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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
SHOSHIMIN: How to become Ordinary

How would you rate episode 1 of
SHOSHIMIN: How to become Ordinary ?
Community score: 3.8



What is this?

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Jōgorō Kobato wishes to live a quiet and ordinary life after a painful experience. He and Yuki Osanai form a "mutually beneficial relationship" as Yuki also wants the same thing. They start high school as classmates with a plan to spend their peaceful days as ordinary people, but unfortunately, they keep getting wrapped up in mysteries and disasters as they happen one after another.

SHOSHIMIN: How to become Ordinary is based on the Shōshimin mystery novel series by Honobu Yonezawa. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Sundays.


How was the first episode?

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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

For most people, I'm sure “from the creator of HYOUKA” is a great sales pitch for this show. For me, it's anathema. I found HYOUKA terminally uninteresting, populated with stories and characters I could not connect to for the life of me, and my reaction to SHOSHIMIN is much the same. I get what it's going for, and can appreciate the character beats and themes in theory, but in practice I find everything about this premiere thoroughly dull, propped up by a high-level adaptation that tries to capture a poignancy the script can't support.

To that end, this show looks excellent. The cinematography is top-notch, confidently creating a sense of space that makes everything in the show feel grounded – though I think putting the whole episode in cinematic widescreen is a bit much. The character designs and animation are polished to a mirror shine, carrying subtle expressions and body language with ease, which is critical for such a low-energy tone as this premiere is trying for. There's some really strong editing that manages to be evocative without ever breaking that grounded setting, and in general there's a ton of eye-candy to enjoy across the episode.

My problem is how all of that coalesces around a story and characters that are, by design, extremely uninteresting. The hook is supposed to be that Jogoro and Osanai have their own personal reasons for wanting to be “ordinary” and to hide whatever their more natural personalities are. We as the audience are supposed to want to know what parts they're hiding and why. In practice, it means that our two leads spend the whole episode purposefully avoiding anything dramatic. We're also back to the same vein as HYOUKA with the pair solving mundane mysteries around them, which are intentionally low stakes and involve characters we barely know or care about. That's supposed to make these moments feel relatable, but in concert it means we have both characters and story trying their hardest to not be entertaining, and wildly succeeding.

The combination of visuals and writing makes for an episode that is constantly trying to communicate a sense of dour emotional tension, but never delivers on it. All we get is a lengthy search for a girl's purse that culminates in a guy stealing it after chickening out on leaving a love letter, where Jogoro figures out the whole thing inside his head, we don't actually see any conclusion to that conflict, and the whole thing is presented with such self-seriousness that you'd think they were solving a murder. Maybe all of that could work if we were let into the main duo's heads more, but their motivations and secrets are clearly being held for a later reveal. We get hints that Jogoro is too empathetic and willing to put himself out to help anyone he sees, but that's just a guess, and one that probably won't be confirmed or denied for several episodes

I expect I'll be an outlier here, but I just couldn't get into it at all. I'm all for slow-burn stories, but those still live off the promise of something engaging or dramatic or just interesting at some point. They have to at least demonstrate a capacity for a strong payoff to the audience's patience, or else mitigate the wait through charming character interactions. Without that, SHOSHIMIN feels sterile and limp.


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

This episode constitutes a crime against strawberry tarts. How dare they just be callously wasted in service of a point about how cruel the world can be? Or maybe that's not the point, but it feels like that was what things were building up to – Osanai's entire arc revolves around getting the pastry. She mentions it early on, she asks Kobato to go with her to the bakery to ensure that she gets two, she even plans when she's going to eat them. Then for most of the episode we see her waiting on tenterhooks, certain that Kobato's need to be “ordinary” and help his friend Kengo will result in her missing the last of the tarts. When she finally gets them, things look bright…only for them to be dashed to the ground by a bicycle-stealing boy who has been humiliated by his friends. What is that if not a statement on how you can't trust that things will work out?

What that has to do with the rest of the show, I'm not sure. Kobato's stated goal of wanting to be “ordinary” doesn't seem to have much basis in anything but his own self-perception. That's fine; we are often simply who we believe ourselves to be. But that makes it the story's job to show us why Kobato is so convinced of his own ability to stand out, because nothing so far indicates it. He goes out of his way to follow what may be his own precepts of ordinary behaviors, although I'm sure there are those who would argue that “helping when asked” isn't nearly as ordinary as he thinks it is. It's also causing him to put one friend above the other, because technically Osanai asked Kobato for help first - and to her, getting the strawberry tarts was unquestionably just as, if not more, important as a missing pocketbook. Is it more ordinary to favor Kengo over Osanai? Again, the episode does nothing to help us sort that out.

This does look beautiful, and it has the soft, moody sense of teenage angst down pat. Lingering shots of landscapes and closeups of Osanai's face set the scene, and even the uglier sides we see are filtered through the gentle light of a setting sun. The animation is smooth, the direction impeccable…the only thing lacking is the story. It doesn't even deliver on the light mystery front, largely because the “mystery” isn't even mildly compelling as a way to move the plot. I've read chapter books with better mysteries, and writing for that age group isn't known for its depth.

At the end of the day, I need a show to have more than just mood. There needs to more than a sad statement on getting what you desire and oblique references to things that exist primarily in the characters' heads. Beautiful as this is, I don't think I'll be coming back for another episode.


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James Beckett
Rating:

It's funny: Despite how resistant I can be to very slow and uneventful slice-of-life stories when they're in a fantasy or sitcom type of setting, I tend to find the more grounded and realistic ones more engaging. Maybe it's the literature buff in me. It could just be that I was primed by the “Sheep Costume” title of SHOSHIMIN's first episode, but watching Kobato and Osanai amble around throughout their day and pass the time with quiet conversation reminded me of when I would rainy afternoons in college digging into the novels of Haruki Murakami. Granted, Murakami's works tend to have a more sinister or supernatural edge to give their characters' endless pontificating some more weight. I'm not sure if The Case of the Missing Handbag has quite as much impact, comparatively.

To the kids' credit, though, they did have to employ a tiny bit of deductive reasoning to uncover the culprit, and the smallness of the “mystery” definitely aligns with the low-key vibe of Kobato and Osanai's not-quite-adventures. This is a mood piece, first and foremost, meant to transport viewers back to the version of high school that isn't so colored by big emotions and forced whimsy. Sometimes, when you're a kid, the day can stretch on forever, and the world feels simultaneously too small and too big to even begin to fully figure out. So, what else is there to do but spend time chatting with your friends and engaging with whatever problems are within the scope of your ability to solve. I think SHOSHIMIN does a great job of capturing that specific, somewhat melancholy tone.

That isn't to say that this premiere completely bowled me over. It's partially not even the show's fault, seeing as I got to it at the tail-end of a multi-hour marathon of new episodes, but SHOSHIMIN demands the kind of patience and quiet engagement that you have to be in a very particular mood to give. I could see myself enjoying this show even more if I was able to use it as a quiet bit of mediation in the middle of an otherwise hectic day. As it stands, though, I really respect what SHOSHIMIN is trying to do, even if I'm not head over heels for it in my current frame of mind.


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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

In case you couldn't tell from the letterboxing, SHOSHIMIN: How to become Ordinary has cinematic ambitions. Like its fellow summer series Days With My Stepsister, the cinematography and atmosphere are more interested in replicating live-action than playing around with the hallmarks of animation. As someone who has started paying more and more attention to lighting and compositing in anime and just how poorly-done it tends to be, SHOSHIMIN's use of light and shadow to establish mood, tone, and time of day was extremely satisfying.

In fact, the whole thing was beautifully directed. The story is driven almost entirely via dialogue, and the only design element that sets the characters apart from real-life Japanese high school students is their vivid eye colors. It takes a real eye for animation to keep something like that visually arresting enough to compete with flashy action and fantasy stories, and they really manage that here! Every gesture is carefully realized; shifts in expression tell just as much of the story as the actual line reads. Not that there aren't some neat animation choices too, like Kobato picturing himself as the culprit when describing what happened.

The story and characters, I imagine, are going to be somewhat more divisive. Kobato and Osanai have decided to become “ordinary,” implying that they're actually quite extraordinary. In order to make that happen, they remind each other of bits of Japanese social etiquette, like never turning down an acquaintance's request for help, since that may upset the harmony of the group. It's not exactly relatable to me, an outspoken weirdo since childhood, and I suspect many of my fellow nerds will feel the same. It is, however, interesting, and invites the question of just what exactly happened to make that their goal.

A lot of the script, outside the mystery solving, surrounds Osanai's hope to get the last strawberry tarts of the season from a fancy bakery. As someone who goes to the farmers' market every weekend during berry season and refuses to buy berries anywhere else, that was something I could relate to. And the mystery is no less mundane, a simple case of someone's purse (the subs use “pochette,” a word I have literally never heard before, probably because in English it's used exclusively by luxury brands) going missing while they're changing. The mystery isn't really solvable by the audience, and it seemed like a huge logical leap that Kobato was able to find it at all.

SHOSHIMIN is diametrically opposed to Lapin Track's previous mystery series, Undead Murder Farce. While the older series was ostentatious and visually inventive, focusing on the supernatural, SHOSHIMIN is subdued and mundane, though no less beautiful. Another difference: while I was all in for Undead Murder Farce from the very start, I don't know if SHOSHIMIN will hold my attention through to the end. The one episode, at least, was nice to watch.



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