew is there to satiate her, and doubly thankfully, Koenji is a big dumb nerd who assumes Senko's ears, tail, and whole miko ensemble are the result of cosplay, not divine providence. As a cute little aside, we get to see some of the fake anime get animated, and I have to admit that “Little Yoko Inari Girl” looks pretty good. I'm partial to any magical girl series where the monsters-of-the-week explode upon defeat.
During the inevitably awkward conversation with Koenji, Senko introduces herself as both Nakano's wife and mother. On one hand, this is played as a joke, but on the other hand, this is the anime unnecessarily saying the quiet part loud. I didn't expect I'd have to delve into this so soon, but I suppose now is as good a time as any. When looking for a partner, many guys are actually seeking someone to take care of them, so women are often expected to fulfill both the role of household partner and new mom. Senko slides into this idealized wife-mother figure with fluffy aplomb and nary a complaint, but of course, real women are human beings with their own wants and needs who can't be reduced exclusively to the role of a provider for someone else. Now, this isn't a knock against The Helpful Fox Senko-san, which is but a single drop in an entire history of media that has propagated this attitude, and I'm still plenty sympathetic to the show's intentions and its audience. With all of the world's ills making it feel impossible for people to imagine having a relationship or taking care of themselves, I think it's healthy to have avenues like this where people can experience a wholesome and comforting flavor of wish fulfillment. I just urge people to be cognizant of the barrier between fantasy and reality after watching.
I'd also argue that the ultimate intention of The Helpful Fox Senko-san is one of tutelage, not merely wish fulfillment. Get more sleep. Learn to cook. Clean your place. Do just a little bit at a time if that's all you can muster. May Senko's furry visage encourage us all to be the best people we can be—to ourselves and to others. To paraphrase the great wordsmith dril: let's all be our own wife-mothers.
The latter half of the episode sees Senko going grocery shopping, while Nakano tags along to make sure she doesn't accidentally make the local news as proof that gods walk amongst mortals. It's a cute little diversion, although not as therapeutic as the first two episodes' quiet moments between its protagonists. Senko, apparently a patron deity of agriculture, hones in on the veggies and tofu, which Nakano reflects upon as a far cry from his old diet of instant ramen. Buddy, I've been there, but I also know that amazing feeling I get when I eat a salad after days of nothing but junk. A little healthy food can go a long way, and if a bubbly fox goddess is what it takes to get some nerds to eat better, I'm all for it. (Also, anime girls in newsboy caps continue to be a strong aesthetic.)
The episode wraps on a rather nice note of Senko asserting her own independence. I already went into the wife-mother thing, but there's also the complicating factor that she looks like she's 12, so Nakano also has paternalistic feelings towards her. Taking all of this into account threatens to turn their dynamic into an even messier bowl of psychological soup, and the constant “she's actually 800!” jokes aren't helping. That said, I appreciated that she gently put her foot down by telling Nakano that she is perfectly capable of handling things on her own. Nakano shouldn't be spending time with her out of some sense of obligation; he should only be doing so because he likes spending time with her, which is how the scene wraps up. It might seem like a minor difference in motivation, but I think it demonstrates some smart nuance that I hope the narrative continues to develop.
The Helpful Fox Senko-san continues its cozy crusade to inspire its audience to take better care of themselves. While this episode isn't quite as cozy as the first two, the scope of its world and themes is expanding, and I still think it holds plenty of potential as long as it doesn't keep leaning on the crutch of stale jokes and off-putting behavior. Let the coziness reign supreme.
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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