Wagaya no Oinari-sama

Genre: Supernatural, Comedy
Length: 24 episodes
Score: Good

Kuugen Tenko (‘Kuu-chan’) is a powerful and mischievous fox spirit, traditionally assigned to protect the priestesses of the Mizuchi family. The latest heirs of the family are the sons of the last priestess, Noboru and Tohru, who become aware of their supernatural heritage on a visit to their grandmother when they’re attacked and must release Kuugen from her seal. They return home with Kuugen’s protection – and also a ‘sentinel’, a girl called Kou who can use water magics – and gradually encounter the various gods, demons and spirits around them.

Rather than punchline comedy, this is more of a situational slice-of-life story that just happens to be funny. Kuugen is capable of taking the shape of either a man or woman at will, but often finds the female form more useful in getting what she wants. For somebody so ancient she’s often childish, and curious to explore the modern world. She normally wears a hat to stop her fox ears being seen in public, but when she gets angry her face distorts into something much more fox-like. Kou is powerful but clumsy. Misaki is a girl with a crush on Noboru, whose imagination runs wild on finding that two cute girls (most of the time) have moved in with him.

It draws a great deal from Shinto traditions while also taking a light-hearted approach. Japan is full of spirits of one form or another, mostly neither good nor evil but with agendas and cares of their own. For example, the god of the local land is also the owner of the convenience store next to the temple – and he is the god of profit. We also meet the god of a nearby land, a young boy carrying around a baby fox (named after the characters of the Lone Wolf and Cub series), a tribe of dispossessed Oni dressed as monks (“we don’t need spiritual power, we have the internet!”) and another ancient fox spirit who knows Kuugen very well.

Most stories with spirits feel the need to make easily-identifiable bad guys. Wagaya no Oinari-sama is refreshing in avoiding that, and in allowing a range of characters space to develop.