FUNimation / YouTube
20 Aug 2010
At a time when the banking industry and its highest paid employees aren't exactly at the top of most people's Christmas card lists, it might be a little heartening to find a bank that offers up a slightly more morally sound and caring face to the key concepts of banking. Luckily, we can find just such a "bank" at the centre of one of FUNimation's current streaming offerings to the UK, Okamisan - or, to give it it's more wordy title Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi, aka Ookami-san and Her Seven Companions.
The outfit in question is, in fact, a simple club which operates within Otogi Academy and goes by the official name of the Mutual Student Aid Association, although most of the students prefer to call it the "Otogi Bank". This bank doesn't handle money however, but rather favours, offering to help out students in need of some kind of assistance or other under the condition that the student will repay them with favours of their own as and when the "bank" requires it.
It's this association and its many and varied characters that we follow throughout Okamisan, although our primary focus throughout is mostly upon one member of the group - The prickly Ryoko Okami, a girl with a short temper and little patience (outwardly at least), and a penchant for boxing as per of her never-ending quest to become stronger. No sooner does the first episode begin is our female protagonist faced with a problem - she has herself an admirer, in the form of the scopophobic Ryoshi Morino who confesses to her out of the blue despite his aforementioned phobia which means that he hates anybody looking at him.
Thus, the dual scopes of interest within this series are set - on the one-hand we have a simple romantic comedy of sorts as the hapless Morino tries to win over the completely disinterested Ryoko, while at the same time the pair of them set out to solve a student's problem each episode as part of their duties for the Otogi Bank.
With each episode boasting something of a self-contained story to handle a particular student's problem, it probably isn't too surprising to hear that the overall entertainment value of each episode during Okamisan's first half varies wildly, from mundane love rivalries and subsequent popularity contests through to a girl's overzealous desire to repay any favours handed out to her. Although these tales are supposed to be twists on popular fairy tales, to be honest you'd be hard-pressed to notice it much of the time, and the overall content of such plots are pretty weak all in all.
Thank goodness then that there are rays of light which penetrate the mediocrity of the series throughout. The first of these comes in the form of the show's narrator, who supposedly tells us the story as it progresses as per your common fairy tale, but who more often than not indulges in snarky comments, personal opinions and generally amusing observations, some of which even provokes the odd moment of fourth wall breaking amongst the on-screen characters. This addition to the story-telling process is likely to be hit or miss depending on how amusing and/or irritating you find it, but for me this at least gives a little life to some of the show's duller stories and moments.
The other piece of good news is that the longer the series goes on, the more compelling the back story of Ryoko Okami becomes. She may start out the series as perhaps the most stereotypical tsundere you've ever seen, but as Morino gets closer to her and we spend more time with her so the reasons for her behaviour are slowly revealed layer by layer to reveal a much deeper character than you might initially give her credit for. This character development and how it ties into the Otogi Bank's duties looks set to be a major part of the show's second half, giving rise to hope of a definitive improvement during those later episodes.
For now though, Okamisan is pretty run of the mill fare - it tries its best (perhaps it tries too hard, you could argue) but never really rises above the level of mediocrity. It's animated well enough with some decent character designs and it does provide some funny moments alongside its evidence of character development which could make for a more compelling second half to the series, but there isn't enough to really make any one aspect of the show shine at this point in time.
Okamisan can currently be viewed in streaming form on the FUNimation YouTube channel.