Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha was really the last show of the season that I had a reasonably high level of expectations for going on. It certainly isn’t because of the staff – when you look at the credits of some series they’re a who’s who of the anime industry, but this show is more just a “Who?”. It’s also burdened with a bare-bones 10-episode commitment, not even a full cour to work with for an ongoing manga (a disturbing trend we’re seeing more of). No, my interest here is purely based on premise – it’s a “horses for courses” kind of thing.
Happily, Inari Konkon delivered just about what I was expecting. Let me state up-front that I make no pretense at being impartial here – this show pretty much had me at “Hello”. You’ve got a show set in Kyoto, which is a big leg-up for starters. You’ve got 22 minutes of Kansai-ben, Kyoto street scenery and not only that, you’ve got a character named after Fushimi Inari – the most famous and popular (though not first-ranked) Inari Shrine in Japan, which also happens to be one of my very favorite places in the entire world. Production IMS (who?) would really have to screw this up to whiff with this audience member.
They didn’t. Even for a captive audience like me it’s obvious that this isn’t anything brilliant or profound, but the premiere of Inari Konkon was really charming. It was very pretty to look at (though with the setting, I don’t know how much of that goes down to the production itself), nicely-paced, cute without being cloying (much) and possessed of a quick little sense of wit. The show has a pretty old-fashioned look and style to it, right down to launching straight into the OP without so much as a pre-open.
The heroine of the piece is, as mentioned, the absurdly named Fushimi Inari (Ohzora Naomi), a middle-schooler who, not surprisingly given her name, loves the shrine she shares it with. She has a stern older brother Touka (Ueda Youji), two best friends, Chika (Saohara Kaori) and Keiko (Watanabe Kumiko) who may trigger a few yuri goggles, and a boy she’s crushing on hard – Tanbabachi Kouji (Okamoto Hiroshi). He seems like an all-around good guy, a basketball whiz with a ready smile, but he takes no notice of Inari romantically, instead setting his sights on Sumizome Akemi (Minase Inori), to whom he’s already submitted a confession (she’s thinking it over).
This is a relatively stock setup apart from the Shinto angle, and Inari is a relatively stock female lead – clumsy and self-doubting and quick to tears. The mystical side of the story comes in when Inari makes a tearful plea for some help after screwing up with Kouji big-time (accidentally pantsing him in gym class) and then seeing Sumizome and Kouji discussing his confession. The two guardian foxes (Hanae Natsuki – who’s in almost as many shows as KanaHana this season – and Hino Satoshi) at the shrine’s Torii come to life and lead her to Inari herself – Ukanomitama-no-kami (Kuwashima Houko). Uka-sama decides to grant Inari one wish as thanks for saving one of her familiars, Kon (Hara Sayuri) – who I’m guessing didn’t really need saving – and Inari wishes that she was Sumizome. A predictably unwise wish, as events will soon prove out.
My gut feeling is that Uka-sama is going to provide more of the entertainment value here than Inari. She’s certainly one of the more helpful major Kami you’ll ever see, even (in addition to giving her Kon as a familiar) granting Inari some of her own power so she can change back after the disastrous results of her first wish. In addition to being fast and loose with the Godly gifts she also appears to be hooked on otome games. Kuwashima is a great seiyuu who hasn’t has many major roles lately (another, Sakamoto Maaya, does the ED) and it’s great to hear her – there are a lot of largely unknown names in the cast (especially on the female side) and while they’re all quite good, Kuwashima-san really stands out. We’re told that Inari can see the Gods because she’s loved Fushimi Inari since she was a child, but there’s an interesting twist in that Touka seems to be able to see them too – something I’m assuming is going to be a significant plot point going forward.
I can’t say there was a whole lot in this episode that really surprised me, but that’s mostly a good thing – as I said, this show is right up my alley. Fushimi Inari is one of the most mysterious, mystical places in the world – somewhere you could easily imagine events like this really happening – and IMS does a nice job of bringing it to life. There’s a good amount of silliness (like Inari deciding she needs a mahou shoujo transformation sequence) and distorted face gags that mostly work, and a generally positive tone even when Inari’s life is a bit off the rails. With only ten episodes I really doubt we’ll get to any major romantic advancement or significant plot-arcs – mostly I expect something close to slice-of-life, though perhaps with a bit more of a conventional conflict-resolution structure than Gingitsune. Inari Konkon is published in Young Ace, a seinen magazine, so that may give you some idea about the tone of the series going forward. It wasn’t a “wow” premiere, really, but Inari Konkon delivered the goods well enough to jump into the first tier of new series this season.
ED: “SAVED.” by Maaya Sakamoto