My Master Has No Tail – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser September 30, 20220 Comments
Mameda as a human jumping for joy as she leaves her tanuki family

What’s it about? Mameda has left her family of tanuki to visit Osaka, where she’s eager to play some pranks on hapless humans. Her antics are thwarted at every turn by the technological advances of the Taisho era, but by pure chance she discovers a different sort of trick: at a rakugo show, where a woman holds an audience captive and paints a whole story with nothing but her words and a fan. Forget illusions—Mameda’s going into rakugo!

There are a few things guaranteed to get the AniFem staff’s attention, and this show has three of them. Cool ladies? Rakugo? Tanuki? Yes, please.

At its core, My Master Has No Tail is a hobby anime of the particularly chill and round sort, where everything is cute, the stakes are generally low, and a good chunk of how well you vibe with it will depend on how much interest you have in the subject matter. “Classical Japanese art form” might seem like a high barrier to entry, but this premiere works hard to be accessible to new audiences.

Bunko seated on stage

In case you’re new and haven’t yet been won over by the team’s ceaseless five-year campaign to gain a larger audience for masterpiece Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, a brief intro: rakugo is an oral artform where a single performer sits on a stage and tells a story to the audience, playing multiple parts that they differentiate only with body movements and a few minimal props. They’re often but not always comedic, and there’s a known, semi-set series of stories so that audiences can go, “ah, this is this performer’s take on that story!” though there have been additions and alterations to the canon over the years.

Rather than take on the steep task of trying to convey the entire performance just through Mameda’s future teacher, Bunko, the episode mixes stage shots with projected scenes of the story being told, rendered in watercolor as the scene is painted around our heroine. This introductory story isn’t the most involving from an audience perspective (unhelped by the actor’s limited ability to differentiate her voice), but the visuals convey what Mameda finds so entrancing about the experience, and it’s a technique with lots of room to play in as Mameda learns more about the art form.

Mameda awed as paintings of boats sweep in behind her

The only somewhat odd point is the post-credits short where Mameda talks about the story that was performed, “Yosanbune.” While I’d hoped it might be some neat trivia about evolutions of the story, famous performances of it, or where Japanese viewers might have seen it elsewhere, it’s really just a recap of plot beats that doesn’t give the viewer anything that wasn’t obvious in the episode. It seems like a waste of an edutainment segment, which is a shame, though it did give me some time to muse about how the translator on this show will be busting their butt translating puns.  

Most of this premiere is focused on our heroine’s antics, which are animated with an almost rubbery bounciness that really appeals. She’s an endearing little shitlord, playful but not particularly nasty with her pranks. Bunko, meanwhile, is elegantly opaque (and definitely not a fox spirit) in a way that plays well off of Mameda’s thick-headedness. The episode’s closing monologue about the tension between modernization and tradition doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it adds a sweet sentiment about the enduring human desire to be “tricked”—to believe in the mystical and impossible. It’s a two-hander, and other than a few wordless glimpses we don’t get much about future cast members.

Mameda cheers. "I'm finally free of the sticks!"

This is a bright, colorful little title that’s well made and nice to chill out to, with a cast I’m eager to spend more time with. If gentle comedy, cute-but-not-cloying art that avoids both fanservice and heavy infantilization, and/or learning a bit about traditional arts interest you at all, give this one a look.

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