The city of Kyoto, from the days it was founded as the capital of Japan, has involved a mix of tanuki (racoon dogs), tengu (mystical crows), and humans. It is this mix and the way they interact with each other that has allowed the city to continue on as it has into modern day. Yasaburou is a shapeshifting tanuki trying to live an interesting life while attending to his tengu professor/master, who is in love with his former pupil Benten. Benten is either a tengu that has forsaken her heritage to live as a human, or a human that formerly dabbled in tengu magic under the tutelage of the professor.
It’s still difficult to figure out what this show is ACTUALLY about, however, as this episode was mostly spent setting up the backstory, locations (which are VERY attentively rendered), and give us glimpses at the various characters and possibly story arcs that will come up in this show. I am most impressed by first episodes that set themselves apart, and the way this managed to take very little in terms of plot and keep it refreshingly entertaining is quite admirable.
Upon first inspection, it may be difficult to identify Yasaburou as a male – this is because he spends much of the episode transformed as a schoolgirl in the hopes of keeping his master’s spirits up. This is rather amusing because while he is in a female body, his body language and awareness is consistently male, an interesting and impressive move for the animators/directors; especially considering they’re taking their cues from a novel, not a manga where these things would already have been visually laid out.
Apart from that, the animation is quite smooth, if quirky at times, and the music is very evocative of the setting and mysticism surrounding these legendary creatures. This is a soundtrack I am certainly getting when it is released.
Yasaburou’s carefree attitude and the exploration of the relationships between any leg of the tanuki-tengu-human triangle through his eyes are making The Eccentric Family look like a solid romp through the old magical underbelly of a modern Kyoto society.