What’s it about? Kazuya Kagami’s most treasured possession in the world is the obi left to him by his late mother. The scent of cherry-blossoms infused into it helps him through his day – but he never expected it to save his life, becoming a beautiful kimono-clad girl who calls herself an “artifact spirit.” Her name is Kiriha, tsukumogami of the sash, who naturally moves in with him, as he is her “owner.” Throw in Chisato, his bespectacled friend, an overprotective older sister who wants to take baths with him, a busty priestess, a seductive sorceress named Kokuyoura, and Kazuya’s life has just gotten a lot more interesting.
Source: Anime News Network
As that about-face description may suggest, Tsugumomo is two shows crammed into one. The first is an action-fantasy about Kazuya, a mild-mannered, intelligent boy who lost his mother and carried around her obi (sash) as a memento/security blanket for years, imbuing it with energy and love until it became a tsukumogami: an object given sentience and human form. The obi turns into Kiriha, a powerful fighter who’s proud to the point of smugness, and she saves Kazuya by exorcising an evil spirit from one of his classmates.
This half of the story is pretty fun! It features an energetic supernatural fight sequence and a few moments of genuine sweetness between Kazuya and Kiriha, along with promises of a meddling shrine maiden joining the cast in the future. As a fan of Shinto-inspired fantasies, I would have been happy to watch a pair of squabbling partners defeat supernatural evil together.
Unfortunately, Tsugumomo is two shows, not one. And the other show is this…
A bawdy (or ecchi) “comedy,” and those quotes are there for Maximum Sarcasm, because the jokes are a combination of panty shots (golly gee, anime, I’ve never seen that gag before!) and straight-up assault. But fear not: The show is gender-blind with its nudity and harassment, featuring an accidental boob grope, a very intentional scrotum grab, and a trans character getting outed as a punchline. Equal-opportunity awfulness! It’s fun for the whole family!
When characters aren’t being groped, the so-called humor leans heavily on broad slapstick. But. Like. The really bad kind. The kind where the hapless, largely innocent male protagonist exists solely as a punching bag for the female characters, which is just hilarious because look at this wimpy boy getting beat up by girls, that’s what he gets for not being manly enough to assert his dominance, har-dee-har-no.
Between an older sister with a brother complex, a childhood friend with a giant paper fan, and Kiriha, who punches him for forgetting to buy the pudding that she didn’t even ask for, Kazuya is basically trapped between a trio of abusive relationships. This is all supposed to be funny, I guess. If nothing else, Tsugumomo makes for a pretty solid example of how toxic masculinity hurts everyone.
Tsugumomo‘s nifty premise and bursts of charm alternate with its explosions of assault and abuse to create not only the most tonally dissonant thing I’ve seen this season, but also a premiere that is somehow worse than the unilaterally bad ones. At least those don’t get my hopes up. There’s something genuinely fun and sweet buried inside Tsugumomo. A shame it’s covered in so much sludge.