ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 12th May 2013, by David West

Okami-san And Her Seven Companions

Ryoko Okami and her best friend Ringo Akai are students at Otogi High School. They are both members of the Otogi Bank, a group of students who can be hired to do almost anything by anyone who needs their help. In return, the applicant will owe the Otogi Bank a favour to be repaid at a later date. Sort of like the mafia, really. Ryoshi Morino is a socially awkward teenager who is smitten with the rough and tough Ryoko, but if he wants to win her heart, he will have to prove he is man enough to take care of her.

Okami-san And Her Seven Companions is a jumble of ideas that don't fit together. On the one hand, the lead characters are drawn from classic fairy tales. Ryoko is the Big Bad Wolf, Ringo is Little Red Riding Hood, and so on, but the series never gets any mileage out of this idea. The overall tone is comedic, and that is when the show works best, with a sarcastic narrator - that Ringo and Ryoko can only hear whenever she insults them - providing a droll commentary throughout.

Unfortunately, the mood lurches all over the place, and there is a plot thread involving Ryoko's past that is much darker, with the strong implication of sexual violence. The script sets up Ryoko as a strong, independent girl who trains at a boxing gym and is the toughest member of the Otogi Bank, but then suggests that at heart she is just a frightened girl who desperately needs a man to look after her - hardly a progressive portrayal of a female character. On more than one occasion, Ryoko winds up being taken hostage and is reduced to being the damsel in distress, waiting helplessly for Ryoshi to rescue her. This not only diminishes her as the protagonist of the story, but makes it seem that Ryoshi is correct in his assertion that only a man can guarantee Ryoko's safety.

Ryoshi's character is decidedly problematic. The very first time he talks to Ryoko, it is to declare his undying love for her. They've never even spoken before, but he has, to all intents and purposes, been stalking her. Throughout the series, he insists on proclaiming his eternal devotion - something Ryoko has neither sought, nor requested. That doesn't seem to matter to Ryoshi. He knows what he wants, and Ryoko's desires don't seem to enter the equation. That's not romantic; that's the creepy work of a possessive stalker.

The English dub is an improvement on the Japanese in that regard. There is a scene in which Ryoko is losing a fight with a thug from Onigashami High School, the delinquent rivals to Otogi Academy. Ryoko's punches have no affect on her opponent, but Riyoshi flattens him with a single blow. In the English dub he yells, 'Get your hands off her!', but in the Japanese he says, 'If anyone is going to take Ryoko down, it's going to be me!' What the hell...?

If Okami-San And Her Seven Companions concentrated on comedy and playing with fairy tale archetypes, it would be a much stronger show. The attempt to address serious issues like sexual assault and the very dubious gender politics really let the series down. What's the point of a Big Bad Wolf if she must become a poodle to be happy?
SCORE: 2.5/5
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