Kikuko InoueTakahiro SakuraiJunichi SuwabeAyane Sakura
The Eccentric Family season 1
Also known as: Uchouten Kazoku season 1
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2013
Director: Masayuki Yoshihara
Writer: Shotaro Suga, Ryou Higaki
Original creator: Tomihiko Morimi
Actor: Atsushi Ono, Ayane Sakura, Bon Ishihara, Hideyuki Umezu, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Junichi Suwabe, Kikuko Inoue, Kosuke Hatakeyama, Mai Nakahara, Mamiko Noto, Nobuo Tobita, Ryoukichi Takahashi, Shuya Nishiji, Takahiro Sakurai, Takehiko Higuchi
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Season 1: 13 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=15205
Website category: Anime early 10s
Review date: 11 August 2018
uchouten kazuku
It's adapted from a novel. Not a light novel series, but a proper straight-up novel. A sequel came out in 2015 (with an anime adaptation in 2017) and I believe the author, Tomihiko Morimi, plans to make it a trilogy. So far I've only seen the first anime season and it's good, but be warned that you need some patience. It's a bit dull for at least the first half, in which not much seems to be happening. Eventually, though, stuff develops. We learn some information that turns our world upside-down. Eventually the show goes completely apeshit for the last couple of episodes, which elevate all that build-up into a magnificent climax. If you drew a graph of episode number against excitement level, you'd see a roughly horizontal line (first half) that jumped upwards (second half) and then climbed and climbed. If you had to give the season an average score, you'd say "it's good".
It's set in modern Kyoto, but with tanuki and tengu living secretly alongside the humans. (Japanese folkore says that both are capable of shapeshifting, although tanuki and foxes are better known for it.) Tengu are mythological bird-man demons, but tanuki are just raccoon dogs and you can see them in zoos. People used to eat them, although that's less common these days because they're quite a challenge for a cook. They'll eat anything (worms, snails, frogs, birds, etc.), so their meat stinks and apparently you need to remove the bladder immediately or they'll taste of urine.
That's fundamental to this story's plot. Tanuki are sentient in this universe, but humans might still eat them. There's a Friday Club ("Friday Fellows" in the subtitles) with a New Year's tradition of tanuki hot pot. Last year, our heroes' father got eaten. This year... well, who knows?
Most of the cast are tanuki. Dad had four sons: 1. Yasaburo (hero, self-proclaimed idiot but really just easy-going and relaxed), 2. Yaichiro (a reliable ally, but a bit pompous), 3. Yajiro (lives as a frog in a well), 4. Yashiro (timid young boy with electricity powers). Their mother is still alive and a bit eccentric, but unfortunately so are their uncle and cousins. As for the non-tanuki, Yasaburo often associates with a self-important jerk of a tengu called Professor Akadama, who'd sooner die than be civil and can only be talked into anything if you grovel to him. (He's not that bad underneath, but Yasaburo's the only person except for Benten who can handle him.)
Oh, yeah. Benten. She's... um. She's human, but she can fly like a tengu. She'll have playful, good-natured conversations with her tanuki friends, but then cook them and eat them anyway. (She's a member of the Friday Club and possibly the only one of them who's aware that the tanuki they eat are sentient. It's ambiguous.) She's tall, sexy and elegant. Plenty of the cast are either in love or lust with her, but none of them can handle her.
It's exploring some slightly unusual themes. Our heroes are tanuki, with that species's traditional characteristics. Yasaburo eventually concludes that behaving like idiots and taking everything as it comes is proper tanuki behaviour. It's in their blood, or "idiot blood" as Dad used to say. Fun things are good! They're true to their hearts and you shouldn't expect them to behave rationally, so for instance they'd be horrified if you suggested that they gang up and murder the Friday Club. Yasaburo even ends up befriending one of them. His name's Professor Yodagawa and he's a lovely old chap who loves tanuki and indeed all living things, but doesn't think that needs to stop him from eating them. Yasaburo gets on quite well with him and can't even hate him for killing and eating Dad. (He doesn't even take the bait when Yodagawa talks about his desire to die by being killed and eaten by a tanuki.)
The first half is slow, but it has some cool imagery. Miyazaki would have loved the silly mid-air levitating house battle in ep.4. However the story, when it comes, is strong. Tanuki are pretty easy-going, but they can be impressive when they get going. You'd expect a shapeshifter battle to be fun, but these ones can think up tactics that'll make you go blink and go "can they really do that?" I imagine the pacing threw off some viewers when this was originally aired, but I think that's justified since it's adaptating a single novel. I'd been doubtful about whether a sequel anime would work, but then I learned that it's based on a sequel novel by the same author. Should be interesting.