Binbougami ga!–Midseason Impressions

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I initially overlooked Binbougami ga! (Funimation) because it seemed like just another ecchi slapstick comedy. There seems to be an infinite number of these, most of them dreary. However this is not your average ecchi slapstick comedy. It’s an ecchi slapstick comedy with a heart, and pretty funny as well.

To begin with we have Momiji who is frankly a mess. Her clothes look like they came from a thrift shop and have seen hard use since. She’s dirty and unkempt. Her hand is wrapped in a giant bandage.

This is just part of her job since Momiji is a binbougami (God of Poverty).

At the beginning of the story Momiji is sent to the human world accompanied by her faithful companion Kumagai, a decrepit teddy bear who never speaks and communicates only by holding up sarcastic notes. Their mission is to deal with a situation that is upsetting the balance of fortune and misfortune.

The problem is a girl with the unlikely name of Ichiko Sakura. She’s rich, beautiful, smart and athletic. (She’s also arrogant, self-centered and prone to violence.)

The boys in her class fawn over her and the girls hate her. And she just keeps getting lucky breaks. In fact she is so lucky that she drains away the luck of anyone near her.

How is this possible? It’s not clear. Momiji speculates that perhaps Ichiko was a God of Fortune in a previous life. In any case this is a dangerous situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

Momiji appears to Ichiko and announces that she plans to take away her luck. This will leave Ichiko to lead a miserable unfortunate life, but at least the balance of the universe will be restored.

Ichiko is not willing to submit to this. She’s not about to sacrifice her own happiness for the benefit of other people when she doesn’t even like most other people.

One might think that she wouldn’t have any choice in the matter what with Momiji being a god and all, but Ichiko is dexterous, quick-thinking and lucky while Momiji is by nature clumsy and unlucky.

It says a lot for the quality of the writing that we end up cheering Ichiko on, even though objectively she is fairly obnoxious. Part of it is that any human who is assaulted by a goddess and fights back bravely is naturally sympathetic. Another factor is that in important ways Ichiko is not really lucky at all.

She’s very lonely. Her parents are missing or dead. She has no friends her own age. The girls in her class hate her and the boys who follow her around are not interested in her as a person.

The only person she is close to is Suwano, the faithful butler who raised her, but she sends him away as soon as she realizes that she is bringing him ill-fortune.

Momiji continues to pursue Ichiko, even going so far as to enroll as a transfer student in her class. But Ichiko gains an unexpected ally, though one of questionable character.

This is Bobii (“Bobby“) a wandering monk and a man of great spiritual power. He offers Ichiko a holy sword and holy miko robes which should enable her to fight off a goddess.

Unfortunately Bobby is a pervert and the holy outfit is too embarrassing to wear in public.

However the sword does allow Ichiko to summon a herd of lucky animal spirits to defend her (one for each sign of the Chinese zodiac.)

Still lonely, Ichiko wishes that she had a boyfriend and tries to use her luck to find an appropriate handsome prince. Strangely Fate leads her to her classmate Keita Tsuwabuki, who is good-looking but hardly a “prince.”

In fact he is dirt poor. His parents abandoned the family and he works a series of part-time jobs to support his four adorable younger siblings. Ichiko is disdainful, unwilling to admit that she really envies his close-knit family.

She and Keita quarrel after she insults him by offering him money. But when her tendency to bring ill-fortune to others endangers the life of Keita’s younger brother she risks her own life to save him. This prompts Momiji to remark that she could cancel the jinx if she devoted herself to using her good fortune to help the less fortunate.

At this point we have had numerous hints that Ichiko is actually a goddess and doesn’t know it. This suggests a possible happy ending. If she would behave like a proper Shinto god and devote herself to bringing good fortune to others then she could eliminate her curse (and presumably Japan would have eight lucky gods instead of seven.) Maybe she could even marry Keita and join his family.

However for the moment Ichiko is far too self-centered, angry and antisocial to do anything of the sort. That and the fact that this is based on an ongoing manga suggests that this anime is not likely to give us a complete story with a romantic ending. However the individual episodes are pretty entertaining and I’m not sure that a sappy ending is really required.