Inu X Boku SS 1-3 ~ Why did I say those things?
January 28, 2012
This article is a three episode taste test of Inu X Boku (The Dog and Me), a Winter 2012 anime series. I had been interested in this series since Sapphire Pyro wrote about the manga series. On the other hand I was a little unsure because a series about a tiny tsundere who treats the main male character as a dog just doesn’t seem as fresh as it once did. I am happy to say that, based upon the first three episodes, This series has a couple of very positive things going for it. First, Ririchiyo, the main character, isn’t “just” a tsundere. She is quite compelling and believable as a human being. Second, it is the kind of love story that has gravitas. I’ll describe the show in more detail, including both of these points, in the article below the jump.
Our viewpoint character is Ririchiyo, a young member of the wealthy and powerful Shirakiin family. She says she is moving into this elite apartment complex “to be alone”, a desire that is thwarted at every turn.
One of her neighbor’s in this “celebrity mansion” is Sorinozuka, who considers himself her big brother, since he knew Ririchiyo since they were kids. He also knows about her “bad habit”, but some combination of relaxed attitude and compassionate understanding enables him to let it all slide.
Ririchiyo is seriously lacking in social skills. She finds herself being haughty and rude when she is forced to interact with people. There are two things that make Ririchiyo different from your run-of-the-mill tsundere: her behavior is based in traumatic experiences from her past, and she knows what she is doing is wrong. Instead of being a rude person (like Louise, from Zero no Tsukaima, for example), Ririchiyo’s rudeness is a an act that she habitually puts on to try to get by socially. Her desire to “be alone” is in no small measure her attempt to stop hurting people. She is actually quite compassionate, and hates herself for hurting others, even though she has a hard time admitting that (or anything) to anyone else. Ririchiyo’s self-diagnosis is a fair approximation of Wilhelm Reich’s notion of Character Armor. To protect itself, the developing psyche builds defenses, for example,
The child resolves to never again permit themselves to be vulnerable, and so decides to instead manipulate and overpower others with their will.
The heartbreaking thing is watching Ririchiyo succumb to her bad habit, and see her obvious self-loathing, when she shuts down yet another social encounter that could have been pleasant and normal if she hadn’t just tossed a verbal hand grenade.
Ririchoyo is surprised to find that there is a body guard waiting for her. An even bigger surprise is that he is impossible to abuse, because he seems to be unhealthily loyal to his new master. It is Soushi who calls himself a dog. Meanwhile Ririchiyo is concerned that Soushi should care for his self more. While Ririchiyo lashes out in all social contexts, even when she truly has no desire to inflict pain, Soushi is willing to accept any unfair treatment, even a risk to his own life if he can only have a spot at Ririchiyo’s feet.
Surprisingly Soushi occasionally displays a great deal of resolve and craftiness. He manages to get his way with his new master, sometimes through displays of unswerving devotion, sometimes through pure guilt trips. Through it all, some questions pose themselves, such as why is Soushi so willing to throw away his life. Why is he so dedicated to Ririchiyo, when she can’t remember ever having met him?
And this gets me to my second point about this series: it has the makings of a love story with gravitas. So many love stories in anime these days are try to catch ’em all type romance comedies, in which the protagonist tries out many pairings in turn, often ending up with them all at the same house. Sometimes in shoujo material an obvious pairing is presented, but the fruition of that pairing is endlessly deferred. In either case these shows can seem shallow because the reason the pairings occur is “duh, love”. Inu X Boku already surpasses these lighter romance stories (despite being full of humor), because there is a profound reason that the two must be together. They are both broken people. We know a lot more about why Ririchiyo is broken, but Soushi is hinted to have had a rather dramatic past (possibly having been used as a sex slave?). By coming together they both are offered healing and an escape from the separate hells they find themselves in.
I don’t actually want to go into this in any depth, but there is also a supernatural element to the show.
The first three episodes clearly doesn’t complete the character introduction phase of the show, so I also won’t bother pointing some characters we have already met. Exactly where this show is going is anybody’s guess (well, I suppose those who read the manga might have a better idea. At the moment I find it very satisfying for the compelling psychological portrait of Ririchiyo, and hope that there is some healing ahead for both Ririchiyo and Soushi.
Finally, the artwork is a very pleasant combination of simplicity with an eye for interesting details. The character designs are mostly flat (highly stylized), with heavy use of chibi in part or all of a scene. It’s an odd show because it can get kind of emotionally dark at times, but the majority of the show is light in tone. Either way it looks good.
I’m definitely enjoying the series so far, and look forward to watching more of it.