Our selected anime today is Gugure! Kokkuri-san, streaming at Crunchyroll.
Here’s the summary as Crunchyroll tells it: Kohina Ichimatsu, the self-proclaimed doll, called out the fox ghost Kokkuri-san with a suspicious incantation! But it was a story of the past where Kokkuri-san was able to answer any question you had. Nowadays, it relies on a certain search engine, but is actually bad at anything digital. He was going to possess Kohina, but got worried about her living all alone and devotes himself to do chores as if he was her mother. On top of that, the dog ghost Inugami who is infatuated with Kohina and the old good-for-nothing supernatural raccoon dog Shigaraki decide to root themselves with her as well!
Genres: Comedy, Supernatural
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this anime. It was either going to be really funny or really stupid. Shall we find out?
Our first image is of a pair of kitsune guardian statues (a variant of komainu) with a deep purple-red filter. Music evoking traditional Japan plays as we get misty shots of a city. A narrator describes the Kokkuri-san divination game to the audience, warning that it should never be played alone. Inside a shrine in her home, a young girl, Kohina, plays the game alone and a man’s voice answers her incantation beyond the door. The door slides open and a golden-eyed man with white hair and fox ears peeks in.
The serious, supernatural mood is shattered by the first gag as Kohina shuts the door and flips the lock on the summoned fox ghost. She goes back to her game, asking Kokkuri-san who the suspicious man was. The fox ghost breaks in and tells Kohina that she summoned him. Kohina tries to drive him away, but Kokkuri-san decides to haunt her. Kohina tells him that she is just a doll, unable to be affected by emotions. Kokkuri-san is horrified to see that her diet consists of nothing but cup noodles and announces that he will cook three meals a day made from fifty different ingredients. He treats her to feast and finds out that she lives alone.
We get a cute gag about Kohina’s attempt to remove Kokkuri-san from her house. Later, Kohina asks him a series of questions and we see how he operates in the modern age. Short answer: Just use Google. Also, don’t let him use your computer. While asking questions about Kokkuri-san, Kohina finds out that he doesn’t have friends, either. When he was young, he was worshiped at a shrine, but the shrine was demolished. Nor is Kokkuri-san his true name.
In response to Kohina’s continued poor diet, Kokkuri-san confiscates all of Kohina’s cup noodles, briefly shaking the little girl into emotions. She attacks him with a lightsaber (?!) and he runs off. She calls him back, but he doesn’t return. We get to see the house and Kohina as they really are, instead of the doll and tidier staging. In tears, she plays the divination game and asks Kokkuri-san if she will never eat his cooking again. His finger appears on the coin and moves it to no. Kokkuri-san had returned to haunt her.
This was adorable. The comic timing was good and I did laugh at some of the jokes. The production values seem pretty solid, even with the switching to goofier and simpler styles as the jokes demand. The house and backgrounds have a lot of detail when this kind of show can get away with very simplistic settings.
I also like these characters, since they already show a bit of depth and room for growth. Kohina is a lonely little girl, trying to cope with her life by pretending to be an emotionless doll. Certainly not healthy behavior, but her best defense against the world. What happened to her family, we don’t know yet. For now, we know that she is alone and that no one seems to be looking after her. Just as Kohina is sad and lonely, so is Kokkuri-san. His shrine and home is gone and he has no friends. His haunting of Kohina quickly turns into caring for her and taking on a form guardianship, giving him purpose. He seems to genuinely care about her, even if he is prone to a little fox mischief. For a brief while, I was wondering if Kokkuri-san was just a figment of Kohina’s imagination. His large meals are beyond her skill, however, and he was carted away by the police, so it seems that Kokkuri-san is quite real in this world. I also wondered if Kohina was really a doll, with anime being what it is and all things are possible, but it was clear by the end that she was just a human girl detaching herself from her own emotions.
I suppose we’ll be seeing more about the man in the box and the wandering priest, but those scenes were so brief, they don’t warrant much attention yet. In any case, it seems that Kohina will be gathering a collection of the more popular creatures in Japanese mythology. It should be interesting to see how they interact, especially with the humorous angle of the show.
Gugure! Kokkuri-san began as a four-panel (yonkoma) manga series in 2011 by Midori Endō. The flow of the first anime episode belies this origin with its mini-arcs. I’m rather surprised that this show didn’t get a short run-time of 5 to 10 minutes per episode, since it seems to support it. Not that I’m complaining about the full length episode. Still, I’m not going to expect an epic story out of this format.
The “Gugure!” in the title comes from the slang verb “guguru” or “to Google.” So, the title reads, “Google it, Kokkuri-san!” I can see why that part isn’t translated into English, with trademark fears and whatnot.
This is a cute and funny anime that’s joining the rest of my watch list and I look forward to the next episode. Silliness balanced with heartwarming is always a treat.