Anime Review: Etotama

There comes a time in one’s life where they sit down and admit that one show that they really enjoy just isn’t as great as you want it to be. No matter how much you say certain elements work, there are always glaring cons that combat the pros you love. You want to defend it, but the evidence against it is overwhelming that you can’t help but reluctantly agree. Etotama is one of those such shows for me, I loved it but also couldn’t let slip by that it isn’t as good as I want it to be.

Etotama is a show about female incarnations of the Chinese Zodiac fighting it out in little chibi CGI battles with subplots sprinkled in. The subplots can range from the hatred of the rat zodiac, Chu-tan, towards the cat zodiac, Nya-tan, all the way to a human learning about the necessity of others through his interactions with these insane demi-gods. The craziness and diversity of subplots if executed well could give a range of, while simplistic, depth to the story. We have Nya-tan, a cat zodiac who wishes to fight her way to obtaining a spot in the zodiac and her human companion by coincidence, Takeru. The hijinks ensue as Nya-tan is quite obnoxious, but with an endearing quality and all the other stereotypical personalities revolving around the Zodiacs duke it out. This is ultimately a comedic piece and a competent one at that. Multiple satires and parodies along with fourth wall breaking jokes timed wonderfully, but not over-saturated, really shows how great the series is. Like most comedies, not every joke will hit its mark and Etotama is most certainly not an exception to this rule. You will get bored at points only to be revitalized by the CGI sequence at the end of each episode. As a comedy, Etotama does entertain fairly well. Sadly, this isn’t all it is.

The numerous subplots try to add dramatic elements to the otherwise basic story giving a range of complex tales. The Ox is a pervert in love with the cat, some zodiacs want the cat to succeed and others do not, what is the relationship between the rat and the cat, and the list can easily go on. While these ideas do have great potential, many are met with a lackluster conclusion or journey. The most boring point of the series and its subplots is simple, the male protagonist Takeru. Takeru is a blank slate as a proxy for the viewer, but while at least others contribute to the stories they are in, Takeru just exists. He is there and then he is not, and easily can be taken out and replaced with John Doe and we may have a better story on our hands. His personality is bland and his subplots have bland executions and are the weakest moments of the show. You enjoy the Zodiac members even when the subplots are not done as well as you would hope, but Takeru just becomes a bother. He is taking away time, rather than adding to the overall narrative or even comedy and that is just not what a protagonist should do.

That being said, a major draw of the series is its exuberant cast of characters, Takeru excluded. Funny as it is, the jokes would not work if these characters were all just Takerus or take this situation seriously all the time. As a serious drama this thing would not be fun, but instead be a chore and that is why the atmosphere greatly increases one’s enjoyment of Etotama. Many scenes are done well with the right balance of serious tension and comedic timing. The comedic timing often spawns from the characters offbeat attitudes, but it works all the same. One could not exist without the other and vice versa.

The animation of the show most definitely is the best in CGI I have seen to date in an anime series. The scenery is gorgeous and there is actually detail unlike the blobs that can spawn from shows like Knights of Sidonia or the choppy animation of humans from Arpeggio, both good in their own rights but not as solid as this. This is top notch CGI and for that I applaud it greatly. The 2D animation most certainly was an afterthought at points, but that was okay since most of the animation for the 2D segments only needed to be adequate for the humour to follow through. The music, well it isn’t really memorable and the opening at times is a bit cringe-worthy. Overall the music didn’t have any semblance of an impression on me, it was just there.

While a lot of elements are there, Etotama does not reach the heights that its potential shows for it. While there are pros, the cons are strong as well with both the subplots and the main protagonist lacking. Now I am not a fan of moe and often avoid anything of the nature or the like, yet I found myself enjoying this. There are always those exceptions to the rules you place on your likes and dislikes, and it’s always good to find out what those exceptions are since they could surprise you.

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