The Eccentric Family is a thirteen episode anime series based on the book penned by Tomihiko Morimi. Set in an alternate version of present day Kyoto City, the show chronicles the adventures of the Shimogamo clan who happen to be a bunch of shape shifting Tanuki (those adorable racoon like critters that Super Mario likes to transform into.)
Kyoto, a bustling city situated on Honshu Island, is home to humans, Tanuki and Tengu (a supernatural race of Yokai who are part man/part avian.) Why so many Tanuki reside in Japan’s former capital is beyond me, given that the municipality is where the Friday Fellows are located. This club of oddballs has a bizarre culinary tradition, which calls upon its members to celebrate the upcoming New Year with a meal of Tanuki stew. I’d rather herald the arrival of January by chowing down on twelve grapes, rather than dining on a furry bandit, but whatever. There is no convincing the Fellows otherwise – they already have a taste for Tanuki flesh given that the father of the Shimogamo household was once on their menu.
Yasaburo Shimogamo is the show’s protagonist. He’s a young Tanuki who loves masquerading as a human; normally adopting the form of a teenage boy… although when we first meet him he assumes the guise of a schoolgirl. Man, that is most disturbing. Most guys have nightmares about getting intoxicated and then mistakenly sleeping with a cross dresser. Waking up next to a bushy tailed quadruped would however be much worse. It would make you almost as cranky as Professor Akadama (Yasburo’s Tengu master, who is irritable as a spinal injury has robbed him of the ability to fly.)
Gender bending is rather eccentric, but it must be said that Yasaburo’s family are all equally quirky. His mom for example spends her days playing Billiards in a prince’s outfit. Evidently she has a fondness for names beginning with the letter Y, because she named her other offspring Yashiro, Yajiro and Yaichiro. The youngest of the trio is Yashiro – a timid boy who exposes his tail whenever he gets startled. Yajiro isn’t much better when it comes to controlling his shape shifting abilities. He transformed into a frog one day and has since remained an amphibian, as he cannot recall how to revert back. Yaichiro is the eldest son and the most straight laced of the lot. He presumably acts sensible as he harbours aspirations of leading the Tanuki race one day. If he gets elected let’s hope that he doesn’t construct a wall to keep the Mexicans out of the country.
My rating for The Eccentric Family is three and a half stars. It’s an entertaining mix of comedy and drama, featuring some very nice visuals from P.A. Works (the animation studio behind Angel Beats and Another.) The show’s strongest asset is its interesting cast of characters, which isn’t limited to supernatural beings. Benten, a human who can soar through the skies thanks to Akadama’s tutelage, is especially fascinating. Allied with the Friday Fellows, she sometimes threatens to gobble up Yasaburo and on other occasions lends him aid via subtle manipulation. Whenever Benten is onscreen it is hard to take your eyes off her… partly because of her unpredictable personality and partly because she fills out a business suit so well.
Overall, I would have enjoyed The Eccentric Family a smidgen more had its story been tighter. The opening episodes, which focus mostly on world building and fleshing out the characters, are a bit too slow-paced for my tastes. Thankfully things heat up towards the end courtesy of a leadership contest between Yaichiro and his uncle. UK anime aficionados, who like the sound of this show, can already purchase the series on Blu Ray thanks to the Collector’s Edition from MVM Entertainment. If you are on a budget however you will have to wait for the standard DVD release due out later this month. I guess MVM give the wealthy preferential treatment. What’s their reasoning? No idea. I refuse to listen to their excuses, cos I am too poor to pay attention.