Hello, and welcome to the Fullmetal Narcissist anime review! I’m your host, Naru the Narcissist, and… You know what? The first time I watched this show, I was kind of at a loss. I wanted to share my disdain for it with the general public, but at the same time, I really didn’t want to talk about it. So instead of posting a full length formal review, I just decided to do a brief, lightweight review to illustrate my feelings towards it. Well, it’s been several months, and I wound up rewatching the series so I could write out a video review. And upon my second viewing, I’m finding that I have a whole lot more to say about it now than I did before. And so, this is the re-review! A lot of this material will be new, but at the same time, I’ve also copy/pasted some material from the last review, so it’s kind of a blend. Enjoy it anyway!
Ryoko Okami is a sixteen year old student, who goes to the very prestigious Otogi High School. She has a strong sense of justice, and is always ready and willing to throw her all into a fight in order to protect herself and others. This admirable toughness, along with her generosity and benevolence towards those weaker than her, serve her very well in the Otogi Bank, a school club that does favors for people in exchange for returned favors down the road.
She often works with her best friend and room mate, Akai Ringo, a girl who’s sweet and charming on the outside but cunning and manipulative on the inside. Together, this team of Wolf and Red strike terror into the hearts of the wicked… All of whom look like stereotypical anime punks.
One day, as they’re walking home from a mission, a mysterious boy from their class follows them, and proclaims his love for Ryoko! His name is Morino Ryoushi, a boy who’s bold in tongue but shy at heart, who gets terrified whenever somebody stares at him. But only if they think the word ‘staaaaaaaare’ while they’re doing it. With his ability to seemlessly blend into a crowd, he gets recruited into Otogi Bank, and now, the three have to continue working together! Well, that’s the set-up… I’ll save the plot for later, because hoo boy.
For now, Okami-san was produced by JC Staff, the people who produced Index and Toradora, and to say that it’s a step down would be putting it nicely. For those who don’t remember it, the animation in Toradora could occasionally look cheap and clunky, like a sketchy pen-and-ink design that isn’t quite finished. In order to make the movement of thew characters appear fluid, they skimp on the artwork, making for a really weird looking result if you go to slow-mo. There are quite a few shows that default to this style once or twice in order to stretch their budgets, like Samurai Seven and Welcome to the NHK. It’s ugly, but taken in small doses, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
Well, Okami-san is presented entirely in this style, from beginning to end, and it’s incredibly difficult to get used to. The backgrounds and landscapes are amazing, but in regards to the characters… It’s like K-ON, but a few drafts shy of the final draft. Yeah, I don’t know what I was smoking when I said the animation was top notch, because this is some of the cheapest, ugliest animation that I’ve ever seen. Most of the time, when the characters are talking, their appearance onscreen will consist of a tiny burst of movement followed by several seconds of still frame. The characters are designed to be proportionally normal and slightly angular, and yet theiir faces are completely moefied, making for character designs that honestly give me a headache to look at. To make matters worse, there are more frozen backgrounds here than in March of the Penguins, as characters who aren’t speaking just stand there, still as statues, errily refusing to even blink.
The dub isn’t terrible, but we are unfortunately dealing with a Jamie Marchi script, and like usual, I can tell it’s her within the first half of episode one. Have you ever had a weird aunt who tries to look cool by saying all the hip slangy stuff that she thinks your generation will be able to relate to, even though she just comes off as ironically charming at best? That’s Jamie Marchi. Thankfully, she shares duties with Chuck Huber, so it’s not as bad as it could have been.
Joel McDonald plays Ryoushi as earnestly as possible, doing a great job in making him likeable. Monica Rial seems to have a great understanding of her character, as she’s able to play every shade of her personality believably. Oddly enough, the one who falls flat is Brina Palencia, who would normally be one of my favorites. I’m going to chalk this up to bad casting, because she never really seems to own this particular character.
The most depressing part of the dub is Luci Christian, whom I have come to consider the queen of voice acting. Whom I would sell a kidney to meet in person. She plays the part of the narrator, who’s job extends far past the intros and outros that you’d expect her to voice. No, she’s present through the entire show, talking our ear off the whole time. She dumps exposition on us, makes rude comments about the characters and their bodies, she drowns out the dialogue, and basically struggles to find some sort of a point for her own existence. Luci tries to make this character interesting, but even with her behind the wheel, I haven’t heard narration this pointless, cruel and infuriating since Pitch Perfect.
So, I didn’t want to go into the plot earlier, and for my reason? Well, the plot of this show is an extensive point of discussion all it’s own. This is the basic plot, in a nutshell… Ryoko is only pretending to be strong, but she’s actually scared and girl on the inside, and it’s Ryoushi’s job to warm her icy heart and turn her back to her normal girly self, so that he can be strong for her instead.
The term ‘sexist’ gets thrown around a lot, but when the plot of an anime boils directly down to ‘woman not really strong, let man be strong for you,’ that’s a pretty big red flag, particularly when it has to remind you over and over again that the main character isn’t actually strong. Yeah, I’m sorry, was she just duking it out in a street fight with several armed older men? Was she just putting on a brave face while a much larger group of them took her down and attempted to violate her? And she’s not strong because she’s afraid and only pretending to be strong? Because she likes puppies and girly novels? Do I even have to point out the layers of bullshit at play here?
Sorry, but fearless bravery isn’t real bravery, it’s just stupid recklessness. Being scared but doing the right thing anyway is true courage. The Olson Twins’ made for TV Halloween movie taught me that when I was a child, and this show still has a tough time understanding it.
Oh wait, there’s an explanation for it. She pretends to be tough because she got violated by somebody in middle school, but when she tried to report it, nobody believed her, and everybody started to hate her for lying. There’s a certain nuance to that… She’s scared and distrustful because she was violated and never vindicated for it, but she acts tough because she doesn’t want it to happen again. Her best friend wants to set her up with a good man so she can slowly undo the damage that was done to her. Makes sense, right?
Well, ignoring the troubling implications that this idea makes in regards to the creator’s opinions towards women, especially in regards to tomboys, I have to ask… Why am I supposed to want to see this change happen? What do I, as the viewer, get out of it?
Okay, for the sake of comparison, let’s talk about Batman for a moment. Yes, I know, they have nothing in common… Ryoko became a kick-ass vigilante because something traumatic happened to her in the past, while Bruce Wayne became a kick-ass vigilante because… Okay, maybe they’re not that different. Well, Batman’s backstory is so well known that every single incarnation of his story has explored it at some point… Except for Brave and the Bold during daytime hours, because we must censor to protect the children… and it ties in perfectly with the development that happens down the road.
Now, I’m not the first person to suggest this, but it would be very healthy for Bruce Wayne to just get over his parents’ death and give up the crime fighting. He could put aside his cape and cowl, and just live life as the wealthy philanthropist playboy he was born to be. find a good woman, start a family, and live the American dream.
So, if it would be in his best interest, why doesn’t it happen? Because if it did, nobody would care anymore. The fanbase would die off, and the only readers left would be the ones holding onto the hope that it’s just some sick dream created by The Mad Hatter.
Similarly, seeing Ryoko giving up on her quest for justice would take away what is, frankly, the only interesting thing about her. Without it, she’s just another generic Tsundere, like Naru from Love Hina. She is not my namesake. And yet, her best friends… And some viewers as well… want to see this development happen. Apparently it’s okay for a grown man in a black suit to dedicate his life to being strong and kicking ass, but a teenaged high school girl? Work through that shit!
And here’s my biggest problem with this show. Bigger than my problem with the narrator, or with Marchi’s writing. Remember Ryoko’s best friend, Ringo? These two didn’t meet until a year after Ryoko’s assault. The person Ringo met is, through and through, the very damaged tomboy she’s trying to change. I’m sorry, but if you think that friendship is trying to change somebody into a better person that you think they can become, you’re not a very good friend.
Back in March, I wrote a review on my blog about a little anime called Oreimo, a title that is more or less the shortened version of ‘My Little Sister Can’t Possibly be this Cute.’ Guess what it’s about. But despite all of it’s shortcomings, I praised Oreimo for having a cast of characters that make the effort to try and understand and accept each other for who they are. At least, in the first season.
And now, you expect me to be entertained by some bullshit series where an awesome character’s best friend wants to hook her up with a man so she’ll be more ladylike? And you’re going to look me in the eye and tell me that Okami-san is popular, but Oreimo is despised by people? Are you fucking kidding me? Oreimo’s writing was great until the 2013 revival, but Okamisan’s writing was bad right out of the gate!
For the first six episodes or so, I didn’t mind this show. The chauvinism goes pretty deep, but it was kind of funny a few times, it was mostly 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 overpower what little good there may have been. 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. 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! 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!
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.
And if that’s not bad enough, this show actually seems to be terrified of itself. We never see the Otogi Bank actually pursuing a debt, because it’s terrified of making the characters look unlikeable. The constant fairy tale references never really amount to anything, because it’s terrified of not being taken seriously. We never find out exactly what happened to Ryoko in middle school, because it’s terrified of upsetting the audience. We never see Ryoushi asking her out on an actual date, because it’s terrified of exploring how such an exaggerated character would react to normal social interactions. The narrator won’t shut the hell up, because it’s scared that the writing won’t hold up on it’s own.
The writing in general, is really, really bad. It constantly alternates between being insultingly stupid and just plain boring. The amnesia storyline alone is an episode painful enough to skip. The episode where a butler tries to find a bride for his ward is even worse, as he uses it as an excuse to make shallow, despicable remarks about the entire female cast before revealing that he didn’t need to be there in the first place. At no point do the characters ever act like real people.
And the ending… You know what? Throw up a spoiler tag, because I really fucking need to address this. At the end of the series, a rival school… The respective hell to their heaven… kidnaps several main characters, and just to make things more personal, Ryoko is kidnapped and held hostage by the very man who allegedly did something violation-y to her. I won’t tell you how this is resolved, but I’ll sure as hell tell you how it isn’t resolved. Despite the clear cases of assault and abduction… and others, I’m sure… Nobody calls the cops. Who definitely exist in this universe. Would it be anticlimactic, like the end of Monty Python and the holy Grail? No, because Ryoko is being held captive by the very man who got away cleanly with something vague to her. Yeah, it doesn’t take Dick Tracey to look at this scenario and start wondering if she’d been telling the truth back then.
For the non-spoiler version… 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, and early implications about the village being part of a social experiment filled with fairy tale references amounts to absolutely nothing. I know it’s easy to say that someone couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag, but it really does seem like somebody deliberately was trying to do just that… And failing miserably at it.
Strictly speaking, Okami-san isn’t the worst anime I’ve ever seen. It’s not even on my bottom ten. But you know what? I still hate it. I don’t even hate the anime I once gave 0/10, but I hate this anime. And trust me, there’s a very, very small list of anime that I flat-out hate. It’s bad enough that it’s stupid, full of shit, and blatantly sexist, but the way it approaches the subject of rape just tips the scales entirely against it.
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 whole-heartedly condemn this series because of what I wanted it to be, rather than what it was, but what it was was no peach, okay?
Okami-san and her Seven Companions was dubbed by Funimation, and can be viewed for free on Netflix. You can also find a lot of other anime on Netflix that don’t suck, so don’t even bother with this festering field full of fairy tale feces. It isn’t well written, it isn’t well produced… It just isn’t well. I gave it a four out of ten the first time I watched it, but now that I’ve watched it twice, I think it’s much more appropriate to give this series a 2/10.