Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Eccentric Family 有頂天家族

I found a nice new weird anime called The Eccentric Family 有頂天家族.  One of the delights of Japanese cartoons (or Japanese anything, really) is that just when you think you know what they're going to do next, they surprise you by doing something else.  This anime is about a tanuki family.  I never heard of tanuki anywhere else but Japanese cartoons.  They are described as "raccoon dogs," and I always assumed, from their appearance, that they were a sort of raccoon, or something closely related.  Wrong. The "dog" part is right.  Actual raccoons are Procyon, rather distant from dogs, while tanuki belong to the Canidae, with dogs/wolves and foxes.

Anyhow, tanuki are very important in Japanese folklore, and this anime is about a tanuki family that lives surreptitiously in Kyoto and hangs out with another creature from Japanese folklore, a tengu (you've seen the long-nosed red masks that represent them).

The father of this tanuki family was inadvertently eaten by the human members of the "Friday Club." This seems to be the sort of thing that happens to tanuki, who seem to be both clever and idiotic and impulsive.  Interested yet?  Another thing about tanuki is that they're shape-shifters, so the anime starts out, in perverse Japanese fashion, as a genderbender.  Sort of.  One of the family sons, Yasaburō, shows up looking like this:

Now, it's not actually a boy shape-shifting into a girl.  That would be more, or maybe less, perverse. It's a tanuki shapeshifting into a human girl.  True, he usually shape-shifts into a human boy, and yes, it's meant to be prurient.  This is all on top of the fact that in Japan, they dress their schoolgirls like they're ten years old until they graduate from high school in cute little sailor suits as in the illustration, so the character looks way younger than he actually is. But, at least through the fourth episode, this is as kinky as it gets.  Something sexually weird like this seems to be required by law in all Japanese cartoon creations.

Well, here's a group picture—Starting from the left front, the bearded guy in the kimono is the deceased father of the family.  Next is Yasaburō, in both his female and male shape-shifted form. Then, the purple-haired girl is a human being named Benten, one of the Friday Club that ate the father. She's actually more magically powerful than the folklore figures.  Kid on the right is the youngest of the family. The whiskery guy with the pointed goatee in the mid- back is the main tengu character, and the other old guy behind him is another tengu, not, as you might guess, Isaac Asimov.  Other characters are the mother, another pair of brothers, an even weirder tanuki family that's having a feud with the first group, etc.

I'm enjoying this.  Certainly better than the teen paranormal romance we seem to be culturally wallowing in lately.  Japanese stuff can be refreshing that way.  Finally, it's eye-candy.  One of those animated features that is just a pure pleasure to look at, like Miyazaki's stuff or some of the better Disney material.  This is especially true of the background work.  Here's the Japanese trailer to show you what I mean.  You can watch the first few episodes over at Crunchyroll.

1 comment:

  1. This looks very enjoyable.

    I'll definitely have to watch it.

    Thanks for alerting your readers!