The daily lives of three different people from different worlds in Kyoto come together in the first episode of Uchouten Kazoku. The story basically breaks down into a fairly simple show about the lives of these characters. There’s Yasaburou, the third son from a tanuki family who can excellent control over transformations, Akadama, who Yasaburou takes care of and is a tengu who is no longer able to fly, and finally Satomi, better known as Benten who is the object of Akadama’s one-sided affection and is a human with mystical abilities. Beyond that, this setup lets the characters run the show.
When I had a first look at this for the season preview, my expectations weren’t high. A bunch of mythical creatures living as people doing normal things ranks pretty low on my excitement level charts. Plus, the character designs are rather unique since it appears that they have taco-shaped ears. In addition, it looks like it was done on the smallest budget P.A. Works has ever put into a show. The only saving grace could be the substance of what was being adapted. So it’s a pleasant surprise to be able to say that I was pretty well blown away by this first episode.
I say that because this is a story that is very open to interpretation. It can be considered an allegory of aging where Yasaburou is developing his abilities, Benten is older and most powerful and Akadama longs to be able to do what he was once able to do. It can be a study of the student-teacher dynamic where Akadama opened up the world to Benten only to be betrayed and so spends his time belittling the abilities of Yasaburou, who is desperate to impress him. It’s a story of unrequited loves for Benten. It’s also a story of characters who live outside of the bounds of their own cultures. Benten shouldn’t be able to fly as a human, Yasaburou should not want to be as human as he is and Akadama should not be the tengu without the ability to fly.
These three characters feel like they are part of a twisted family. They inflict pain on each other and love each other the same even though they can’t go back to how they were in earlier days. Both Benten and Akadama feel like characters who have been through a lot with the scars of past traumas still haunting them after they have long passed. Yasaburou will be dragged into that world kicking and screaming because he’s too close to them that his life is part of theirs. On character depth alone, this is the best first episode so far this season.
Reasons to Continue Watching
- Character depth
- Incredibly open to interpretation
- A feeling of the fantastic in everyday living
Reasons to Drop
- Character designs take a lot to get used to
- Not a lot of actual events happening
- Too into itself
My Verdict: This would be a strong candidate for surprise show of the season. I guess the key to making a P.A. Works show work is to strip excess from the budget. How good would straight voice acted storyboard have been?