I think I should probably explain why I’m taking the counter-intuitive step of covering the second Hoozuki no Reitetsu OVA before the first. The reason is the obvious one – somebody subbed this one first. You wouldn’t think one of the top-selling shows of 2014 would have an OVA sit unsubbed for over half a year, but there you go. But then, you also wouldn’t think a series that averaged almost 20K per volume (more than double any other Winter 2014 show) and had plenty of source material would still be waiting for its second season. That’s a head-scratcher for sure – maybe Wit is just too busy, but there’s money to be made here – someone needs to get on that!
In addition to being the best seller of Winter 2014 Hoozuki was also the best show period, and one of the best of the year. It’s a massive commercial success in Japan – manga, discs, merchandising, you name it – and has really crossed over demographic barriers as few series have. This is one of the smartest and most visually beautiful anime comedies in recent years, culturally literate, full of subtle digs at Japanese society (many go over my head) but decidedly in-the-know about the West, too. It’s a marvel, and any new (or new old) anime we get is much appreciated in this camp.
This second OVA (there’s a third coming) plays very much like an episode of the TV series, with two mini-episodes contained within. The first focuses on a pair of Zashiki-warashi, Ichiko (Satou Satomi) and Niko (Ogura Yui) – probably the creepiest little girls in anime. Zashiki-warashi are among the most well-known of Japanese youkai, spirits who reside in merchant’s houses and bring them wealth and fortune, but hightail it if (when) the owner gets lazy, causing the owner’s luck to crater.
Ichiko (Girl #1) and Niko (Girl #2) have come to Hell in the company of Hoozuki, having lost their home due to the preponderance of bankruptcies and fluorescent lighting in modern Japan. Naturally, he sees this as a chance to experiment with the Z-w’s Byzantine rules and especially to mess with Hakutaku’s head (poor Momotaro gets caught in the middle). Eventually the scary little scamps end up at Enma’s house (there’s a great Lion King gag here) – in part to make sure Enma-san works hard, but also because Uncle Hoozuki clearly likes having them around.
The B-part turns to Peach Maki (Uesaka Sumire just kills it with this role, as ever), who’s been cast in the stage version of a children’s TV anime called “Kisotsu Doshi Chinese Angel”, a kind of mahou shoujo-super sentai hybrid, as Uguisa (the dumb one). This is pretty much straight-ahead otaku satire here, and viciously biting too. It’s the competent heroine who’s popular with little girls, but boys (of all sizes) like the airheaded klutz Uguisa and the catgirl villain Neko Jiangshi, who’s played by “not so famous idol” Miki (Suwa Ayaka). This bit culminates in the dressing room after the show, when a grossly obese stalker in Uguisa cosplay breaks in and tries to molest Maki and Miki (no, the pointy end here is not subtle in the least). It’s Hoozuki who takes the stalker down (to make sure Maki continues to be a goldfish spokesmodel) but Maki gets the credit – and her popularity among girls soars as a result.
This OVA is pretty much Hoozuki no Reitetsu in a nutshell, in that it shows off the series’ mastery of that extraordinarily powerful comedy formula of mixing the smart and the dumb. OVAs for a series with as hilarious a supporting cast as this one can be frustrating, because inevitably some of the best of them won’t get much traction, but apart from that I have no complaints. And the second season will take care of that problem anyway – so where the Hell is it?
ED: “Enma Daiou ni Kiite Goran (閻魔大王に訊いてごらん)” by Sumire Uesaka