Monday, July 27, 2015

[Anime] Shigofumi Review

Shigofumi - 5/10

I have a hard time rating this series because I want to give it a fair review for what it did do, rather than what I wished it had done. Going into this series I was intrigued by the basic premise: that people can send one last letter after death. After all, when it comes to themes common to humanity, death is about as universal as it gets. Being able to bridge that, even only a small way, is a dream of the ages. However, what I ended up getting really fell short of my hopes.

The Good: The first few episodes were, in my opinion, the best of them. They had some good scenes wherein they demonstrated some of the potential of the premise, with either the vindictive or loving shigofumi (the letters sent by the dead). In particular, I thought the phrase "sentiments of the purist kind" was touching when the older sister's letter is delivered to the younger at the end of episode 2. The way they also set up the letters was absolute, since as Fumika mentioned "the dead cannot lie." It was a touch of kindness, but still as unarguable as the death it followed.

Something small that I also appreciated was the way the lesbian couple are handled. It's a pet peeve of mine that homosexual characters in anime are usually portrayed as so ridiculously uncontrolled and over-sexed (see Kuroko in To Aru). These two were right, if just because their whole personalities weren't dictated by this one character. They were intimate, but it wasn't voyeuristic. One teased the other a few times, but it wasn't constant or lewd. Overall it was clear they cared for each other, but they didn't interrupt every scene reminding us of it. It was just something I wanted to remark on because I feel it's usually done so poorly otherwise.

Finally I also liked Fumika's design, especially when she appears without her hat.

The Bad: This is where I start to struggle, because frankly I feel like "the bad" happens to make up the majority of the show after the middle point. I don't care about Fumika. She was a good character as long as she was as enigmatic and remote as death itself.  She was perfect for her job as a dispassionate intermediary. But after a while the series turns to focus on her as a character and her past. This destroyed the stolid credibility she'd formed in the earlier scenes when she's unmasked as a semi-unstable alter ego that is only cold because she's bitter, not because what she does is in service to the absolute. Add in her fellow deliverer Chiaki and the talking staff and you suddenly wonder who's running things... At least they had the decency to not put Fumika in a bathing suit when they went to the island.

Ultimately, it felt like the whole plot with the abusive/eccentric father and the fallout of a girl trying to put her life back together could have been a powerful, real drama in itself. But because it was merged with everything else that goes on, I couldn't feel the impact as strongly as it should have. So it was an unsuccessful fusion of a supernatural premise with a more mundane resolution.

Also, one thing that really raised my hackles was in the last episode the "original" Fumika mentions how she wants to stop revenge because she knows what revenge does to people.  I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. But then she goes on to explain that exposing the abuse by her father was revenge, and that she's getting her just rewards by being ostracized and bullied by her classmates. Wait. No. NO. For her to finally get that in the open, to clear that skeleton from her closet, was one of the most difficult and important things she needed to do just so she could move forward in her life. Branding it as part of a cycle of hatred, and causing her to deserve her later suffering...I found that supremely offensive.

So the series was headed for a 7-8 initially, but as it developed I felt it lost sight of what could have made it great and finished in mediocrity.

p.s. Is it just me, or does Fumika's friend Natsuka Kasai bear a striking resemblance to Toboe of Wolf's Rain? Not just the still appearance, but the way they moved seemed oddly similar. Drove me nuts.

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