My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods, which aired during the Autumn 2013 anime season.
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 1 and 2)
Sometimes I feel I overuse descriptors like “mechanics” or “mechanically interesting” and whatnot when saying why I like something. But I think there is something to be said about making good use of toolbox tested equipment to craft a trusty piece of work, be it either in classic execution or using old things in new ways. Gingitsune I feel falls into the former category, and it has a big old fluffy nest to curl up in.
By having Makoto consistently head off to school and leave the shrine, to have this mundane environment given the same weight and attention, it breaks the show up and allows the mystical elements to retain their strength. Gintaro is a big fella, but one would not want him to be in every frame. He would become too normal, and his magic would be lost.
A show like this needs to retain a certain sense of mystical whimsy and heart, or it just would not function well at all. The otherworldly would become bland. And I feel Gingitsune is managing this very well at the moment in its quiet admirations, standard modern high school problems, and Gintaro’s gruff exterior hiding his squishy orange loving heart. You just want to pull everyone in and give them a “Come here you big lug” style hug.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 3)
I feel this was the weakest episode of the series thus far, which sounds terrible because it was not particularly bad. Merely less than the other two. We spend far more time out of school this time around, with a heavy focus on the spiritual side with the turtle herald and the two lion-dogs from previously.
Going back to what I mentioned last week, part of why this series was working for me was the mechanical aspect of juxtaposing the normality of modern life (such as all the school scenes) with the appearance of the spiritual. They felt more hand in hand and synergistic in mutually reinforcing each other.
Here we have primarily spiritual, with the heralds mentioning all the construction and the span of a human life disappearing in the blink of an eye before them given their own ages. And while that is all very relevant and important material, it was very tonally different and it did not gel with me as well. The previous two episodes were pulling more in the way of “show, don’t tell” in its approach to the spiritual side, while this felt like it was doing the inverse. And it looks like we are getting another new named human character and spirit next week, so I really hope this show does not outright lose track of what I liked in those first two episodes.
On the other hand, older gentlemen outsider duos such as Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets can be endearing in their observations, so it’s not like I am against the introduction of more characters or making the lion-dogs more prominent. I just hope it manages the balancing act better in the future. It is only scheduled for twelve episodes, and I would rather have more of the slice of life aspects over excessive character intros.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 4)
I think we are hitting the point where I might have to move to placing a caution light over this series.
Pretty much all of the screen time is given to introducing yet more characters, the stern and quiet Satoru in addition to Haru more abrasive divisiveness. Dialogue moves more into exposition dump territory, they argue about backstories we do not know and are then provided an expository Cinderella story flashback, we have the most basic of arguments about A Boy living with A Girl…
Compared to the first two episodes, which I think would have made for a swell little OVA package, I am finding myself less and less enthralled by what we are presented with here. I think we have the groundwork for an interesting enough series with just everything the first two episodes introduced, and we’re instead dolloping on this malaise that is not so much slice of life, or drama, or… much of anything, really. It feels like it is being spread too thin and trying to have too much in too little the space to accomplish it.
Unlike Coppelion, which I was not really sold on to start with and then things became so much worse, this is so far my largest momentum shifter from positive outlook to feeling shaky and worrisome.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 5)
This was likely the best episode since the opening two, though I think this is really only stopping up the bleeding rather than being a real return to form.
I think what I want this show to do, and what it is prepared to give me, are just operating on different wavelengths.
We receive more of Satoru and Haru’s backstories and where they are coming from, mostly via flashbacks with bits here and there back in the present. This doesn’t really sit as well with me, because if I am being honest, I still am waiting to see this kind of development done for Makoto and Gintaro. Or more time with Hiwako and/or Yumi. Any one of which I would have loved to see more focus and development on, and it just keeps chugging along to the next character. Heck, I find Makoto’s dad a pretty swell dude, show more of him and that family dynamic even.
It doesn’t make the world around them seem bigger or more interesting as much as I just get tired of meeting new folks in a show with a limited number of episodes remaining and when we haven’t really explored much with who we already know. This is the kind of slice of life writing that seems at a bit of a loss on situations for its characters, like it is somehow afraid that we will get bored and leave unless it can wiggle in enough drama. But it also isn’t really a drama either, which could have worked in its own right. It’s hedging its bets and trying to straddle multiple approaches in an attempt to have some kind of broader appeal, but I think it is weaker for it by not being honest with itself one way or the other.
Given the next episode preview it looks like we’ll see past characters again, but when anime name episodes things like “How Do I Look?” my hopes don’t exactly get raised. I assume there will be the whole set of Anime Misunderstandings to go along with that. But I’ll allow it to prove me wrong in the event it turns out better than expected.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 6)
Two points I want to make for this week: Firstly, Gintaro himself is increasingly feeling like a combination Statler and Waldorf to his own program. I think it’s a good look for him.
Secondly, I think we’ve sufficiently skewed everything around to where Satoru would actually be considered the main character. That’s something I’m feeling is not so good of a look for the show in general.
He’s the transfer student pretty much all the girls think is super cute. He has fantastic grades. The new educational environment has a highly regarded kendo team he has already qualified to be on. Juxtaposed with that, sure, we also see his flaws regarding the walls he has built up around himself and his relationships with others.
But we’ve been fed so much information about him over the last three episodes, we know more about him than pretty much anyone else in the show. He even has gotten far more flashbacks and inner monologues. I just don’t find all his exposition very interesting compared to what this show could be doing with its fantasy materials, the shrine, or just any of the other characters.
Because I am nothing if not honest: I hit the pause button after he smacked the girls on the head and they apologized to him about it. I resumed after finishing my tea and doing something else for a while.
Now, I do not think he is going to go full Sento from Charger Girl Ju-den Chan on us.
But I also should not be having flashbacks to Charger Girl Ju-den Chan while watching my supernatural slice of life show.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 7)
We have come out of the multi episode tunnel of Satoru’s exposition, which is a definite plus for me. I was not really enjoying what the show was doing there for a while.
Now we have Yumi’s boyfriend Shouhei, the Amamoto family in general, and monkey business hijinks.
It might not be much, but I’ll take it.
In some respects this felt like an episode that could have come far earlier in the series.
We would not have all the character intros of course, but it has the sense of an early show “world building of the week” episode in visiting the shrine and dealing with the situation there. If Makoto and Gintaro had come here themselves around, say, episode four after the turtle and lion dogs, the monkey heralds would have felt like a reasonable extension. Especially as we already handled Yumi and Shouhei in the first episode, and it would have given Makoto and Ginataro more direct character development time. It does not feel like an “episode seven of twelve,” and the series even has to have Makoto remind herself that most of the other human characters can not see entities like Haru and Gintaro. It’s a small thing on the whole, it just feels a little wonky for where we are, is all.
The actual monkey antics and associated humor was very reliant on poking and prodding folks until they gave a giant exaggerated anime overreaction, which I can’t really say much about either way. It is not my preferred kind of humor, and I would not want the series to become reliant on it, but for monkey characters going for generating raw reactions via their shenanigans I’ll allow it because it is wholly functional for that purpose and what they were going for.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 8)
This was the most engaged I’ve been with an episode of this series since our initial two.
No Satoru infodumps dragging on for ages, no Haru screaming shenanigans, no crazy monkeys. Some nice honest to goodness recognition that there were characters introduced ages ago we haven’t done a whole lot with.
Hiwako wanting to get a present for her father is a totally normal thing to see unfold that was nicely wrapped up with a little flavor of the supernatural at the end. Yoshizumi getting a dramatic bump up in screen time did not seem out of place or oppressively presented, but organic and part of this story. A small story, but the kinds of little windows into the worlds and lives of these characters that can talk about aspects from the past without neglecting that there are individuals we should be focusing on in the present as the heralds even consider those aspects in relation to the future.
These are the kinds of episodes I was hoping the series was going to have more of. It is simultaneously nice to see again while at the same time a reminder that we really did go quite off the rails for a time, didn’t we?
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 9)
I know I’ve come to this conclusion before, but I do think this show has steddied the ship with enough episode again so I’m not in that period of dread I was in during that more middle stretch.
Very little may have objectively happened this episode, but I think that is fine in this case. With most of the cast out of the way for large stretches of the episode, the Haru and Gintaro herald partnership can stretch out more. I just really hope the program doesn’t genuinely take them into full blown Fox Wedding territory.
We essentially have a straightforward morality play this week. Kids playing around at the shrine alone end up breaking something? Yeah, that’s super stressful, but you should definitely go apologize and make good on it! Haru gets so blustery they end up pushing others away and then being so down they are potentially unable to ask for help or find their way home? Also not so great, pipsqueak! I think Haru having more time that can be given here to their thought processes rather than just the usual quips and yelling of smart remarks does help them more here than the flashback episode did.
If Haru (spirit) grabs an orange (solid) and then throws it at Gintaro (spirit), can others without that ability to see the heralds see what happens to the orange during this process?
That seems like something pretty straightforward that Tatsu should be able to pick up on.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (episode 10)
I was wary when I realized this was going to be a Satoru focused episode again, given the track record for that previously.
But I think this all came out rather well this time around, all things considered.
Admittedly, I still find it incredibly weird that we are near the end of the show and we still have characters saying things like “You’re living at the shrine now, right?” and “Oh, this is the student council president.” It is mildly jarring, but I have no real sense of how much time has actually elapsed.
We get back to Satoru and his whole kendo thing then, from his bullying for getting to leave practice early for shrine duties and his captain looking out for him with swell arcade dates, family dinners, and moonlight conversations. Intersperse that with the whole “goals for the future” conversation Makoto’s end, and it was a pretty pleasant time all around. I would have liked to see this episode sooner though, I suppose. It feels like a mid season episode designed around character building for a lead figure, rather than one that is supposed to be guiding us towards the looming final end credits.
I hope the idea that there potentially exists a random character at the school who can also see spirits is not just some thruway line, because that could be kind of a fun way to wrap this all up in the end with a shrine visit and they see Gintaro and such.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 11)
I would watch an entire episode about Tatsuo Saeki and Gintaro watching period samurai dramas on the household television. That sounds pretty delightful, actually, and would give an opportunity to explore of the day to day mechanics of being at the shrine from both the priest and the heralds positions.
It’s not the episode we get, and it won’t be the one next week either, but I can dream.
There is a lot of talk this episode about futures and brides and all the rest, and I hope it all leads to a pretty sweet little cleaning ceremony series finale episode next week. In the meantime though, some things felt a bit odd in the path to get us there.
Hiwako’s deer in headlights look regarding older men is understandable enough as we have already touched upon that territory previously. I’m not sure I’m OK with Tatuso’s despondent “When you were a kid you said you wanted to be my bride” reaction when Makoto chastises him about his ceremony prep work. We may see him each episode or so, but it is really only a few statements a week or so.
He seems like a swell and chill enough dad, but we really do not know all that very much about him on an actual detail level. I’m not sure how much of his reaction he may be screwing around, using that line as a part of a larger “ouch, my daughter is growing up” bit, or actually seriously depressed she won’t be a good little quiet housewife to him. I want to say it is a combination of the former two of course, but again, for all the characters they fit into this show, we have little more than surface level characterization for the majority of them. That all makes it a harder sell, unfortunately. The show hasn’t put in much of the effort to show us many of these relationships to as seamlessly pull off those jokes.
At any rate, the ex-priest groping the daughter of his good friend doesn’t seem like something they should be allowing. At least Makoto punches him for the effort.
Mixed up in all this is the idea that Gintaro can not tell the future of those with the Sight. We have done very little with Gintaro himself, really, and he touches on the sentimentality of the benefit of having that restriction to his powers, as it prevents him from learning when they will die. I would rather we got to hear more of these kinds of things from him than as much talk as we did about teen lovers and older men.
Or just more of the herald watching TV, either way.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 12)
I’ve been back and forth on this program a lot this season, probably more than any of the others on my list. I feel then the finale on show here and what I then took away from it all probably is entirely fitting and appropriate.
In that respect, I suppose there really was a cleansing ceremony, but probably more in regards to how much I may actually soon forget about the contents of this series.
Suitably, this was the kind of episode that wants to pretty much drag out as many folks as possible as we have gotten to see over the course of the series and give a sort of send off to the whole gang. That’s good, I like that sentimentality, and they often are able to provide pretty good closure to end a show on without actually giving concrete enough closure to scare away potential additional sequels for a studio to pump out should the program have done well.
In this case though, we have such a large cast of folks and such a small run of a series that they were all crammed into, none of them really feel like old favorites or good friends. Everyone is just sort of… here, each for their little bit gag before moving on. Makoto chastising Gintato about not seeing his friends doesn’t really make sense to me because, in my mind, Gintato was right: He doesn’t really have a whole lot of friends. No Makoto, the two monkey characters we met for part of an afternoon once do not count. No, the turtle we interacted with for one episode does not count. They have the capability to become friends with time, certainly. But they are not, at present, friends. That takes a lot of dedication, and while an honorable pursuit I did not feel the show was really giving such characters that really palpable sense of relationship building.
It is a lot of how I feel about the social observances or spiritual nods the series tries to make sometimes as well, as statements this episode like “Priests are popular, but folks tend to keep their distance” or how it only matters if one believes in gods rather than them actually being there are prime for any kind of follow up. Yet they just float on by. Meeting a character does not inherently make them a friend and making a twitter length observation on life does not supplant what it can be enhanced by with just a little more care. I saw in this program so many windows that begged for further explorations or being touched on just a bit more, but it just didn’t deliver on the promise it had for me.
The show wasn’t an offensive experience by any means, but at the end of the day I’m left feeling pretty airy about the whole thing. Chalk it up to it trying too much, having too many characters, to short of a run, or anything in between, but it rarely provided me much to hang on to while I was watching it. Never enough to slip into hate watch, but I never really looked forward to it either. In turn the comings and goings of this world are likely to easily slip from my memory in the times to come.