First Impressions – Gingitsune

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We’ve had a show jump from off the radar into the sleeper category in White Album 2 – can one of my sleeper picks going into the season live up to its side of the bargain?

OP: “tiny lamp” by fhána

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The old school theme is very prominent this season (though the shows I’m choosing not to follow are no doubt a partial reason for that perception). Gingitsune is yet another anime that looks and feels as if it would have been at home on the schedule five, ten or twenty years ago – fantasy, seinen and quite lacking in apparent irony – all qualities that used to be much more common the anime schedule than they are these days.

While there might be a temptation to look at this is a shoujo along the lines of last year’s underrated gem Kamisama Hajimemashita, it bears a stronger resemblance to Natsume Yuujinchou (though that’s published in a shoujo magazine just as Kamisama is).  This is almost definitely not going to be one of those human-deity romance stories (I sure hope not) – this is a friendship and slice-of-life, seemingly.  The truth is that this show pushes an awful lot of my buttons – seinen, Miki Shinichirou in a lead role, Shinto…  And not just Shinto but Inari shrines, the most numerous in Japan and a personal favorite of mine (for reasons I could write an entire post on).  So what extent this was a true sleeper and what extent simply a show that seems cut from a cloth I like I can’t say, but I had a pretty positive reaction to the first episode.

Make no mistake, the premiere of Gingitsune is no masterpiece – the production values have their highs and lows, there are some rough patches in the pacing and the writing plays as a bit broad compared to the cutting complexity of a show like Natsume Yuujinchiou.  But if you’re the right sort of viewer I think Gingitsune is loaded with qualities you’ll find pleasing.  Starting with Miki-san, who’s so perfect as the fox deity Gintarou that it’s almost unfair.  His take on the Kami is that of a curmudgeonly old fox who’s just a bit tsundere for his human medium, Saeki Makoto (Diomedea’s regular headliner Kanemoto Hisako).  She’s the miko of the local Inari shrine, and the 15th in her family blessed with the ability to see Gintarou.  The 14th was her mother, who died when Makoto was a toddler, leaving her in the hands of her father, Shrine Priest Tatsuo (another big-name old-timer, Seki Tomihiko).

The story in the premiere is pretty lightweight, designed to show off the basics of the premise and give Gintatou and Makoto a chance to reveal their core character traits (she’s a bit impetuous, immature and whiny but ultimately kind-hearted).  We have a broken teen romance and a lost cat – not exactly globally significant – but one suspects this is going to be a show that focuses less on plot and more on quietly observing life at the intersection of the human world and the Divine.  There’s a larger story going in with Gintarou’s partner – Shrine Heralds are supposed to run in pairs, and his ran off a Century earlier – and judging by the OP there seems to another local deity (a cat) whose medium is a boy about Makoto’s age.  Coincidence?

In terms of visuals Gingitsune is sort of low-rent Ghibli (at times very low-rent), especially reminiscent in the character designs.  The animation isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s quite a pretty show in its depictions of lonely Shrines tucked under railway bridges and majestic ones crowning hillsides, and the BGM nicely complements the art to create a relaxed and contemplative mood.  This is a show that has a lot of that mono no aware quality going for it, and so far at least what it lacks in brilliance and flash it mostly makes up for with an enormous amount of heart, good feeling and Miki-san’s smoother-than-silk star turn as Gintarou. This is a good one, not great so far, but a very nice contrast to anything else I see on the schedule this Fall.

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ED: “Gekkō Story” by SCREEN mode

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15 comments

  1. i

    I liked it. It was laid back, calming, simple, a bit melodramatic but overall I nice little premiere. I never really got into Natsume (its rested, untouched in my hard drive for years) or KH (that too is in the back of my HD) but I think I might with Gingitsune. Aria type pure slice of life (no moe, little comedy, no romance or really anything) have never been compelling for me to watch but Miki Shinchiro is just too cool to give up on.

    PS I started learning Japanese writing and I noticed that the way 'Gi' and 'Ne' are written are a bit weird (too cursive) in the title. Is this because Japanese letters look different on computers or just a stylistic thing. Also is it 'Gitsune' instead of 'kitsune' because of the 'n' sound right before the word and this is a result of having double consonants (like with some numbers and times) or again just a stylish thing to do?

  2. The title is just a stylistic choice.

    As for the Gitsune, it's a matter of voiced and unvoiced sounds – K vs G, H vs B (or P), Shi vs Ji, etc. They actually work just about the same as they do in English as to when a consonant sound is voiced or unvoiced.

  3. t

    I liked it, but I expected more. the first episode with the sorta story given to us was shallow and I can't even call it "seinen" cause the..course of action was too much lightweight. I don't say negligence toward to audience…but it was too "light".
    yet I like it. the fantasy element was combined well in the story. and the little cat/wolf at the OP imply about interesting stuff to come by.
    I also like the main characters. energetic and leading.

    about the animation. I think it was decent enough. not every anime must have that "super" visuals like KyoAni/PA and to be good. as long as it's decent and has good story, I will be satisfied. Aka Natsume's series 😛

    speaking about Natsume, comparison is probably inevitable…I don't want say "hey X is better" or something. I like to enjoy the series for itself. but I'll say this – both have alot alike, but the main character in each has it's own…unique. plus, for now, they…seem to have same concept but express different sides. something like chuuni and aura.

    I'll stick to the series.

    p.s
    excuse me for asking(= in other words, excuse my idiot blood :P)..but what the hell the meaning of "gingitsune" is?if it has one….

  4. J

    Words that start with K in Japan transform to start with G when you attach a prefix to them. Gin-Kitsune (Silver-Fox) becomes Gingitsune.

  5. t

    wow! I see!
    Arigato ^_^

  6. J

    This episode just felt so calm and pleasing to me. I really like the friendship Gintarou and Makoto have and I'm looking forward to see it develop.

    Two things though

    1, I can't possibly be the only person who thought 'Is that you Kotoura-san?' when we first saw Makoto looking troubled, right?

    2, The scene where Gintarou leaves the shrine while Makoto looks away. My God I laughed so hard. That was right up there with the infamous walking animation in Symphogear.

    Definitely a keeper for me. I'd go as far as saying it's up there with Golden Time and Coppelion for my favourites of Fall so far.

  7. As I said – at times very low-rent. I tried to chalk that up to a stylistic choice about how a fox deity that can fly would walk jauntily when proving a point, but no – I suspect it was just… what it was.

    Still – it's not a deal-breaker for me. The look of the show is generally fine for what it is.

  8. i

    I love his tail though, it looks so funny when that giant thing is moving about. Like in the scene where he leaves the shrine.

  9. H

    The main thing I didn't like so much about this show was the huge difference in look between Makoto and her classmates. I mean, yeah, I guess you expect a shrine medium to look more plain, but it seemed that Makoto was a middle schooler who had skipped 2 or 3 grades to be in a 2nd year high school class. I realize that's probably stylistic as well, but it felt like it was trying to make Makoto be outright more immature than everyone else, and wasn't really fair to her. I'd just like everyone to have more of an equal look.

    Still it was enjoyable, and definitely worth keeping with.

  10. P

    The rest of the VA cast is really impressive too almost all of them are among my favorites.

    Bonus point for the Tomokazu rivals in the same show !

  11. Do you mean the Seki twins? I don't think Sugita Tomokazu is in this show, is he?

  12. P

    He is apparently from what I have seen on ANN =)

  13. Huh, so he is – he isn't on the MAL cast list yet. It's funny, because Seki Tomokazu and Seki Toshihiro are both in the series as well…

  14. K

    I really like the serene atmosphere in this first ep, and the pacing/ bgm/ style felt very much like a Ghibli film. The dynamics between Makoto and Gintarou were refreshing and were not exploitative. As mentioned previously, it's one of those low-key feel-good animes that leave you with a warm smile at the end of the episode. I know it did for me. I thought it was pretty funny how the Shinto gods walk over next door if they want to chat with other deities.
    I wasn't expecting much based on the previews, but this definitely has my interest now.

  15. R

    This is charming. This may not be as visually grabbing, and this may not be emotionally intense (for now), but this is just charming. I like Gintarou immediately, and how can I resist Miki-san — especially when he's one of the protagonists? It looks like my watch list this season keeps growing.

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