Review: Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi

[Synopsis]: Ookami Ryouko, a tomboyish high school girl, is a member of the Otagi Bank – an organization on campus that helps other students with their various problems in exchange for their own assistance at a later date. After confessing his love to Ryouko, the scopophobic Morino Ryoushi (Irino, Miyu) is recruited as the 8th member of the Otagi Bank by Ryouko’s closest friend Akai Ringo (Itou, Kanae), The story’s narrator (Arai, Satomi) often badmouths the characters and interjects her own thoughts as the show progresses, sometimes causing the characters to break the 4th wall. Morino tries to get closer Ryouko as he, along with the rest of the Otagi Bank, helps other students through their dilemmas.

[Characters]:

The characters in Ookami-san are a good place to start because I think they are one of the show’s strongest points. While the show’s title speaks to only Ryouko’s seven friends in the Otagi Bank, the cast is much larger than this – mostly comprised of other students from Otagi High but not exclusively.

The eponymous Ookami Ryouko is fierce and somewhat cold to others at face-value however it is quickly elaborated upon that this is an attitude she has adopted and that she is actually more shy and caring underneath her exterior. This is the primary trait that leads Morino Ryoushi to fall in love with her and the integrity of this demeanor makes up a good amount of the show’s drama as Ryouko’s past is explored and her current lifestyle disrupted. I love her character design and, as many would point out, she is highly reminiscent of Taiga Aisaka from Toradora! (along with the fact that they are both tsundere).

On the topic of her design and of her name – Ookami-san does something quite interesting concerning the characterization of its cast. Many of the characters both inside and outside of the Otagi bank have light references to fairy tales and the like most prevalently featured being references to Aesop’s Fables). Because of this, along with its energetic, fourth-wall-breaking narrator, the show is often mislabeled as a parody of sorts however I would say that the references are not made to such a degree that anyone would miss anything about the show if they were not familiar with the source materials; the character references are a bonus. A few examples of this are Ookami’s wolf-like persona and occasional pointed tooth, Akai Ringo’s red hair and outfit reference Little Red Riding Hood (she is also a reference to the apple in Snow White), and Hitsujikai Shirou is a reference to The Boy Who Cried Wolf – insinuating that he lies. There are some interesting parallels the show draws with these references however they are of no ultimately great import to the show and make up only a small amount of the characterization – the show takes these characters and traits and makes them its own.

To quickly go over Morino, he is a shy and timid character, mostly due to his scopophobia however when the stakes are high or when Ryouko needs his help he steps up to the plate and becomes an immensely more enjoyable character. His scopophobia is more present in the first half of the show than the later half and part of this is brushed off as development however it appears quite randomly as a gag and I think was one of the few comedic elements that could have been executed better within the show.

The other characters, and there are many, are all very interesting – each with their own distinct personalities, designs, and sometimes references that make the large cast and their interactions with each other quite pleasurable.

[Art/Animation]:

I was very pleased with the art and animation of Ookami-san as I felt it exemplified the things that J.C. Staff does best. The animation itself was very reminiscent of other J.C. projects such as Toradora!, Toaru Majutsu no Index, and Shigofumi which I am a complete sucker for. The fight scenes, and there are a surprising number of them given the show’s premise, are very well done and are good action for a show that otherwise busies itself with comedy and drama. There are more of these scenes at the beginning than at the end however there is a good final fight in relation to this and so the action element of the show never feels to be completely missing.

There is also a lot of interesting work being done with the character designs as many of their elements go hand-in-hand with their the characters story-tale references. Additionally, I like that Morimo’s design is rather bland in comparison to some of the more outlandishly designed characters like Majolica le Fay – this approach makes him feel like a bit more of an outsider in comparison to the rest of the Otagi Bank and serves as a stark contrast for when he gets fired up, revealing his oft hidden eye(s). Along with the actual characterization of the cast of Ookami-san, I would say their designs are its other strong point as I really enjoyed them.

[Story]:

The primary story, which involves Ookami Ryouko’s past as well as her current relationship with Morino makes up about half the show whereas the other half follows the premise quite closely in that the Otagi Bank addresses the needs of other students or the members of the bank themselves. Because of this the ‘story’ is not really the meat of the show but rather an interesting yet irregularly recurring feature. The show focuses primarily on Morino and Ryouko’s dynamic, often comically, and then on the activities of the Otagi Bank and its members. The show does arrive at a climax of sorts in relation to the ‘main story-line’ however does not truly resolve everything and as there is no secondary installment into the series the show is left a bit open-ended which somewhat hurts it.

[Music]:

The music was not a negative aspect of the show as it did not actively detract from anything however I would also say it was not a plus as it felt extremely background oriented and didn’t attempt to ever win out over the action or the drama. This is not a good or bad thing, it is simply an approach – one which worked perfectly fine for this show. Nothing much to make note of in this category; there is nothing here that would cause me to recommend the show based on its soundtrack.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

Ookami-san is a really fun show with a lot of stuff going on inside of it but the main story leaves something to be desired. Not because its presentation was lackluster but because it fails to resolve what it brings up and because I wish there was more of it – the show simply wasn’t long enough for it to do everything it wanted/needed to which is always an unfortunate shortcoming.

I would best sum up the show as something that doesn’t overly commit to any of its genres but does well enough in each of them to be enjoyable respectively.

Rating: 6

I gave Ookami-san a 6 because, while it was a really fun show in its characterization and its aesthetics, the comedy was only mediocre and there wasn’t enough of the decent drama that the show had to have felt committal.

[Recommendations]:

I would recommend Ookami-san to fans of J.C. Staff first and foremost. If you enjoyed some of their other big titles at least in part for their animation, then this show is another good place to enjoy a similar style. People that enjoy references to fairy tales or perhaps the most avid fans of Into the Woods would get a kick out of the playful character and plot allusions brought up in the show. Ookami-san has a few good, short bursts of action and has decent comedy but nothing excellent in that regard. The drama, while intermittent, feels pretty real when it shows up and Ryouko’s trauma is very well presented.

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