In a world where fairytale mainstays are living in a modern setting and the Big Bad Wolf is a beautiful young girl, you’re bound to run into some strange situations. Especially when the Big Bad Wolf is an outwardly tough woman with inward insecurities. What happens when the wolf finally meets a young man who’s smitten with her? Worlds collide in Okami-san and Her Seven Companions: Complete Collection, now available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that collects the entire 13-episode series in one convenient location.
Ryoko, or Okami-san, is a tough girl who’ll fight to appear austere on the outside to the very end. Pride’s her biggest enemy – how could she ever shirk the responsibility of upholding her reputation as one of the prized members of Otogi Bank? The prestigious high school program, originally created to aid students in need, touts Ryoko’s rep as one of the best, and she’s got the admirers to prove it. Her best friend Ringo (a modern lolita Red Riding Hood) sees through Ryoko’s callous exterior to the frightened and often very vulnerable girl inside – thus, she’s always there with a shoulder to cry on and pointed romantic advice.
Then there’s Ryoshi, the “hunter” of the story, who may well capture the heart of our little wolf, though there isn’t much to say about his level of courage. Or anything for that manner – especially his level of courage. Except, you know, for when it comes to Ryoko. For the woman he loves he’ll go to great lengths, even beyond his phobia of being “stared at” (a little hamfisted, even for this type of comedy). When pushed, he’s even known to pick up his loyal slingshot here and there. Your typical anime shy guy, Ryoshi’s making Ryoko’s heart flutter.
That’s where Okami-san seems to stagnate – exploring the mind and personality of the outwardly strong and commanding ‘wolf” and how “love” affects her day-to-day judgment and personality. And while it’s played for genuine laughs here and there, it quickly devolves into a very predictable pattern. Ryoshi breaks out of his shell to protect Ryoko, and in turn we see Ryoko’s more human side, meaning she’s willing to help and be helped; perhaps willing to let love in.
But it all feels very strained, as though the anime is trying its best to make a case for Ryoko, to change her into something she’s not, when she’s clearly comfortable in her own skin. A flat lead like Ryoshi is also certainly not the male counterpart I would have chosen for such a strong character. The awkward anime everyman and feisty female heroine shouldn’t always be forced to pair up, even if he does set his sights on her from the very beginning. It doesn’t prove very intriguing for long, and the frequent shifts of setting from that of Ryoko and Ryoshi’s budding relationship to that of students visiting the Otogi Bank are welcome to intrude.
Okami-san plays host to a colorful supporting cast (the titular seven companions included), if not a very stereotypical one (the Tsundere, the Casanova, etc) and features Luci Christian in the English dub as a biting, sardonic narrator who’s often cracking jokes about Ryoko’s lack of feminine assets and other tired anime clichés. She’s a riot at first, but after about the tenth rip on Ryoko for having a flat chest, one wishes there were a button to turn off the narrator’s commentary completely.
Funimation’s Okami-san and Her Seven Companions: Complete Collection on Blu-ray/DVD collects a very pedestrian romantic comedy that falls victim to many of anime’s most tired conventions, though it does well to make up for that with a palette that pops, infectiously cheerful opening and ending tunes, and an English dub cast that takes their roles quite seriously. All in all, it’s a serviceable plot that manages to work in a few welcome laughs where they’re unexpected and a few heartfelt moments that explore reasonably deep topics, but in truth there are plenty of similar, more engaging adventures out there. Still, I have to admit that Ryoko’s custom gloves are pretty adorable.