A perfectly composed jeweler teams up with newbie Seigi to highlight the painful emotions and injustices tied to...a simple piece of jewelry. What sounds like a thin premise turned out to be a surprising diamond in the rough.
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That sure sounds awful Steve. But thankfully this week we have the soothing and healing Case Files of Jeweler Richard to helps us wind down with a grounded and happy tale about how gem stones ruined another life.
I'm just going to get this out of the way right here at the beginning: I will, inevitably, at some point in this discussion, refer to this show as "The Case Files of Richard Jeweler", and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. Blame Clint Eastwood.
That's why we here at TWIA have taken to calling this show "Daddy Richard" colloquially. Helps keep things a lot straighter. Er, well, "straighter" I suppose.
Indeed! My own personal lingual misfires aside, Fäther Richard has totally charmed me as a wonderfully sincere series of vignettes about a dashing professional jeweler and his disaster bisexual pet himbo.
I initially didn't know quite what to make of this show when it premiered. I liked its initial story about Seigi and his quest to unravel his family's messy history, but I also figured there's only so many stories you can tell that all happen to center on expensive jewelry. But it turns out there are a ton of personal conflicts you can somehow tie to shiny rocks!
It caught me off guard too. From the title alone, I was honestly expecting more capers and murder mysteries revolving around the disappearance of a cryptic aunt's gemstone collection. But in actuality, the "mysteries" are more like "let's discover how this week's customer has found themselves depressed and in a jeweler's appraisal lounge."
And I really like that!
I joked in the intro but honestly, Jeweler Richard has wound up being kind of my iyashikei show of the season. Despite covering some serious and heavy topics pretty much each week, there's just something kind of soothing and sedate about the whole thing.
I mean it certainly helps that one of our two main characters is a soft-spoken and impeccably-coiffed bishounen voiced by Takahiro Sakurai
. At least I personally find that very comforting.
10/10 would listen to him gently scold me for my shortcomings until I drift off to sleep.
The show is also just very classy
, which is a word I don't often find myself compelled to apply to the kinds of anime we discuss here!
Speak for yourself, Kandagawa Jet Girls
put the "ass" in "classy."
Outside of just being kind of a chill watch, Jeweler Richard
is mainly a show of short stories about different people and the conflicts in their lives that happen to involve some type of gem stone. They inevitably end up at Richard's shop, and spill their guts in some form or another. So like Mushi-Shi
with more bling.
consider it something of a spiritual sequel to Mononoke
. Obviously not tonally or aesthetically, but aside from the Sakurai connection, it has so far mostly focused on stories about the various injustices society thrusts upon women, which is a pretty rich thematic thread. Like, the first episode hinges on the fact that Seigi's grandma had to pickpocket because there just weren't any good ways for a single mother to support her family in those times.
Yeah, that for sure wasn't an element I was expecting. But that's kind of a defining feature of JR's storytelling. Even if the characters involved do something questionable or hurt someone, they're almost always granted empathy by the narrative and characters.
And in this story's case it's further complicated by his grandma's "victim," who in an ironic twist, celebrated the loss of her ring, because it was itself a symbol of how marriage was another way women were oppressed.
It's the kind of story I'm not really used to seeing, even in episodic one-off stories like this. While the presentation is a bit stiff and sterile, there's a ton of humanity and compassion in the writing that got its hooks into me.
The narrative winds in a surprisingly elegant way through those 20 minutes. There's a natural flow to how Seigi's desire to assuage his grandma's soul turns into a parable about the lives of two women briefly intersecting in a way that changed both of them irrevocably. That's no small feat.
And it allows itself to be melancholy a bit too. While ultimately life worked out for one of them, the show doesn't forget that Seigi's grandmother ultimately passed away with regret over hurting someone. Seigi gets some closure on his family's history, but there's no clean resolution to people's lives, and I dig that the show doesn't gloss over that.
And the next episode doubles down both on that melancholic factor and the "shit oppressed groups have to go through" factor, with a fun little story about a lesbian woman struggling to force herself into a marriage with a man.
And by "fun" I mean [screaming internally]
Yuuuup. Episode 2 also establishes the basic dynamic between Seigi and his new employer Richard. Which can basically be summed up as:
Thankfully Seigi is not being paid to think and is instead being paid to make royal milk tea.
Seigi isn't dumb, per se, but as the show goes on it's clear he's lived a life where his own worldview hasn't been given much reason to expand. He's altruistic to a fault, but also has massive blind spots that can lead to him saying or doing something carelessly hurtful.
If Ikuhara's anime have taught me anything, it's that society is always the villain (especially when you're queer). Thankfully, Richard seems to have double-majored in both mineralogy and psychology, so he always has a sage word to help guide his clients through their tribulations.
Richard himself can be a little too stoic for the show's own good, but it's clear that on the inside he's a caring and sensitive guy. Also endlessly patient considering how much he puts up with Seigi.
I'm expecting we'll probably dig into what makes him tick eventually, but yeah, as of now he's this flawlessly-composed renaissance man who loves sweets and is also sometimes Sherlock Holmes. Not exactly a three-dimensional character, but a necessary counterpart to Seigi's chaotic energy.
Which works well enough when there's a compelling story going on around them. Unfortunately episode 3 is pretty lacking there, mostly because this little kid just is not interesting.
Quite so, and tellingly, it's the first story that departs from the social justice angle and instead focuses on a magic cat.
It's also just not a good conflict? The ultimate problem is the kid's dad got rid of their prophetic cat and now he's sad. But then it turns out the cat's fine and was just being kept somewhere else while the kid's mom finishes her pregnancy. And this all could have been resolved if the dad just uh, told any of that to his son.
It's so dumb! And the episode still had plenty of cute moments, so it's not like I didn't enjoy myself, but it's such a weird departure.
The most interesting part of it is when Seigi ends up projecting some of his (as of yet undisclosed) parental issues on the kid and has to apologize, but it still feels weird to spend all this time unravelling a story that gets solved in like 3 sentences.
Oh yeah! I almost forgot, but I think that's another neat angle they've been hinting at. He clearly has daddy issues, and his relationship with his mother seems distant and atypical (he calls her by her first name), so I'm interested to see what the meat of that is.
Just hope it doesn't turn out he's just mad they never took him to that farm up-state where his childhood dog went to live.
I don't know about dogs, but he (and I) are certainly learning a lot more about cat eyes than we did before.
I was actually very superficially into gemstones for a bit when I was in elementary school, so I do like the edutainment angle Daddy Richard
sometimes leans into.
Oh, any opportunity taken to dunk on De Beers is a good one. And at the end of the day, it's good to remember that these are all just shiny rocks formed by natural processes deep in the earth, and money is extremely fake. They sure are pretty rocks tho.
And it's a good way to tie into episode 4's story, which revolves around how judgments of beauty and value as a person are ultimately just as arbitrary as how much money a hunk of corundum is worth.
It's a super good message, and it's paired with the equally important message that Seigi needs to learn how to shut his dang mouth sometimes.
Like I said. He means well. But he's also a straight dude just out of high school who's meeting people besides his family and teenage friend group for the first time in his life. Which means putting his foot so far in his mouth it ends up coming out his ass.
It's OK Seigi. When you suddenly realize you're bisexual it can be a confusing time. You'll get there my dude.
He sure will.
I don't care how much the show insists Seigi sees Richard as an "older brother" that is some SamFlam Justice Boyfriends energy if ever I've seen it.
I wouldn't even deign to call it subtext, because I don't think an episode has gone by without Seigi calling Richard beautiful. And it's also worth nothing that his not-gf is very cute and weirdly knowledgeable about mineralogy as well. I guess he has a type.
Some people really like goths. Some dudes love people with an extensive knowledge of earth sciences. Everyone's got something.
Granted, not all of his crushes work out, but he's got a pretty good batting average so far.
Honestly Seigi's awkward, morose reunion with his karate club senpai
is maybe the most effecting the show has been so far. Where other episodes are about him encountering new walks of life, episode 5 is all about seeing how the harsh and unpredictable passage of time can change people we thought we knew.
It's so rough, and you end up feeling bad for EVERYONE involved. From the lonely old woman in the retirement home to the guy desperate for any kind of break. Just a universally shitty situation that we'll never know the full resolution to. A slice of life but in the depressing sense.
And the resolution is just as sobering. For as much as Seigi wants to do the right thing in life, that drive can end up pushing people away even when he still cares about them. It's a harsh lesson that hurts no matter how many times you learn it, and the end of the episode managed to stick with me in a real way.
What do I gotta do to get an eloquent bishounen jeweler to reservedly yet compassionately hand ME tissues for my gross wet snotty face?
But yeah, as of five episodes, I'm really loving how laid-back, thoughtful, and down-to-earth Jeweler Richard has been. Good vibes and good sentiments all around.
I'm sure the subject matter will be a little too serious for folks who want a softer experience from their healing anime, but for me I've always enjoyed some bite in my iyashikei. JR appeals to the same part of my brain that likes commiserating to The Mountain Goats songs, and if that sounds like your bag I wholeheartedly recommend it.
And because I physiologically cannot allow myself to close out this column without resorting to this metaphor, however inexcusably twee it is in this situation—yes, I would in fact consider Jeweler Richard to be this season's hidden gem.