I’m a sucker for youkai shows, so when this one started streaming on Crunchyroll last season, you bet I followed along with every episode. It matched well with both the other romance animes airing that season as well as the food-based shows. I was a little worried that it would wind up following a lot of tired tropes with the arranged marriage plot-line, but while Kakuriyo doesn’t quite present something different, it wound up being interesting enough in it’s characters and setting that I continued watching all the way to the end of the first cour. It’s at the end of the first cour, or 12 episodes, that we’ll stop for this review. I’ll pick back up the show this season and do a second cour review at the end of the Summer. So for those of you who are fans of youkai and cooking shows, I’d suggest checking this one out while it’s still airing, though I do still have a few problems with the series to talk about. If you’d like to hear more, keep reading.
Kakuriyo follows the life of Aoi Tsubaki who was born able to see youkai/spirits or ayakashi as they are called in this series. After her only relative, her grandfather, passes away she is left alone to deal with the ayakashi by herself. But one fateful encounter with an Ogre Ayakashi finds her transported to the spirit world. It’s there she learns that her grandfather wracked up a huge amount of debt in the spirit world while he was alive, and put Aoi’s hand in marriage up as collateral to the Head of Tenjin-Ya, a hotel for spirits. However, Aoi has other plans, and to escape her arranged marriage and pay off her grandfather’s debt, she decides to open a small eatery and cook for the spirits of the other world.
Studio Gonzo handled the anime adaptation for this series, but I’m not entirely thrilled with their work on this series. Besides the typical terrible CG crowds that are to escape in almost every anime, the facial animations for the characters seemed to get a little warped at times. This left facial expressions looking a bit blank or awkward sometimes. There were times where a character was supposed to be displaying strong emotion, but because it wasn’t captured on their face well enough, the moment just felt like it didn’t hit as hard as it was supposed to. I definitely think this series has potential to be great but maybe in the hands of another studio. With the grand youkai cities, flying ships, and magic, some strong animation could really add a lot to this series. It’s not all terrible though. There are times where I don’t really notice the animation quality and there are certainly scenes where they brought in some great key animators to really make the animation pop. just wish it was consistently strong or consistently average.
One aspect I did love though was the opening. I talked a bit about it in my First Impressions post at the beginning of the season, but I still can’t help loving both the music and the animation. The opening song, “Tomoshibi no Manimani” by Mao Toyama, combines a really interesting mix of J-Pop and traditional instruments to produce this merging of sounds that really fits with the overall feel of the story. Aoi is a modern human woman who journeys to the hidden realm of spirits and ayakashi, working in a traditional setting. We see this kind of interplay in modern versus traditional, western influences versus traditional eastern, reflected in the song itself. I really loved hearing all the different instruments in the background, and the percussion matches well with the animation and character’s movements through the opening that it becomes really nice mix of visuals and audio. I have to say, just the song itself gets be excited about the show and I find myself listening to it a lot outside of watching the actual series.
One of the parts of the series that really surprised me were the characters, especially the character of Odanna. The kinds of male leads we see in arranged marriage plot lines can be fairly moody and controlling. It was nice to see that Odanna’s character, while still a man with a lot of pride, seems to genuinely come to care for Aoi. We begin to see many sides to his character, especially a softer side that started to really endear him to me over the course of these episodes. While the fact that she is betrothed to him still stands over her head and she is consistently treated like his mistress/wife, there are times where he puts a lot of care into gaining her affection and learning the ways of human relationships. There was one episode where Odanna is on a trip and writes back to Aoi to ask her if she wants him to bring anything home for her, and when she asks him for some cooking ingredients, he comments saying that it feels as though he’s a husband out doing errands for his wife. There are also times were you could see that he really loves her cooking, with one episode having Aoi be able to get her way by refusing to give him a bento she made for him. In the end, this creates a male lead who is both powerful and commanding but also caring to those closest to him.
The story itself, from the episodic problems and characters that Aoi faces to the more overarching plot line of her grandfather’s legacy and her relationship to Odanna present both good and bad story arcs at times. Her coming to meet new characters and helping solve their problems over a home-cooked meal is very reminiscent of slice-of-life cooking animes like Restaurant to Another World and presents some fairly interesting short stories to provide new interest over the course of the series. However, there were times I definitely felt like some of these plots were not well-written enough or were just too cliche to suck me in completely. I still found them entertaining, but I wish we could have maybe seen a deeper dive into the characters she encounters and problems they face.
I think the part that will probably keep me coming back, besides the characters (especially Odanna), is the mysteries the series presents. The kind of questions that come up about her grandfather throughout the course of these episodes paints a very multifaceted character that becomes a challenge to puzzle out. What were his motives behind signing Aoi’s marriage away to Odanna? Was it really because of a debt, or was there another reason like a need to find her a place where she could build another life for herself away from her past trauma? I almost want to believe that her grandfather had an ulterior motive, but I’m not sure we’ll ever find out for sure. There’s also the mystery of the ayakashi that visited Aoi when she was young. There are hints that it could be Ginji, but there are also other hints that it might have been Odanna. I’m not sure what to believe, but I’m almost leaning more towards it being Ginji given everything we know so far. There are so many little things to puzzle out and I’m interested to see if we’ll get to visit other parts of the hidden realm later in the 2nd cour.
With all its faults, I do still enjoy this series. It hits a lot of my favorite guilty pleasures: youkai, tall-dark-and-handsoms, and food animes. Let me know what you thought about the first cour in the comments below and if you have any theories on the mysteries this series presents, let me know too. I think I might plan one other Waxing Philosophical post about this series as well, so keep an eye out for that and my review of the second cour, which I will link below once the summer season ends.
~~Thanks for Reading~~