‘Etotama’ Review: It isn’t a harem. I swear.

Etotama: Nyaa-tan in Pretty Mode
Nyaa-tan in Pretty Mode

Etotama can be watched on Crunchyroll.

Director: Fumitoshi Oizaki (Arjuna, Romeo x Juliette). I haven’t seen most of what Fumitoshi-san directed. However, he has a big list of series that he worked on as a key animator, which probably helped a lot with his fantastic direction of action scenes in Etotama.

Animation Production: Encourage Films (Amazing Twins). Encourage Films has a really short list of series that they’ve worked on at all, and I haven’t seen any of them. The other two series they produced are shorts, with a runtime of 12 minutes or less. Most of their credits match up with shows Fumitoshi-san worked on as well.

Animation Production: Shirogumi Inc. (Antique Bakery). Shirogumi Inc. has also worked on a very short list of anime, but produced more than Encourage Films. They are most likely responsible for the CG work in the show.

Story

Nyaa-tan and Takeru meet.
Nyaa-tan and Takeru meet.

Nyaa-tan is the eto-musume (zodiac girl) of the cat from the Chinese Zodiac. She has unfortunately lost her memories and her skills after being tricked by the Rat eto-musume during a race to become eto-shin (a zodiac god), and all she remembers is she wants to become an eto-shin. She must defeat the 12 zodiac animals in battles in order to do so.

Nyaa-tan ends up living in the house of high-school student Tendo Takeru, mostly because he has a portal to the land of the gods in his livingroom floor. Apparently, he has very high quality sol/lull, a form of energy which is the embodiment of human emotions (particularly towards eto-musume). This is important because sol/lull allows eto-musume to transform into pretty-mode for their battles, and Nyaa-tan needs it. Some of the eto-shin are cheering Nyaa-tan on and training her, others think she’s annoying and want her to fail, and the rat eto-shin – Chuu-tan – wants to kill her.

The storyline is nothing particularly new here – we have an amnesiac who needs to get her memory back to attain her goal, and she needs to battle others while doing so. They handle the amnesia stuff pretty well, and the reason she has it makes sense (sorry, One Week Friends, your reason is lame and you should feel lame).

The whole bit with the thirteen girls and one guy triggers harem alarm bells, but most of the eto-musume aren’t in love with Takeo and trying to jump his bones. This show isn’t about Takeo and all his ladies; it’s about Nyaa-tan and all her friends. I’d say if anyone in this show has a harem, it would be Nyaa-tan.

Etotama knows exactly what it is (fun and silly), and it makes sure you know it knows by constantly breaking the fourth wall. I was ready to watch one episode and drop it because of the harem, and the fun fourth-wall banter between the characters in episode one had me hooked right there. It lets you relax and take the show a bit less seriously, since the eto-musume know they’re in a show (including when they’re in recap episodes), and are genre-savvy.

Characters

The eto-musume ask Takeru to name all the zodiac animals
The eto-musume ask Takeru to name all the zodiac animals.

It’s always nice to have a male protagonist who doesn’t get nosebleeds and act like a dingus in front of girls. This means I was really happy with Takeru right away, because he mostly doesn’t buy into any of Nya-tan’s crap. She’s naked or close to naked multiple times right in episode one, and he basically just boots her out of the house. Lots of craziness happens to Takeru, and mostly he just rolls with the punches and seems to be just as genre-savvy as the eto-shin. Characters like Takeru make harem shows bearable for me, because they break the harem tropes by not reacting in the traditional way.

Sull/lull for Nyaa-tan
Sull/lull for Nyaa-tan

But enough about Takeru, because this show is about Nyaa-tan. She starts off very immature and trying to find herself due to her amnesia, but as the series goes on they make sure to offer her lots of opportunities for growth. She still acts immature sometimes, but then again, don’t all cats? By the end Nyaa-tan has had the most character growth in the show, and it shows. As a side note, she wears shorts under her skirt in pretty mode. No panty shots yay!

Chuu-tan is a fun villain. She’s just so wicked. They save a lot of her backstory for the end of the series so I’d rather not spoil it, so I think I should leave it at that.

I’m “meh” on most of the rest of the eto-musume. Like many others I like Uri-tan (the boar eto-shin). She’s cute, matter-of-fact, and is rooting for Nya-tan so I can’t help but enjoy her. I also like Piyo-tan (the rooster eto-shin) because she has a fun quirk related to her zodiac nature that amuses me.

I really don’t like Moo-tan (the ox eto-shin). I almost dropped this show after episode two because I hated her so much. She’s just gross. Really gross. She’s important to the show and I was able to tolerate her by the end, but…that crap with the milk. Seriously?  Why would she even have milk if she didn’t have a baby? Honestly. Ugh.

Animation

Nyaa-tan fights Chuu-tan
Nyaa-tan fights Chuu-tan

The animation is pretty clean with this show. It isn’t particularly impressive until the characters go into “pretty mode” and fight each other. Then it switches to CG for fast-paced battles. I love the directing for the battle – the different angles that the camera follows the characters makes you sit up and take notice of the action. The CG isn’t jarring at all, other than getting used to how smoothly and quickly the camera can pan around its environment. I don’t mind a bit of CG so long as it isn’t glaringly hideous and obvious (like the red dragon in Chaos Dragon), and these enhanced action sequences are the perfect reason to use CG in the first place.

Soundtrack

I have a hard time paying attention to music in a series unless it really sticks out, whether it’s good or bad. I often found myself humming the opener throughout the day as I watched this show (I watched while it was being simulcast). I like the Chinese-feel of the music during pretty-mode transformation sequences and some of the battle music. I don’t really recall any of the other music, though.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLzi3L4dOTc

Jennifer Valure
Jennifer Valure
Jen is a web developer and anime enthusiast from the suburbs of Philadelphia. She is the proud mama of a future geekling and enjoys yarncrafting, especially if it involves a pop-culture project.

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