Hatoko and Maho take the spotlight in Episodes 3 and 4
Welcome to the second (and final) article about Otona Joshi no Anime Time. The last two episodes of this OVA series ran at the beginning of the spring season, and were quite different in tone, both from the first two episodes and from each other. So let’s dive into Jinsei Best 10 and Dokoka Dewanai Koko.
Jinsei Best 10 (“Life’s 10 Best”)
When your two best experiences of your life are from Middle School, you start to wonder if your life is missing out. Especially if you’re approaching the 25 year reunion of your Middle School class. But when Hatoko goes over the best times of her life, that’s what she has as 1 and 2 (they tend to swap places): her first boyfriend and kiss, and seeing that first boyfriend with another girl after he she couldn’t get in touch with him for days. And with her reunion coming up 3 weeks before her 40th birthday, she’s not sure if she wants to go. But the name of that boyfriend, Kishida Yuusaka (voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi, the only anime-experienced seiyuu in the whole series) and one of the reunion organizers, tempts her, and she goes in hopes of rekindling an old romance.
Using a nicely saturated color palette, Jinsei Best 10 is not exactly bright and cheery, but sports a very lush and ‘grown up’ look, fitting for the adult settings it’s in: a bar for the reunion, and even a love hotel for Hatoko’s ‘reunion’ with Kushida-kun. The experience overall brings Hatoko back the closest she’s felt to that middle school girl full of ideas and promise, far different from her middle manager grown up self, working with ‘kids these days’ and feeling like something’s missing. This story actually has a really great twist, so I don’t want to spoil that, but like the other stories in the Otona Joshi series, it ends on a positive note, even if not much has changed in Hatoko’s life.
As with the other stories in this series, I like to see the different perspective that Jinsei Best 10 brings to anime. As an older single woman, Hatoko doesn’t really voice much in the way of regrets about things she’s done, and she’s not even that disappointed with how her life is. Does she wish some things were different? Sure, but who doesn’t, at any age? And while indulging in a little wistful reminiscing over some watered-down whiskey is probably not the thing you want to do all the time, every once in a while is fine. The reunion actually provides a good opportunity for her to mentally compare herself to the rest of her middle school classmates, all of whom present as happy folks (as does Hatoko herself), but talk about the things that are going on in their lives: raising kids, divorces, still being single, losing hair and getting out of shape. Not things to be really upset about, but life happens. The show does use a cute visual effect of a zipper letting the middle-school version of these former classmates out of their current looks, and it works well but isn’t overused.
Dokoka Dewanai Koko (“Anywhere But Here”)
The final story in the series is probably the biggest shift in mood of all the episodes. Maho’s life is probably the most ordinary, yet to me the story stands out as the most extraordinary of all the women in the show. Still married, with a son in college and a daughter in high school, her life is just not going the way anyone would want, yet so many do. Her daughter won’t come home, her son avoids staying home very long, and her husband, recently fired from his job which supported the family, has found another job quickly, but at a large pay cut. This has caused Maho to have to find a job herself, working the late shift at a supermarket. She watches the people in her family move through their own lives, seemingly without consideration for her concerns or even the others: her husband comes home, takes a bath, and puts on his pajamas as if the day’s over, barely thinking of their children. Her son won’t eat with them, her daughter Hina dislikes the family atmosphere so much that she won’t even come home. Maho’s mother, living in her own place, still demands visits and calls if she doesn’t come over.
The biggest thing in Maho’s life is being tired: Working late, getting up early to prepare breakfast and bento for her husband, doing housework, making dinner, and then starting over with working late leaves her no time for enough sleep. And it never ends. She never feels like she’s catching up, or if anyone else is bothering to wonder what she thinks about.
The title of the episode is meaningful in that everyone in the show is looking “Anywhere but here”. They want to be somewhere else, doing something else, not facing the reality of their lives, not wanting to do for themselves. The one person who is doing for herself, daughter Hina, does so by leaving home. Always feeling burdened by and a burden to her mother, she moves out to stay with someone she’s been getting advice from. With that shock, and with a close encounter with a smooth-moving younger co-worker who takes Maho to a love hotel before she decides she needs to stop him, Maho decides she’s going to live for herself, and not look “anywhere but here”.
I did find it a positive message for the show to end on, but this was definitely the most troubling episode of the four. It really pointed out how insular we can all become without really trying, only looking for the things we want to see, not seeing the troubles of the people around us. And I thought this was driven home by the ordinariness of Maho’s life, that there wasn’t some big event that happened, or explicit choice she made to get in her current situation. It’s just what ended up happening. It makes me wonder how much of my own life, and those around me, is spent not looking at where I am, where we are. And are there things I need to do to empower myself or help those I care for?
I have no trouble recommending the entire Otona Joshi no Anime Time series to anyone who likes well-told stories. Each episode does a good job telling an engaging story within its single episode, and gives a a good perspective on some of the different ways adult lives can go. The four stories in this series run the spectrum from humor to helplessness, but none of them are crushingly sad stories, and all end with what I thought was hope and possibility. While not a technical tour de force, nor featuring any big name seiyuu (besides Kamiyan), they’re still effective and enjoyable, and well worth watching.