Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: We Rent Tsukumogami

Original Run: July 22, 2018 - October 14, 2018
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Historical, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Based on the Novel By: Megumi Hatakenaka

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for We Rent Tsukumogami. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

In Japanese folklore, a tsukumogami is born when an ordinary, everyday object is well-cared for and loved by its owner. From combs to dolls to smoking pipes, the more an item is treasured, the more likely it will become a tsukumogami. And no place in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) knows more about these mysterious beings than the small rental shop Izumoya.

This tiny store is owned and operated by the brother-sister duo, Seiji and Oko (voiced by Junya Enoki and Mikako Komatsu). Granted, although they refer to themselves as siblings, they are not related by blood. Nevertheless, their close relationship and teamwork have caused their place to grow with each passing day. However, these two’s success would be nowhere near as lucrative if they didn’t have some special assistance.

Amongst Seiji and Oko’s inventory are a group of tsukumogami, who like discussing the news circling around town. Then from time to time, Seiji and Oko call upon their friends to aid in their unintended side business.

Word has gotten out that Seiji and Oko are incredibly skilled at problem-solving, and many of the pair’s clientele have had their minds set at ease thanks to their advice.

Working together, human and tsukumogami are helping to make the lives of the people of Edo that much brighter.

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Series Positives

We Rent Tsukumogami exceeded my wildest expectations. This series was thoroughly enjoyable.

This may not have been one of the best shows of the 2018 Summer season but given how it aired alongside the likes of Attack on Titan and Cells at WorkWe Rent Tsukumogami was a hidden gem that might easily get overlooked.

I highly encourage you not to let that happen.

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Although not a particularly helpful way to describe this series, We Rent Tsukumogami had a charm which was uniquely its own. It found an excellent balance between depth and silliness. There wasn’t anything crushingly tragic about this show, but it did explore themes such as worry, regret, and longing. And while this story may not have been all happy-go-lucky, it was still pleasantly lighthearted and fun.

Essentially what I’m saying is, We Rent Tsukumogami knew what it wanted to do and knew how to pull it off.

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For instance, if there is one challenge associated with a historically set series, it would be a reliance on pre-existing cultural knowledge. Just to be clear, I’m saying this is a given, and not an inherent fault with these types of shows.

That notwithstanding, when you simply don’t know specific references, it does make sitting through these sorts of stories a tad more difficult.

To quickly stroke my own ego, I like to think I am relatively familiar with enough Japanese culture, customs, and folklore to get passed most narrative barriers. Nevertheless, small Edo-era knick-knacks are clearly not my forte.

To my relief, and hopefully to yours, this wasn’t much of an issue.

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We Rent Tsukumogami was in a prime position to be like most other historically based anime. Instead, and fortunately, this was one of those series that looked at what is usually done and decided to do things better.

This show not only explained what its main group of curios were in non-intrusive detail (meaning We Rent Tsukumogami wasn’t a long-winded lecturer), but it also illustrated why the people of the past would have cared for these items, as well as gave examples of their modern-day equivalents.

I can’t stress enough how much of a brilliant touch this was because it added an extra layer of personality and meaning to this series.

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Let’s not forget We Rent Tsukumogami, along with being a slice-of-life comedy, was part mystery as well. Sure, it didn’t go around solving violent crimes nor did it focus on catching dangerous criminals, but characters in this show did have troubling problems. Accordingly, it was the role of the proprietors and the tsukumogami of the Izumoya rental shop to use their wits to uncover the truth.

To adequately explain, the problems and worries found in this series weren’t fantastical, but they weren’t mundane either. Most were sentimental; you know, the kind of issues that might surround a treasured possession.

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I imagine many of you reading this review own something you care for deeply. It doesn’t matter what that object may be because the point is, unless under extreme circumstances, you wouldn’t dream of getting rid of said object. It was that sense of attachment which fueled this show.

When this series combined the relatable dilemmas of its characters and the meaning people place onto certain items, the results were numerous examples of well-written, well-animated, and well-acted heart-to-heart moments. These scenes — whether they were between humans, tsukumogami, or a mixture of the two — were what made this series. Every time there was one of these interactions, it was a firm reminder of how fantastic We Rent Tsukumogami was.

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Series Negatives

Perhaps this is just me being jaded, but main character Seiji, despite his incredible deduction skills, always gave way too much credit to people.

Seiji had an extremely dangerous habit of explaining his conclusions alone with the person he was accusing. On more than one occasion, Seiji confronted heavily armed and very shrewd individuals without witnesses to watch his back.

At any moment, Seiji could have easily “disappeared” without a trace.

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Did I really think We Rent Tsukumogami would take such a dark turn? Not at all, but caution and self-preservation are virtues.

To get into the actual issues with this series, it took me a while to figure out something that had been bothering me from the beginning of episode one.

I want to go on record by saying Seiji and co-protagonist Oko were fine characters. When they were off doing their own things, or if they were partnered with one of the tsukumogami, they helped bring out the best in this show.

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That point notwithstanding, some of the least interesting and least engaging moments of this series involved Seiji and Oko. Since they were the two leads, it would make sense for them to appear throughout this story, and thus, that would have increased the likelihood they would end up in a bad scene or two.

But as We Rent Tsukumogami went on, that didn’t appear to be the case.

Then it hit me.

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This series was at its lowest when Seiji and Oko were together with no other characters for them to interact with. These two, individually, weren’t a problem. However, there was simply no chemistry between them whatsoever. Their entire shared backstory was unnecessary.

For starters, why did We Rent Tsukumogami even bother with a sibling-like relationship between Seiji and Oko? Although they were close and had been together forever like brother and sister, they weren’t brother and sister. Why not avoid the awkwardness of such a situation, make them a married couple from the outset, and remove the whole budding romance plotline?

Don’t get me wrong, this series accounted for why it did what it did, so it wasn’t as if there was a half-assed effort. When compared to everything else, though, what happened in Seiji and Oko’s past (and by extension, their current selves) was – in a word – boring.

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This was a story which focused on mythical creatures and the supernatural. It was also about helping others overcome the obstacles that were in front of them. This show had plenty of heart, mystery, and depth to make Seiji and Oko’s relationship secondary.

Plus, We Rent Tsukumogami introduced a viable alternative which would have been perfectly in line with what this show was already doing – getting some trigger-happy priest to try and exorcise the tsukumogami. But instead of taking such a concept anywhere meaningful, this series passed it off as a one-time joke.

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Normally I would say this was a case of a story wasting its potential, but in this situation, that would be a bit too harsh. After all, We Rent Tsukumogami did more than enough with everything else.

Sure, there may have been one aspect to this series which was lacking. In the grand scheme of things, though, would’ve-could’ve-should’ve isn’t going to change how solid this show ultimately was.

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Final Thoughts

This was one of those series that did precisely what it set out to do.

From beginning to end, this show was full of fun characters, well-crafted scenes, and little nuggets of history. Granted, not everything ended up panning out, but it wasn’t as if this story’s weaker links were in danger of snapping.

All and all, this was a satisfying as they come, and it would be a shame if you let yourself miss it.

We Rent Tsukumogami is one I highly recommend.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning We Rent Tsukumogami? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Edited By: Onions

1 comment

  1. I really wanted to get into this story because it seemed like the kind of thing I would enjoy but I just didn’t get hooked by the first couple of episodes. Still, interesting concept.

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