Fairytales such as Red Riding Hood and Snow White have existed for centuries, and have been retold over and over again via bedtime stories to our children and modern storytelling mediums such as films and TV. Because the stories are so timeless and memorable, the number of retellings and remakes never seem to end or grow tiresome. That is why every now and then we have a wave of fairytales showing on our TV and cinema screens. Recently we’ve had Mirror, Mirror (Hollywood film with Julia Roberts retelling Snow White), Once Upon a Time (an ABC TV series containing a mixture of fairytale characters in a modern day drama setting) and now Okami-San and Seven Companions.
Okami-san and Seven Companions stars Ryoko Okami (the Wolf), a tomboyish high school girl who’s part of the Otagi High School Bank – a club dedicated to ‘doing favours’ for the student body with the simple payment of performing a favour in return. The favours can range from taking care of the local bully to helping a student arrange a date with their crush. Okami is known for being very fierce and hostile except when with her best friend Ringo (Little Red Riding Hood) so imagine her surprise when the incredibly shy student Ryōshi Morino (the Hunter) suddenly proclaims his love to her! Okami naturally turns him down but that doesn’t stop Ringo from recruiting him for the Otagi club, and so begins the hunter’s mission to capture the wolf, whilst trying to overcome Ryoko’s troubled past.
Okami-san and Seven Companions makes references to both Western and Eastern fables; you’ll mostly likely pick up on the Red Riding Hood and Snow White references straight away, but rare tales such as The Ant and The Grasshopper and Tsuru No Ongaeshi you probably won’t grasp unless you’re highly into your fables. Don’t worry if you’re not; the series can be easily enjoyed on its own merits – if anything the references will make the viewer want to look up such tales rather than be put off by them. The fairytale angle isn’t used to drive the story but it gives extra flesh to the multiple side characters in the story, and sometimes the tales are actually used rather skilfully. For example: Otohime plays the part of the turtle from the Japanese folktale Urashima Tarō but in the third episode, she also becomes a key character in The Tortoise and the Hare story. It’s interesting in retrospect to see how similar some fairytales are, both in the themes and characters (or animals) they use.
The main story is mostly centred on Ryoshi’s courtship of Ryoko, overcoming her troubled background, her accepting his love and their ‘happy ending’ (so to speak). Ryoko is your typical tsundere, but it’s her interactions with the rather sweet Ryoshi that makes the relationship appealing at least. Despite the side characters not having a massive impact on their overall relationship, it’s their ‘quirks’ that make them memorable and fun to watch, such as Otohime and Taro’s heavily implied relationship and Ringo’s spin on the innocent Red Riding Hood character. The character who pretty much steals the limelight though is the narrator; she opens up every episode and helps move the plot along with her sense of humour. The narrator goes from observational comedy to sarcastic wit, so she will at least give you one chuckle, regardless of your humour tastes. Admittedly the narrator has a bad habit of talking over the main characters in mid-sentence, creating a disorientating experience in the opening episodes whilst you’re getting used to it. However she does know when to stop talking when it’s important, as during some of the more serious scenes in episodes 5 – 7.
The episodes themselves are driven by the club members who perform favours across the school board and the antics they get up to in the meantime. As the series is only 12 episodes long, the series doesn’t go too deeply into the club’s establishment or why all these fairytale characters happen to exist in one school. It simply tells the story as it is and overall it’s an enjoyable watch, despite the inconclusive ending.
The score for the series is easy on the ears but nothing majorly memorable once you’ve turned off the DVD player. The opening theme “Ready Go!” is performed by May’n, whilst the highly appropriate “Akazukin-chan Goyoujin” (translated as ‘Careful Little Red Riding Hood’) is provided by OtoGi8 – both themes are upbeat and fun to listen to.
The animation is actually above average for this type of show; for a short and not exactly high profile series, I was expecting them to take many shortcuts whenever they could, such as showing the impact of a punch with a still frame rather than the whole action itself. Surprisingly this show is very well animated, colourful and doesn’t skim on the details. Although the design of the school is nothing noteworthy, the characters themselves are nicely designed and memorable.
DVD extras include promo videos, trailers and clean opening/closing, and of course there’s the English and Japanese dub with subtitles to enjoy. There’s a small fault with the subtitles however; in the ‘next episode preview’ card at the end of each episode, the subtitle sometimes doesn’t disappear once the DVD skips to the next episode, I had to pause/stop the DVD and then re-play for the subtitles to reset themselves. Annoying, but not too much of a problem.
Okami-san and Seven Companions is an easy breezy show; it’s pleasant to watch, will provide a laugh or two and nicely passes the time, however once it’s ended, it won’t leave a massive impact on you and you’ll probably fail to remember details of watching it later on. If you’re looking for a decent comedy show to pass the time before the next big anime release, Okami-san and Seven Companions is a worthy contender, especially if you love your fairytales.