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.
ED: “Gekkō Story” by SCREEN mode