As technology advances so rapidly, and the world changes with it, humans in the Taisho Era are no longer as easily fooled as they once were. While this is to their advantage, it makes life difficult for tanuki, who at their very core exist to trick humans. Young Mameda, however, ignores the warnings about the newly wise populace when she visits Osaka, where her now-deceased father once lived. Maybe she should have listened. Trick after trick fails, with cars, streetlamps, and watermarked bills getting in the way of her too-simple attempts to snooker the humans. But could a fateful meeting with a rakugoka, a “modern-day” trickster of humans, help Mameda find a new way of life that feels much like the old?
What a charming opening episode, and what an interesting approach to two symbols of days past in Japanese culture—the folklore involving tanuki and the performance art of rakugo. My Master Has No Tail attempts to imbue a sense of liveliness into these relics of generations past, but not by doing what many other anime have. It doesn’t set the series in a school club or otherwise bring the formerly popular ideas into the present. Episode one, instead, establishes that this series takes place about 100 years ago, during a time when rakugo still had a high level of popularity (I’m assuming) and while humans may still have believed in the magic of tanuki, though the episode quickly establishes that their naivete is fading fast. Mameda is one step behind the humans at every turn, and credulity at her failures, together with sentiment for her father (their interactions in flashback scenes are quite touching), lead her to seek out the rakugoka she serendipitously bumps into (or more accurately, tries to connive) and establish a relationship. It was fun listening to that character, Bunko, perform a discourse, and her self-seriousness and expertise recommend themselves well for the presumed mentorship under which she’ll guide Mameda. The look of the characters and older-style song choices also fit smoothly into the series, helping to create a retro feel that is appropriately whimsical, matching a similar tone in many 80s and 90s anime. That said, I did find the episode to be a bit soporific, and I’d rather not spend my anime-watching time napping through the action. That quality, along with the vignettes that recount the episode’s easily understood discourse and last several full minutes without adding much of consequence, will probably have me dropping this series, particularly in such a full season as this.
My Master Has No Tail can be streamed on HiDIVE.