The Helpful Fox Senko-san
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 5 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?
I'm going to start keeping a tally of how many times the phrase “mofu mofu” is used in The Helpful Fox Senko-san, because I feel like it's only become a higher percentage of the dialogue with each passing episode. The season finale should just be 20 straight minutes of Nakano and Senko parroting “mofu mofu” back and forth. Honestly, I'm ready for it. More anime should be brave enough to distill themselves down to their barest essence for our benefit.
As promised by last week's cliffhanger (or as close to a cliffhanger as Senko-san is willing to indulge), this episode brings yet another fox deity to Nakano's humble apartment. Shiro is far haughtier than Senko and too enamored with the purity of her heritage for my liking, but ostensibly she's there for the same reason: to pamper Nakano. In actuality, she seems to be visiting out of a competitive streak with her fellow deity, and she has no idea what she's getting into. While head pats are all well and good, tail fluffing is verboten, which is in no way compatible with our boy's desires when laid bare by hypnotic suggestion.
I do wish the show would stop teasing this line between Nakano respecting and crossing his guests' boundaries. An important part of his arc is him learning to be honest about his needs that have been suppressed by a society soullessly obsessed with the production of capital. That's fine! But there's such a wide margin between that idea and the reality of him pouncing on girls' tails. It's set up so that Shiro is actually at fault for trying to hypnotize him in the first place, but that doesn't excuse the story for continuing to find ways to humor this scenario.
Despite the introduction of a new character, this segment feels slight even by Senko-san's fluffy standards. I would like to have seen more interaction between Shiro and Senko, because I didn't get much sense of their shared history together. This is a place where Nakano's role as the audience stand-in hampers the storytelling, since once he shows up, the focus has to be on him. I understand that seeing Shiro and Senko vie for his attention is meant to appeal to the target audience, but I don't know if building a fox wife-mother-pet harem is the direction I want to see Senko-san head toward. More amusing to me was Shiro's brief intrusion into Koenji's apartment on her way out, as the sleep-deprived artist concludes that she must be tired enough to be hallucinating before collapsing into bed. I've so been there. Also, if this hints at Shiro and Koenji hanging out in the future, I think that could be a cute direction for the show to go. There's no reason for Nakano to hog all the fluff for himself!
The second segment is all about Nakano taking a bath with Senko, which had me prepared for the worst when I read that in the episode description. The fox gods had mercy on me, however, as the scene chooses to focus on just how nice baths feel instead. I mean, there is a tiny nude fox girl present the whole time, so your mileage for cringe will vary, but when grading on the curve of other recent Doga Kobo shows, Senko-san still comes out looking pretty good. Thanks to the omnipresence of fanservice, it's not like bath scenes in anime are in short supply, but Senko-san manages to distinguish itself by truly luxuriating in the atmosphere of a hot bath after a long day. I take showers in the morning and cannot remember the last time I treated myself to a relaxing bath, so I felt pretty jealous over how warm and soothing everything looked. I think it's inspired me to give my tub a good scrub and prepare for an evening of pampering on my own, so kudos to this helpful fox.
Baths also carry the warmth of nostalgia for Nakano, who drifts back to childhood memories of his mother helping him get washed up. As his current surrogate wife-mother amalgam, Senko volunteers to wash his back, but Nakano follows through on his earlier pledge to not take Senko's assistance for granted and insists on returning the favor. The reciprocal and familial tint of the scene add up to a genuinely sweet atmosphere, tainted only by Nakano's horror as he unwittingly douses Senko's tail fluff into a soggy mat of fur. It's a cute enough note for the bath arc to end on (and of course it just takes a little time with a hair dryer to floof her fluff back to its fullness).
The Helpful Fox Senko-san squanders some potential with its new cast member, but the series remains a relaxing if lightweight way to spend a half-hour. I doubt this will ever be a good anime to marathon, but taking it in on a weekly basis is proving to be a nice little respite when I need it.
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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