I swear, I've always considered myself to have strong ears for picking out particular voice actors and the like, but this series definitely solidified that belief. I've never sat through any series and been able to identify the number of voices as I did in this one, and the fact that so many of the voice actors I love and enjoy were able to portray the characters so well.... eh, well, I'm rambling, so I'll stop.
To start with, Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi is quite possibly the most balanced blend of comedy and drama that I've viewed and watched to date (the only other contestant being Seitokai no Ichizon), and it's a balance I find to my liking. While I certainly don't dislike the ones that fall heavily on either side of that line, Ookami takes the best of both worlds and puts them together with incredible finesse.
The story follows our main female lead, Ookami Ryouko, and her daily going-ons as a member of her school's Otogi Bank, a group specialized in fulfilling various client requests. Along the way during the first episode we are also introduced to our main male lead, Morino Ryoushi, a bum (at first glance) who looks up to Ryouko despite his severe case of scopophobia. There is also Ryouko's trusted friend and roommate, Ringo, as well as a fairly large cast of other characters that comprise Ryouko's "Seven Companions", and then some. Ultimately, Ryouko and Ryoushi are the main focuses of the series, and they certainly fulfill their roles quite nicely; Ryouko, like so many other characters from other series, is pretty much the embodiment of "tsundere", yet she has an interesting backstory of her own that slowly unfolds over the course of the story, adding in some nice drama. Ryoushi is introduced at first as a deceivingly weak and useless person that can't stand even being looked at by other people, and indeed, who would think otherwise when seeing his figure curled up in a fetal ball, squealing "Don't look at me!"? Yet, Ryoushi hides a few characteristics of his own, many of which prove to be cool enough to catch the attention of previously mentioned fair maiden. All the other characters, while perhaps not nearly as developed as the two leads, definitely find their niche, each one with some kind of story behind them that is touched upon over the course of the series.
The series overall is mostly episodic, with only one exception later on. Most of them involve the group taking up and performing certain requests of various clientele. While this seems like a whimsical style of storytelling, each "request" is not necessarily a light-hearted walk in your backyard. In fact quite a few of them turn into expeditions into the woods where one ultimately gets lost trying to find their way back. And while to be sure, there are plenty of laughs along the way, there're also a few moments of serious, albeit somewhat short-lived (save for one) instances of drama, hence my previous statement regarding the balance of comedy and drama. And I'll also point out here that this is another series where I disagree with the "ecchi" tag. While there are a few situations where there is quite clearly ecchi involved, the overall feel of the series is not "ecchi", not by a longshot, so ecchi haters don't be afraid to approach this one!
The opening music isn't top-notch by any means, but it's quite catchy, and the voice acting, as I hinted at before, is very well done. Unfortunately my only minor complaint lies with the narrator (fans of the To Aru series will probably be able to guess who the voice actress is right away). She does a fabulous job at voicing what the viewer is thinking at some points, and a few times even throws in comments that add to the humor of a scene. But there are also an overwhelming number of times where the narrator speaks over the dialogue between characters. Maybe viewers who understand Japanese wouldn't notice it, but I for one have a hard time reading two sets of subtitles going on at the same time. x_x
That is, fortunately, my only complaint with the series. Otherwise the series ranks quite high on my scale, and I was even considering pushing it up to an 8 were it not for that minor detail regarding the narrator. (It's okay Satomi-chan, I still love the characters you voice) So comedy and drama and definitely tsundere fans, by all means give this one a shot. You won't be disappointed.
There might not be many who can say the same, but to me, Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi might be the most hilarious anime I've ever seen. And it's by virtue of Arai Satomi, the Narrator, better known for her role as Shirai Kuroko's seiyuu in To Aru Majutsu no Index and To Aru Kagaku no Railgun. She made this anime. Not literally, of course, but she's responsible for giving this anime a unique character and delivering at least two thirds of all the excellent comedy. Kyon from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu can't hold a candle to this narrator. If comedy were the only merit of this anime, it'd be a one-woman-show, and it's a woman who technically didn't even get her own character to voice!
But I don't watch pure comedies, humour is always just a side-dish for me. Ookami-san is light-hearted entertainment with only an occasional shade of dark here and there, but its entertainment value to me is almost on par with Kaze no Stigma, and that's high. It's got all the familiar themes of trust between friends and getting stronger, along with a few rarer ones, but the presentation of those themes is so skilled it feels like a crime to group this show along with all the others that you could technically call "its kind". You could sum this story up by calling it a "light-hearted romantic comedy with some delinquent fights", but I feel the necessity to add: "...but it's among the very best of its kind."
Ookami Ryouko, the female lead, is among the best tsundere characters I've ever seen. She actally has a past that explains why she is the kind of person that she is. She's also just on the right level of tsundereness to keep up the comedy and yet not overly mistreat the poor guy who fell for her, occasionally flashing her lovely dere side. She's not just a tsundere, she's a wonderful tsundere comparable to the legendary Palmtop Tiger - and not just because her character design is practically the same apart from the height difference.
Morino Ryoushi, the male lead, is among the most fascinating cases of pathetic coolness. Yes, I said "pathetic coolness". I don't mean his coolness is pathetic, I'm just saying he's both pathetic and cool. He has scopophobia, fear of being seen or stared at (again, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this in his past, though not much explored in the story). He somehow manages to be pathetic is a funny way, embarrassing without, you know, making the viewer feel embarrassed for him. In the first episode I feared it'd take too long for him to man up and the story would suffer from it. I was so wrong. Already in the second episode he totally surprises me with his occasional coolness, and throughout the story he never stops growing, and he never again stoops to the level of patheticness from where he crawled up during the first two episodes. During the story his character isn't deepened quite as much as that of Ryouko's, but the story isn't complete yet. More on that later.
The third most important character, Akai Ringo, Ryouko's closest friend, is probably the second most important source of comedy after the narrator. A lovely Little Red Riding Hood with a black heart. No, she's not really evil, but she's delightfully adept at manipulating people with her cuteness. She's a good friend to both of the main characters, but she does have a mean streak, and that's exactly what makes her so interesting. She gets her share of character deepening, and she totally deserves it.
The other important characters are all lovable (except the villains, of course) with their quirks and interesting relationships, though only two of them get proper character deepening. But, as I said, the story's not complete yet.
I hate the main villain of this story. Not because he's a bad character, but because he's meant to be hated. He's not the kind of villain you're meant to understand and feel sorry for, he's the kind that you're meant to hate and despise, so that when he's finally defeated, you'll rejoice with strong feelings. Just like the villain of a classic fairy tale.
We all know the typical romance between a more or less pathetic guy and a tsundere girl. We know how entertaining it can be, and we know how easily it can become a disaster. To my delight, I found that the romance between Ookami and Morino advances steadily, with expert balance between comedy and cute moments. Ryoushi strives to become a man who can protect the one he loves - cheesy or not, in this story it actally works. Ryouko actually recognizes his efforts and flashes her dere side occasionally, being a tsundere just enough to keep him on his toes without driving him away. It is much thanks to Ringo, though, that things seem to be going so well between them. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, while Ryouko of course fiercely denies having any feelings for Ryoushi, she doesn't treat him as inhumanely as many tsundere do, and she does show some interest, so as a watcher I never once felt like telling Ryoushi, "come on, she's not worth it, go find some other girl who doesn't require you to kill yourself for her". It's a sweet romance with immense potential to bring me to tears at later stages.
The production quality is quite fine. The character designs are standard J.C.Staff work, so if you like their work, as I do, then you'll surely enjoy their work here as well. Animation isn't great, but it's good. The fights are enjoyable, they're well written and occasionally achieve quite a high level of feeling. They - as well as the whole anime - could be improved with a bit more unpredictability and better musics, but they're quite good as they are. The seiyuu cast includes quite a number of names familiar to me, from Kugimiya Rie and Horie Yui to Itou Kanae and Toyosaki Aki - every one of them doing damn fine work, yet every one of them shadowed by Arai Satomi. The OP and ED are good, but not great - I didn't skip them always, but I did sometimes, and I won't bother downloading them. One more thing worth mentioning is the excellent use of sound effects to enhance the comedy.
It feels wrong to call Ookami-san a clichéd show, because that word has such a strong negative echo. The truth is, however, that the show isn't particularly innovative. The narration does give it a unique character, but narration itself is nothing new, it's just the exceedingly hilarious script and Arai's wonderful-beyond-words performance that makes it unique. It's a story parodying fairy tales, and it doesn't even try to be particularly innovative about it, it concentrates on having fun with them. But that, it does damn well.
It also feels wrong to call Ookami-san a shallow story, because it can touch the audience deeply. It's a wasted effort to try and find something truly profound from among the themes of the story... yet, there is a respectable variety of decently interesting themes worth giving thought. I'd imagine any girl who's ever found herself betrayed by her boyfriend would identify with Ryouko. Similarly, any guy who's ever felt himself pathetic and done something about it would probably identify with Ryoushi. Then there are those countless dieters who'll find themselves in Otohime. And this story, it might actually help some of them deal with their past. Yes, it's definitely wrong to call Ookami-san a shallow story.
There's one big problem, though: the story is totally incomplete. The first season doesn't even try to be conclusive, it assumes that there will be a second season. That is good if there really will be a second season - and I pray to the gods, even though I don't believe in any of them, that there will be one - but if this is the end of it, it's a damn unfulfilling end. I'm forgiving some minor flaws, such as the lack of proper character deepening for many of the secondary characters, because the story is obviously incomplete.
Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi shines by the virtue of its wonderful narrator and narration script, lovable and - in the case of the three main characters - deep and multi-dimensional characters, and simply doing damn well what it's trying to do. A simple plot, good dialogue, steady romance, truckloads of hilarity and overall good storytelling, drawing from the well of famous fairy tales and spiced with occasional references to other anime, those are the other elements that this anime is built of. It doesn't try to break away from conventions, it doesn't try to confound us with a complex plot, and it doesn't try to teach us the Wisdom of the Ancients. It concentrates on being a damn entertaining story. And that it is. It truly is.
This review contains NO spoliers!
During my browsing for a new show, I encountered Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi. I casually watched a couple of episodes a day, over the course of the past week.
Ookami-san's animation is very pleasent. The fight scenes are smooth and slick. Scenery and backgrounds possess a fair level of detail. The characters have some design choices I wouldn't make, but they are drawn decently. I didn't care for Ookami's overall style at all; in contrast, Hitsujikai's design is great. In-fact, the rest of the characters are all pretty damn good. All in all it looks great.
The OP & ED are one of the better ones in the world of anime; the OP in particular, which is Ready Go! by May'n. Ookami-san's OST doesn't do much to diminish or improve the quality of the series, it certainly is nowhere near as memorable as Gundam 00's or Fate/Stay Night's OSTs (both were done by Kenji Kawai).
Ookami-san's voice acting is top notch. The narrator, voiced by Satomi Arai of To Aru Kagaku no Railgun fame, was superb; her adding a great touch of pervy humor to make the already amusing Ookami-san even MORE amusing. Kanae Itou does a fantastic job of voicing the dark, yet adorable Ringo. Another one of the more notable voices is whoever voiced Shirou Hitsujikai; he gave a very dark and chilling performance. The rest of the cast is very good, with the lot providing fitting voice-acting.
This anime has one of the larger casts out there. The Otogi Bank of Otogi High has many unique characters each with there own relationships; although, the show wasn't long enough to properly flesh out every character. Majo is a perfect mad scientist. Urashmia and his gentleman mode are very funny; his and Otohime's relationship is one of the better points of the anime. Ookami is a more tsun than dere tsundere, but she's still a good lead. Morino starts off as not much; although, he grows into his own later on. Ringo is a perfect gift to all you loli fans and her scheming moments are something to look forward to. In contrast, Otsuu is one of the less powerful roles in Ookami-san. I found Alice to be my favorite member of the Otogi Bank. The President is also a more interesting charactrer than others.
Outside of the Otogi bank we have Hitsujikai, who is the President of Onigashima High School. He is a very dark character and an excellent antagonist. An important point I forgot to mention up until now is how every character is based off some sort of fairy-tale or another. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which, as it is one of the best points of the show.
Such potential gone to waste is all I can say. This show clearly required more than the 12 episode affair it recived. The best episodes where the ones where the Otogi bank was doing jobs for other people in the school. I belive that we didn't see enough of those episodes. Ookami-san is quite dissapointing in that aspect. The story touches on some very dark tones, such as rape, death, etc; this is quite surprisingly when considering the light-heartedness of the show. The story never realy fully fleshes out. Truly wasted potential. The romance is done in a pretty good way; at the very least IT does flesh out.
Ookami-san is too short for its own good. It is one of those shows that would greatly benefit from being longer, in both overall story and character development. This anime is very fun and balanced. It never really drags on as a series; although, the end will dissapoint you. I'm feeling like reading the manga now to see what happens. I recommend it. It's a very watchable anime.
Story - Pretty much none. True, one ought not expect too much from an episodic series, but this is seriously weak stuff. Every story arc is basically a rehash of tired shoujo material with very little originality. There is nothing engaging or compelling about the plotlines at all.
The only possible saving graces are the couple of episodes which delve into the backstories of the lead characters, but those were not well done either. Overall, the series seems to be expecting to ride on the predicted popularity of its characters, and thus not much effort was put into the stories.
Animation - J.C. Staff remains guilty of too-similar character designs, although I wouldn't really blame them for it given how popular they have been. Otherwise, there is little to fault or merit in this section.
Sound - The OP is catchy and nice, but nothing impressive. The OST is fairly good as well. The voice-acting is possibly the best aspect of this anime, with all the roles well cast and excellently portrayed.
Characters - A fatal mistake was made here. When a large cast is introduced and employed, the studio should always take great care that the cast is an ensemble one, that is to say, each character is given adequate time in the limelight to develop and grow into their roles. J.C. Staff failed spectacularly on this count.
That is a great pity, given that the individual characters have healthy variety and great potential for development. In my opinion, too much attention was paid to the titular character and her romantic interest at too much expense to the rest of the fascinating cast. As a result, much of the regular supporting cast ends up feeling like fringe extras, or at times even redundant, and their inclusions forced.
The studio really messed up here. The titular character was fairly well-explored overall, but there was not enough creative energy to go round for the others. It was as though they expected the anime to hit popularity purely on the shoulders of one protagonist. Or it could be that the entire anime was simply a vehicle for catapulting the titular protagonist to stardom. Pity.
Boy, where do I even start? The plot follows a group of kids in high school that run a company (Otogi Bank) that does pretty much any random request that you want for a fee. This scenario serves as a plot device to have the characters run around do an assortment of tasks while one of the worst romance plots (if you can call it that) plays out. Add in the weird plot of Ryouko's ex-boyfriend trying to use a whole school of delinquents to try and make her life miserable which gives the show some fighting scenes. In the end the story tries to do too much so it end up doing nothing well. About the only engaging thing about this series is the relationship between Ryouko and Shirou, which ends up getting pretty much side swept and you never actually find out what happened.
Now here were some of my biggest peeves with this show, and I will start with the worst offender, the narrator. This show does NOT need one. In the writers attempts to be funny, they use the narrator to tell the audience the most obvious of things...it feels like an assault on my intelligence. Telling me what a character is thinking or feeling instead of just showing it and letting me figure out massively dumbs down the show and is kind of an insult to the audience.
The next peeves involve spoilers. I won't be ruining much, but just giving a warning anyways.
As soon as I hit the episode where Ryouko gets amnesia I was like "really?!" It is one of the most common plot devices in anime and it just doesn't work well. I got my hopes up though that Ookami would manage to do a decent job parodying it, but that thought was all but thrown out the window.
The romance in this show is downright TERRIBLE. There is no chemistry between the two main characters and really no perceivable reason as to why they even like each other. Listening to Ryoushi confessions are down right painful...and why the hell do they happen multiple times?!?! The thing with confessions is that once they are said, we kinda know already. Ryouko shouldn't act surprised when Ryoushi confesses for like the 3rd time. And by the end of the show do we even have anything to show for it? Ryouko admits that she might like him to someone else but THAT'S IT. Not even a hand hold! You took a 12 episode romantic comedy and the characters can't even manage to hold hands? Dear god!
Last but not least is the ending. The show just kind of stops. There really is no conclusion, nothing is wrapped up. This series is ripe for a sequel, but I honestly hope it doesn't get one.
Art Direction (Animation): 6/10
Nothing great here, but nothing that bad either. The entire look and feel of this show just feels so generic. The color pallet is vibrant and everything is well drawn, but no real steps have been taken to make anything even remotely unique. Some of the character designs are good, but nothing to write home about. All in all this area doesn't hurt the show, which is more than I can say for the plot.
The opening and ending themes were immediate skips for me. If you like generic Jpop songs that are so sugary that they could give you a toothache, then maybe you will enjoy them. As for me, I only lasted a few seconds before I was skipping ahead.
The show's background music isn't good nor bad. It just blends in, which is for the most part what it should do. There were a few odd songs here and there, but nothing that really annoyed me.
I always have a hard time judging voice acting when I watch a show subbed. To my ears the delivery sounded great and the voices fit the characters well. That said, I think I can't really do that great of a job review this area without actually understanding the language.
I image the folks at JC Staff had a conversation like this when they were coming up with characters for Ookami:
"People really liked Taiga from Toradora, right?"
"Yeah, the fans loved her!"
"Well, why don't we just make her again, just put her in a bit older body."
"Great idea! And how about we take out all of Taiga's depth as a character; we wouldn't want to actually make this show good!"
That about sums up the character design for Ookami, generic characters that fall in to preconceived archetypes and absolutely no character depth.
It took me 3 tries to finish watching Ookami and the only reason I did was so I could feel confident in putting out a reviewing after having watched the entire show.
The bottom line is that this show is not worth your time. If you were tricked in to this show thinking that you were in for another amazing show like Toradora, I am sorry, but this isn't what you are looking for...sorry bro.