The Helpful Fox Senko-san
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 4 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?
I'm going to be very disappointed if this show doesn't end with Senko instigating a nationwide labor revolt. As The Helpful Fox Senko-san loves to remind us, pampering is all well and good. However, it's only collective action that will save workers like Nakano from being exploited to death. I know that's extremely wishful thinking on my part, but Senko seems so genuinely aghast that Nakano should be forced to work on a day he should have off. And she's right to balk at it. People need their rest!
Unfortunately, I know firsthand how fatiguing and demoralizing mandatory overtime can be, but it's just as bad when corporate cultures coalesce into places where overtime, while not “mandatory,” is still endemic via social pressure and managerial expectations. Nakano even brushes aside Senko's concern with a line about how other people have it worse off than him, showing how ingrained that guilt about not working overtime can be. Not to mince words, but this shit sucks, it's almost always the result of poor management, and it even kills people. Video game crunch has been a hot topic lately, but this kind of overwork is everywhere thanks to the erosion of laborer rights and organizations throughout the past century. There simply aren't enough fluffy fox girls to go around, so you gotta start a union.
Okay, stepping off my soapbox for now, let's talk more about the mofu mofu stuff. The first segment of this episode comes as a result of Nakano's overtime, since that means he'll need to wake up early in order to go into work. Rather than force him to suffer the shrill chirps of his phone alarm, Senko volunteers to wake him up gently so he can start the day on the right foot. This is a nice sentiment, but speaking as someone who needs to set no less than three alarms at maximum volume in order to guarantee waking up on time, I knew right away that disaster was on the horizon. And of course, as Senko tries to softly rouse Nakano from his slumber, he falls victim to the morning haze and the softness of her tail fuzz. Overall this makes for a very cute scene. Senko locks onto Nakano's half-conscious state like a trained sniper, fully taking advantage of his suggestible sleepiness and reveling in the opportunity to pamper him without his usual protests. Sure, it might have resulted in him missing work, but in the long run this was definitely better for his health. Just remember: “five more minutes” is an incredibly dangerous phrase.
It's nice to see Senko and Nakano developing a comfortable rapport together. There's still some understandable tension in their unusual arrangement, but it feels like they're getting closer in an authentic way. The show's humor also seems to be improving. This is never going to be a laugh-out-loud show, but the lighthearted tone is essential for keeping the atmosphere nice and comfy. And this episode actually manages to poke fun at the dissonance between Senko's appearance and age in a way that's inoffensive instead of gross! There's some gentle ribbing about her being able to wake up both early and consistently, which is a very old person thing to do that she gets mildly flustered over. Ultimately, this is to Nakano's benefit (even though she doesn't actually wake him up in the end), so she's able to hold onto her pride.
The other chunk of the episode is devoted to Senko's feud with modern technology, and if you've seen one movie about a time traveler trying to figure out how a toaster works, you've seen this scene. Still, execution is everything, and Senko-san manages to make the cliche palatably cute with some bouncy animation and cartoony expressions. The joke actually turns out to be less “time traveler is confounded by modern conveniences” and more “old person can't figure out the buttons on the remote control.” Senko even dons a pair of old-person glasses to complete her transformation from pampering wife-mother extraordinaire to confused grandma. It stops short of being mean-spirited, but Senko definitely plays up the moe-by-helplessness angle, which rubs up against the competence and confidence that I like about her character. We all have our weaknesses, I suppose, and honestly if you can summon fire at will, you probably don't need to know how to operate a rice cooker. Giant hairball or not, glasses are a good look on Senko, so she should keep those around in my humble opinion.
Senko seems to be making good progress relieving some of Nakano's stress and loneliness, but her other foxy friends in the spirit world disagree, so it appears the cast will continue to expand next week. I'm all for experimenting with the formula, although I do hope the show continues to focus on maintaining the warm fuzziness of its overall tone. Now, I've been sick with a cold all week, and when I started watching this episode a bit before my bedtime, I actually found myself beginning to drift off into sleep (in a good way!). It's rare I'll compliment the soporific quality of anime, but that's undeniably what The Helpful Fox Senko-san is aiming for. The post-credit skit even indulges the viewer with a sampling of what it might be like to nuzzle Senko's tail, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't look super-comfy. Overall, this episode played well to Senko-san's calming and healing aspirations, continuing to provide a welcome half-hour respite from the burdens of adult life.
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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