Tohru and Noboru Takagami may look like normal boys living with their father and trying to make ends meet, but as heirs to the mystical Mizuchi family, supernatural events are never far away. Fortunately, the boys have the protection of Tenko Kuugen (aka “Kuu-chan”), a capricious and powerful fox spirit who can’t even remember what gender s/he originally was. But whilst Kuu-chan is greedy, whimsical and a right pain in the backside at times, she isn’t someone you want to cross- as everyone who gets in her way soon discovers.
Wolfgirls, catgirls, foxgirls- add them to a series and all of a sudden it becomes that much more appealing. So it was that in the wake of the enjoyable Spice and Wolf I realised I needed to get my fix somewhere else- and at the time, it seemed that Wagaya no Oinari-sama would fit the bill. Appealing character designs, a fox who doesn’t remember its own gender, and a basis in the kind of light supernatural storytelling that usually makes for entertaining viewing- really, where could it all go wrong?
Unfortunately, despite its undeniable superficial appeal, under the surface, Wagaya no Oinari-sama was rather disappointing. Even when a story arc didn’t outstay its welcome by dragging on several episodes after everything seemed to have been resolved, it was never more than average, combining forgettable adversaries with a distinct lack of originality. Oh no, another minor demon is trying to assault Tohru! Whatever shall we do? I know, let’s mix things up with yet another hotsprings episode! With just a little more effort, it all could have been thoroughly entertaining, but as it stood, story-wise, the series was just another bland face in a generic crowd.
What saves Wagaya no Oinari-sama from complete mediocrity, however, is the fact that it does have some good characters to its name. Yes, there is the usual selection of shallow and barely memorable personalities, but fortunately a few names stand out from the crowd. Kuu-chan, of course, lives up to expectations with her bold and fearless manner, whilst other standouts include predictably stoic but still oddly appealing family guardian Kou, and Noboru’s classmate Sakura, whose inner monologues as she schemes to eliminate the competition and become his boyfriend are always highly entertaining. It’s just a shame that some characters, such as silver fox Gyokoyou, are introduced too late in the series to have anything more than an irritatingly rushed development.
Visually, Wagaya no Oinari-sama isn’t operating on the highest budget, but fortunately the character designs are so well drawn that they are pleasing on the eye even when the animation as a whole isn’t as polished as it could be. Background music is ultimately forgettable, but it does serve its purpose well enough.
Fox girls are always fun, but beneath the eye candy and a few memorable characters, Wagaya no Oinari-sama turned out to be disappointingly average. Ultimately, it’s one of those series that you value because of the hopes and expectations you had for it, even if it ultimately didn’t live up to them.