Gintarou is a fox spirit that has been protecting the small Inari temple since the Edo era. Saeki Makoto's family possesses the power to see the gods' agent, but the ability is limited to one living relative at a time. When Makoto's mother passed away while she was still young, Makoto inherited the ability as the sole remaining family member. With the help of fox spirit's power, Makoto and Gintarou help the people of their community, in spite of their many differences.
Stories with spirits and humans from literature are always a fascinating tale. The concept of blending between the lines of fiction and reality can be an intellectual story to tell. Often times, fantasy literature brings elements of suspense, horror, and power struggles into stories involving clashes between spirits and humans. However, stories can sometimes be just simple and straightforward. Take Gingitsune for example. It’s a series that defines itself as a fantasy slice of life that is simplistic but yet charming, sensible, and alluring.
Gingitsune is an anime series based off of the manga of the same name written by Sayori Ochiai. The setting takes place
in the modern ages but fuses it with traditional Japanese themes to transform it into a product of elegance. In such an age is a young child named Makoto Saeki, the only child and daughter of a widowed shrine priest in an Inari Shinto Shrine. She may seem ordinary but Makoto possesses a very special gift – the ability to see heralds. As a well-known phrase goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”, Sekai now plays the role of a girl that can change people’s lives. She’s not alone either because Gintaro, an anthropomorphic fox whom Sekai can only see, becomes her partner and guardian of the shrines.
As what it is, Gingitsune isn’t a horror story or vengeance with anguish spirits out to get back at humans. Rather, it’s a simple slice of life fantasy story that conveys the life of Makoto Saeki. More importantly is also the significance of character relationships. This is especially true earlier on as we get to witness how Makoto interacts with others, in particular Gintaro. The duo often works together because of Makoto’s circumstances of being unable to accurately tell fortunes. This is a problem as most Sekai priestesses are proficient in the art of fortune telling. Luckily, Gintaro serves as her helping hand as the duo are able to serve their roles with Makoto bringing many hopes and promises. As promising as the series goes, the story seems to be a bit slow at first. Most episodes focuses on specific events that can be simple as solving a problem to more complex issues dealing with human relationships. This is where Makoto comes in as her ways of thinking is beneficial with human knowledge. On the other hand, Gintaro comes into play whenever there is a supernatural problem that becomes more than what Makoto can handle on her own.
Because the series isn’t focused exclusively on an ongoing story or arcs, there can be some issues with pacing. It sometimes may feel slow further evidenced by its serene atmosphere. The way it presents the series is simple but yet offers a concept that can be captivating. Most of this is captured by character interactions. Makoto and Gintaro is an odd duo to get to know just by simple observation. Gintaro often finds Makoto as a nuisance and is indifferent about human affairs. However, there are various times when he truly cares for Makoto’s well-being and offers her useful advice. Makoto can be a bit argumentative with Gintaro’s actions or ways of thinking. Yet because a human and spirit relationship can be complex, the duo can work out problems collectively to protect and help the helpless.
As the series goes on, there are also other characters’ relationships and backgrounds revealed. This includes another prominent successor of the shrine, Satoru Kamio. The young man can be considered a prodigy especially in the arts of kendo. But unlike Makoto, he didn’t grow up in a very well treated environment. In fact, his childhood had people mistreat him and causes the young man to be isolated as who he is today. His closest friend and fox herald is an 80-year old being named Haru. Unlike Makoto and Gintaro, the relationship between Satoru and Haru can be quite one sided at first. Haru often cares for the well-being of Satoru, so much that it borders on obsession. (Typically involves members of the opposite sex) Unfortunately, Satoru seems to rarely respond in a way that can be deemed as appreciation which because of his stoic personality. It is not until later though where their relationship is more emphasized and viewers will get to see how much they develop. Relationships are also further explored in a realistic manner especially involving parents. We get to see how children respects their elders and holding responsibility of their future. They represent the future generations as comparisons are made throughout the series of how the new generation are similar to their ancestors.
A fantasy modern slice of life is not complete with its heralds. Throughout the show, other characters of supernatural nature shows up including dog-like heralds, turtles, or playful monkeys. There is a sense of comedy representing some of these characters that contrasts the usual vengeful spirits greatly. In essence, they also represents human characteristics such as Haru’s jealousy, the turtles’ humbleness, or the monkeys’ playfulness that of a child. It’s fun to see it from a more human perspective and how they compare as if they were one of us.
Comedy wise, the series is lighthearted and avoids crude or shock value. There’s virtually no fan service as it avoids the typical beach/onsen episode. Instead, it relies on natural humor with some sarcasm and gags such as Gintaro’s love of oranges. Also surprisingly enough, there is minimal romance that is often played out as a causal sense. Otherwise, most relationships are based on events from the past such as Makoto’s introduction to the series is when she was a young child. She witnessed the first sight of Gintaro that changed her life forever. With clever usage of flashbacks, it’s also easy to feel what the experiences the characters have gone through. It can create mixed responses but surprisingly can be pragmatic. Furthermore, some of these stories sends a message with a tag of morality labeled. Unfortunately for action junkies, there isn’t much intensity or rivalries going on throughout the series. It takes on the more slice of life approach rather than the typical ‘save the world’ trope. As a simple fantasy life story, this is what it should be.
Artwork wise, Gingitsune is easy to see visually. Human characters are designed to look human while heralds are colored with fantasy tones. The shrines are designed as being simple, realistic, and natural. There’s a sense of mystical atmosphere that the shrines also brings out that can make viewers wonder what goes on behind its history. It’s not a magic story but creates that atmosphere of innocence such as Makoto and Haru. The studio Diomedea is involved with the project that has a history involved with supernatural stories such as Nanatsuiro Drops, Squid Girl, and Sola. Here, they do their job with consistency to bring this fictional story to life.
Soundtrack is moderate with only some outstanding features. The OST generally remains the same with its serene tones. The OP song, "tiny lamp" by fhána works well but lacks any catchy moments that captures the essence of the series. There’s also hardly any notable characteristics regarding its ED song. But if we were to discuss voice acting, then Gintaoru’s VA should definitely be one to mention. Shinichiro Miki plays the role of Gintaoru with his talent that represents why he is a prominent voice actor in the seiyu industry. The way his character speaks out often comes with a sophisticated tone that combines elements of sarcasm, pride, and maturity.
I’ll admit, this show is not the type of anime for everyone. If you’re looking forward to a complex action fantasy with plot twists and struggles, then GIngitsune is the wrong show for you. Instead, this show fits more of a fantasy slice of life with dynamic character building based on relationships, past lives, and construction of friendships. Although it lacks a complex love polygon, the parental love that the characters presents is very realistic. The elements of fantasy and realism fused creates a line that blurs together creating a charming story. As relaxing the series can be, there are times when it feels slow paced or simply put…boring. But if we look carefully, it’s easy to tell that Gingitsune is nothing about saving the world or exorcising evil spirits. Not every fantasy story has to be about defeating evil. Gingitsune is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
This is why I like animes, after getting thoroughly disappointed by watching something with excellent animation and music fall way beyond mediocrity due to lack of originality, unnecessary fan-service and a crappy sense of humor; getting angry at yet another butchering of a video game adaption into a utterly stinking pile misdirection and lack of effort; and laughing at a purely unrealistic and shameless attempt at seinen through yet again short skirt wearing superhuman schoolgirls, I get to experience a show like Gingitsune. This anime is not trying to achieve any new grounds and actually does not attempt at anything other than simplistic beauty, tries
to teach us some values with so refined subtlety and courageously realistic presentation of the relationships that we observe and gain just by leading our everyday life.
Among other things Gingitsune is the story of the daughter of a priest, Makoto Saeki who lives in a Inari shrine with his father, from early childhood she has the power of the sight as she can see gods' heralds, which in her shrines case is the lazy and obnoxious fox spirit Gintaro. Early on the story mainly focuses on how with the help of somewhat reluctant Gintaro, Makoto helps the people around her. Through her unique relation and ability she gain new friends and even meets other heralds. At a first glance and after the first few episodes it might seem a bit too simplistic slice of life with such a slow pace and an all together happy-feelings kind of a show. But soon it delves into much serious ground with the introduction of the character Satoru who like Saeki has the power of the sight, but very unlike Makoto had a troubled childhood and due to circumstances had to live his shrine forever. He comes to live with the little family in Makoto's shrine and we get a little look at his tragic past with the early lose of both of his parents and how his troubled childhood made him a total introvert and socially awkward individual who's only attempt at happiness is through Kendo and the relatively young fox spirit Haru.
As the story progresses through quite a slow pace we get to learn some nice life lessons as well as get to experience quite a varied array of different emotions sometimes even through the eyes of many of the side characters which was quite unique, these nice change of viewpoints felt very natural. There were even a few of episodes where the focus is completely withdrawn from some of the main characters to let viewers fully appreciate the emotions and turmoils of other characters. The writers viewpoint on romance and modernized relationships along side traditional influences were quite refreshing, as he tries to portray relationships in a more realistic way. The involvement of the characters with each other through their daily life, the slow progression of their attitudes and views on others were really done with vivid imagination. This is how real world works mostly (not like the fast to fall in love and fast to get together world of the animes and mangas). There are all kinds of romances; the subtle yet slow development of feelings, the unrequited emotions of someone falling for a guy/girl with a big age difference; even the amazing feeling of love at first site; everything was done quite naturally and with a lot of skills.
Another important aspect for me was the clear line of demarcation that was put between the world of heralds and humans. Heralds with their long years of life are so much more different in their views of the ways of the worlds, the beautiful imagining of their emergence into the supernatural world through flashbacks were quite nicely done to.
Overall the so simple, minimalistic yet beautifully imagined story, even without no real on going plot-line or even distinct beginning or end was one of the best aspects of the show. It gets 9 out of 10 from me.
As expected characters are the real highlights and driving force of this elegant tale. Makoto is a naive yet energetic girl, who gets into lots of fights with Gintaro yet somehow always makes up with him as he is kind of family member to her; although she tries to use the power of the herald sometimes for her benefit yet at the end of the day learns the real importance of using the power for others. Through her growing up in this beautiful shrine with her loving father and Gintaro she slowly understands various aspects of being special. As she gains friendship of other people in her school and her interaction with the people visiting the shrine she tries to always do what is best for the people around her at the end of the day in her own particular way. Ginataro on the other hand may act very arrogant and annoyed at Makoto but deep down really adores the girl. By living for thousands of years he had learned many things about the fragility of human life and the freedom of simple belief. Her lectures to Makoto and others not only gives us funny moments but sometimes even gives quite a few good life lessons.
Satoru is perfect example of someone brought up with the cruelty of this modern world. Through losing his parents in early childhood and then his grandfather after that, he learned the sadness of reality very young. By the neglect and prosecution of his aunt's family he has grown into an introvert, a socially awkward young man who thinks he has to do everything by himself. Through his journey to the new shrine and school we as viewers get to experience the joy of being accepted and even loved, the joy of getting new friends and over all the joy of learning to live for your own-self again. Haru is a real cute character who seems kind of one dimensional at first with her short-temperament, being too proud and obsessive affection for Satoru. But through her beautifully told back-story we get to learn her tragic entry into the world of heralds as well as the special and unique bond that she shares with Satoru. There was some really emotional and memorable scenes in her past indeed.
The other characters were also very deeply detailed in respect to such a short series. Makoto's two friends, the carefree and adventurous Yumi and the gentle and intelligent Funabashi; the other heralds and even some people in the lives of the side characters (like Yumi's boyfriend, Funabashi's fathers assistance/driver, Satoru's kendo team members etc) gets their story told in somewhat short yet delicately careful details.
The characters are quite well imagined and does the show justice, so gets 9 out of 10.
The animation gives us nicely detailed scenery in and around Saekis' small shrine and also other beautiful landscapes are thrown to give the atmosphere that much of a push towards a mixture realism and supernatural. The subtle color and stylistic changes that was introduced when we were getting flashbacks along with the beautiful music was really something that added to the total experience.
The realism even persisted with the character designs as the writer avoided including unnaturally good looking and well endowed designs and used simple yet appropriate imagining. This was a really welcomed change after the plethora of too good looking or too cool looking characters that are now-a-days overflowing the anime scene in general. I, myself really enjoyed the animation although it felt a bit aged to be honest while comparing it with some of the works we are seeing these days. While it does not actually hold anything back from the experience it was indeed something that should have been looked upon. the art/animation gets 8 out of 10.
The soundtrack/music isn't anything special in spite of use of nice in-show music specially in the flashback scenes. The total in-show music as a whole does something in adding to the overall enjoyment as giving new dimensions to the experience but some of the tunes were a bit over used to be honest. On the other hand while being quite appropriate the OP and ED didn't really do anything for me as I mostly skipped them after a few listens.
The real achievement in this regard for Gingitsune is the excellent voice acting. The voice actors really did put in their best efforts and really gave the emotions that much more vigor and realism through their works. Special mention should be given to the voice actors of Gintaro and Satoru as their efforts really caught attention and made it that much more easy for us viewers to relate with them and appreciate their dilemmas. The music/soundtrack gets a score of 8.5 out of 10 from me.
Despite all of its strong point this show is not something for everyone. This is a show for people who enjoys the simplicity of life, the joy of living each day and the greatness of having people around you who care about you. For me the slow pace of the story with its unique blend of realism with supernatural; the portrayal of various aspects of relationships, friendship and love and the overall simplistic nature of the messages given like the life lessons that we get to learn everyday just by being alive was a very enjoyable experience.
I will recommend this to any lovers of slice of life and seinen out there. Believe me, although it may not seem so now, you will really enjoy this if you just give this a try.
Gingitsune is one of those shows that feels "alive" in every respect. There's honestly no better way to describe it. From its general beauty to its inner world of provocatively enriching emotions, this show always has something to mesmerize you with.
Story: Keep in mind that this is a Slice of Life show, so the thing is that this is a story much more than it is an underlying plot. This is far from a bad thing; in all honesty, I find this show to be a very refreshing take on the Fantasy genre. For example, the rule that makes only one bloodline member possess "the
Sight" was extraordinarily different and well played in that it manages to maintain this show's reality close to our own. Think about it, and I'll use Naruto for a reference here: any family with a bloodline ability is practically a super ninja (which is more than half the main cast), so that begs the question: "What is normal supposed to be?" Gingitsune never had to beg that question. What I also enjoyed about the story was how the shrines themselves feel like characters in their own right, though more on that in the character section.
Another thing in this show's favor is the characters' back-stories were very heartfelt and real. Sure, Makoto may have always had the Sight as far as she can remember, but if I was to ask her "Was it worth losing your mother?", what do you think her response would be? See what I mean? There may be a pacing block or two and the beginning may be a bit rough, but this was a very easy show to marathon and empathize with. 9/10
Art: Simply AMAZING! Many people immediately take for granted the gorgeous blue sky, brightly starry nights, the detail in the trees, the variable mix of color; but this show packs an extra punch in this department, something that's often not accounted for: The visual variety in scenic architecture. Modernity and tradition CAN work together to create a harmonious masterpiece that becomes a truly living, breathing world. This creates a kind of immersion that is an unforgettable experience for viewers to explore and to craft a journey that feels like a heavenly ascension.
The characters' expressions were kept in realistic proportions which is good because after years of watching anime, I felt tired of seeing over-exaggerated feelings all the time and this again reinforces the down to earth aspect the show has. The humans' designs were smoothly done, while the heralds' appearances were appropriately extravagant, mystical, and enchanting which is a constant, yet pleasing reminder that this IS a Fantasy. The animation itself was plain and simple, yet fluid for the most part, but the show obviously had no need to go all out here. The CG was thankfully minimalistic and never really interfered with the gorgeous scenery since it was reserved mostly for cars. 8/10
Sound: The voice acting was immaculately done. Each voice suited its respective character well in body, personality, and emotion. Nothing much to say there, but what really makes this category stand out is the music! This is one of the liveliest Slice of Life soundtracks I have ever listened to. This is what allows the show to feel like the adventure that it is and absorbs us into its world. The instrumentation is primarily a traditional Japanese orchestra with catchy and revitalizing modern compositions that respect the olden times and culture in a very pleasing way that rivals Disney's classical scores sometimes. This is where I believe the show's heart is, and I want that heart to beat through my speakers for a long time to come. 9/10
Characters: I absolutely adore the variety and cohesion of these characters! From the main pair Makoto and Gintaro, to her friends, to the other heralds themselves; they all have various quirks that make them enjoyable to some extent save for one for the most part, Satoru. He's not a bad character by any means, but it does take a while for him to be fleshed out instead of being a walking statue with hurt feelings. These characters learn and grow together in a way that's very similar to the way we do in real life, especially the relationship between Hiwako and Yumi. There are other characters that people may have a problem with for example...Haru.
Now, Haru might be another stereotypical tsundere character; however, she is not a tsundere not just for the sake of having a tsundere in the cast, which is rare these days. She is given actual depth into why she acts the way she does, her tsun and dere sides get equal shares of the spotlight, both sides are given a reason to exist, and both are played realistically given her age (she acts 10 because that's about how old she would be in human years). Do not automatically assume a tsundere to be a bad character; she just needs to be written more carefully than most, which this show thankfully took into account.
I mentioned before that the shrines were their own characters, and I'll explain why here: they offer life to the setting just as much as the living beings do. Writing the shrines out would have completely killed the show's amazingly unusual atmosphere. They are the symbolism behind the settings inner workings. They are the heralds' perfect compliment in design, grace, and personality. They are the very soul and essence of the show. 9/10 for characters.
Enjoyment: This is THE Slice of Life show any fan of the genre should marathon! 10/10
Overall: 9/10. The merit and variety this show has is astounding! This is a true adventure into art, life, and ourselves and what we can see, imagine, and inspire in others.
Gingitsune caught me at a good time, offering a bit of heartfelt drama and a relaxing atmosphere to take it all in with. Looking at the premise I almost skipped over this series entirely, mainly due to my personal bias against slice-of-life and how I usually see them as snore-fests where nothing really happens. In the end I gave the first episode a chance and my expectations were quickly surpassed.
What exactly caught me off guard? It would be the fact that the script and characters brought genuine life to the story, both subtle and meaningful. I’ve grown used to slice-of-life having little to no story,
and themes that ultimately are delivered in such a limp-wristed way that you can’t care about it. Already in the first episode, Gingitsune accomplishes to remind me of how drama can teach us things about real questions we face in everyday-life. At its best points, the series focuses on problems ranging from isolation and bullying, to more philosophical matters such as what gives apologies their meaning.
The animation fulfills its purpose and always manages to stay at an above average to great level, showing that plenty of love went into the making of the series. The design and direction manages to be colorful yet never abundantly so to the point where it sticks out, giving it a more neutral tone that feels more grounded in reality, disregarding the presence of fox-spirits and other deities of course.
The use of the soundtrack helps in creating a tranquil environment for the series, with its use of flutes and string-instruments at the forefront, emphasizing the feeling of being at a mysterious shrine that contains more than meets the eye. It is also a perfect fit for the bits of Japanese culture and Shinto religion that is shown. The one thing that could have been improved sound-wise would be some of the voice-acting, as certain voices didn’t fit the characters’ ages, and in the case of the spirits there are some who get very loud and annoying at times.
As for the down-sides of the series, there are a few annoyances and at least one greater flaw. The biggest con among the pros of Gingitsune is that it‘s short and incomplete. Normally when a series’ main flaw is that it leaves you wanting more, that is a compliment. At the time this review is written however, there seemingly is no available manga to continue the story with, leaving the viewer with some loose threads hanging at the end of episode twelve.
Ultimately, Gingitsune captures its audience with a lovable cast and skillful writing that makes you care for the simple things in life. With a relaxed yet mature tone that doesn’t talk down to its audience, Gingitsune includes a lot of heart into its characters and script, ultimately ending up a short but sweet experience.