The Helpful Fox Senko-san
Episode 7

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 7 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?

This week on The Helpful Foot—I mean, The Helpful Fox Senko-san, the anime treads new ground in its pursuit of heeling its audience. Since we now live in a post-Miru Tights world, it wouldn't surprise me if that show's existence kicks off an arms (or legs) race for other anime production teams. Senko-san is not one to take this challenge sitting down, picking itself up by its bootstraps and getting its steps in. And while the show has so far been notorious for toeing the line between tasteful and trashy, I wouldn't be too surprised if this episode spurs some people to dig their heels in and refuse to take a step further.

Okay, thank you for bearing with me while I got all of those foot puns out of my system. Yes, the first half of this episode centers around Senko stepping on Nakano. Like most segments, however, it all happens in response to the daily stresses that plague both his life and many of ours. In this case, it's back pain, which is something I've become all the more sympathetic to since starting a desk job myself. The human back is one of those wonderful little reminders that evolution is slow and imperfect, and our spines aren't fully designed to support an upright adult through their full lifespan of standing, sitting, and so on. Thus we have the universality of back pain, and consequently the delight of back massages.

Nakano quickly takes up Senko's offer of a free massage, but he's significantly more hesitant when it comes to using her feet and body weight for the deed. Like so many of Senko-san's sketches, the show is aware that this is a fetish, it knows you know it's a fetish, and it knows you know that it knows that it's a fetish. There are a lot of cheeky low-angle shots coupled with isolated snippets of Senko saying things like “I'm going to step on you,” so the intent is clear. To be fair, most of this played for laughs at the expense of Nakano's discomfort, but Senko-san's frequently cloying attempts to have its cake and eat it too are more frustrating than they are amusing. As much as I admittedly enjoy posting out-of-context screenshots on Twitter, I'd much rather see the scene put more focus into communicating how relaxing a massage can be. The anime's command over its atmosphere is one of the best things going for it, if it can actually direct all its energy toward that goal. The one joke I really liked was Senko groaning like an old woman while getting her own massage. The discrepancy between her appearance and her age has been fuel for most of the show's questionable moments, but this was a cute example of mining that comedy vein tastefully.

Feeling sufficiently rejuvenated by fox feet, Nakano returns to work, which continues to suck. I'm going to briefly vent some of my own frustrations here, because it truly boggles my mind how much redundant work can be done at a company supposedly run by adults. Nakano's job is kept intentionally vague beyond “salaryman,” but basically he's forced to do all of his work over because someone somewhere made some arbitrary decision after the fact. How does that help anyone? Being forced to work long grueling hours is tough no matter the circumstances, but it's extra demoralizing when you find yourself doing busywork because of someone else's incompetence. Nakano still does the work, because he's not the kind of guy who complains, but this is the stuff that takes such a toll on him both mentally and physically. This is why he needs to get stepped on.

After missing the last train (which makes for well over 12 hours spent at work), he resigns himself to sleeping at the office before Shiro shows up to save him. I like their rapport in this segment, with Shiro gently teasing Nakano into buying her snacks in an intentionally transparent attempt to disguise her kindness as a transaction. I also now know that corn dogs are called “American dogs” in Japanese, which seems like a fitting choice to me. Nakano seems to be in genuine awe walking high above the city through their kitsune shortcut, and Shiro uses their time alone to prod slightly at his insecurities. This just gets a big shrug from him though, and I can't say I blame him. It doesn't matter how much Senko is projecting her experiences with his ancestor onto him, because they've both managed to find some happiness in each other. True to form, the only thing that digs at him is his omnipresent worry about Senko doing too much for him, and him not giving nearly enough in return. The fact that he never takes anything for granted remains his primary virtue, although he could still probably stand to lighten up some.

This was an eyebrow-raising episode of The Helpful Fox Senko-san, but if you've stuck with the anime this long, I can't imagine any of it souring your opinion beyond reproach. And to be honest I'm much more okay with the tongue-in-cheek “step on me” jokes than any of Koenji's internal monologue from last week, so if Senko-san wants to continue with its bawdy humor, I hope we stick along these lines.

Rating:

The Helpful Fox Senko-san is currently streaming on Funimation and Crunchyroll.

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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