(Warning, the following article contains spoilers for Konohana Kitan. Read at your own responsibility)
You know an anime season is a great one worthy of the history books when, despite being filled to the blissful brim by high quality shows everyone knows of, it still manages to surprise you with some genuinely good shows that just manage to slip through the cracks and sneak up on you. Such is the case I find myself in with this current season. Not only am I feasting on such great shows like Juni Taisen, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Mr. Osomatsu, and GARO: Vanishing Line, but I am enjoying myself with some of the sneakier shows of the season, such as the subject of this impression article, Konohana Kitan.
Konohana Kitan follows a young foxgirl named Yuzu who is brought by her guardian Bikuni to an onsen inn called Konohanatei to work there. She struggles at first getting the hang of her job, very much to the chagrin of her tsundere coworker Satsuki, but she eventually gets into the groove of things, though the occasional mishap still occurs. On the surface Konohana Kitan is a rather unassuming show, because like most slice of life shows there isn’t much of an overall story.
Rather, the show is comprised mostly of little individual slices into the lives of Yuzu and the other employees of Konohanatei. Early on these episodic plots revolve around Yuzu being paired up with each member of the staff so she can see how they each handle their day to day duties, as they each have a different approach. Through these training exercises Yuzu learns how to not only work hard when necessary, but when to relax so she doesn’t overtax herself and to appreciate the beauty of where she works.
Things take a turn starting with episode 4, as the show shifts its format a bit, however. Whereas the previous three episodes felt like one continuous narrative across the length of the episode, episodes 4 and 5 each contain two clearly distinct tales within them. Episode 4’s first half is absurd and comedic, with the character Ren waking up initially looking pregnant, but it turns out it was merely a very weird egg that somehow became attached to her belly when she slept. The egg subsequently passes itself off to Satsuki, before eventually hatching into a baby baku, a type of tapir-like dream eating creature from Japanese mythology.
The laughs of this first half quickly give way to a more somber tale involving a mysterious little girl named Shino who keeps rapidly aging each time the elderly woman she is staying at the inn with makes her new clothes. It turns out that the girl in question is actually a type of mourning doll that grieving parents usually get and care for when they lose their child at a young age. After seeing the spirit of her daughter reach adulthood and don her would-be marriage clothes, the elderly woman passes on to the afterlife as well.
Episode 5 follows this up by also utilizing a similar style with a humorous first half and more artistic second half. The first half of episode 5 also features a doll, but this time it is a haunted doll that became possessed after years of neglect in the form of being hidden away in a storage closet by two parents too creeped out by its realistic details to give it to their child like they were asked to. Eventually the doll escapes the closet and naturally scares the holy fuck out of the kid meant to play with it.
As a result a priest trying to exercise the spirit in the doll brings it to Konohanatei, where he just leaves it after the staff have a good time playing with it. They give the doll a comedic makeover that changes its traditional look to that of a colorful anime girl. They also bestow upon the doll the name Okiku and make her a new member of the staff.
The second half of the episode has Yuzu training Okiku and in the process the two keep bringing food to a guest staying in their shed who is too focused on the weaving she is doing to eat. However, the woman isn’t a simple weaver. She is actually a rain weaver, literally turning the rain itself into the thread she uses for her works.
Talented though she may be, the rain weaver has been pushing herself lately because she wants to keep up with her two sisters. One is able to weave much faster than the others, while the other is able to make higher quality weaves than the others. Yuzu begins chipping away at the rain weaver’s cold exterior by pointing out that neither of her sisters are capable of being both fast and high quality like she is, meaning her work is faster than the high quality weaving sister, and her weaves are better than the faster sister.
After listening to Yuzu sing while she worked, and finally eating something while taking a break later that night, the rain weaver manages to calm down. As she agreed upon when talking with Yuzu, she shows her completed work to Yuzu in secret. It turns out that the very thing she was working on was actually a gorgeous rainbow.
In addition to these two stellar episodes, Konohana Kitan has a lot of smaller details going for it. The most obvious being the show is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It isn’t necessarily among the best animated shows of the season, but it does have some killer art direction, with nearly every episode having at least one scene where I had to pause the episode just to take a screenshot because of how beautiful it was.
One of the best examples of this is the second half of episode 5 where, to match the rain-themed mood of the story, the show switched its usually bright, vibrant colors for muted colors. They then create some stunning visual contrast when we see Yuzu and Okiku walk to the shed by breaking the sea of dull with selective coloring, specifically using color on the flowers along the path they are walking on and the umbrella Yuzu is holding.
All I can say is someone over there at Lerche knows how to use colors, and whoever they are, they deserve a raise.
Another thing working in the show’s favor is its comedic expressions. While the show doesn’t try to do comedy all that much, the few times it does attempt it is greatly bolstered by the variety of funny faces it gives the characters. Considering this is an absolutely packed season when it comes to great reaction image material, it says something that this is still something I can praise the show for.
One last positive thing I’d like to talk about with the show is the show’s third episode, which has one of the most refreshing takes on how an anime has handled workplace harassment. During a large banquet at Konohanatei, a guest gropes Ren, and she reflexively kicks his ass. The guest causes a massive scene that sours the mood of the party, but eventually he gets tossed out when the rest of the employees, including the inn’s matron, Okami, calls him out on his bullshit and offers his party an ultimatum. Either he gets kicked out, or the whole party gets kicked out and banned from Konohanatei.
If there is honestly any negative aspect to Konohana Kitan, it is that the show has some light fanservice in the first three episodes, in the form of showing the cast bathing in the onsen every now and then. It’s nowhere near as egregious as most shows’ fanservice, but it does exist, so there you go.
When I get down to it, Konohana Kitan is just a fantastic show to relax to. It is yet another entry in the year’s stellar lineup of monster girl shows, and offers a great alternative taste to this season’s other excellent offerings. If you are looking for something calming and beautiful to add variety to your viewing lineup this season, you can’t go wrong giving this gem a look.
Konohana Kitan can be streamed subbed on the Crunchyroll streaming service, and streamed dubbed on the FUNimation streaming service. Konohana Kitan is based on an ongoing manga by Sakuya Amano published in Gentosha’s Comic Birz magazine.