We Rent Tsukumogami
In Edo Period Japan, Seiji Izumoya and his sister (or so he calls her), Oko, run a leasing shop. Among the items in their shop are five tsukuogami, items that have developed, with long use, a spirit and consciousness. That turns out to be useful in gathering information needed to solve several "mysteries".
I found this show's major weaknesses well summarized by some of its own dialogue. First, when a character says, "We must remain calm", it's pretty much preaching to the choir HERE; our male lead, Seiji, is an ultra-milquetoast type who never gets emotional; even a confrontation with a would-be murderer doesn't make him raise his voice. This whole attitude of emotional stoicism applies to the rest of the male human cast as well, and, while the females are permitted a BIT more latitude in expressing feelings, only Oko, in the end, is allowed to do so physically.
The second major weakness of the show is neatly encapsulated by the continual desire of Goi (one of the tsukumogami) to "go over things". The show's stories mostly revolve around requests by Seiji's and Oko's clients to help them solve "mysteries", so Seiji and Oko loan out the tsukuogami to gather information- and boy, is there a LOT to "go over". The complete stories often involve a myriad of details and relationships, and to fit all this into an episode's 25 minute running time, we have to be TOLD much of it rather than be SHOWN it, always anathema to good drama; and when we combine this with the show's usual loathing of emotional scenes- AND the fact that the matters involved, while complex, are often, objectively, fairly trivial- you have a prescription for something that too often failed at engaging my interest. In my opinion, there was only one episode where the show's ultra-laid-back approach to content and presentation worked well. It's Episode Eight, where Seiji and company are asked to investigate someone who seems TOO kind and generous. (Given the presentation the show gives of the period as an age of stoic decorum, I guess it would be easy for even positive emotions to arouse deep suspicion.) The episode features a "twist" at the end that's genuinely moving, AND amazingly contemporary, especially for this show. (The show usually seems to affirm the virtues of the Japanese traditions of the time- for example, it often seems to imply that persons should be content with marrying the partners who've been arranged for them by the elders of their families.)
I will also note here (since I've no other good place to put it) that Seiji and Oko have this weird pretense going on with the tsukumogami: everyone pretends the humans either can't hear, or at least can't understand, the tsukuogami conversation, even though they not only CAN, but this fact is known to the tsukumogami THEMSELVES. I guess the age's sense of what is decorous (and what is not) extends to interactions with the supernatural as well- and BOTH ways, at that.
Still, the show DOES have some other things going for it besides Episode Eight. The opening song, "Get Into My Heart", is a lively piece of techno-pop that works surprisingly well for a show set in the Edo Period. (Or maybe it's the very contrast between the song, and the period visuals, that makes it work.) I also liked Oko's character design; maybe it's the vivid green eyes. I found her to be especially striking in the (infrequent) scenes where she lets her hair down. I also developed a lot of empathy for the hapless Omiya Kounosuke, who has a completely ironic reputation as a ladies' man; in reality he's pretty hopeless with women, though he DOES have one he'd really like to know better. And the visualization of Edo Era Japan, especially of its culture and artifacts, fascinated me. It reinforced some things presented in Miss Hokusai, from the Japanese affection for flammable wooden structures, to the era's own beliefs about the supernatural (which both shows assume the reality of); this one also added some new period details, particularly in relation to the tsukumogami, so cue the descriptions of THOSE characters:
Notetsu is a netsuke (a kind of ornamental clip) in the shape of a bat. He's the most hyper ("flighty", perhaps?) of the tsukumogami, and has the greatest power of mobility of any of them, so often gets called on to run errands (and incessantly complains about that, too.)
Goi I've already mentioned. His non-supernatural form is a kiseru (smoker's pipe) with a bird decoration; his supernatural form is a robed bird. As noted earlier, he always wants to review everything, but tends to be evasive about his own thoughts.
Tsukuyomi's "mundane" form is a wall scroll featuring a full moon; his tsukumogami form is a moon-headed man. (We don't get the back of his head that often, but it was of great interest to me, since it also has a "face"- the "man in the moon" of the lunar farside, as a 21st Century writer or artist thinks an Edo Period artist might have conceived it. Let's just say I found it intriguing.) Tsukuyomi's both somewhat pompous and self-aggrandizing.
Ohime is a doll in traditional Japanese dress. Since she's ALREADY made in human form, her tsukumogami appearance is the least different from her "mundane" form of any of them. She sometimes asks good questions, and seems pretty sensible, but didn't strike me as having much personality otherwise.
Usagi is a comb which, in non-supernatural form, has a very pretty rabbit design. This is one character that I found CLEARLY much more attractive in her mundane form; her tsukumogami form really doesn't look exactly like comb OR rabbit- it has an "unsettled" appearance, like a quantum superposition, though it leans comb-ish. Because most people only see the attractive rabbit design, and not her disturbing supernatural visage, she's one of the most popular items in the shop. She's got the "sweet and demure" personality that was considered the ideal, especially for Japanese women of the day. Here I'll note that, while women in this show are allowed a little more freedom to express their feelings than the men apparently have, it's often negative emotions- we have the overbearing mother, the jilted (and scheming) fiancée. Almost all the women in this show seem to get shoehorned into either the sweet/demure category, OR the harpy/Lady Macbeth category; Oko is the only female character who's given anything like a rich palette of emotional colors, and even SHE holds her tongue (and hides those colors) for a VERY long time.
Points for some real depth in Episode 8; the opening song; and the fascinating period details. But you just can't get an interesting show out of a cast that's dramatically repressed. I think the key reason this show isn't better known is that it is, in a word and all too often, BORING; and this is despite its supernatural characters. The star rating here is a "just barely" rating. The Rec here is a MUCH better show. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: To be honest, the most offensive thing here is probably the archaic attitudes, but there's one instance of actual violence, so we'll call it PG for violence and mature situations.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
We Rent Tsukumogami © 2018 Telecom Animation Film.
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