Inu x Boku Secret Service
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: David Production
Brief Overview: The high-security living quarters of Maison de Ayakashi are rumored to be haunted, when in fact the home is a specialized place for human beings with non-human ancestors to live. Shirakiin Ririchiyo decides to live in the house for the purpose of self-improvement, and at her beck-and-call is Soushi, who asks only to be her "dog."
Episode Summary: Shirakiin Ririchiyo arrives at the Maison de Ayakashi with her things, ready to move in. All her life she's been teased for who she is, driving her to put up a strong front and have a standoffish personality. By living on her own, she hopes to gain enough inner confidence so that her false snobbishness will become unnecessary.
As part of her living arrangements, Ririchiyo is assigned a servant or "secret service" agent to respond to her every need. Ririchiyo's servant, Soushi, is especially devoted, and his single-minded devotion gets on Ririchiyo's nerves. She tries to send him away many times, but his presence turns out to be beneficial when Ririchiyo is attacked. It's then that Soushi shows his true colors.
Thoughts: I'm at a bit of a loss to describe exactly what bothered me about this episode, but for all its apparent appeal to fans of males in positions of servitude (by which I mean butlers or servants and whatever romantic connotations arise from that kind of power relationship), it also seems to be aiming to expand its audience to male fans as well (if the number of shots of the main character in a partially-dressed state is anything to go by). I'm definitely not out to fault a show for attempting to cover all of its bases, but by utilizing multiple visual and narrative aspects that in many cases tend to turn away broad swaths of people, I can't really tell who the audience for this anime is supposed to be. As someone who's usually on board with offbeat series, I have to say that I'm a little bit disappointed (and confused).
One of the most grating parts of this episode is Soushi's blind devotion to his new master. He reminds me of Dug the Dog from the Pixar movie Up, in that his reaction to meeting Ririchiyo is something along the lines of '"I just met you, and I love you!" While this reaction is truly on par with the behavior of many real dogs, between two characters who are human-shaped (if not exactly human-minded), the interaction quickly begins to feel like that of a bad romance novel. To her credit, Ririchiyo is annoyed and taken-aback by Soushi's behavior (which in real life would amount to stalking, let's not forget that), but then again it's difficult enough to comment on her true feelings at this time because so much of what she says and how she acts is meant to cover-up her real emotional state.
I get the impression that Soushi's devotion is meant to be read as romantic, and the impetus will be on Ririchiyo to come to terms with that throughout the course of the series. I can't help but be reminded of the book and film series Twilight, where emo vampire hunk Edward Cullen spends the night standing around and staring at Bella Swan while she sleeps. This too is meant to be romantic, but the fact is that this kind of non-consensual vulnerability is anything but sweet and endearing. This idea that the situation "he loves her so much that he won't listen when she says tells him to leave" (or shows up anyway when she's incapacitated and can't say anything one way or another) is something worth emulating is more than a little bit creepy. Romance can have an element of fantasy, but it shouldn't work counter to real-life standards of decent behavior (especially when it's already difficult enough to get some people to accept that there are standards of decent behavior). In any case, Soushi's clinginess and penchant for hovering outside of Ririchiyo's door in the morning until she wakes up is kind of unsettling when you think about it. Ririchiyo's characterization has its own problems, but at the very least her bad attitude is given some background. I'm no fan of the snooty ojou-sama character, but it's not as difficult to sympathize with one when it's clear that she's been bullied in the past.
Much more interesting, though, are the supernatural elements of the episode, brief though they may be. Even considering my dissatisfaction with Soushi as a male lead, the fact that he is, literally, a dog (or fox spirit), is amusing in its own way. While I don't know if it'll be enough to tip the scales in this show's favor, the fact that there's the potential for a little bit of action and that there are already the makings of a supernatural ensemble cast does distract a bit from the cheesier aspects of this episode.
I don't have an irreparable hate-on for this show - yet. I think that there's a little bit of potential for some character growth, especially if more of Ririchiyo's past issues are explored further and Soushi's stalkerish attitude diminishes. I like that there might be an action component and heck, the show seems nice-looking from an aesthetic standpoint. But those are a lot of "ifs" to go along with some rather out-of-place touches of nudity, and I'm not entirely convinced that the show is up to tackling everything within the span of 12 episodes.
- Ririchiyo's standoffish nature exists for a reason that's explained right away, a rarity for those sorts of characters.
- There's a potential for some supernatural action, which might liven things up a bit.
- Soushi's devotion borders on stalker-ish, which is a real turnoff.
- The little slips of nudity and panties don't serve any purpose other than to make the target audience of this show a confusing mystery.
Recommended? At this point I'm not optimistic about this show's prospects. While I won't rule out the possibility of its characterization issues being addressed, the fact is that this show seems unfocused and throwaway at this point.