“What is fun is good!” Aaaannd it’s time to review what was, for me, the best anime of the Summer 2013 season, The Eccentric Family, or Uchoten Kazuko. I’ll try my best not to be too biased, but I really loved this show and may not be able to totally keep myself from gushing. You’ve been warned. To see where it ended up in my rankings, go here.
The Eccentric Family is told from the point of view of Yasaburo Shimogamo, a carefree tanuki (Wikipedia’s page on tanuki) and the son of the recently deceased leader of tanuki society, Souichiro Shimogamo. To summarize the anime’s meandering plot would be difficult, but it centers on the mysterious death of Yasaburo’s father, who was caught by a human society known as the Friday Fellows, boiled alive and eaten. His death continues to hang over the family, and the show deals not only with their coming to terms with his passing, but also clears up the details of how such a powerful and intelligent tanuki could have perished in such a manner.
Joining Yasaburo are his mother and three brothers, as well as the mysterious human woman, Benten and Yasaburo’s cranky teacher, Professor Akadama, an elderly tengu. Together, the family explores the mystery behind Souichiro’s death, with Benten and the Professor occasionally helping or hindering them.
Coming to the end of the story, The Eccentric Family is truly the proper title for this anime. All families have their quirks, and this one uses that fact to beautifully portray one family’s struggle to adapt after the loss of a loved one. That is the true beauty in this show; the vision of a family growing, searching and loving together.
Aesthetically, The Eccentric Family is gorgeous. The animation is unique and matches the quirky, artistic tone of the show. It’s colorful and dynamic. The soundtrack likewise matches the show’s odd vibe. Atmosphere is always difficult to describe, but the combination of the visuals, music and superb writing gives this anime a feel that I can’t describe as anything else but mellow. Even the moments of tension are handled in a measured, calm manner.
The writing in The Eccentric Family is, as I have said, superb. Highlighted by Yasaburo’s wandering soliloquies (which really set the tone for the whole show) and the veiled exchanges with Benten, the dialogue rarely missteps or falls into the cliche. This comparison may seem a bit weird, but overall, the writing reminded me of Blast of Tempest, walking the line between dramatized and cheesy perfectly. Too far in the dramatic direction and the writing becomes a gag; not far enough and it becomes standard, stock stuff. Because of the delicacy of the writing, The Eccentric Family feels less like your typical TV show and more like a genuine work of art done for art’s own sake.
Overall, The Eccentric Family is a truly beautiful anime, one that transcends the current trends in anime and really is true art. The unity of the show is wonderful to behold. I can’t really fully describe what it is that makes it so great, because the show is much more than the simple sum of its parts. At the end of the day, that’s the best compliment I can give. Right now, I have ranked it in the second tier of my rankings, but I have a suspicion that a marathon watch will compel me to boost it into the first tier. Gems like these are the reason I watch anime.
It really doesn’t matter what genre you like, or if you even like anime at all. You should watch The Eccentric Family. It is a beautiful work of art, deserving of your viewing. It avoids annoying conventions and fanservice, while being expertly written, plotted and presented. The characters are as colorful as the animation, and the overall message is one that espouses the value of the family unit in a day and age where individualism reigns supreme.
Reasons to Watch:
- Artistic, beautiful writing, characterization and animation.
- Wonderfully plotted; creates questions, answers questions and moves at a laid back pace to the satisfying conclusion.
- Moving portrayal of familial bonds, even through difficult times.
- Mischief and fun have their place, too, offering moments of well-placed comic relief in the midst of the drama.
- The anime as a whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
- Oh, and a really pretty ED song.
As always, thanks for reading all the way to the end! Please remember to subscribe on the left side of the page!