Inu x Boku Secret Service Complete Collection
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 302 minutes approx.
Maison de Ayakashi known also as Ayakashikan is a high security apartment building that to the outsider is nothing more than a haven for the super rich and privileged, albeit one with a reputation for being haunted, hence each resident having their own personal Secret Service bodyguard. In fact those who dwell in this high priced abode are of supernatural descent while their bodyguards invoke the spirits of the various animal demons of Japanese folklore. The newest resident of Ayakashikan is a half yokai girl, the insular Ririchiyo Shirakiin, who moves in hoping for some peace and quiet. Unfortunately this is something she is unlikely to get with the appointment of her bodyguard, Miketsukami Sōshi, a nine tailed fox demon, whose over earnest attempts to serve his mistress instant drive Ririchiyo to distraction.
This adaptation of the manga by Cocoa Fujiwara offers a lot of comedic and spooky potential in its first episode being distracting itself and the viewer with layers of clichéd plot devices, hackneyed tropes and an overkill of ideas that leads to not only a confused direction but a confused sense of identity. Is it a shonen ai show? A mystery show? A supernatural show? A comedy? A romance? The problem is that it tries to be a bit of everything and ends up effectively being a whole lot of nothing.
The first problem is with the lead Ririchiyo. Presumably a spoiled child she has difficulty with social interaction, resulting in solitude being her best friend. It’s not so much that she is necessarily shy or is suffering from a traumatic backlash that make it hard for her to interact with others, Ririchiyo is unable to share her true feelings and as a result when spoken to, her instinctive defence mechanism is to respond in a haughty and superior manner that widens the already vast gap of social interaction to an insurmountable chasm.
Initially it doesn’t appear like Ririchiyo is keen to change this, being openly rude and hoity towards all she encounters. Sōshi’s arrival does little to suggest a change is on the cards and her character at best can be described as tsundere, which is a brave personality trait to give the person you want the audience to relate to and ultimately support. Naturally Sōshi’s presence in her life means that Ririchiyo’s frosty personality begins to thaw over time, mostly in incremental steps, and the inevitable blossoming romance between servant and master is teased.
This might not be the intended relationship between Sōshi and Ririchiyo but the former’s almost obsequious pandering to the latter goes beyond security guard duties recalls the devotion of Sebastian to Ciel Phantomhive in Black Butler. Everything Sōshi says or does is accompanied by a loving glow typical of shoujo anime, complete with verbose fawning that will have some fans reaching for the sick bucket. And while Sōshi is painted as a formidable hand when it comes to combat, he lacks the latent killer aura that Sebastian exudes when facing an opponent. Even when he transforms into his fox spirit incarnation, Sōshi looks more cuddly than anything! And despite being part demon herself, Ririchiyo is not exactly likely to spook anyone anytime soon either.
So how does this affect the story? Truth is there isn’t much of one aside from Ririchiyo constantly severing ties with Sōshi then reinstating them en route to Ririchiyo becoming a more personable and social person. The proverbial spanner in the works arrives in the form of Kagerou Shoukiin, the perverted masked man who breaks everything down in life as either “S” or “M” (yes as in that S&M). Not only is Kagerou the former master of Sōshi but there is the small matter of Ririchiyo already being betrothed to him, something Ririchiyo quiet understandably seems to have wiped from her memory.
This doesn’t really surface as a major plot concern until the final two episodes when we are treated to a huge info dump that naturally renders a lot of what we have already seen as illogical but this is anime and as we know, the coherent narrative rule book is often thrown out of the window when it comes to wrapping up a series. The rest of the time is spent introducing the supporting cast who are your typical tropes to say the least, exhibiting many characteristics to suggest that bishonen or Sapphic relationships are high in the their minds but not in reality. Zange Natsume, the rabbit ear sporting guard to Banri Watanuki (a tanuki), throws himself at Sōshi with over zealous romantic intention (and rebuked with the same vigour) while Nobara Yukinokōji, a yuki onna, can’t keep her hands off Ririchiyo. There is also the obligatory top heavy maid, a cross dressing maid and the quite one who hides her light under a moe bushel.
It seems almost fitting for an uncoordinated show that the animation and character designs are fairly pedestrian, with a heavy reliance on chibi forms and other affectations to illustrate the humorous elements in the show, such as they are. Perhaps yours truly is lacking in X chromosomes to connect with any emotional intentions this show may aspire to but it was something of a chore to watch; dull, uninspired and clichéd, it is indicative of the current problem in anime where a good idea doesn’t seem to stretch beyond a couple of episodes, leaving us with a surfeit of sub standard padding to eke it out beyond its means.
Inu x Boku Secret Service may have an audience in those who enjoy lightweight and frivolous fare while the more discerning anime fan will be craving something more nourishing from the get go.
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – **
Man In Black