Kokohana-tei is a hot spring hotel located in an inn town between our world and the other world, where many people go to visit. The story portrays the lives of fox spirits, who take the form of girls and work at the hotel.
Source: Anime News Network
Within the first five minutes of Konohana Kitan, newcomer Yuzu is forcibly stripped and scrubbed by two of her coworkers as one girl comments on the size of her breasts and the camera pans jerkily from her curled toes to her flushed face. I begin with this one-two punch of fanservice and “comical” assault because (1) it doesn’t match the soothingly cute tone of the rest of the episode at all, and (2) it immediately soured me to a series I think I’d have otherwise found at worst harmless and at best kinda charming. But, alas, someone thought this nonsense needed to be included, and here we are.
If you don’t smash the Stop button as soon as that scene happens, you’ll find yourself spending time with a cast of archetypal but more-or-less pleasant fox-girls who work at a Japanese-style inn (or ryokan) where spirits and youkai come for some downtime. If I squint, the premise kinda looks like Spirited Away and Hanasaku Iroha had a baby, which is very much My Jam.
When the cast actually interacts with a hotel guest, the characters have time to stretch their legs and the show is quite engaging. It flirts with the tension between individual versus group responsibility, features some work-related humor and conflicts, develops Yuzu and grouchy coworker Satsuki both as characters and in their relationship with one another, and helps expand the world and sense of wonder that lurks on the edges of the series at large. Even with my guard up from that early scene, I found myself warming up to it a bit.
That interaction is only about 5-10 minutes, though. The rest of the episode is about cute girls making cute faces and wandering around doing cute things, which is either something you enjoy or it isn’t. Mixed into the shenanigans is some decent animation and facial expressions, along with lovely backgrounds, full of lush greenery and otherwordly pink petals.
Also mixed in: a whole lot of yuri undertones. Yuzu spends most of the episode blushing and talking about how pretty the other girls are, and she can’t look at Satsuki in the bath without getting all hot and bothered. I don’t expect it to go anywhere beyond innuendo, but if you’re starved for yuri and don’t mind it feeling a bit calculated and baity, then these fox spirits might tide you over.
Oh, and speaking of the bath: Outside of that opening strip sequence, the premiere also features two more bathing scenes! The inn has an outdoor hot spring (naturally), so the episode is loosely structured “day of work – nightly bath – day of work – nightly bath.” I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep that up going forward. Huzzah.
These two scenes only warranted a half-eye-roll rather than full-on disgust from yours truly, though, because they at least help establish character—Yuzu is very flustered by naked ladies, especially Satsuki—and serve as a kind of after-work chill-out time for the employees. Plus no one is getting assaulted for comedy, which goes a heckuva a long way. The framing is leering but reasonably restrained; mostly it’s just some side-boob and strategically placed heads. Also: tailed butts. Someone on the staff has A Thing for tailed butts.
And that’s it, I guess. It’s not a plot-heavy series. It’s almost delightful and frequently relaxing, but mostly I left it feeling annoyed and kinda bummed out. I’m not opposed to cute-girl shows, but it’s rare for me to find one that I really like, and Konohana Kitan came mighty close at points. A shame it had to mar those bright spots with gratuitous T&A and tasteless assault “jokes.” In a lighter season I might give it another episode just to see if it can tone down the nudity and include more workplace story lines, but my watchlist is already packed. I don’t plan on coming back.