The furballs are back! When we last left them (four years ago!), the tanuki of the Shimogamo family found out exactly how their patriarch came to be the main ingredient in the Friday Club’s hot pot, the heartbroken-gone-mad Soun was banished from tanuki society, and the election of the next Trick Magister was postponed due to a flying train crash and tiger attack. There were tears, but most of all, there was fun.
When we rejoin the Shimogamo family, roughly six months after the events of the original show, the eldest (Yaichiro) is trying to revive a long-neglected tanuki shogi tournament and determined to run once again for Trick Magister, Yajiro is trying to become something more than just a frog in a well, and Yasaburo is still running errands for Akadama-sensei but is also trying to revive his father’s Tsuchinoko Expedition Squad with his younger brother, Yashiro. As for extended family: Akadama-sensei’s pining away for an absent Benten, who’s gone away on a trip across the sea. And, unfortunately, the news about the return of his son, the Nadieme, is not a welcome reunion.
Aside from Akadama-sensei’s son, there’s a treasure trove of new and expanded characters to explore with the new season of The Eccentric Family. Yashiro’s love interest (Gyokuran Nanzenji), the trickster Tenmaya, the still camera shy but more involved Kaisei, the eldest Ebisugawa brother Kureichiro, and more. All of these characters introduce unique conflicts that create a finely woven web with the existing and new characters; the fun never stops. For a series with such a relaxed air, the sheer number of storylines and character interactions moves things along at an “it’s over before you know it” pace.
Large cast ensemble dramadies can be tricky to pull off competently let alone effectively, but The Eccentric Family is one of the rare success stories. Given how much the characters evolve over the 13 episodes of the first season, which is a complete adaptation of Tomohiko Morimi’s original novel, building upon those established relationships and exploring ways to grow them proves to be the strongest asset of show. And that’s saying something given the sublime attention given the art and animation. This season, which adapts Morimi’s sequel novel is strong. Very strong. How strong? Tengu strong.
Even though new storylines burgeon from the onset, they prey upon the established connections already ingrained in fans’ memories and hearts. This amps up the excitement, the hilarity, and the drama for those in the know. The world is as gorgeous as ever; much praise is due returning art directors Yusuke Takeda and Harumi Okamoto for ensuring that, like they did the first time around, little details spread throughout every aspect of the world make everything just realistic enough to render depth while allowing for a unique artistic portrayal and experience. The simple yet striking character designs are complemented by soft movements that really bring out the more subtle expressions in character reactions that make this show so effective.
One of the stars of last season was the emotionally aloof Benten, and it’s a downright shame that the first couple of episodes make everyone in the show a fool by pining for her in the audience’s place. Still, when she shows up, the character is a welcome sight for all the artificially built anticipation and brings a wealth of excitement. Mamiko noto reprises her role with a voice as fitting to Benten’s form as Benten’s dresses are form-fitting. But Benten’s not the only female in the cast, and it looks like there’s a much welcome focus on exploring some of the female characters that didn’t get so much face time last season—namely Yasaburo’s former fianceé Kaisei and the Shimogamo matriarch Tousen. None of these females are simply halves of flirtatious couplings (although there are certainly enough love interests to go around); each gains a layer of story and something substantial added to their metal.
Adding to this already large cast are returning favorites: the music, backgrounds, and animation itself. The wide variety of music styles employed by the incidental scoring is as anarchistic as it can be heart-wrenchingly appropriate. The score sways and swaggers, romps and swoons, and weeps almost too effectively. Pieces often announce themselves with pomp and then fade to support the situation like a trampoline or, conversely, hide timid behind before stepping to the forefront as a giant swell. The backgrounds are simply breathtaking and will make you recognize images of real-life Kyoto amid random Google image searches. And the animation, particularly when characters react to what other characters are saying, strives to emulate the author’s storytelling style. All of this is complemented, of course, by the concerted effort, carried over from the first series, to turn narration into dialogue.
Apart from the show proper, the OP and ED also offer a smooth transition despite the four-year gap between seasons; respectively, milktub and fhána return with “Nasugamama” and “Moon River” as the backing tracks to the OP and ED. The OP is a wonderfully chaotic collision of characters superimposed over and woven into to Kyoto scenery. So much is going on that, even if you watch the OP very intently with each episode, you’ll still catch something new every time. The ED finishes the fury of furry fun with some bittersweet pining backed by shots of Benten abroad and at home.
The layering of what we have known with the new stories and how they affect the characters directly involved as well as those surrounding them is part of the fun and admirable to say the least. I don’t know if this is a story accessible to those who’ve not watched Season 1, but why wouldn’t you have watched Season 1? If you’re a The Eccentric Family veteran and yet to jump on this sequel, perhaps because you didn’t want to ruin a good thing by watching a sub-par extension, rest easy: this sequel might be even better than the original. With most of the same major players behind the production, the quality is through the roof, and the story is just as fun as you’re hoping it is.
Season 2 of The Eccentric Family is available from Crunchyroll.