The Helpful Fox Senko-san
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 8 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?
It's the beach episode! You gotta have the beach episode! Sun, surf, and sand, baby! And swimsuits! Don't forget the watermelon either! And the beach ball! It's the beach!!
Ironically, The Helpful Fox Senko-san's beach episode—an anime trope notorious for its lasciviousness—is one of the least objectionable episodes this show has produced. Perhaps this effect is amplified by the contrast to last week's focus on Senko's feet as she teased and stepped on Nakano, but for the most part this just feels like a comfy family beach outing. Nakano's employers graciously gift him an entire day off to enjoy his summer (hashtag eat the rich), and Senko and Shiro conspire to make the most of it. I'm a lot like Nakano in that I would all too readily spend one of my precious days off lazing around indoors instead of doing something fun or memorable outside. This is why it's nice to surround yourself with more proactive friends who can kick your butt into gear or open a magic portal to a secret inter-dimensional shore-front.
Shiro also drags Koenji along, and as I suspected the two of them have been hanging out more often, though Koenji remains somehow none the wiser about her companion's demigod nature. Shiro's the one who promised her a beach trip in the first place, to placate Koenji's artist's block. Working effectively on your own means knowing how to take breaks and reward yourself, because otherwise you get too wrapped up in your own thoughts to the point of being counter-productive. Of course, as with many things, moderation is key. I've definitely been guilty of using online purchases as a relief mechanism, but thankfully I've never bought an entire shopping cart full of beach and barbecue equipment. Still, Koenij's lack of restraint makes for a more fun vacation day for everyone, so sometimes irresponsible decisions work out.
It's cute how blatantly everybody settles into their unspoken roles as members of this weird surrogate family. Shiro's been naturally energetic and precocious, and she jumps into the water at the first opportunity, splashing back and forth with Koenji like they're both children. Meanwhile, Nakano and Senko hang back in the cool shade of the umbrella, looking on like wistful parents. They're not jumping at the chance to expend all that energy themselves—energy they probably don't have to begin with—but even a low-key beach experience can be fun and relaxing. After all, Senko-san's core tenet is learning how to let yourself take a break, and that can mean anything from reading a book on a beach towel to painstakingly sculpting a to-scale sand replica of your favorite anime character.
Despite their different modes of beach fun, the whole gang soaks up some sun together with a game of beach volleyball. Senko and Shiro prove to be surprisingly good at the game for centuries-old fox deities, although I suppose having access to your own private beach means you have plenty of opportunities for practice. As the game heats up, so does Senko's competitiveness, and soon enough she goes into full Super Saiyan mode. At this point, I was expecting a scene akin to the one in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, where the dragons unleashed the full brunt of their powers in a display that scorched both the players and the court. Instead, Senko's back immediately gives out and she crumples like a leaf. It's your standard reversal of expectations, but the comedic timing is on point, speaking to the show's down-to-earth perspective on how adulthood is largely defined by our crappy bodies deteriorating. Nakano even has a small bonding moment with her over their mutual back pain.
Koenji is all too eager to whip out her barbecue equipment, but she sadly lacked the foresight to pair it with food they could actually cook. While she and Shiro, buoyed by the optimism of someone who's never tried fishing before, go wrangle some of the ocean's bounty, Nakano comes across a seemingly abandoned food shack. It turns out to be occupied by the third and bustiest fox demigod, who gifts him some platters stuffed with grill-ready delights, while also mysteriously portending the end of his happy days together with Senko. Again, like Dragon Maid, I imagine this is foreshadowing some duty Senko must uphold that will spell the end of her pampering before the finale inevitably reunites them through the power of friendship or whatnot. I continue to cock my eyebrow at Senko-san trying to have a plot, but it's also worth noting that basically nothing happens in this episode outside of “family goes to the beach.” This is what I expect from Senko-san at this point, but I also wouldn't begrudge viewers for their boredom finally catching up to them. As comfort food, I think this anime would have benefited far more from a shorter runtime than from trying to clumsily inject intrigue that won't go anywhere. But we'll see.
Senko's trip to the beach ends up being a reasonably fun diversion, lacking in the questionable humor that can make this show hard to recommend and consequently becoming one of its most successful episodes. However, I do think there was a missed opportunity with this week's Super Senko-san Time, which features her holding up a seashell to the viewer's ear. I don't understand why you wouldn't just go all the way with the ASMR appeal and use binaural sound to direct some conch shell whooshing into just the left channel. Go big or go home, in my humble opinion. That aside, as the summer months approach, Senko-san provides a nice taste to whet its viewers' appetites for some beach trips of their own.
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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