This Week in Anime
The Helpful Fox Senko-san is both Comforting and Uncomfortable

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

The Helpful Fox Senko-san is a healing show about foxgirls and self-care, with a few too many distracting fetishes on the side. This week, Micchy and Andy weigh the pros and cons of this relaxing anime series.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

You can read our weekly coverage of The Helpful Fox Senko-san here!

So Andy, as we all know, the dog goes woof, the cat goes meow, the bird goes tweet, and the mouse goes what does the fox say?
As you should, because apparently the Doga Kobo that made my life better with Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun has recently committed to making my world worse. If that's not a crime, I don't know what is.
Okay, I know Helpful Fox Senko-san might look like uncomfortable baby waifu shit, and it kind of is, but it's also less yikes than the studio's WATATEN! and Uzamaid! from the last couple seasons, so I have to give it a pass of some sort. Compared to "haha isn't sexually harassing children funny", Senko-san is tamer in that the fantasy is "wouldn't it be nice to have a wife to take care of you after your soul-sucking tech job?"
"Also she looks like she's 12."
See, I knew that those other shows existed, but I completely avoided them due to the subject matter. I heard that this anime wasn't about that. Then episode one happened and I got to witness our overworked protagonist make a 800-year old foxgirl cum by groping her tail.
I'm pretty sure the idea is that Nakano the character really just wants a cat to fulfill his emotional needs. But the subtext is that Nakano the audience surrogate gets to arouse a foxgirl. That's what's interesting to me about this show: what actually happens can be taken pretty innocently, but the subtext is horny as all hell and the contrast makes my brain explode.
You can try to tell me that it was completely innocent all you want, and maybe if a studio without Doga Kobo's recent pedigree was responsible, I might be more lenient. However, I struggle to maintain the illusion for long. It's one thing to pepper the show with indulgent subtext. It's another to also make self-aware jokes about it while still playing the fetish straight.
I dunno, I think there is something valid to the fantasy of unconditional affection that Senko represents, especially since Nakano himself is not a creep. He's single not because he's bad with people or a misanthrope, but because overwork has left him so exhausted that he has absolutely no time or energy to form connections with other people. As a fantasy of generic emotional fulfillment, I can sorta get behind the hybrid magical wife/pet cat/mother/daughter thing.
That said, even if Nakano were totally innocent (and he isn't), the show's framing is kinda uncomfortable; I can never quite shake the feeling that a great quantity of horny went into this.
It might work better if the show were just a smaller combination of Nakano having a wife/mother/ pet/daughter, but all of them at once is too much for me. There's a lot to be said about being overworked and undervalued by society and the ways we seek to cope with that. Having a magical everything-girl as a solution feels deceptive on one level, and the lack of innocence surrounding her true purpose is deceptive on yet another level.
So as a slice of life/healing show, Senko-san doesn't appeal to me much because I don't relate to the fetishes involved, despite being in the demographic of constantly tired and overworked. There is a hook in the idea of darkness breeding within Nakano that must be purged in some way, which could lead into something more interesting. Or it could just continue to remind me of Charger Girl Ju-den Chan.
The show tries to avoid pigeonholing Senko and Nakano's relationship by tying together elements of many different types of relationships: mother-son, husband-wife, father-daughter, pet-owner. Its fundamental mistake is that you can't really mix some of those roles without things getting weird. Making Senko both a mother and a girlfriend is super-Oedipal, and rinse and repeat for any other combination of the four. (Charger Girl Juden-chan is a good cartoon by the way, I highly recommend it if you enjoy looking at cartoon boobs while wallowing in millennial exhaustion.)
I was really hoping the addition of the neighbor character would've helped clarify their relationship into something more concrete, but instead it decided to give the premise a 5th layer of real-life anime girlfriend. It seems redundant, and trying to be self-aware is not this show's strength.
That they took the time to make a show within the show is usually a point in favor for me, but that show being about a tanuki taking creeper shots of the titular foxgirl doesn't sound like a great watch either. I'll stick to The Eccentric Family for my tanuki fix.

Tanuki, you say?
Ah, happier times...
Yeah, The Helpful Fox Senko-san tiptoes up to the line a lot, and it occasionally zips right over into "who thought this was a good idea" territory, like that show-within-the-show and the eye-rolling "jokes" about Senko and Nakano's relationship looking sketchy on the outside.
I can't help but compare it to other shows that had more going on. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid had some decent jokes about Tohru's unconventional version of cooking and cleaning, but the comedy in Senko-san maxes out at "she's scared of the vacuum".

Maybe if that stuff was expanded, I'd have more to praise? But I think that's antithetical to the goal of the show. Conflict isn't really the goal. Even the tasteless stuff is only striking us that way, but it may be landing correctly for the intended audience. This is best shown by the post-credits segments, where Nakano is completely replaced by the viewer for some one-on-one time with Senko.

Honestly, I think those segments suck! There's not even the illusion of drama or comedy anymore, it's just fantasy girlfriend time.
It may not surprise you to learn that there are already a ton of videos online to serve this purpose.
But I'm not the target audience for this thing, and people have the right to want cute girls to talk to them after a hard day at work. Personally, I'd prefer to come home to a hot girl telling me how she's gonna slowly murder me.
It's the same niche of voyeurism that supports the age of virtual idols and youtubers. If that's more your wheelhouse, maybe you can relate on that level. We even got a scene of Senko playing Smash, so she's halfway to youtubing already.

Right, it's effective economics, simulating a neatly packaged relationship for an audience that desperately craves connection. They pretend to be your friend, and you buy the merch/anime/whatever they're selling.
Yeah, if Senko's few personality traits aren't to your liking, you can stick around for haughtier Senko.
Or boobier Senko.
Or just wait to pull them in Fate/GO, because I'm pretty sure I saw Steve tweeting these character designs recently.
At the end of the day, I can't really begrudge people for seeking comfort in things like Senko-san, even if I think it kinda sucks. Because even though Senko herself is not my preferred type of iyashikei anime girl, the show still gave me this relatable garbage heap.
Nakano can definitely be A Mood.
And speaking as someone whose last three or four meals were cup ramen, once with the luxury of one (1) egg, I have to say Nakano is the real fantasy boyfriend. If you're not commenting your real feelings into your code, are you even a real code monkey?
I hadn't thought about that, but you're absolutely right. If the show was simply Nakano being a stressed-out disaster getting through life, I could appreciate it, and I'm sure plenty of other thirsty fans would too. The one-on-one segment being three minutes of him collapsing into bed still in his work clothes, passing out above the covers without eating dinner, would be all over twitter. But that's removing most of the fantasy and simply giving you solidarity, which I think is what the show lacks most right now. It provides a self-insert and magical escape, but it has no connections to real-world coping mechanisms or solutions otherwise.
Whether Senko is there or not, Nakano is still like this around other people. Maybe the show will get to a point where he connects with others and Senko isn't needed, but that doesn't feel like the trajectory so far.
Yeah, that's a fair criticism. I mean, if I had my way Senko and Nakano would launch an all-out worker's revolt to eliminate crunch and labor abuses, but that's not the kind of fantasy this is. And that's fine, I guess? Just not for me.
Doga Kobo gonna continue to make money off an audience that isn't me. Maybe someday I'll come back, if they ever adapt more Nozaki-kun. Until then, I guess this cute cat is animated pretty well.

Foxes: out. Cats: hella in.

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