Kanokon Anime Review
US Release By
Filthy Super-girlfriend Harem Comedy
12 25-minute episodes + shorts
2008-04-05 - 2008-06-21
Shy Kouta Oyamada, raised by his grandfather after the death of his parents, has just moved to "big" city suburbia to start high school. He's also gotten asked out by energetic, busty second-year student Chizuru Minamoto... who happens to be a 400-year-old fox spirit. She's not alone--turns out the school he's attending is home to a number of supernatural creatures living in the human world. On the plus side, Kouta's okay with this, and it turns out she can possess him, becoming extremely powerful in the process. On the minus, she's... rather forward when it comes to the physical end of their relationship.
Now Kouta has to deal with his unhelpful classmates calling him Great King Eros and a collection of supernatural creatures intent on leveling his school. His real problem, though, is unsociable wolf-spirit classmate Nozomu, who decides to compete with Chizuru for his affections. If he survives this love triangle, he'll be lucky.
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A completely generic "wussy guy with crazy girlfriend" framework with the naughty stuff cranked to eleven, Kanokon is like an ongoing dare to see how dirty it can get without crossing the line into full-on hentai (a challenge it finally loses in episode nine). Overdeveloped protagonist Chizuru may be a fox spirit, but she acts like the patron saint of fanservice--spanking, erotic massage, bunny girls, you name it, Kanokon probably goes there (although somewhat unexpectedly, the main fetish target turns out to be maternal, not furry). Paired with blandly cute, boyish male lead Kouta and pitted against an underdeveloped, personality-free wolf girl for his affections, characterization, logic, and plot are all pretty much nonexistent apart from some embarrassingly bad "drama." At least it has the good sense to stick to the one thing it's good at: fetish-y situation comedy, centered around the graphic abandon with which Chizuru throws herself at Kouta. To that end, the soft-focus character art isn't bad, the decent animation budget gets spent where it counts, and the unrestrained lasciviousness is creative and in huge volume. Ayako Kawasumi's energetic performance as Chizuru carries the rest of the cast.
As far as quality, plot, or taste is concerned, Kanokon has none--the whole affair is an exercise in sucking your intelligence out through your eyeballs while hammering away with explicit dialogue and fetish-heavy shenanigans so graphic the average panty shot won't even register by the time you're done. Still, it succeeds at what it tries to be: somewhat intellectually offensive, dirty fun. Or "fun," if you have any taste at all.
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Take a completely generic "wussy guy with crazy girlfriend" framework, toss in a bit of supernatural action, and you've got half of Kanokon. Crank the naughty stuff to eleven and remove all but the most flimsy pretense of innocence, and you've got the other half. Basically Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan without the violence or sense of humor, Kanokon is like an ongoing dare to see how dirty it can get without crossing the line into full-on hentai. It loses that dare in episode nine, for reference, and everything up to then is that close.
I suppose hentai-lite like this is inevitable. The concept of innocent guys inexplicably fleeing from overly affectionate girls is a zombie--beaten to death long ago but still shambling around. So, shows with nothing else going for them (like, say, this one) have to push the envelope ever farther to get noticed. Kanokon sets the envelope on fire--you'd be hard pressed to do anything more explicit without having to slap a big adults-only label on it. (And yes, I'm sure I'll regret saying that.)
Other than creative fanservice and a faint whiff of romance, the series' strong point is the not-entirely-unlikable cast, particularly some colorful classmates who don't get as much screen time as they should. The mismatched central love interests consist of cute, underdeveloped little Kouta and cute, overdeveloped fox-spirit Chizuru.
In a tiny break from formula, Chizuru is more functional and less oblivious than the average hotheaded psycho. She even manages to reliably cook something edible after the obligatory "deadly food" episode. Also surprising: Even though she can transform into a blonde fox-girl, she rarely does--turns out the target fetish is maternal, not furry.
However, Chizuru's most memorable feature (aside from her monstrous chest) is the graphic abandon with which she throws herself at Kouta. Any series in which the first kiss comes before the first commercial break (in flashback, no less) and is of the full-on, drooling, French variety deserves at least some credit. So do lines like "Let's believe in genes and instinct and go for it!" She even sidesteps the stereotypical girlish rage at being spied naked--she's more than willing to take her own clothes off, and is entirely happy on the rare occasions Kouta can muster enough initiative to look at her when she's doing it.
Kouta, for his part, has about as much personality as libido--next to none. At least he's not entirely immune to being smothered in fetish-scale breasts, and he seems boyish enough you're almost willing to believe he's not ready for things to go quite so fast. Particularly on the way to school, with an audience.
Now, when the female love interest has the male half-stripped and pinned to the ground in the first episode, the challenge, from this sort of series' perspective, becomes how to prevent her from succeeding at going all the way, instead of just 95% of it.
That task falls mainly to Nozomu, Chizuru's personality-deprived nemesis. Character-wise, she's a block of wood, carved into the Rei-style, "flat and emotionless" model. I suppose she isn't technically emotionless, she just doesn't, you know, emote. (Actually, her deadpan attempt to run through the "shy transfer student meets classmate" routine is one of the funniest bits in the whole thing.)
Of course, since she's flat-chested and short, she serves to cover the other end of the fanservice spectrum, and she's every bit as forward as Chizuru about throwing herself at poor Kouta. I suppose if you average the two out, you get a moderately busty normal girl, sans-modesty. Not that they average out in practice--what you end up with is two mostly-to-completely-naked girls rubbing themselves all over an uninteresting boy. Literally.
If you try to think of Kanokon as having actual plot and characters--which I don't recommend--Chizuru ends up swinging between flagrant propositioning and lewd-but-incongruently-inhibited, since inconsistent writing is about all that's holding her back. By the end, the character logic borders on incoherent even by pervy comedy standards, and the story doesn't fare much better.
There are hints at some kind of larger-scale plot, which adds up to about four episodes sprinkled with strained "drama," followed by brief action sequences when the two protagonists finally get around to combining like they should have at the first sign of trouble--aggravating more than exciting. Regardless, that goes nowhere past set-up for a potential sequel. The remainder of the series is made up of non-sequitur vacations and schoolyard shenanigans that are basically just varying backdrops for Chizuru to dress up in costumes and do naughty things (on that note, Nozomu wins the award for "most insubstantial bathing suit ever"1).
At least the series seems to know that the more serious it gets, the stupider it looks--it's a bad sign when the biggest source of drama is the main character's chest going flat. Yes, seriously. So, it has the good sense to stick mostly to fetish-y situation comedy.
And if fetish-y comedy is what you're looking for, Kanokon certainly delivers--hoo-boy is this series dirty. Chizuru may be a fox spirit, but she acts like the patron saint of fanservice: Spanking, erotic massage, bunny girls, you name it, Kanokon probably goes there. It even manages to one-up outright nudity without "showing anything"--mostly clothed with underwear at the knees is far sleazier than buck naked.
On that note, at least Kanokon is relatively good-looking, thanks mostly to studio Xebec (who have a deserved reputation for quality work, but don't have much to work with here). The permanently-blushing character designs are bland but of course attractive (and mercifully just old-enough-looking to dodge the pedophilic overtones of overexposed fluff like Popotan, even if the multi-century ages make zero sense in context). The art is decent if occasionally sloppy, with less attention to faces than the wide variety of female body types--from spindly, underdeveloped girls on up to preposterously busty women. (Speaking of inattention, Chizuru's chest ranges from merely huge to ginormous depending on the shot. At least gravity does have an effect--again, maternal fetish.) The animation is decent, though it resorts to still-frames instead of action some of the time (good call--better cop-out than ugly). The one unusual bit is that the cel art makes use of gradients for highlights and blushing, which is uncommon and gives it a sort of soft-yet-shiny look.
The Japanese acting is above average, with Chizuru's ranting and cheerful dirty-talk taking center stage; despite plenty of undignified roles, Ayako Kawasumi is actually a good actor (Lafiel in Crest of the Stars, for example). Mamiko Noto also has a long list of credits to her name, and here does a reasonably good job filling out squeaky-voiced Kouta's constant squeals of embarrassment. Unknown Miyu Takeuchi, in contrast, gives Nozomu no personality at all, but then I suppose that's exactly what she was hired to do. (I can picture the director: "No, say it more like you don't care!") Based on a quick look at the English dub, Kouta is a surprisingly good (i.e. squeaky) match for the Japanese, but Chizuru doesn't quite have enough energy, given that that's pretty much what drives the whole show.
The background music is forgettable. Yui Sakakibara's anime-classic technopop end theme, on the other hand, is quite catchy, thanks in part to her distinctive warbling style of singing, and the opening isn't bad, either.
As far as quality, plot, or taste is concerned, Kanokon has none--the whole affair is an exercise in sucking your intelligence out through your eyeballs while hammering away with explicit dialogue and fetish-heavy shenanigans so graphic the average panty shot won't even register by the time you're done. Still, I can't call it an outright failure; It supplies plenty of what its target audience wants, mostly undiluted by things like "story" or "drama." Basically vacuous, somewhat intellectually offensive, dirty fun. Or "fun," if you have any taste at all--it's about as shallow and pointless as this sort of thing gets.
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Kanokon is reminiscent of nearly everything in the crowded dirty-minded harem show or super-girlfriend comedy categories. Somewhat ironically, the closest match in level of lasciviousness is probably Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan 2, sans the violence and most of the self-awareness. The general concept, if you move it to a fantasy setting, is weirdly similar to Spice and Wolf, although that series has essentially nothing in common with Kanokon apart from a girl with a tail who's older than she looks--tasteful, intelligent, and high quality in every place Kanokon isn't. Popotan probably deserves a nod as another relatively high-budget TV series with near-hentai levels of fanservice, though it doesn't even approach Kanokon in terms of fetish-fodder.
Notes and Trivia
Media Blasters' official Kanokon site currently has the first episode in its entirety available streamed (dubbed, without ads).
Kanokon is based on a lengthy series of light novels by Katsumi Nishino; the first was published in 2005, and as of 2010 there are 14. The novels were adapted into a manga series with art by Rin Yamaki starting in 2006 (8 volumes as of 2010), and in turn into this TV series, followed by a couple of OAVs. (Incidentally, while Katsumi is more common as a female name, the author is, unsurprisingly, male. The manga artist is female, though.)
Other spin-offs include a bimonthly radio show hosted by the two voice stars of the anime that ran roughly concurrently with it, called "Kanokon Radio: Kouta and Chizuru's Yuyayon Growth Diary," and a couple of drama CDs. There's also an interactive-novel-style 2008 PS2 game, "Kanokon Esuii," again with the same cast as the anime (Amazon Japan has a promo video).
Finally, there is a 2-episode OVA series, which, while also filthy, is incongruently good.
"Kanokon" doesn't mean anything by itself; it's a shortened version of the title of the first novel, "Kanojo wa Kon, to Kawaiku Seki wo Shite" (彼女はこん、とかわいく咳をして). That translates as "She Cutely Coughs With a 'Kon'"; this is a pun, as "kon" is the onomatopoeia of both the sound of a light cough and the sound a fox makes. The subtitle "The Girl Who Cried Fox" was added by Media Blasters for the English release.
When broadcast on the all-anime AT-X channel, the nudity was toned down as much as possible, which mostly consisted of a lack of nipples (there's also some effort to use the "hair and steam" dodge as excuse for the inaccurate anatomy). In some of the middle episodes, where that was effectively impossible due to the (literal) in-your-face-ness, they substituted heart-shaped pasties for no logical reason whatsoever.
The Japanese DVD release, in addition to slightly more detailed nudity, included two bonus shorts on each of the six discs; these minute-or-two-long, full-on softcore clips throw even the pretense of legitimacy out the window. These are also included on the Media Blasters box set.
The first of each pair of bonus shorts is essentially a series of pinup images set to music, featuring a different (female, of course) character in each one. The second is a short, fully-animated scene depicting a character... well, pretty much getting naked in creative ways.
To its credit, the animated short featuring Nozomu is sort of simultaneously the best and worst of what Kanokon has to offer. It consists of Chizuru's as-recorded attempt to make a porn interview video of Nozomu (which isn't the least bit out of character for either of them--not many series can say that about their H-omake). On one hand, it does an impressive and amusing job of feeling "real," and Chizuru does an unsettlingly accurate impression of the cameraman in standard Japanese "nanpa" ("pick-up") amateur videos. On the other hand, Chizuru does a very accurate impression; it's well past the parody line when she eventually gets interrupted. In summary, rather creative and kind of funny, but filthy.
Footnote 1: If you think I'm exaggerating about her bathing "suit," you haven't seen Kanokon; Nozomu's getup makes postage stamps and shoelaces look conservative by comparison. Go ahead and Google it if you don't believe me--I'd post a screenshot, but this isn't that kind of site.
US DVD Review
AnimeWorks' DVD collection features the entire series with English or Japanese audio, English subtitles, creditless openings and endings, and the extra-dirty bonus DVD shorts.
Oddly, while AnimeWorks originally planned three individual volumes and actually produced the first (with four episodes), they ended up canceling the second two after the first one hit the market, cutting straight to the box set version.
In 2012 they released a TV & OVA Collection that combined the OVAs and TV series into a single complete box set.
Despite tolken attempts to minimize the detailed nudity and never featuring any sex in the clinical sense, the variety of lewd and lascivious acts put it comfortably into 18-up territory by all but the most liberal standards (although Media Blasters is apparently going with 16-up). It also tries to dodge slightly underage characters by arbitrarily giving the supernatural girls multi-century ages.
Violence: 2 - There's some serious fighting.
Nudity: 4 - What it lacks in detail it makes up for in volume, plus partially-clothed bits that are actually far worse than the straight nudity.
Sex/Mature Themes: 4 - You'd be hard-pressed to do anything more explicit onscreen without any actual sex.
Language: 3 - There's not much swearing, but there is some dirty innuendo and otherwise explicit dialogue.
Available in North America from Media Blasters on a bilingual DVD "TV & OVA Collection" that includes the entire series and the two OVA episodes; previously available on a "Complete Series" set. It was originally planned for three individual volumes, but after releasing the first volume they changed course and announced that in place of the other two they'd just cut straight to a box set of the whole thing.
At last check, RightStuf had both the TV & OVA Collection and the TV series complete series set in stock and on sale. They also had stock of just volume 1, but there's not much point in buying it. Amazon also stocks the set: Kanokon: Girl Who Cried - Complete Series