Minor spoilers ahead.
For a brief overview of the plot, Ryoko is a 16 year old girl who is really tough and has a strong sense of justice. She’s strong and self-reliant, but don’t worry, it’s all an act… She’s actually really girly and weak, and it’s up to our bland male lead to warm her icy heart! Because apparently THAT cliche isn’t tired or sexist enough to just die already.
She works for some school club that does favors for people just tol get them into debt, but we never actually get to see them pursuing peoples’ debts, so they might as well just be a charity. Our lead male, a shy stalker who has a phobia of being stared at, is okay.
For the first six episodes or so, I didn’t mind this show. The chauvinism goes pretty deep, but it was kind of funny, it was harmless, and the annoying narrator was at least making one or two good jokes.
It was at about the halfway point that the low quality of the writing really started to shine through. It tries to do both comedy and drama, but it never succeeds in creating a balance between the two. It can actually be pretty damn jarring at times. One episode will give you a strong, ominous implication that the heroine is actually a rape victim, then the next episode will jump into silly comedy and end with her yuri-kissing in front of three identical fat guys dressed as the three little pig terrorists. Not making this up. After seeing what Ouran High School Host Club was capable of, no anime should ever have an excuse to blend comedy and drama this poorly!
I won’t go into just how badly the dramatic material is pulled off… Think George Lucas and the prequel trilogy for comparison… But to summarize, Okami-san tries to go to some really serious places while struggling to take itself seriously. They even manage to work ecchi undertones into a CPR scene, for christ’s sake!
There are too many characters, and the ones that we get to spend time with normally only get a single episode dedicated to them before they fade back into the background. The narrator wears out her welcome fast, and doesn’t tell nearly enough funny jokes to justify her presence. She just MST’s the footage, throwing out expository details and drowning out character dialogue to explain things to us that we don’t need or want to hear. It’s a shame, because her dub voice is provided by Luci Christian, and I really hate telling one of her voices to shut up so many times.
The main villain, who is introduced with a promising bang, ultimately fades out with an anticlimactic whimper, promising revenge for a sequel series that will hopefully never come. Hell, that’s pretty much how the series ends as a whole… Nothing is resolved, we never find out what exactly happened to Ryoko, and although presence of a police force is made known to the audience, people who obviously deserve to be in jail never wind up there. Early implications about the village being part of a social experiment filled with fairy tale references amount to absolutely nothing.
Okami-san has a great English dub, and top tier animation, but it was so focused on riding the popularity of JC Staff’s other works that it forgot to pay any attention to the details or direction or tone of it’s own story. What started out as a mildly entertaining distraction turned into a frustrating disappointment, and my rating for the series slowly dropped from a 7… To a 6… to a 5… to a 4/10, where it will stay. It could have used some serious focus, and some lessons from it’s predecessors Railgun, Shana and Toradora on how to build a strong female character, give her a soft side, and still keep her interesting and believable in the process.
That should be the end of the review, but you know what? There’s something else I’d like to say. I haven’t seen every anime, so I could be wrong about this, but outside of hentai, rape is a subject that doesn’t exist in the medium. It can be joked about, or threatened, but it doesn’t actually happen, and it doesn’t get dealt with. This is one of the reasons that Now and Then, Here and There is such a rare gem… Any anime that introduces a plot point about one of it’s characters being raped, and actually explores the repercussions and recovery of the attack, can easily be considered a ground breaking series. What frustrates me the most about Okami-san is that by introducing the rape implications in a lazy attempt to explain Ryoko’s character, they actually come really close to pulling this off… Only to pussy out at every turn. They vaguely introduce the subject when needed, then drop it cold and try to make us forget about it until the next time it’s needed. I know it isn’t fair of me to drop this series down to a four because of what I wanted it to be, rather than what it was, but in the end, I don’t really care.It’s Okami-san’s own damn fault for getting my hopes up.