The Eccentric Family, also known as Uchouten Kazoku, primarily follows the events occurring in the life of protagonist and narrator Yasaboro Shimogamo. Yasaburo is a very energetic young tanuki living in Kyoto. It is stated at the very beginning of the series that Kyoto is home to three races living in an uneasy balance: the shapeshifting tanuki, the powerful humans, and the flying, weather-manipulating tengu. Yasuboro is a son of the former leader of the tanuki, Soichiro Shimogamo, but he is largely laid back and unconcerned with tanuki social politics. Instead, he states that he seeks excitement. He definitely finds it, but in a manner that is far less trivial than the series’ initial tone implies.
After a very brief bit of exposition and mischief, the series plunges deep into some very serious subject matter. We learn of the death of Yasaboro’s father at the hands of humans as part of an annual ritual conducted by an elite group known as the “Friday Club”. And we learn of the turmoil that it has caused in the tanuki community of Osaka as well as the immeasurable grief that it has caused Yasaburo, his three brothers and their mother. Much of the series is dedicated to how each character is coping with the lasting aftermath of Soichiro’s death, the circumstances surrounding it, and the ever-present fear of suffering a similar fate at the hands of humans.
The strength of The Eccentric Family is primarily its cast of characters. Yasaboro and his bothers each embody certain characteristics of their noble father and consequently find themselves burdened by their own complex problems. The eldest, Yaichiro, is concerned with carrying on the legacy of his father and taking a role in the leadership of Osaka’s tanuki society. The second, Yajiro, lives in a state of grief having transformed into a frog residing at the bottom of a well. Yasaboro possesses great magical talent, like his legendary father, but shies away from society affecting matters. And lastly, the youngest brother, Yashiro, is a precocious embodiment of innocence.
Along with the family, other characters lend color to this series. The most interesting of these characters is an enigmatic woman known as Benten that is an occasional ally, but is more frequently an antagonist to Yasaboro. She is a beautiful woman that has ascended beyond being merely human and has gained some of the power of the tengu. It appears that life bores her and that she sees Yasaboro as a reliable source of entertainment. She is often a catalyst or driver for the happenings of the series.
The cast of characters and the various sub plots and character motivations create a complex story that explores matters such as grief and loss as well as finding personal meaning in life. The story is well paced and subtle in its establishment of meaning. Its occasional poetics lead the viewer to find meaning naturally rather than in a way that is thrust into the face of the viewer.
Visuals, music, and voice acting are all excellent. P.A. Works, as usual, has produced a series that is incredibly visually compelling and mystifying. The series has a very magical feel about it that brings the viewer into the world of Yasaboro and his family. As this series draws heavily from Japanese folklore, it is only fitting that the visuals be magical in their own right.
This series takes a moment to really get moving, but once some of the exposition is out of the way it becomes a very captivating story. If you’re looking for a story with a relatable drama and a fair amount of magic, I would highly recommend The Eccentric Family.