The Helpful Fox Senko-san
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
The Helpful Fox Senko-san ?
This week, The Helpful Fox Senko-san doles out some content that's cheesy in more ways than one, and that's a good thing. Senko-san is at its best when it indulges in pure comfort food for the viewer, and this week that translates to literally making comfort food. The quest for the perfect gratin is a noble one, spurred on when Senko catches Nakano drooling in front of a cooking show (we've all been there), but it's not a task she can complete on her own. While her cooking prowess has been an important component of her pampering technique, her lack of gratin expertise is handwaved as her unfamiliarity with Western cuisine. Wanting to surprise Nakano, Senko has no choice but to rely on the only other two people she seems to know.
The result is a rather nice segment with Senko, Shiro, and Koenji all working together to make some cheesy goodness. Shiro has now completed her transformation into that one friend who comes over to your place just to play your video games, but it's an arrangement that seems to work for her and the laid-back Koenji. Meanwhile, Koenji is eager to pay Senko back for all the meals she's provided, even though gratin is hardly rocket science. Shiro plays up her childish braggadocio as she takes charge of boiling the water, which causes Koenji to completely look past the magic fox-fire heating up her macaroni as nothing but evidence of chuunibyou syndrome. Koenji's seemingly willful ignorance of the supernatural fox demigods in her social circle isn't gut-busting comedy, but it's a testament to how easily people can rationalize away strange things that are blatantly in front of them. Anyway, Senko-san doesn't aim for comedy as much as an overall light easygoing-ness, which these scenes certainly embrace, and I was pleased to see Shiro's reaction face game so on-point this week.
Any anime scene about food has to be judged against the vast oeuvre of anime food illustrations, from the delicious spectacles in Ghibli movies all the way down to the economical drawings of Tonkatsu DJ Agetarō (which is a short that I highly recommend). I'd say Senko-san's presentation ends up fairly middling—not bad by any means, but not irresistibly mouthwatering. The final gratin presentation still looks yummy, and I appreciated them animating the cheese bubbling around the edge of the dish. Shiro also gets a nice little cut of her slurping up some stringy cheese, and I can't lie and say this scene didn't make me hungry for some gratin (or mac and cheese) of my own. Still, the standards for anime food have been raised to ridiculous levels over the years, so I can't help but feel shorted by Senko-san not going above and beyond.
The second segment falls cleanly in line with the “Senko does something for Nakano” formula that makes up the core of the show. I like that it begins with another pointed jab at the absurdity of corporate culture, with Senko asking why Nakano still has to wear a suit jacket in the summer, and Nakano being unable to provide an answer. As the weather warms up, Nakano doesn't even have enough free time to keep his scruffiness in check, but that's where Senko comes in with an offer to cut his hair for him. It's okay: she's watched YouTube videos.
Speaking of YouTube, haircut roleplays are another mainstay of ASMR videos, so it's not surprising to see The Helpful Fox Senko-san echo this reference. Haircuts are surprisingly intimate experiences—not as invasive as a doctor visit or dentist appointment, but it still involves someone entering your personal space and you trusting them enough with something so integral to your appearance. There's just something calming and therapeutic about them. It reminds me of an old Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown said something along the lines of “I'm going to drown my sorrows in a good haircut,” and that's more or less the service Senko provides for Nakano. There's some silliness up front with wild hairstyles and Senko accidentally snipping off more locks than she wanted, but soon enough Nakano is nodding off to the soft scrape of scissor blades. And then Senko waterboards him.
Okay, she actually gives him a nice shampoo and scalp massage while she smothers him with her tail, which is just about the complete opposite of torture for Nakano. Then they wrap up the day with the two of them gently ribbing each other and affirming the ways they've improved each other's lives. It's a sweet note to conclude another episode that sticks to Senko-san's strengths and delivers a nice 20 minutes of enjoyable fluff. In fact, I think this is the purest distillation of The Helpful Fox Senko-san's appeal that we've gotten since the premiere, and it'd be wonderful to see the show follow this track through the end.
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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