This is a show about which I had almost no expectations, given that I haven’t read any of the manga (which is by a first-time mangaka) and the premise sounded pretty vanilla. In point of fact the premiere was quite good – I would have enjoyed it anyway, but certainly coming from that perspective it easily over-performed.
Kokkuri-san is a very popular party game in Japan, something like the Ouija Board is in the West. I liked the take on it here, with Kokkuri-san himself being a somewhat disheveled and pathetic (both specialties of Ono Daisuke) fox spirit who’s so lonely he’s thrilled to actually be summoned. Unfortunately for him the summoner is a very strange little girl named Kohina (a very funny Hirohashi Ryou) who proclaims that she’s a doll, an obvious attempt to avoid despair over her pathetic life situation.
Just what is an eight year-old (I’m guessing) girl doing living absolutely alone in what looks like a derelict Buddhist Temple? I have no idea if we’ll ever see that answered and of course it’s pretty ridiculous, but that’s fine because the whole show is ridiculous. She’s ridiculous, he’s ridiculous, and it seems as if the other cast members are too. Kohina’s situation is incredibly depressing if you let yourself think about it but the premiere doesn’t offer much time for that – it’s a steady stream of sight gags, Manzai-style banter and sheer absurdity. Most of it is reliably funny and Hirohashi’s deadpan loli voice is hilarious, but my favorite moment was when Kokkuri-san tried to Google the weather forecast in an attempt to make himself seem more useful than a search engine.
I really have no idea if there’s enough to a premise about a weird girl obsessed with cup noodles and a loser Kami who likes to cook to sustain a series, much less one that lends itself to blogging. But in terms of outright humor this was one of the better premieres of the season so far, so I suppose that’s an encouraging start.
Gundam Build Fighters Try – 01
Gundam Build Fighters is a bit of a stealth series (unless you’re at Comiket or anywhere doujins are sold). It doesn’t seem to get much respect in the hard-core Gundam fan community as far as I can tell, and it’s not what you’d call a mainstream hit either. But the first season was consistently entertaining, and the second is off to a pretty good start. Tomino came storming in with Reconguista, talking as if he were going to save the franchise, but frankly the first two episodes of his series are nowhere near as good as the premiere of Try.
What’s the secret of this series’ success? Ironically, I think that it doesn’t try too hard – to be clever, to be meaningful, to be canon. It just has fun, plays up the simpler side of Gundam fandom and drops in a bunch of hilarious nods to the sometimes-ponderous history of the franchise. There’s zero doubt in my mind that this is the most (intentionally) funny series in the Gundam catalogue, and I think it’s the most accessible to fans and non-fans alike. And those are things to be celebrated.
So far, Try seems to have sloughed off the cast of the old GBF (apart from Mr. Ral) in favor of a new cast of plucky middle-schoolers, though I’ll be shocked of the big names don’t make at least a cameo. The first of the new group to appear (a female MC – in Gundam??) is Hoshino Fumina (Makino Yui), the last member of the Gunpla club Sei took to the world title. She pines for master Gunpla builder Kousaka Yuuma (Uchida Yuuma – now there’s a coincidence), obviously the otouto of China, who’s thrown over the Gunpla club for the rival Plastic Model Club. And finally there’s transfer student and martial arts master Kamiki Sekai (Togashi Kazumi), whose flaming red hair is the first clue that he’s connected to Reiji. As if there could be any doubt Hoshino jokes that he’s like “a boy from another planet” and Mr. Ral as much as explicitly states the connection later.
Sekai-kun is easily the most entertaining character in the premiere, though Hoshino is likeable enough and Yuuma barely gets a word in. Sekai is looked after by older sister Mirai (Endo Aya), who appears to be filling in the Rinko role this time, as Try goes the SILF route. The details aren’t really filled in yet, but they aren’t really the main point – what matters is that Gundam Build Fighters is again irreverent, not at all self-serious and a good deal of fun.