The Eccentric Family is a tale that centers around creatures from Japanese folklore. Yet, it tells a surprisingly human story. More than that, the single-season series packs more character development into its 13 episodes than some series that have been running for decades.
The Eccentric Family is a story firmly set in the fantasy genre, but to write it off as just another fantasy anime would be an injustice to Tomihiko Morimi's work. The story mostly follows Shimogamo Yasaburo, a young tanuki who is extremely adept at transformations as he navigates through a carefree existence. At first blush, it'd be easy to confuse The Eccentric Family with any number of shonen anime out there; following the death of Yasaburo's father, a new Trick Magister must be elected and there's drama abound as the hunt for a suitable successor begins. Instead, however, The Eccentric Family doesn't take the easy way out, you end up with a rich story that deals with some heavy topics.
Throughout the entire 13 episodes, you'll be taken back and forth through time to see how the entire Shimogamo family deals with the loss of their patriarch and the grief it caused. It doesn't quite get to the point of being gut-wrenching, but there are definitely some poignant moments throughout.
Most importantly, possibly, is the fact that while The Eccentric Family tells multiple interconnected stories, it never suffers from dwelling on any one of them for too long. It's a great ride, and it's one of the few anime that has hooked me from the first episode.
As I mentioned before, you're going to be following multiple characters. Some more than others, of course, but it's worth mentioning that The Eccentric Family manages to make all of its characters interesting.
Yasaburo and his brothers are all uniquely different and have their own interesting stories to tell. Yasaburo, as mentioned before is a lovable fool, who wants nothing more than to live a carefree life. Conversely the eldest brother, Yaichiro, is Yasaburo's polar opposite— responsible to a fault and wanting nothing more than to follow in his father's great footsteps and become the next Trick Magister.
The other two brothers are arguably the least and most interesting of the family, respectively. Yashiro, the youngest, is a timid little boy who isn't particularly adept at transforming—his tail constantly pops out. Conversely Yajiro, the second sibling and brother we consequently see the least of, is one of the more interesting characters in the series. He clearly carries the lion's share of the grief surrounding his father's demise. The story of Yajiro's coming to terms with his grief is one of the longest running threads in the series and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
While the main story focuses on the Shimogamo brothers, the supporting characters all have a depth to them you seldom see in most series, especially those that are single-season runs like this. In fact, one character in particular is so good she deserves her own section.
Benten isn't just the most interesting character in The Eccentric Family, but one of the most interesting characters I've ever gotten to know. Of all the characters in The Eccentric Family, Benten is the only one that seems to be universally feared and respected. She's also the only human the series pays any meaningful amount of attention to, and for good reason.
As a little girl, Benten was abducted by a tengu who took her in and taught her their ways. The tengu, Akadama sensei (who also happens to train Yasaburo), falls in love with Benten after raising her and is constantly playing the fool for her. She learned to use tengu magic and inherited the Fujin Raijin Fan, a magical item that an create intense winds and level buildings in a single swipe, before eventually leaving Akadama sensei behind.
What makes Benten so interesting, however, isn't her magic or her fan, but rather her personality. Benten is a character that seems live to in a moral gray area. She's not inherently good or evil. In her appearances throughout the series, you peel back the layers of her personality slowly and discover someone who despite seeming to have it all, is incredibly sad.
Her dissatisfaction with life feels almost tragic in a way that makes you feel sorry for her. Occasional flashbacks show a time before Benten had become the person she is today, when she was a normal school-aged girl with a normal name.
Instead she's now seemingly a bit more tengu than human, and is part of The Friday Club, a rather mysterious group that eats a tanuki at the end of every year. Despite the fact that this would seem to place her at odds with the Shimogamo family, she seems to take a shine to Yasaburo and chooses to help him out at times. In fact, Benten reveals more of her true self to Yasaburo than anybody else in the series.
By the end of the series, despite having multiple glimpses into Benten's life and personality, I was left wanting to know more. I'd love to see a gaiden or mini series based on her story.
The premium edition of The Eccentric Family is a fairly straightforward affair— you get a collector's box, all 13 episodes on two Blu-Ray discs and a handbook. The handbook is full of interesting information on the characters and interviews with the creators of the anime.
It's a decent enough box set. The handbook is a cool addition, but I feel as though there could have been more extras packed in to help justify the $51.99 price tag.
The Eccentric Family is a must-watch for fans of anime in general. In fact, it's more than deserving of a place on your shelf. In the 20 years I've been watching, few series have made me want to own them on physical media, this is one of those series.
The Eccentric Family's ability to simultaneously tell a lighthearted, charming story and a somber tale of grief and loss all while juggling a diverse cast earns it a place among the best anime I've had the privilege of viewing. Go watch this. If you consider yourself an anime fan, it's essential viewing.
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