Japanese monsters (or yokai, as they're known as) are no stranger to anime. Series like GeGeGe no Kitaro, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Yokai Watch are filled to the brim with these sorts of classic creatures, presenting a level of supernatural storytelling that entertains the imagination. This Spring's Tsugumomo also falls into this category, with inanimate objects taking a human-like form. But does it bring anything new to the table?
Based on the manga by Yoshikazu Hamada, Tsugumomo focuses on Kazuya Kagami (Yuko Sanpei/Howard Wang), who carries around his deceased mother's obi as a form of comfort. After being attacked by a possessed wig at school the obi comes to life, protecting Kazuya from being harmed. Transforming into a human, the obi introduces herself as the tsukumogami Kiriha (Naomi Ōzora/Sarah Wiedenheft), who informs Kazuya that she's his master. Together and with the aid of their friend Chisato (Norkio Shibasaki/Megan Shipman) and the god of the town Kukuri (Yurika Kubo/Apphia Yu), Kazuya and Kiriha set out to rid the city of these malignant spirits before they cause all sorts of trouble.
For the most part the anime can be a little generic, as the concept of living things being taken over by spirits has been done many times over. It's then fortunate that Tsugumomo knows how to keep things entertaining, even if it means having to commit some low-brow (albeit funny) humor. Watching Kiriha often get violent with Kukuri and act naughty with Kazuya has a surprising amount of mileage throughout its run. Even something as simple and unimaginative as a dick joke got a chuckle out of me, although it probably has more to do with how the line was delivered than anything. (Kiriha's love for pudding is also good for a few laughs, especially a moment involving her singing a sad song about the creamy dessert.)
It's when it's time to throw down when Tsugumomo shines brightly. There's a fine level of tension when you first watch Kazuya use Kiriha in battle, as his level of experience is next-to-none. He finds himself confused by this new power he has unleashed, so when he somehow pulls out a new trick during a fight it comes of as a surprise to both the viewer and the duo in battle. Seeing both Kazuya and Kiriha work their way up to better their skills -- especially when the obi girl loses some of her powers and becomes a more childish version of herself -- is presented in both a fun and humorous manner.
Outside of a couple obscure OVAs, Zero-G has never really fronted their own full-on anime series. However their contributions to Inuyasha, Punch Line, and SHIMONETA has helped to hone their skills for both action and comedic scenery. When you watch the duo of Kazuya and Kiriha throw down against an opponent, the action goes everywhere. The smoothness of the obi being flung around and molded into shapes flows like a powerful breeze every time, with even the biggest punches or kicks thrown presenting some high-powered impacts that are wonderfully detailed. Its animation lets loose when it comes to the funnier parts, with some clever sight gags that elevates the perverted scenes to John Waters-like heights.
Ōzora has recently been playing second banana in the likes of momokuri, Gabriel DropOut!, and Matoi the Sacred Slayer, so I was very happy to see her back in a starring role in Tsugumomo. As Kiriha she brings an adorable level of brattiness while also delivering some humorous snark in the more dirtier scenes. Sanpei gives Kazuya the right dose of nervousness in the beginning of the series, with the voice becoming stronger the more the character trains. Shibasaki dons the childhood friend crown as Chisato, showcasing a good dose of emotional support and lovestruck confident for Kazyua. Meanwhile Kubo's Kukuri steals the scene with her level of cutesy attitude, acting often as a hilarious punchline to Kiriha's bullying.
For the most part Funimation's English dub keeps the attitude of most of the characters down pat. Wiedenheft's Kiriha brings the brat mentality to a higher level than Ōzora's depiction, with her sex jokes adding a bigger punch thanks to her delivery. Yu is surprisingly more adorable as Kukuri, making her seem more like a sympathetic character than the Japanese version. The only one that feels off in the dub is Wang's Kazuya, who sounds just a bit too old to voice a teenager. His performance is still good, but it's just not as youthful as it should be.
Composer Yasaharu Takanashi has got a knack for creating some exciting action scores, what with his works on Fairy Tail, Naruto Shippuden, and the recent Tiger Mask reboot. The traditional Japanese sounds of taiko drums and shamisens burst through hard and fast during a tsukumogami battle never let up, creating an extra layer of intensity that amplifies the action well. Considering he's also worked on Ikki Tousen, the more comedic melodies that play during the show's perverted parts help to make the scenarios just a tad bit more goofy. Opening theme "METAMORISER" by Band Ja Naimon! (made up of the principle female cast) captures the fun spirit the anime presents, whereas closer "I4U" by MICHI tends to lack the true attitude of the series.
Tsugumomo may have its faults, but it fortunately has enough entertainment crammed into it to make each episode viewing worthwhile. Great action scenes, some strong voice acting, and the right dose of naughty comedy blend together to make a series that is somewhat enjoyable. Just a small problem: despite having over eighteen volumes of the manga published, only 12 episodes have been made. Here's hoping a second season is announced somewhere down the line. Otherwise Tsugumomo will easily fade away in the minds of anime fans faster than a malison cleansing.
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)/ (English dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
Tsugumomo can be viewed on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and VRV. It has been licensed by Funimation. Episodes 1-12 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll and VRV.
Background Noise: Rated R by Queens of the Stone Age - Josh Homme and company's second album was a turning point for the band, bringing together some of the more infamous favorites like "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" and "Quick And To The Pointless." The fast guitars and sexy lyrics play to both Tsugumomo's action-y and humorous aspects, the latter of which works well with "Monster in the Parasol" and the Deluxe Edition's "Ode to Clarissa."