Right off the bat I’ll note that Fox Spirit Matchmaker (originally Huyao Xiao Hongniang or Enmusubi no Youko-chan on Japanese TV) isn’t necessarily an anime I’d recommend to others. It is not the content matter is questionable or anything, but that it is not exactly a high quality anime or so to speak.
In the world of Fox Spirit Matchmaker, youkai exist and sometimes these youkai fall in love with and are loved by humans. Unfortunately humans die much earlier than youkai. And upon their death, humans are reincarnated.
To keep the youkai happy, the matchmakers have the ability to restore the memories of reincarnated humans. That is to say, a human will remember their past love and they can continue their married to a youkai life. The story is very much about keeping destined lovers together forever. (Note: Both parties agree to this deal in the human’s past life.)
Given that the story stars a novice matchmaker and her human companion, you’d think it would have a couple of the week kind of wibe where every week a new couple would be reunited, but it does not do that. In fact as of episode 09, only one couple has been matched up and judging by the opening, there are only two couples (including the main characters) left.
That is to say the show spends a lot more time per couple and a lot of the time is spent on the goofy antics of the main characters and some of their back-story. I don’t especially mind this, but a polished well executed couple of the week story would probably work better for a lot of people. Polish and execution are another flaw with this show.
The gags are not especially funny. They remind me of the humor in Rinne, especially since the main character here is dirt poor, but Matchmaker’s humor is arguably even goofier for good or bad.
The animation and direction don’t really hold up that well (direction especially I feel), but it is charming at times, there’s heart here.
This is not a bad thing, but Fox Spirit Matchmaker is also a Chinese style story. I am not that well versed in Chinese Manga, but they tend to read very differently from their Japanese counterparts. It is not a bad thing of course, but folk who’ve never read Chinese Manga may find this style less appealing at first.
It is kind of hard for an uneducated buffoon like me to sum up why I felt this would not appeal to everyone. Honestly I don’t know why I even bothered trying because I am actually liking it a lot.
So, why do I like it? Well, the first most obvious answer is shipping. The couples in this show are already predetermined and ahhh that strikes my fancy so bad. It is cheesy, really cheesy, but I love fiction with eternal, timeless love or couples who get back together after being separated for literally centuries. It is just so romantic ;___;
And there’s a certain charm to the way the show reconciles a past self with the current self. For both humans shown thus far, their past selves were pretty different people from the modern ones. Slowly unraveling the mystery of how the past life human fell in love with a youkai through flashbacks is extremely satisfying. It is like seeing a love story play out completely and then have a second conclusion that is set after the conclusion in the past.
If anything, the mysteries of the past coming to light is exactly why I am so invested in this show. Every week, the show’s slow pacing lets me down BECAUSE I REALLY WANT TO SEE MORE. I REALLY REALLY WANT TO SEE THE MEMORY THAT COMES RIGHT AFTER THE ONE JUST SHOWN. It is just captivating. It is captivating to see these youkai try so hard to win back their former spouses and the grief they endure in the process of doing so. Just oh man.
Just look at how happy and melancholic she is to see her lover again. GAHGH!
That grief I mentioned is central of Fox Spirit Matchmaker. This isn’t an overly tragic show by any stretch, but the underlying sadness to having to wait for your beloved is so good.
This feels like I am omitting everything in between because that sadness is most perfectly captured by the Chinese opening and the Chinese ending. That sad music with a montage of each couple just gets to me. The couple the anime is currently on (spider girl youkai and Oh Fuuki) is seemingly especially sad.
The music in general is I feel one of the show’s highlights. There isn’t an especially great variety of it, but ugh, my heart aches whenever it comes on and it is great ;__;
I call them powerful moments, but in truth we’ve really only seen two climaxes and neither of them were so good that I could show you a video or a gif and go SEE IS THIS NOT AMAZING? They are not visually spectacular or anything (though the music is lovely).
So, why do I like them? Because they tug at my heart. I am someone who’s imagination tends to run wild, filling in all the necessary details and exaggerating the emotional impact of scenes that cater to my taste.
The first of the two powerful moments I am referring to is the conclusion to the first couple which is really just a nice sad monologue and is juxtaposed wonderfully with the past.
The second is a moment earlier in the episode that really got me excited for more of this show. It was the first meeting between an older Suzu and MC-kun.
That meeting didn’t have any dialogue of note. Suzu just said stuff like you never change, but her standing in the fire with that music and the implication that she was finally meeting her lover or someone similar after many centuries was just so good to me. I can’t even explain why. Ugh!
It is this thought at the back of the show, this notion that these youkai have waited for a long, long time to finally be reunited with their loved ones that gets me. The humans (thus far) have all rejected them initially, but slowly the show showcases just how strong their bonds actually were. Slowly we rewind time back to a state of eternal love.
Apologies for this wishy washy post. It is hard to describe, but basically there is no anime airing right now that I look forward to weekly as much as Fox Spirit Matchmaker. I just must see how this loves conclude. I must.