I always find it odd that so many shows get labelled as something other than what they are. Even stranger is the fact that almost everyone will view the series in a given way, often missing a prominent feature of the show.
Wagaya no Oinarisama (or Our Home's Fox Deity), is just such a series as, whilst very clearly being a supernatural/fantasy tale, the strong slice of life tone of the story is often overlooked or completely ignored.
Based on a series of light novels by Shibamura Jin (with illustrations by Hoden Eizo), the series was first adapted for manga by Shofu Suiren, and was originally released in Dengeki Comic Gao! from February 2007 before being transferred to Dengeki Daioh in April 2008. The anime adaptation, produced by Zexcs, and directed by Iwasaki Yoshiaki (Gokujou Seitokai, Hayate no Gotoku season 1, Love Hina, Zero no Tsukaima season 1), began airing in April 2008 on Chiba TV.
The story is surprisingly straightforward, and centres around two brothers - Takagami Noboru and his younger brother Toru. Noboru is the head of the Mizuchi family who, for many generations, have been exorcists, priests, and practitioners of arts involving water ki (lit. Mizu-chi). Because of their strong spiritual power, the brothers find themselves the target of a youkai. Noboru, because of his age, is less prone to attacks, however Toru represents a tasty morsel for any passing demon.
Enter Kuugen, the fox deity that used to be the guardian of the Mizuchi family until it's meschievous behaviour managed to get it sealed away in a cave. Noboru and Toru release Kuugen in orderto protect them (especially Toru), from the various demons who want to eat them.
The animation throughout the series is generally very good, however there are some noticeable flaws with some of the characters faces and body movements at times. The character designs are a tad on the generic side (I'll go into this in more detail in a bit), however this isn't really any big issue with the series, especially given it's focus.
The backgrounds and settings are also verging on genericism, and whilst the art may be detailed, the often cheery overtones can be at odds with some of the "darker" story elements.
The sound and music is of a very good standard throughout the series. The voice actors are generally able to bring the characters to life, and whilst I would have wanted Toru to sound more "boyish", Shimamura Yu does well to bring a certain air of gentleness to the character. The fact that Kuugen requires two voice actors (Nakamura Yuichi for the male, and Nogami Yukana for the female), is something unusual, and can be amusing at certain points, especially when the gender switches mid scene.
The sound effects are used to good effect throughout the show, and are fairly understated during the action sequences (moreso than I would have expected). The thematic music is generally atmospheric, however there are some tracks that don't seem to fit with the on-screen action.
On the whole, the characters are decent enough, if a little on the bland side. Although there is development for both Noboru, Toru, Kuugen and Kou, the amount was definitely mismatched given the prominence of the characters. It would have been nice to se more depth to Kou's character, and to know more about her as well. Toru, on the other hand, ends the series pretty much the same way as he began it - naive, helpless, and far too trusting. Given that he's one of the main characters, and protecting him is one of the main plot points, it's odd that he shows very little in the way of growth.
This disjointed development is symptomatic of the episodic style of the show. In some respects the series has let itself down by having no real plot other than the basic premise, something which is reinforced by the format of the show. However, given that this is very much a slice of life tale (a little more unusual than most, but that's actually a plus point), I found myself enjoying the series far more than I thought I would. When viewed in the same light as shows like Aria, To Heart, Binchou-tan, Mokke, etc, the numerous "filler" episodes turn out to be rather enjoyable romps in the realms of absurdity. The basic premise after all, is nothing more than an excuse. The main concept behind the show was simply to put Kuugen, and Kou to a lesser degree, into the modern world, let them explore, and watch as they try out new things.
One of the biggest plus points for this series is that it is enjoyable because of it's flaws. The generic character designs and artwork hark to typical school comedy-dramas, something which actually works in favour of the show as it's not really meant to be taken seriously. Unfortunately some of the flaws can't be hidden by the charming nature of the series, or the appeal of certain characters - the biggest one of these being the fact that the show really doesn't go anywhere. It would have been nice if the loose ends had been tied up and, whilst the ending is enjoyable in it's own right, it just doens't feel complete.
This isn't a show that will appeal to everyone. Fans of Rental Magica, Aria, Mokke, etc, may enjoy the series, however it probably won't appeal to hardcore action junkies.
Wagaya no Oinari-sama is a decent series, and is very enjoyable if watched in the right frame of mind. A second series would be nice to see though, or at least an OVA that explains a few more things about the characters.