Reviewby Nick Creamer,
BD+DVD - The Complete Series
Kokonotsu Shikada, or “Coconuts” to his friends, has no interest in inheriting his father's dagashi candy store. Coconuts wants to make manga, and even if his dad doesn't believe in his dreams, he just can't see dagashi as his true calling. But when dagashi fortune heir Hotaru Shidare stomps into his father's store, things start to change for Coconuts. Hotaru is intent on poaching Coconuts' dad, and that means Coconuts himself has to make some big decisions. But even if Coconuts' heart says no, he still bears a dagashi master's talent deep in his soul.
Anime has already offered us long-running dramas about baking bread and entire franchises predicated on idols fighting interstellar wars, so it's tough to be surprised by basically any premise these days. Slice of life in particular is a crowded space, where virtually any hobby or club activity has been mined for stories about friends hanging out after school. And so we come to Dagashi Kashi, a slice of life/comedy centered on one extremely specific topic - dagashi, cheap snacks you can buy at corner stores.
Dagashi Kashi first introduces us to Kokonotsu Shikada, or “Coconuts,” the son of a dagashi shop owner. Coconuts doesn't really have any interest in taking up the family business, but when the heir of a giant dagashi conglomerate comes to hire away his dad, he isn't given much of a choice. Dagashi scion-to-be Hotaru is wild for dagashi, willing to do basically anything to make Coconuts embrace his legacy. And so begins a series of rambling dagashi-related misadventures.
Dagashi Kashi proceeds as a series of largely unconnected skits, as Coconuts, Hotaru, and Coconuts' childhood friends Tou and Saya explore the history and gimmicks behind a variety of popular snack foods. This is a bit more exciting than it might sound - in contrast with more straightforward candies, dagashi snacks are often coupled with an included game or some other way to make them entertaining in ways beyond their flavor. Hotaru's boundless enthusiasm for dagashi generally leads the show, as she dives into the histories of various candies and expresses her love for candy in alternately sultry and ridiculous ways.
You probably need at least a little interest in dagashi itself to get much out of this show. Some of the skits articulating the history of dagashi are funny for their own sake (anthropomorphized candy questioning their life's purpose is always kinda funny), but much of this show's content is straight dagashi trivia. There's a little emotional draw mined from stuff like Coconuts and Saya's combined history, but the show generally keeps things light, fluffy, and focused on the candy.
Hotaru herself is mostly an ambiguous presence in the show. She's generally the instigator of the show's dagashi-related drama, and on top of that, the show's infrequent fanservice tends to lean on her figure. But even though Hotaru's enthusiasm drives a great deal of the show's comedy, she's also the least developed of all the show's leads. Slice of life shows tend to rely on the audience's affection for the cast, and Hotaru generally feels more like a nonsensical force of nature than a person. The show occasionally gestures at the loneliness that led her to choose dagashi as her closest friends, but on the whole, Hotaru lacks the emotional complexity to really bring the story home.
On top of that, Dagashi Kashi's comedy is extremely hit or miss. The show occasionally goes all-in on a great ambitious gag, where some candy forms the catalyst for a desperate marathon or misguided youtube series or whatnot. But more often than not, the jokes are based in misunderstandings, cheesy wordplay, or plain manic energy. The cast is charming enough that the show is never grating, but unless you're big into campy humor, there are gonna be a lot of groaners here.
Dagashi Kashi's best moments may actually be its quietest. Though Hotaru never feels like a real person, the rest of the cast all have a very natural rapport, and moments of them simply wasting time out in the country offer a strong sense of atmosphere. The show perfectly nails the sensation of a long, sleepy summer out in the sticks, from its saturated lighting to its relentless cicadas. Even when it's not doing anything all that interesting, the show still presents a fine getaway.
Dagashi Kashi's visual execution is pretty middling. The show's character designs are distinctive and expressive, but there's not much fluid animation, which somewhat dampens its slice of life appeal. The best visual moments go to depictions of the countryside itself - pretty backgrounds and infrequently clever compositions successfully bring Coconuts' home to life. The show also demonstrates its visual range during the frequent dagashi-focused fantasies, which riff on the styles of sports dramas, giant robot shows, and much else. The music fares a bit better, offering a solid mix of twangy strings-driven arrangements to evoke the show's provincial setting, along with a bunch of up-tempo songs for the more goofy segments. The songs aren't particularly memorable for their own sake, but like the art design, they're good enough to fulfill their role.
The dub is also solid all around. Tabitha Ray in particular brings all the energy necessary to Hotaru's character, offering a different but completely valid approach to the character's Japanese portrayal. In contrast with Ayana Taketatsu's version, which seems to emphasize Hotaru's high-class upbringing through a more authoritative “ojou-sama” tone, Ray's Hotaru is giddy and shrill in a way that makes her obsession with dagashi feel significantly more personable. It's a strong take on the character, and her performance is surrounded by solid interpretations of most of the other leads.
Dagashi Kashi comes in a standard blu-ray case, housing the show on two DVDs and two blu-rays. There are no physical extras, and outside of some promos and textless opening/closing segments, the only on-disc extras are a pair of commentary tracks. Strangely, while the case itself only advertises a commentary track for episode nine, the actual disc has a track for episode five as well. Those commentary tracks are pretty par for the course - the show's dub cast offers loose thoughts on the show and the dubbing process. Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the commentary track is that it includes Kristen McGuire, the dub's overall scriptwriter. You generally just get the dub directors and main cast for these commentary tracks, so it was nice to get the dub writer's perspective as well. Hearing the cast discuss who specifically came up with various script solutions offered some nice insights into the dubbing process.
Overall, I'd possibly recommend Dagashi Kashi to slice of life or comedy aficionados, but that recommendation comes with a few caveats. The comedy doesn't have a high enough hit ratio to really sell it on that appeal alone, so you probably need some interest in the show's very specific subject matter, and its slice of life segments aren't frequent enough to work on that appeal either. Dagashi Kashi isn't a bad show, but it's not really good, either. I suppose it's fitting that a show about corner-store candy is as disposable as its subject matter.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Occasional standout comedy segments, time spent with the cast's lazy sunny days are fairly charming
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