Yuuna And The Haunted Hot Springs Collection (Cert 18)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 285 minutes approx.
Release Date: December 7th
A visit to the hot springs is, along with the beach outing, a staple of comedy anime as it provides the writers an excuse to offer some fan service to spice things up a little and keep the male viewers happy. To milk this doctrine for all it is worth, why not set your series at a hot spring inn?
Kogarashi Fuyuzora is a teenage psychic, possessed by spirits as a child which gave him the ability to exorcise ghosts and supernatural beings. Currently homeless, he arrives at Yuragi Inn, a hot springs resort said to be haunted. Given room 204 where the spirit resides, Kogarashi first takes a dip in the spring to relax but is attacked the ghost of a naked girl.
Back in room 204, the ghost (this time fully clothed) introduces herself to Kogarashi as Yuuna Yunohana, She isn’t malevolent, she simply can’t remember the lingering regret preventing her from passing to the other side. Kogarashi offers to help Yuuna recall her regret and perform her ascension. Caretaker Chitose Nakai allows Kogarashi to stay with Yuuna and the other female residents at the inn.
The 18 rating awarded to Yuuna And The Haunted Hot Springs is, as I am sure you have already surmised, not because the supernatural element leads to excessively graphic horror. To say this show lives and dies by the fan service sword is an understatement – the first sight of exposed breasts comes minutes into the opening episode and it doesn’t let up until the final credits of the last chapter roll.
If this sounds like your idea of anime heaven then the sprained wrist you’ll be nursing from watching this show will be worth it; for those who find this a turn off, I’m sure you can find something else to watch. Yet, and I am surprising myself by saying this, despite teetering on the edge of becoming full blown hentai on many occasions, the creation of mangaka Tadahiro Miura actually has more to offer than wall-to-wall nudity and harem clichés.
Firstly, yes, it is an unashamedly bawdy, heavily prurient harem comedy that covers just about convention and set-up of the genre before the first episode is over, from the male protagonist getting an inadvertent eyeful of the naked buxom tenants, to the obligatory accidental boob grab and violent overreaction to said contact, topped off by every trope and personality beholden to this particular genus.
Yuuna is a ditzy, sweet natured girl, dressed in a yukata – or rather spilling out of one – with the ability to touch things and people, but also has the habit of moving about in her sleep. Every morning Kogarashi wakes up to find Yuuna in his futon where he can’t help but accidentally touch her naked body, causing an involuntary poltergeist phenomenon, i.e.: Yuuna punching Kogarashi into the heavens. Get used to it, this is a running gag of the show.
Chitose is an adult but her small stature means she looks much younger, and has the power to manipulate other people’s fortunes for better or worse. Mega-jiggly drunkard Nonko Arahabaki is an ogre and a manga artist, specialising in – you guessed it – steamy stories, whilst Yaya Fushiguro is possessed by a cat god, exhibiting physical traits like cat ears and a tail.
Every harem needs a tsundere, obliged here by demon slaying ninja Sagiri Ameno. From the offset, she sees everything Kogarashi does as perverted and threatens to kill him but working together to vanquish demons sees Sagiri soften internally towards Kogarashi, though she won’t admit it. Other girls later join the fray including a tanuki child, a school pin-up, and the daughter of a dragon god.
Unfortunately, the premise of finding Yuuna’s regret is shelved for the majority of the 12-episode run because building the harem, swimsuit shopping, and posing for reference photos is apparently more important. In between the lewd antics, Kogarashi is called upon to deal with supernatural pests, his weapon of choice being his fists, having once been possessed by a powerful spiritualist, making him super strong.
Other than that, you can tick off the hackneyed recycled plots from the genre check list as they come, including what has to be the most redundant beach trip in anime history; the girls are naked in every episode, what need is there for ogling them in bikinis? It’s not just the rampant nudity either – the sexual tension and forced innuendo is amped up to 11, making Kogarashi’s honourable abstention almost risible, but sets him apart from the usual virgin, nosebleed types who usually perv on the girls first.
So how does Yuuna redeem itself? Oddly enough, the characters, as lazy as they are, do endear themselves to the audience through the ineffable group chemistry and the zany reaction humour. This is a great leveller for the tawdry content, giving the show its boundless energy and personality. Kogarashi might be the pivot for the story’s priapic direction but he is also its heart; he not only treats the girls with respect but also, in helping Yuuna find peace, leads to another anime staple of the power of friendship.
We can debate whether this show needed to be so risqué and tacky when the fantasy plot would have worked just as well without it; it is a shame so much of the reputation and discussion of this series revolves around this and little else. Ironically, there is a sense of self-awareness about the fan service, hinting that maybe it was supposed to be tongue in cheek and, pro or anti, both being played.
As far as silly harem frivolity outings go, Yuuna And The Haunted Hot Springs is mindless enough to lighten the mood, with the paranormal premise being something fresh to offer. It won’t be for everyone, but put aside the shameless nudity overload and lurid content, there is a well-meaning and rather amusing escapist comedy with a fun cast that might just surprise you.
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Rating – ***
Man In Black