The Helpful Fox Senko-san
Kuroto Nakano is an extremely overworked salaryman from a black company, and his long days of taking the last train home -- if he can even get to it in time -- has left him beyond exhausted, a black ominous aura oozing from his very being. This has not gone unnoticed by the gods above, and Senko, a kitsune demigoddess, takes it upon herself to pamper him to his heart's content to deal with this problem.
Indulgence is a bit of a thing in anime, although it's usually limited to the romantic side of the equation, with milquetoast leads having the sole attention of the unapproachable perfect girl throughout an entire show without having to put in a whole lot of effort. Wishfulfillment aside, it would seem like The Helpful Fox Senko-san aims for a different kind of indulgence, one more symptomatic to a situation many Japanese workers are faced with, and one that lead to the Japanese language having a word for people dying from overwork.
Another rarity can be found in the fact that the main lead, Kuroto Nakano is an adult, although that's more of a rarity in shows like these. In many ways, Kuroto is a male version of Kobayashi from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, but while the latter's sardonic tone could mostly be found in its comedy, The Helpful Fox Senko-san seems more cynically cute in the way she talks and acts. Yet it's more self-aware about a more endemic problem with the Japanese work force and, despite its pandering tone, points a more accusing tone towards this phenomenon. Which is more than a bit ironic, since the manga and anime industry itself is no small contributor to this problem.
But unlike Kobayashi, who has turned to drinking as well as a hobby for an outlet for her frustrations, Nakano has only enough strength left to plop straight into bed when he gets home. He's so exhausted that he can't believe someone would actually want to look after him, and feels unworthy of it when he finally accepts Senko's presence in his apartment. But more than anything, The Helpful Fox Senko-san is a gentle reminder that there's nothing wrong with wanting to feel welcomed by someone, and that while work is important, so is relaxing and unwinding, and there needs to be a balance between the two.
How the audience will feel about a grown man being looked after by what basically looks like a child with fox ears and a tail is another matter, though. Although I would like to point out that the things that goes on in The Helpful Fox Senko-san doesn't go beyond general wholesomeness, it does sometimes feel like the show is perfectly aware of how people would take it by first glance, and some of the things that happen sometimes feels like it's skirting dangerously close to uncomfortable territory. Primarily, this comes from Nakano's interest in touching Senko's animal parts, mostly the tail, but there is this underlying tone that Senko thinks of herself as Nakano's wife, mother and love interest, compounded by her reminding you that she really is 800 year's old. And that's not even going into the fact that almost all the episodes end with a short segment of Senko treating you as a viewer as someone who needs to be pampered, which carries with it some shades of Training/Sleeping/Bathing with Hinako -- which, as I am to understand, isn't even the first POV indulgence video. Also, unlike the Hinako shorts, there's nothing outright sexual about Senko herself and the way she treats Nakano, even if the first tail fluff scene might make you think otherwise. Or the later bath scene. In a weird way, it's like the show wants you to relax any suspicions you might have about it, even if it almost dares you to jump to conclusions.
There are some early cues that there's more to Senko's pampering of Nakano than she just doing it for job/duty-related reasons, as she also shows up during Nakano's childhood. And also also during what presumably is the life of one of Nakano's ancestors, "presumably" because said person looks just about identical to Nakano himself, clad in an appropriate attire for its era. With only one season under its belt so far, the show doesn't really go into that part of the show any further than to serve some kind of "time passes, and eventually Nakano will pass away" hurdle for Senko to consider whether it's worth spending time pampering this short-lived being; another mirror to Tohru's bond with Kobayashi in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid that does get addressed by the show's end.
And to be fair, Senko does give off the vibe of being an adult despite looking like a child. She might not have the wit of Spice and Wolf's Holo, but she's still got a good head on her shoulders. It's a little disconnect that does take some time to get used to, but like I said, The Helpful Fox Senko-san isn't doing anything particulary unwholesome. Granted, beyond her childlike looks and slightly fetishy animal parts, she does come across as a bit of a idealized version of a caretaker, but that's more like a part of the fantasy in this case, and the show isn't exactly geared towards those who do nothing. Rather the opposite, in fact. As if partially aware of this, we also have Shiro, another demigoddess who's more of a general slacker. She seems like a foil for Senko at first glance, but the two actually get along much more than one would expect them to. In her own way, she's good at the things that Nakano should indulge himself in more often. She's also a bit of a cheat, but that's part of the fun.
I've got more mixed feelings about Nakano's neighbor, though; a woman who mixes being a college student and a manga artist, which leaves her mostly as overworked as Nakano is. Unlike Nakano, she does at least half of her work at home, but that only means said apartment is a complete mess. Or maybe "mixed feelings" isn't the right term here. The thing is, although she does show up fairly often in the show, she's mostly relegated to being an extra in whatever's going on in the mid-to-late episodes, and the rest of her is basically her being a huge otaku over a magical girl show starring a fox girl, so of course she thinks of Senko as someone who's "playing the part" at all times. And of course she has a maid costume in Senko's side, although that lead to a scene where Nakano says he's not really into maid constumes -- more specifically, the more modern ones -- which I actually appreciated since I've always kind of felt like a weirdo for being into anime despite not having much of an interest in uniforms of any kind. Anyway, I digress, and my point is that her character feels more like a character joke rather than an actual person.
I mentioned that the show is pretty wholesome, but that's not to say it has no fanservice whatsoever. The third kitsune demigoddess we meet in the show, Yozora, is a definitely adult-looking one. Her regular outfit sports one hell of a cleavage, and in her later appearance, she's clearly trying to seduce Nakano with her own brand of pampering. (I'll leave it to you to see how that attempt plays out.) It's still rather mild when you look at the broader horizon; its subtext only making the show a bit inappropriate for the youngest of audiences, who wouldn't pick up on it anyway. Outside of that, Yozora seems like an overseer of the other two little fox girls, and it's a shame we don't get to see more about what she does in their world.
The Helpful Fox Senko-san's first season is fairly light on content, although in its position as comfort food, it does its job quite well. The main obstacle I faced when I chose to undertake this was the fear of Senko-san being sole, undiluted wishfulfillment, but while that is the case to some degree, the show is very much aware of the situation many Japanese workers -- and a lot of non-Japanese too, I'm sure -- find themselves in. In addition, while Senko is mostly the one to make Nakano happy now, the portrayal of the things that were special to him in his past come across loud and clear, and nowhere else is that more clear than later in the show when Nakano goes back to his childhood digs to see his mother and pray at his grandmother's grave. Even with Senko-san's "mostly passable" animation, there is a great difference between his then relaxed and happy self compared to how he comes across at work, or the hour before or after. And this is a guy who gets one whole day of summer vacation.
And that's the value of The Helpful Fox Senko-san; it doesn't have a big overarching story, but it's in the small things where this show really shines. Even as one who used to hate getting his hair
Although the whole "monster girl" trope has probably passed its peak of popularity, The Helpful Fox Senko-san is also a bit low key among those who hasn't been chased off by what might seem like a controversial coupling, you needn't worry. This is a perfectly fine show to just relax and unwind to, and there's nothing wrong with indulging yourself every once in a while, as it often reminds you.
This is one of the few Crunchy streams where I've actually had the chance to check out the dub. Mostly, the actors do a good job here, although some of the dialogue sounds a bit dry. I don't know for sure if it's because this show is a "very Japanese show", and as such the acting is not going to sound entirely right in English, but by and large, it works well enough.
The show seems a little bit too aware of how people might take this coupling of an adult male and a child-looking demi-god housewife pamperer, there's nothing untowards about anything in this show, even if it's trying to make you think there is. You really should just relax. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Yozora sports an impressive cleavage, and she does kinda-sorta sexually come on to the main lead as some sort of test, but the show is fairly low key on any of this and can easily be watched by teens of any age.)
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
The Helpful Fox Senko-san © Slice of life, supernatural, self-help
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