And the award for OP that least fits its series goes to…
What’s the Story?
In old Edo there is a lending shop run by a brother and sister (well, they’re not really brother and sister, they’re really distant in-laws, they haven’t even grown up together or anything and I’m spending way too much time explaining this right now). There is something different about their shop though, you see this brother and sister (not really) pair happen to stock Tsukumogami in their shop. Tsukumogami are household objects like combs and hanging scrolls that over time have gained spirits of their own. With the Tsukumogami’s help the shop owners can gather gossip from all over Edo and put that to use solving all the daily mysteries that plague the people of this city.
I wasn’t really expecting much when I started watching this series, I mean it started pretty late in the season and even now (so many months later) I haven’t heard anyone really talk about it. Yet I found myself enjoying this series more and more each week. I’m even more surprised at how invested I’ve become in the soap opera of old Edo, is this what it’s like to get into Coronation Street and the like? (You know, minus the talking objects that have their own spirits). Every week it’s ‘Oh this person has been seen behaving strangely around the city, we’ve got to figure what’s going on’ or ‘There’s a suspicious rumour going about, let’s figure it out!’ all the while I’m hoping that this week we’d learn more about the mysterious incense burner that our main characters are looking for, or maybe Seiji will get the whack on the head he needs to ‘fess up to his true feelings.
Don’t get me wrong, none of the mysteries are worthy of Sherlock Holmes or the like, they’re mostly small scale issues revolving around a missing item or a search for someone. Occasionally we’ll get involved with the love lives of the various supporting cast. There’s nothing overly dramatic and aside from the ongoing mystery of the incense burner all of it gets wrapped up in twenty minutes, but that’s really what I wanted from this show (even if I didn’t realise it going in). This is the perfect unwinding material for me, it’s easy to follow and nice to look at (I like this show’s use of colour and all the characters designs are all nice to look at). I like all of the characters and it’s fun to follow along with the mysteries, trying to work out what the final answer will be before Seiji gets there. Also there are a couple of really nice little stories in this, the one about the wife and the kiseru. That was really kind of sad.
That is another thing about this series, with it being set in the past you do pick up several little titbits of information about social customs in Japan. Since this is a series about a lending shop you get a lot of info on the kind of tools and items Japanese people used a lot back when this was set. You also get several of the social customs and practises displayed and put into context. It’s not that this series is a history lesson, but it’s a nice window into a Japan that was.
As I said earlier I like all of the characters and the supporting cast does grow by quite a bit by the end of the series. I suppose what surprises me most is that so many of them become recurring characters, aside from a very few, pretty much every secondary character makes a repeat appearance somewhere in the series, especially towards the end. It helps make a lot of the earlier stories feel more important to the overall story and not just an ‘issue of the week’. Also it helps build up a community in the series and that the results of one week actually do have consequences down the line.
Speaking about our main characters though I really like Seiji, he’s the kind of quiet and helpful guy I can get behind. He’s smart and always manages to figure out the answer, or what he needs to do to get the answer, even if sometimes he gets the wrong end of the stick at times. Oko, Seiji’s sister (but not really), is a fun character, though I feel like the series does her a disservice towards the end. During the early part of the series she’s quite forceful and throughout the series she does give Seiji a talking to when he needs one. However, I couldn’t help but notice as the series went on Oko was less and less involved in the mysteries and Seiji became the sole main character. I suppose thinking about it Seiji was always the lead on the investigation, but Oko certainly had more of a presence. By the end of the series it feels like Oko is purely there for Seiji to admit his love to her by the last episode, which is a shame (the series at least claws back one point by at least clearly showing that Oko makes her choice before Seiji, so this doesn’t become some stupid two guys competing for one girl thing).
Actually let’s talk about the romance for a second. It’s mostly kept in the background even if it is pretty obvious from the start. However, what strikes me as odd is how determined this show is make it clear that Seiji and Oko are not brother and sister. Maybe I’ve just seen too many anime where incest gets crammed in, but I kept getting flashbacks to season one of the Flash. ‘No, seriously they’re not brother and sister! She’s, like, his cousin and even that’s only through marriage. They didn’t even live together as kids and Seiji is also totally adopted into his family.’ I’m not complaining, it makes it so much easier to get into the romance, but it just stood out a bit was all.My question is, if you don’t want them to be related so much, why are you making them even tangentially related?
As for the titular Tsukumogami they’re okay. They’re probably the weakest part of the series. Each episode they tend to repeat their particular stick and they’re mostly there as plot aids to get the gossip Seiji needs to complete the mystery. Design wise they’re all pretty cute and colourful and none of them are bad characters, there’s just not much to them. We learn a bit about the back-stories of one or two of them, but it never makes much difference to the overall plot.
We Rent Tsukumogami is a pleasant and fun series. If you’re after big dramatic turns or huge plot twists then move along. This is a very sedate and small-scale affair, but that plays to its strengths. This is a window on a time period gone by with pleasant characters and intriguing little mysteries to carry you along the way. If you’re after something to unwind to after a hectic day this series does a pretty good job of that. I’ll definitely be visiting this store again in the future.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.