The Helpful Fox Senko-san

Genre(s): Slice of Life, Comedy, Supernatural, Romance

Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (Innuendo, partial nudity, mild language?)

Platforms: Crunchyroll, Funimation

Episodes: 12

TheAwersome Rating: 4.8 / 10 (Too uncomfortable, nothing really redeeming)

Premise: Like many hardworking members of the workforce, Kuroto Nakano is perpetually stressed out by his job. Still, since he lives alone, he must carry on to sustain himself. Little do humans like Kuroto know, this stress takes the form of darkness residing within a person’s body and will bring one’s life to ruin.  Fox deities can see this darkness and have the duty to save people before it is too late. To help rid Kuroto of his stress, Senko-san, an eight hundred-year-old foxgirl, volunteers to take care of him, and will do everything she can to ease the tension in his weary soul.

TheAwersome’s Thoughts: Have you ever been to a party with some of your friend’s friends and after about a half hour in you start piecing together that they’re going to either ask you to join a cult, an MLM, or their “free love” community? Hopefully you haven’t, but if you’re curious about how uncomfortable that would be, feel free to pick up this anime! It looks innocent and cute. It looks like it’s going to be Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid crossed with Laid-back Camp. Then you get here and realize it’s a Lolicon NEET apologist/recruiting series. That’s what it felt like to me, anyway.

Ignoring the horrible subtext, which I’ll get into later, this show follows copy-paste tropes for comedy, character archetypes, and episode themes. It fails at “show, don’t tell” with Kuroto frequently narrating for 40 seconds how he’s feeling, which could have easily been done with an expression change. The one good thing I guess is that it highlights the toll that extreme “grind culture” takes on people working too hard.

TLDR: Uncomfortable re-enforcer of negative anime tropes.

I don’t know if I’ve explained this anywhere, but the term lolicon comes from “Lolita complex,” which is generally the term used in Japan used to refer to people who are very attracted to or obsessed with small girls. AKA Pedophilia. It’s taken on more of a meaning to those who are specifically obsessed with/attracted to manga or anime “lolis” which is just pedophilia with extra steps in my mind. Anyway, moving on.

I can usually just roll my eyes and move past the “100+ year-old loli” trope, but they harp on it over and over again. Kuroto talks about how awkward it is, how uncomfortable he is, “But I guess it’s actually okay right? She’s actually older right, so who cares what the neighbors think about her sleeping in the same bed as me? It isn’t awkward that we bathe together, right?” It straight up feels like lolicon grooming. Trying to convince people that it’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with indulging these fantasies. I did not like it, not even a little. It wasn’t even done “as a joke” the way it sometimes is in Monogatari. If you dedicate a full 1-2 minutes per episode to explaining how THIS ISN’T ACTUALLY A CRIME OR MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE, then maybe it isn’t the audience you’re trying to convince, and you know you’re in more than questionable territory.

Senko’s character bothers me a whole lot as well. I’m okay with the fantasy indulgence of a character coming with the desires to serve and whatever; Senko waits on Kuroto hand and foot. What bothers me about it is that whenever Kuroto offers to help, she shuts him down with “Oh no, just relax, I’m happy to do absolutely everything don’t you worry a bit.” Like, I understand that attitude for birthdays and such, but they set it up as Senko and Kuroto having somewhat of a familial or romantic relationship, and that is NOT a healthy relationship. It’s one thing to have an absolutely un-realistic portrayal of someone being over-the-top subservient, but it’s another to beat home the idea that “you deserve this, you shouldn’t have to do anything, don’t even offer to help. It’s okay because you were at work today.”

Another frequent theme of the show is how much Kuroto likes fluffing Senko’s tail, despite it being extremely uncomfortable for her. In most cases, however, she acquiesces because “he’s so tired / it’ll make him feel better / he’s had a hard day / it will help him relax.” Sometimes he presents the arguments, sometimes she reassures herself to go through with it with those arguments. Many times he begins without asking permission. It’s a “need’ that he has. “It’s just so fluffy, sorry I couldn’t help myself.” It usually starts out simple and small and then next thing he’s putting fingers in her ears which is extremely uncomfortable (both for her in the show and for me as a viewer).

This is not what consent looks like. This is someone having been worn down, who is very apprehensive acquiescing because they feel that further refusal would be worse.

If you haven’t already clued into the real-world application of this scenario, it’s way too much of a lopsided “sex is for male gratification” parallel to be ignored. The scenarios and arguments are verbatim. From the disregard for consent, be it via “oops I forgot, heheh” or making Senko give in out of exhaustion via repeated begging, to literally having other fox demigods show up and “offer themselves” in order to make her jealous and more willing to let him fluff her tail and “meet his needs.” Like, come on; if this isn’t the “It’s not my fault I cheated” argument then what is?

Because Kuroto’s gratification takes precedence over Senko’s discomfort and personal body autonomy.

The whole thing just reinforces these toxic ideas of relationship dynamics. “But it’s obviously just a fantasy, they aren’t even human, blablblah” -Shut it. If it’s all “just fantasy” then why does the show use verbatim parallels and show the main character rationalizing away his discomfort at what should clearly make him uncomfortable? If it’s all just harmless fantasy, why does it need to echo toxic relationship expectations in SO many categories. See my whole Problematic Media post for more.

And I’m not just being a prude here. I didn’t get anywhere near as uncomfortable in Kill la Kill or Food Wars, and even DanMachi only made me about 60% as unsettled as this. Not to mention some raunchier shows I haven’t even posted reviews for because on the off chance my Mom decides to read these reviews, I don’t want her to find out I’ve watched them. Most of those shows didn’t make me feel anywhere near as uncomfortable as this. Context matters.

Then there’s the horrible tag at the end of each episode, done from a first-person POV. In these 1-2 minute clips, Senko welcomes YOU home and takes care of YOU. And YOU get to fluff her tail, eat her food, and go to bed with her. And with the language she uses it feels exactly like what you would expect from a private show from a camgirl, but then masked with Dora the Explorer’s “asking the audience” for help.

Here’s the transcript from one, all done with Senko talking directly to the viewer, from the viewer’s point of view: “Welcome back! You’ve had a long day, haven’t you? Come, come!” Senko pats her lap “Lay down and let me look after you.” Camera changes to us lying in her lap with her looming over us “I’ll clean your ears for you. Don’t be shy, now. Just relax. We’ll start with the left side.” Senko lowers her ear pick to just below the frame and her arm fidgets around for 7 seconds “Does that tickle?” Senko’s face lowers very close to the camera as she blushes, closes her eyes, and then lightly blows “Mmm! All done. Did that feel good? Great! I can clean your ears any time you want. However, we must take care not to over-indulge ourselves! It’s best to wait a little before doing it again.” Camera changes to outside the apartment complex “Well then, it’s off to bed. Good night!”

Senko-san, as a show, did have some funny, cute, and sweet parts. It was, however, important for Harbour and I to, after each episode, go through and analyze WHY certain aspects made us uncomfortable, and what aspects of the show actually were sweet and harmless. The danger of simply ignoring the negative parts is that you start to normalize them. Then you get used to them, then you expect them, in some pedo version of Yoda’s “Fear leads to anger” speech.

It’s better to not “get used to” some tings.

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