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Wednesday, 27 October 2010 00:00

Okamisan

Okamisan (or Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi, if you're a stickler for accuracy) follows the adventures of sheep-in-wolf's-clothing Ryoko Okami and her colleagues at the Otogi Bank, an institution that deals in favours rather than money. But Ryoko's about to find herself with problems of a more male nature than she usually deals with, as would-be loverboy Ryoshi and abusive ex Hitsujikai arrive on the scene...

For episode summaries and screenshots, check the following pages. Otogibana City is the setting for our story, within which is the Otogi Academy, within which is the Otogi Academy Mutual Student Aid Association, aka the Otogi Bank, who provide assistance for students in need - such as keeping wayward male students from stalking the academy girls. Ryoko Okami - Okami-san to the wise - is the bank's chief enforcer, a rather bad-tempered girl who's now got stalker problems of her own after classmate Ryoshi Morino confesses her undying love for her. He's on a hiding to nowhere as far as true love is concerned, but Ryoshi has other talents that the Otogi Bank may find useful, and Ryoko finds herself stuck with him...

If you're familiar with fairy tales, you might notice a riff that they're playing off here, of the wolf and seven goats; watch further into the series and, if you're paying attention, you'll find many more fairy tales used as rough inspiration for the stories. Or so I'm told - I have to admit that my own fairy-tale knowledge is kind of lacking. Fortunately, that insider knowledge isn't required to enjoy the show - just an appreciation for the characters and their antics. Ryoko and Ryoshi are the nominal leads, although by no means do they dominate the show; Ryoko is a by-the-book tsundere, tough on the outside but a lady underneath should you manage to scratch the surface - an almost complete contrast to Ryoshi, who's terrified of anyone taking notice of him (he goes out of his way to be unnoticeable) but who, when backed into a corner, is as hard as nails. Their relationship is much as you'd expect where a tsundere girl is concerned - Ryoshi's completely loyal to Ryoko, despite the regular beatings he takes; while she makes a show of tolerating his existence, even though you known she's secretly enamoured with him. You know the deal by now.

They're ably supported by the other Otogi Bank "staff": Chairman Lizst and his efficient cousin Kiriki; Ootsu, the bank maid, and resident witch Majo; resident lovebirds Urashima and Otohime, who will probably grow up as S&M fans; and the cute-as-a-button Ringo, who under her loveable surface is quite possibly the most evil creature known to man. They're a great cast, and the stories are structured so that they all get a decent amount of time in the spotlight - with the one exception of Majo, who's criminally underused.

Stories fall into two categories: standalone stories, or part of a story arc featuring Hitsujikai, the student council president from a neighbouring school and who used to date Ryoko years earlier. It's safe to see that their relationship wasn't a health one, and Hitsujikai is now doing his being to stand between Ryoko and any happiness she may have in future - especially if that happiness is to come from being with Ryoshi. The standalone stories are great, with a good mix of humour and touching scenes that make them very enjoyable to watch. The Hitsujikai stories are less enjoyable, primarily because Ryoko in these isn't the strong & confident Ryoko that you see elsewhere in the series - instead, she comes across as much weaker and frequently needs rescuing by Ryoshi and the other Otogi Bank members, which really didn't sit well with me given how the character was otherwise presented.

Hitsujikai also doesn't make for a great villain, either - his prime motivation is simply to be a bastard; he's made Ryoko's life a misery once before and he's determined to do it again, for no good reason other than that he can, and while that gives you plenty of reason to hate him, it also leaves him feeling very much like a cardboard cutout of a character.

Overall, though, there's plenty to like about Okamisan - it's simply well put together, with a good, varied cast having some fun adventures on the way. It's not going to win any awards for depth, but it's not trying to, either - it just wants to have a little fun along the way, and it succeeds at that wonderfully. Well worth a look.

Rating - ****