'Senko-san' Review, or How I Learned to Keep Quiet and Accept the Pampering
"Sewayaki Kitsune No Senko-San" Brings the Magic of Classic Japanese Mythology to a New, Modern Audience
When I say "new, modern audience," I really mean "burnt-out, lonely weeaboos."
Senko-san is a Spring 2019 anime brought to us by the lovely people at Doga Kobo, creators of shows like New Game, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, and Gabriel DropOut, as well as last season's Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita! I'm not especially familiar with them, but looking through their catalog on MAL, it really looks to me like cute comedies are their bread and butter, as well as their water, air, and entire god damn solar system. Still, it's rare to see a studio that's done the same sort of thing a million times not get good after a while, and Doga Kobo are really trying their best to flex on us hard with Senko.
Based on a web manga of the same name by Rimukoro, Senko-san is a new entry in the subgenre I like to call "Magical Housewife," a.k.a., "sad man meets cute girl" that pops up every now and then, and as a very sad man myself who harbors a somewhat shameful affection for these shows, I have to say that description is pretty dead-on. The show centers around overworked office worker Kuroto Nakano, who comes home after a long, miserable day at his miserable job to be greeted by Senko, an 800-year-old kitsune spirit, who has come to Earth to help Nakano relieve his stress and anxiety through pampering, before he is swallowed up by the noxious cloud of bad vibes hovering around him. Well, I say swallowed up, but in reality the cloud isn't explained, at least not in the first episode. There's pretty even odds as to whether it's actually some malevolent force a la Noragami, or if it's just a literal representation of his bad mood. Senko reveals to Nakano that she has some kind of debt to his family, and that's all the premise we get, with the rest of the runtime of the episode mostly being devoted to antics.
I don't mean to make that sound like a bad thing. Often the most simple premises are the best, and the antics on show here are admittedly pretty great. I actually found myself laughing out loud a number of times while watching. The moment where Nakano picks us Senko and plops her down outside his front door right after he first met her was probably the high point, enough so that I wound it back to watch the scene again and laughed just as hard as the first time I watched it. There were some more big gag moments, but I'll put a pin in it for now.
The art looks good, with bright colors vaguely reminiscent of No Game No Life. Senko's design is honestly pretty great, with her classical Japanese-style clothes giving her a look that really stands out in a good way given the setting. The fox ears and tail are pretty standard design-wise (pin), but no less effective at honing her cuteness to a nearly weaponized level. I like the overall look of the art, with the line work being very angular and giving the show an almost toy-like feel. While it's by no means the first show to go for that kind of style, the fact that nothing else immediately springs to mind is a point in the show's favor.
The OP, "Koyoi mofumofu!!" is good, but not something I'd put on in the car or anything. I got excited when the beginning had a little bit of a shuffle feel, but unfortunately that's gone pretty much immediately once the song really gets going. The ED, "Moffumoffu DE Yoi no Ja yo," I like a lot better. It's got a pretty similar style and vibe to "Ishukan Communication" from Kobayashi (pin). The accompanying videos for each are nice and pleasant, and really capture the cutesy, lighthearted vibe of the show.
Time to Get to Work on Those Pins
I'm not familiar with the manga that this show was adapted from. All I had to go on was a cute fox girl and a little bit of buzz on Facebook, so I didn't really have any expectations going in, other than that it would be a cute girl comedy with a slight supernatural bent. Which is exactly what I got. And not a whole lot else.
See, a lot of the show just feels very "standard anime." Maybe that's just me being spoiled by the past year or two of new anime, but coming off of new shows from the past couple seasons, along with pretty stellar catch-ups from '17 and '18, part of me has come to expect shows to burst onto the scene doing something new and exciting, or else polishing something that's already been done to a mirror shine, and Senko just isn't that. To be clear, I didn't necessarily think that Sad Man Fox Girl: the Anime would set the world on fire, but the fact that it doesn't do as much new as it could have is still a bit disappointing.
The base premise of a cute girl showing up from some other realm to basically be a housewife for the sad protagonist has been done a million times, but there were still plenty of opportunities to do new things that the show just doesn't take. Any comedy lives or dies on the strength of its gags, and unfortunately there's a whole lot of them here that you can get in a million other places. Protagonist is worried that having a young girl in his house will give people the wrong idea. Magical housewife gets put out but gets back in some zany way. That sorta weird trope wherein ears and tails are treated like some kind of highly sensitive erogenous zone makes an appearance but it's okay guys, because even though Senko looks maaaaybe 12 if you want to be really charitable, she's actually 800 years old so it's totally cool. It's the impetus for a light fanservice-y moment that kinda hoped it could pass itself off as another joke unnoticed, until I grabbed it by the throat and shoved its face in the part of the MAL description that reads, "Whether it be cooking, cleaning or special service(?)... she'll heal his exhaustion with her tender "care."" I swear I did not add anything to that, and it kinda got me concerned that the show is planning to go into more weird fanservice (beyond what the magical housewife already provides), but only time will tell.
Anyway, pin the second. While the design of Senko, and the other kitsune spirits briefly shown in the episodes, is good, I'm sure some people already put together the pieces of "candy colored art" and "fox people dressed in traditional clothes" and wound up with a picture that looks a whole lot like the Werebeats from the aforementioned NGNL. "Urara Meirocho" also springs to mind for me, and the fact that two shows pretty quickly come to mind does not reflect kindly on the show's character design (not mentioning the deliberately generic protagonist).
Even the music is pretty generic. The OP is basically stereotypical, standard J-pop. Even though I liked the ED a lot better, it could almost be swapped out for Ishukan Communication, and the only thing that might raise your antenna is the fact that the voices have changed.
I've been pretty mean to this show, but I'm not as down on it as it might sound. While the first episode doesn't exactly push the medium forward, it is almost aggressively pleasant, and I do see some potential for Senko's hinted at connection with Nakano's family to get interesting. I like the characters well enough, and even though I railed on them a while ago, the gags are no less effective for how standard they are. It's just nice, and sometimes it's just nice to have a show that's just nice for niceness's sake.
Senko-san is one I plan to keep watching, but I don't see it getting on anyone's Spring Best list. I had a good time with it, but unless something wild happens in the second half that really cements it in my memory, odds are it'll go down in history as one of my popcorn shows- a decent way to kill some time and get a few yuks, but as soon as the Summer season really gets going and the memes start to die off, it'll probably slide out of my memory with them.