by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
Thing I learned this week: if you're going to pick up a late-night shift at your job, you probably shouldn't also pick up the morning shift for the next day. There is not enough caffeine in the world to overcome the crushing realization of "I was just here a few hours ago and now I have to work again." I'm going to sleep straight through the next few days, but first let's check out some new anime. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Dagashi Kashi season 1
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Shelf Life Reviews
James is back in the review seat this week with the first season of the slice-of-sweets-shop-life series Dagashi Kashi. Here's his take on the show.
I should have known I would dig this series based on the premise alone, which is right up my alley. The story revolves around Kokonotsu, the reluctant heir of a small-town snacks shop, who has been dodging his father's demands to inherit the family business in favor of pursuing his dream of becoming a manga artist. Kokonotsu is perfectly fine drawing his comics and spending time with his best friends, the brother-sister duo of Saya and Tou, until his life is turned upside-down with the arrival of the eccentric candy enthusiast Hotaru Shidare. She's the heir to one of the largest snack companies in Japan, and she's come to hire Kokonotsu's father, Yo. Yo will only join if Kokonotsu relents and takes over the store though, so Hotaru vows to visit the shop every day unil Kokonotsu does just that.
Dagashi Kashi also has a secondary focus, which regularly overrides the plot and takes center stage; this is a show about how awesome Japanese snacks are. Now, I'm not one to argue this point – I could eat Japanese snacks on a daily basis for the rest of my life and not get sick of them. But it's important to note that if you plan on diving into this series, firmly half the point of watching Dagashi Kashi is to revel in a deluge of jokes and trivia about crackers, candies, sodas, and other novelties from the Land of the Rising Sun. Hotaru will spend a whole half an episode debating Kokonotsu on the best way to eat powdered snacks without wasting any by spilling it on the floor; Kokonotsu and Tou will put the fate of their future love lives in the hands of fortune-telling chocolate balls; Saya and Hotaru will devote an extended amount of time to arguing the pros and cons of candies that look like little poops, stored in cardboard animals and dispensed exactly how you think they would be. Dagashi Kashi may advertise itself as a slice-of-life comedy, but if you've no interest in ramune, chewing gum, or obscure chewing snacks made out of seaweed, then this series' points of excitement may not overlap with your own.
The good news is that the show's slice-of-life material works well too. It helps that this is an extremely small cast you can basically count on one hand, and it's easy to take pleasure in watching these goofballs get way too invested in the ins-and-outs of confectionary culture, though you might walk away disappointed if you're searching for something with more dramatic edge. There's lots of hints at a love triangle between Saya, Kokonotsu, and Hotaru, but it always plays second fiddle to the candy talk, and even the potential drama of Kokonotsu's future as a manga artist isn't truly explored until the revamped second season. Given the focus on snacks, it might be appropriate that Dagashi Kashi is content to be easily digestible fluff. It's about as much fun as spending the day browsing a giant candy store, but it has about as much nutritional value as that experience too.
On the production side of things, Dagashi Kashi is perfectly serviceable. The animation, direction, and music are nothing special, though it's always fun when the show allows itself to get weird with Hotaru's candy-themed delusions, which occur at least once an episode. The character designs are a lot of fun, with everyone getting either a cute snaggletooth or comically sharp shark-teeth; Hotaru herself looks straight out of a Danganronpa game, which is absolutely a compliment on my part. If you're looking for the same kind of material but with a slightly more refined look, you might want to give the sequel a look. Tezuka Productions takes the material in a different direction from Studio Feel, but it isn't bad, and the episodes are half-length, so it's easy to binge them all once you're done with the first season.
Funimation's “Essentials” re-release contains only the Blu-Rays, so there's no standard-definition option for those who might want it. The picture and sound are all solid, and as far as the dub goes, it's quite excellent. It took me a bit to dial into the eccentricities of Tabitha Ray's take on Hotaru, but I came to love her in the part over time. Everyone else acquits themselves well, and the script does a nice job of adapting the pun-heavy jokes for the most part. When the humor doesn't quite land, it's usually because the joke didn't work well in either language – only a couple of bits revolving around Hotaru's Kansai accent feel wonkier because of the transition to English.
I had a great time with Dagashi Kashi, though I would never call it a great anime by any means. It's simple fun, especially for people who like to learn about Japan's culinary culture through watching a bunch of dorks bond over snack foods. This is the kind of Rental that I would recommend to almost anyone looking for a decent comedy to kill some time, though I would suggest you avoid doing so on an empty stomach.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!
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