Monday, April 21, 2014

Anime Review: Inari Kon Kon

Moving right along with my just-ended anime reviews, this is actually the show I had the most hopes for come winter since I had checked out some of the original manga and found it to be adorable as heck, although the ten episode length did worry me. I'm also worried it didn't get the attention it should have since it aired rather late (and, since it was on Funimation's website, it was another week before most people could see it) so I'm here now to tell you guys why you should check out one of the genuinely sweetest anime I've seen in a few seasons.

Inari Kon Kon Koi Iroha

Inari Fushimi is a happy middle school girl with good friends and who loves the Inari Shrine near her home. She also has a crush on her classmate Tanbabashi and is a bit jealous of one of her classmates who seems to be getting close to him, although the girl is rather sweet actually. So when she's granted a boon by the local deity of the shrine she asks to turn into her classmate Sumizome and lo and behold her wish doesn't exactly work out the way she hoped to!

I know I'll have a hard time convincing some people but InaKon is in fact not a shojo series, it's senien. That said, it follows a lot of shojo tropes (like strong female friendships, a magical companion animal) all the way to a very shojo ending so you could show this to a preteen with no worries. It's just another example of how stories aren't as wedded to one demographic or even genre as many people like to classify them. And it's absolutely adorable, there are no creepy fan service shots, the characters have very amusing reactions in all the right places,  and I enjoyed the story more than I've enjoyed a lot of mainstream, popular shojo lately. The stories title might translate to "Inari KonKon The ABCs of Love!" but Inari's crush on Tanbabashi is only part of the story, it's not the central point of interest that's supposed to hold the entire series together (which is my biggest complaint with a lot of the shojo that gets published in the US). The crush might jump start the story but the story is also about her relationship with Uka, her friends, and Uka is also a (more minor) main character as well. I'd argue that the story actually ends up focusing on Inari's growing friendship with Sumizome more than her crush on Tanbabashi or at the very least they might have a similar amount of screentime but the Sumizome plot thread goes much deeper. I love stories where there are female characters with close female friends (and a number of popular shojo stories either give the girl a lot of insincere friends or she starts off friendless and has to earn them) so that just made me squee, especially watching Inari's other two friends negotiate the dynamics of adding another person to the group because I never see any stories talk about that rat's nest. The story does end up having a central conflict, which gives it tension and a way to set up a clear ending, and I think it's only right that it involves both Inari and Uka since Inari's life is so much about those around her. 

I do have some mixed feelings on the ending, on the one hand it wraps up the story completely with no room for a sequel and I felt that in some ways it was wrapped up too soon and too nearly (especially since the manga is ongoing and I think the op even hinted at things which didn't happen here). On the other hand, giving it that strong, looming conflict helped keep the series on track and gave it more tension than a lot of other shojo. So, even weeks later, I still have mixed feelings on it and wish the series had been a bit longer so that the story could have played out a bit more fully. 

To talk about the art briefly, I do seem to recall that this was one of the many shows this season that had to ask for extra help on twitter (no really, this happened for multiple shows) but I never noticed a drop in quality and thought that the show looked lovely. The backgrounds from the first episode were amazing, they reminded me of some of Studio PA's work on series like Red Data Girl and the only part in the series where I was underwhelmed was whenever the characters were in the realms of the gods (and even there I could see what they were going for in the look but considering how stunning the real world looked in comparison it just didn't work). Heck, I think that one of the marks of a well-designed show is what the character's "secondary" outfits are (so in this case, clothes other than Inari's uniform) and the show batted that out of the park, each character has a distinct style, the outfits are again adorable, and the show paid similar attention to all of the prop work. I didn't notice the voice work or the music as much (I thought the OP had a few good bits but that the ED was a bit dull) but I did really like how Inari's VA was able to give her such a huge variety of emotions and thought she did a marvelous job there (Naomi Ozora who appears to also be a newer VA and it's always great when a new voice is already able to do such great work). 

All in all this is a show I can't stop recommending, even with my mixed feelings on the ending, and I'm hoping that Funimation brings it out for a physical release ASAP (especially since I think they can totally make this appeal to all of the Kamisama Kiss fans, I'm sure that had something to do with them picking the show up). For the moment however the show can be watched on their website or hulu and the original manga remains unlicensed. 

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