I feel like I should have written up an introduction to all of these summer anime I’m covering this year. It would be much simpler for you guys to see what shows we’re spotlighting. We have already covered what perhaps was the most anticipated of them all, Free! Next up, it’s Uchoten Kazoku or The Eccentric Family, the most recent contrivance by Tatami Galaxy author Tomihiko Morimi. Uchoten Kazoku feels like a spiritual successor to The Tatami Galaxy, and I’m not just referring to eccentric atmosphere surrounding both, but also the overall production. Aside from that, I don’t believe an episode summary would be enough to describe just what exactly is going on in this series.
Uchoten Kazoku begins with a brief description of its setting of Kyoto and its [fictional] history within the story. Protagonist Yasaburo Shimogamo describes how Kyoto’s population has multiplied to nearly 1.5 million since 1,200 years ago, when Emperor Kammu settled in the area. He continues to describe the complex relationship between the three races which maintain a delicate balance in Japanese society. These races are the humans, tanuki, and tengu. For those unfamiliar with the last one, these are flying demons. Yasaburo also explains that he admires the tengu and likes to imitate humans, insomuch that he transforms into a human boy or girl at will in order to avoid being discovered for what he is.
Yasaburo encounters two of his siblings, Yaichiro (eldest) and Yashiro (youngest) as he heads for professor Akadama’s home. Yashiro gives him a shopping coupon he might need before he heads to Akadama’s. As he shops, Yaichiro spots him transformed into a young school girl and scolds him. In spite of this, Yasaburo retains his appearance before he visits his teacher. Once there, he and Akadama chit chat quite a bit about a mysterious lass named Benten who happens to be meeting with The Friday Fellows. Akadama manages to convince Yaichiro into giving a “love letter” to Benten. Instead of giving her the note, Yasaburo shoots it to her, much to her displeasure. That same evening Benten meets with Yasaburo who warns him to steer clear, since as a Friday Fellow member she can offer his carcass to be eaten at their annual year-end party. It so happens that the club members roast a tanuki at such an event each year. As for the rest of the episode, you might have to watch episode two in order to make sense of anything.
Perhaps this is what we should expect from a story being adapted from Tomihiko Morimi, author of The Tatami Galaxy. Actually, how about we take a step back and go over the staff in this summer premiere. Uchoten Kazoku is directed by Masayuki Yoshihara, whose sole directing experience is Mai no Maho to Katei no Hi, which frankly I’ve never even heard of prior to this. Although, this previous work of his seems to share quite a bit of similarities aesthetically and thematically. Moving on, this Eccentric Family adaptation is written by Shotaru Suga, who co-authored Darker than Black, and wrote Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne. The animation studio producing Uchoten Kazoku is P.A. Works, primarily known for Angel Beats! They have also produced Another, True Tears, the recently concluded Red Data Girl, and were production assistants on Darker than Black.
It’s interesting to see the end result that is Uchoten Kazoku which is why I pointed out the work history behind those involved. For starters, this is adapted very much in the stead of author Tomohiko Morimi’s utopian-yet-quirky societal views. I have only seen bits and pieces from The Tatami Galaxy, but I can see striking similarities between the setting and characters in both stories. It’s also good that P.A. Works–of course under the counseling of director Yoshihara–made sure the oddities remained more than apparent. I also appreciate the character designs done by Koji Kumeta, original manga author of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Kumeta’s distinctive style is obvious, as he creates his characters to match their personalities almost too ironically.
Uchoten Kazoku benefits from a lack of overexposure brought forth by its setting and characters. I do think that if it didn’t have the twist of the three cultural circles, it wouldn’t be as interesting. There is a certain dynamic between its characters that isn’t palpable enough to be noticeable right away, however, it does not remain unsaid. There is this mysterious bond uniting all of these characters from all walks of life into a single whole Uchoten Kazoku or Eccentric Family. Yet, while the chemistry is there, this episode will be too arcane for most. Here we have another series that happens to be animated, but isn’t pointed towards children and those with a childlike imagination. I even see some gender [orientation] roles being a primary focus, though I’m not entirely sure. The good thing about this is that this isn’t the first and only series this year to break the habit most anime have been accused of following as of late. What could such a trend be? Well, to pummel the dead horse even further with their formulaic structure.