Uchouten Kazoku is a beautiful show, but not in the way that we usually talk about beautiful shows. It's set in a slightly fictionalized Kyoto, and almost everything happens in real locations around the city. I've personally been to most of them, and I think it really captures the best of what Kyoto has to offer, which is a lot considering that Kyoto is one of the most interesting cities in the world location-wise! Each different area of the city shows a different atmosphere, and even those change as the show moves through the seasons, to the extent that it genuinely feels like you're standing in Kyoto watching them.

The character designer is Kumeta Kouji, the mangaka who wrote Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Joshiraku. He brings his signature style to each of the characters, and although it's pretty simple, it's also extremely expressive and I think it looks really good. Although he just designed the characters, everything else in the show follows a similar art style, with blocks of bold colors and thick lines. This lets the animation move very fluidly, and in scenes with crowds, the animators drew sometimes dozens of people who move and talk and act like actual crowds do. There's not a lick of CGI apparent, even in scenes you would expect to be traced from a computer generated image. I think it's beautiful in exactly the opposite direction that KyoAni or Makoto Shinkai take.

The music is seriously fantastic. The soundtrack uses this blend of traditional Japanese structures and more modern electronic sound, which fits into a show like this perfectly. The OPs and EDs are also top notch. I think that ED linked is my favorite Fhana song.

As for the story, I think it's one of the best in all of anime. Definitely in my top 3 at least. It's based off two books by Morimi Tomihiko, the same author behind Tatami Galaxy and many other books non-Japanese speakers wouldn't recognize. I won't re-hash the synopsis because it's easy enough to just read it or watch the first 30 seconds of the anime where it's all explained.

Instead, I'll say that it built some of the most genuine characters and relationships I've seen in any medium, let alone anime. I've never been a shipper, but I totally fell for a couple of the pairings here. I laughed, I cried, I had more anticipation between each episode airing than ever before or since. And there was so much to talk about for each one! Like a lot of your favorites, Uchouten Kazoku explores a lot of themes throughout its two seasons. While it's focused around family, it also has a lot to say about rivalry, friendship, love, death, growing old, being a kid, fighting, playing, drinking, and seeing the world.

The most prominent of these is the main character's concept of fun. He claims to live by the philosophy of "what's fun is good," and although there are moments where he takes things more seriously than that might imply, he also has a way of injecting fun into everything he does. He hates boredom and so he chooses to have an interesting life. But he is also a tanuki, a "raccoon dog" that can shapeshift and is known in Japanese mythology for trickery, and he has idiot blood at that! He tries to find balance between having fun, as his nature makes him, and being responsible. He's a great narrator, and one of my favorite characters ever. All of the recurring cast has characterization that's at least this deep, and this is really just a spoiler-free overview of the main character. He develops too!

Are there downsides? Well, for one, it's really very Japanese. You don't have to be familiar with Kyoto to appreciate its portrayal, but it will definitely feel more real if you understand the space they're in. Many of the themes rely on Japanese cultural knowledge, from the commonly invoked red string of fate to the utterly unknown tanuki nabe. The characters also call on legends, myths, and traditions that one might not know without being Japanese. This isn't much of an issue, though! Even without catching all the cultural references, it's still absolutely worth watching. They deepen the story, but they don't make or break it, and many of my friends who I've talked into watching it have loved it despite not even knowing what the red string of fate is.

Uchouten Kazoku draws you in with style and depth beyond what almost any other anime manages. It has a slow start, and although you'll feel that there's buildup going on, the first half of season one does feel a bit like a slice of life. But once it really gets going, it doesn't let up. It still hasn't let me go. I'm waiting eagerly for book (and season) 3. Give it a watch, and come wait with me!

100 /100
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