Mitsuo IwataJuri NagatsumaShizuka IshigamiAkari Kito
Gugure! Kokkuri-san
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: G
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Yoshimasa Hiraike
Original creator: Midori Endo
Actor: Daisuke Ono, Jouji Nakata, Ryou Hirohashi, Takahiro Sakurai, Chiwa Saito, Kazutomi Yamamoto, Ryoko Shiraishi, Yukana, Ai Nonaka, Akari Kito, Hisako Kanemoto, Juri Nagatsuma, Kanako Sakuragi, Kotaro Matsumaru, Kousuke Toriumi, Mitsuo Iwata, Naoya Nosaka, Nobuo Tobita, Rina Satou, Satoshi Hino, Seigo Yokota, Serena Atou, Shizuka Ishigami, Yukari Tamura, Yutaka Furukawa, Yuya Murakami
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 9 March 2015
I was disappointed, but that's partly because I'd adored the first episode and had suckered myself into imagining a different show. What I got is amusing and pretty good, but somehow I ended up finding it a bit of a slog anyway. One episode is fine. Three episodes in a row wasn't generally a good idea. It's funny, of course. No question there. I enjoyed the show and I'm happy to laugh along with it, but it's adapted from a four-panel gag manga and it's hardly even trying to use its cast as anything but joke fodder.
Kohina is a little girl who lives on her own in a big house and only eats cup ramen. She looks about six and has no friends, but she claims to be okay with this, because she's not human. She's a doll, or so she says. (A walking, talking doll, presumably.) Thus, not being human, she has no need for friendship, emotion or someone looking after her.
Kokkuri-san meanwhile is a minor god who can't bear to see a child living like this and so he takes it upon himself to become Kohina's guardian. Kohina takes a dim view of this and proceeds to rip to shreds Kokkuri's claims of competence, intelligence and fitness to be a child's guardian.
This is a great set-up. I fell in love with ep.1 and couldn't wait to see where it would go next. The answer, alas, is "nowhere". It adds a few more characters, but that's it. Not only does Kohina get no character development, but it never becomes clear whether or not she's even human. She talks like a robot and her rectangular eyes sometimes fall off when she's surprised and/or trying to smile, but this is a gag-based series and I don't know if we're meant to be taking that literally. In a show full of ghosts, gods, yokai, aliens and homicidal flying vampire eyeballs, Kohina manages to be the least human of the regulars despite being the only one who might actually be one.
She's entertaining, obviously. Her callous emotionlessless is a laugh. However she has no vulnerabilities, no human warmth and no character depth beyond "is clever, sarcastic and will do anything for cup ramen".
As for Kokkuri, he's nice (if vain and childish) and sincere in his Good Samaritan intentions, but again there's no depth there. There's no dramatic impetus. It's all about the gags. Kokkuri cooks, cleans, looks after Kohina and fights with the other deadbeats and parasites who soon show up and become regular cast members. He's metaphorically either Kohina's wife or her mother and he blurs gender roles like nobody's business.
There are two other regulars. The first is Inugami, from an unpleasant bit of Japanese folklore whereby you'd torture a dog to death in order to create a ghost that you could use for vengeance, murder, kidnapping, etc. What's cool here is that this show isn't denying any of that. Inugami loves Kohina and hates everything else in creation, including himself. He takes sadistic pleasure from others' pain. Naturally he and Kokkuri don't get on, to the point of occasionally murdering each other. (They're supernatural entities. They get better.) Inugami is also a gender-bender, having forgotten what he used to be when he was a dog, and can switch at will between any of a number of forms. He's also a creepy stalker.
The last regular is Shigaraki, a tanuki spirit who lives to get drunk, chase women and play cruel pranks. All that he does. He's as bad as Inugami. However he's also the nearest the show has to a developed character, in that he also has a noble side and will, for instance, give financial support to the children of his victims. (You can expect him to steal that money from Kokkuri, of course.) The contradictions of his good and scumbag sides make him quite an interesting character, I think, although like everyone else in this show he's still basically here for the gags.
As for the episodes themselves, they have plenty of funny ideas, cool characters and surprising exploration of Japanese mythology. It's just that none of it ever goes anywhere. I think I'm unhappy with this show partly because there a far better and more interesting one underneath, hidden by the show's lack of interest in its ideas except as gags. There are occasional moments where the show teases us with a suggestion of something deeper, but it's generally knocked back for bathetic comedy a few seconds later. Admittedly there are also episodes that manage to sneak in a meaningful story with the one-off supporting characters, e.g. ep.10 (the lady waiting under the red-leaved maple) or ep.12 (the Christmas episode). I liked ep.6, with Kohina, Shigaraki and the flying vampire eyeball. Those were good, but at the end of the day they're fleeting exceptions to the general Rule of Funny.
I shouldn't overstate my position, though. I struggled slightly to watch a few episodes of this show in succession, but I laughed quite often and basically enjoyed the show. The Kokkuri-Inugami murder gags are funny. Yamamoto-kun the Earthling is a wonderful idea and you could almost give him a spin-off series. Jimeko's bullying with flowers is hilariously mental and my only complaint with the character is that she's a one-episode character who didn't get any significant reuse later.
There's no fanservice, by the way. On the contrary, I can imagine fangirls enjoying it for its reverse harem of Kohina-worshipping pretty boys. Oh, and the disco dancing title sequence is amusingly silly (and sung by the three male regulars' voice actors).
Fundamentally, this is a good show. It made me laugh. The cast are lively and energetic. The show's also rooted deeply in Japanese mythology and not sugar-coating the nasty stuff, because black humour is at least half of its comedy. (Apparently the manga's even darker, mind you, e.g. with gags about Kohina possibly having murdered her family. That would explain why she lives alone, anyway.)
If you're looking to be amused for 25 minutes, by all means watch this. Just don't expect any attempt at emotional weight alongside the gags.