|Oct 4, 2017 – Dec 20, 2017
|Fantasy, Iyashikei, Slice of Life
Since I usually handle classic and retro game reviews for this site, my goals are to discover lesser known titles and hidden gems. In gaming, I find that to be a joy; finding a game with little to no coverage, yet provides a wonderful experience worth sharing. Though when it comes to anime, I typically feel underprepared and unknowledgeable about what’s out there. Needless to say, there is a ton of anime on the market and, for me, it’s completely overwhelming. It’s to the point that I feel unable to follow references made online or in forums or even conversations with my colleagues here. Similar to my gaming tastes, I’m open to a multitude of genres and that only makes things worse. However, I was fortunate enough to discover a genre that seems to address my apprehensions, as well as anxiety in general; Iyashikei. Iyashikei is Japanese for soothing, or healing, and this anime genre is meant to calm you down with its allusions to the simple, yet comforting aspects of life, sometimes through fantasy settings and with a bit of mischief thrown in. Still distressed with the sheer volume of series available, pure luck led me to an anime called Konohana Kitan, one that very much managed to calm my nerves and reminded me that it’s okay to just start watching.
Konohana Kitan follows the everyday stories of a young fox girl names Yuzu, who is newly employed at Konohana-tei, a hot spring inn. Other fox girls who work there teach Yuzu and look out for her as she learns and performs her duties, as well as accustoms herself to the inn keeping lifestyle. At first, they are annoyed or cold towards Yuzu and her clumsy yet overly upbeat personality and are reluctant to help her. Yet as they all begin to open up, backstories are revealed, hidden personalities come forth, friendships are made, and deeper relationships blossom. As this resort resides between the realms of heaven and earth, colorful visitors arrive at the inn, bringing with them their own stories or struggles, which make Yuzu’s experiences all the more lively. Many of the characters and the lore behind them are taken from Shinto and Japanese folktales, making the world that much more intriguing. Throughout the series, Yuzu learns about the worlds outside of her sheltered upbringing and is always ready to lend her help while remaining completely incapable of holding back her positive outlook in any situation.
The overall series focuses on the many individual stories that occur in Yuzu’s daily life as a trainee inn keeper and each story is squarely dependent on its characters and their interactions. Fortunately, the character development of the main protagonists is incredibly strong throughout. I was easily captivated by Yuzu and her charming personality, as well as how her positivity, and many times, naiveté, influences the people around her. Despite her inexperience both at her position and in the world around her, she always manages to lend the help her visitors need through sheer will. I also appreciate the depth of the other characters that’s slowly revealed throughout the series. Satsuki, an older fox girl who is often assigned to oversee Yuzu, is serious about her duties and, as a result, cold towards the clumsy Yuzu at first. As their relationship develops, we are treated to the many layers that make up Satsuki as an individual worth investing in. From her backstory to her growing respect and developing affections towards Yuzu, all is a pleasure to see.
Similarly strong in their developments are Ren, Natsume, and the relationship shared between these two. While Ren initially comes off as a typical tsundere and Natsume a tomboy, they too have layers to their personalities. Ren has a unique backstory that drives her towards Natsume and through that, we get to see a more emotional, yet charming side to her. Natsume is more a source of humor, in which her energetic personality and androgynous appearance bring their own lightheartedness. What really stands out is that we are treated to the even-paced revealing of their relationship, one that initially seems one-sided with Ren seeking more from Natsume, and then followed by cute moments of reciprocation. I was also impressed with how well this and Yuzu and Satsuki’s relationships are worked into the episode plots. Rather than trying to shoehorn yuri, it’s instead seamlessly implemented while maintaining a genuine, youthful innocence at an appreciable level for all audiences. Finally, outside of the developing couples, those interactions when these pairings mix, or when they interact with the remaining cast, are equally full of charm, pleasant calmness, and plenty of humor.
Moving on to its presentation, Konohana Kitan’s anime adaptation is aesthetically pleasing in its entirety. The artists responsible for transitioning the world and its characters from manga to anime do an excellent job of preserving the allure of Sakuya Amano’s works. The characters look great and the world around them is equally beautiful. The spiritual aspects of the world, as it resides between the realms of deities and man, are effortlessly believable and the references to Shinto and folklore are also impressively depicted. The animation quality is great, never stiff, bland, or unrefined, and always adds to the tones of events and actions of the characters. The anime is also audibly strong, as the soundtrack matches nicely with the overall tones of the story and the moods of the characters. Its soft melodies and easy listening appeal add to the calming nature the anime induces. Finally, the voice actors (I watched in Japanese with subtitles) do a very convincing job of bringing life to these characters, as personalities, eccentrics, and all are convincing and remarkable.
Simply put, I had a wonderful time watching this, having my emotions stirred and calmed in such a satisfying way. This series will definitely keep you entertained, relax your nerves, and let you easily immerse yourself into a world full of charm and exceptionally charismatic characters. Having recently returned to watching anime and, again, overwhelmed by the volume of options out there, I can say I’m very glad to have found this series when I did. I immediately wanted more after I finished and I feel a 12 episode run is just too short. Unfortunately, there has yet been any news of a potential second season despite several volumes of untapped potential via the manga. Having said that, since the manga is available via TokyoPop and both its print and translation are ongoing, I definitely plan on picking up the Konohana Kitan manga in the near future. As a perfect example of an Iyashikei, hopefully one day we see the Konohana Kitan anime return, as it most surely deserves it.
For more information on the Konohana Kitan anime and manga, please visit the links below:
Blu-Ray available on Amazon
English translation of the manga provided by TokyoPop
Note: Images featured here have been resized and compressed