The stories of Noriko and Mimi start off Otona Joshi
So I’m sure someone’s asking “Highway, why are you reviewing Anime Time for Adult Women?” Well, because it’s an anime, and I’m an aniblogger, and at this point they’re asking again, and emphasizing the “you”. The answer is because it was an interesting show, with an interesting hook.
What is Otona Joshi no Anime Time? The concept of the show is that prize-winning short stories by female authors are turned into an anime episode. There’s no continuity between the episodes, 4 so far, so each one is a stand alone in story, characters, and even tone and animation style. The producers are The Answer Studio, but I’ve heard that Studio BONES is helping with the production. The first episode Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze (A Wind Skimming the River’s Surface) was two years ago, followed up this spring with three more episodes: Yuuge (Supper), Jinsei Best 10 (Life’s Best 10), and Dokoka Dewanai Koko (Anywhere but Here). For this post, I’ll be discussing the first two of those titles, and a later post will cover the second two. Also, there will be spoilers in these posts, because otherwise there’s not much to discuss, so if you’d like to watch spoiler free, do that first!
Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze
The scenery captures Kanazawa well.
“What good is a life that starts with an if?” I’m sure everyone wonders what their life would be like if they had made a different decision in the past. In this story, 33 year-old Noriko is returning to her hometown of Kanazawa with her four-year-old son Motoki after five years in America with her husband. The three of them have moved back to Tokyo, and she’s visiting to finally give her parents a chance to see their grandson. But all is not well in her life, with thoughts of divorce, and a different life that might have been.
Her sister’s life that Noriko desperately wanted to escape, and part of the life she ended up with.
The show gives us a good window into Noriko’s life and the choices that defined her. Watching her older sister turn from the girl she always admired into a married woman she wouldn’t give a second thought to on the street helps push Noriko away from this ordinary life that she’d likely find if she stayed, reinforcing her choice to move to Tokyo for University. The only part of her life we see from high school is Hisao, a boy her age apprenticed to her father in a Japanese sweet shop. Years later, after college, and just days before her wedding and relocation to America, she’s again in Kanazawa, and finds the sweet shop that Hisao has opened with funding from a backer. As her wedding approaches, Noriko goes to Hisao and asks to sleep with him, to which he agrees. And as she is leaving later, he implores her not to go, but she does.
And now, how much of Noriko is regretting the choices she’s made? Moving to America after the wedding, she discovers she’s pregnant, but she and her husband grow apart, not interested in each other. She develops bulimia, substituting the attention to her appetite for attention to her marriage. And she again goes to look up Hisao, taking Motoki with her, to see this other man who had captured a piece of her heart, if not all of it, not enough to overcome the fears she had about staying in Kanazawa, of losing her image of herself, a woman who has choices. After introducing Motoki, she finds that Hisao has a daughter who is just a year old, and is married to the daughter of his shop’s backer. Learning this, Noriko makes two more choices: When Hisao asks Motoki how old he is, instead of letting him answer “Four!” as he’s done throughout the show, she answers “three”. And as she leaves, Hisao asks if she’s happy. And even though we’ve just seen all the reasons she’s not happy, she says she is. One more choice, the one that closes the chapter on this man, leaving him to his life. She could have still hooked him, since noone ever says that Motoki looks like her husband. And he would have been sympathetic if she wasn’t happy. But this choice is the one made to move on, finally past the life that could have begun with an if.
Overall, Noriko’s story is entertaining, and while not exactly uplifting, it’s not a downer. The production is good as well, using rotoscoped scenery and traveling shots in taxis, the episode gives a good feel for Kanazawa using real scenery, including the Tokiwa Bridge over the Asano river. The music always fits the mood, aiding the rain (frequent in Kanazawa) in setting the background for this life of choices and regrets. But it doesn’t end with sadness, just in looking to the future, and more choices to make.
There is a little of a Harlequin Romance feel to Mimi and Kou’s story.
The first show from this year, Supper has a bit of a different feel. Seeing Mimi cook in her kitchen, talking about the man she is cooking for, about how it feels to her to provide the things that make his body strong, it gives a strong feeling of a woman deeply in love. There is a catch, tho: She’s married, and it’s not to Kou, the sanitation worker she’s living with and cooking for. Mimi has run away from her husband, a man she never really loved, a man who would never look directly at her – not even at their marriage interview – but he will not divorce her because it would look bad, and if she forces it, he’ll make her regret it. So instead, she’s just run away and moved in with Kou, who she became interested in when he would pick up the trash at her house. The opposite of her husband, Kou is attentive, exciting, appreciative.
A choice between her colorless life with her inattentive husband, or the thrill of waiting to talk to the garbageman.
A theme here is again choices, and this time it’s that Mimi is putting herself in a position to make choices. Before, choices were all made for her, and she was always scolded: by her parents, her younger sister, her husband, her husband’s parents. And the first time she ever talked to Kou, she was scolded, as she put herself in a dangerous position in the trash truck, and he saved her. But that encounter was what caused her to want something different, so she’d fake that she was late with the trash just to see him, and finally she asks him his name, the first time she’s ever done asked a man his name.
Would anyone tell her if something happened?
This story is quite a bit sweeter than the rest of the series, but it does have a few dark moments. The looks in on Mimi’s former life, all in gray. And the night that Mimi was scared because Kou was late, and unreachable by cell phone. The show does a good job here building up the tension, the fear that a woman who really has no status would have. Does anyone know that she lives with Kou? Why would they? Would he really tell people he’s living with a married woman, with someone else’s wife? When he finally comes home, it takes him a while to understand why she’s so upset, but he finally gets it, and asks her to make it official, finally. But she still has to work things out with her husband. Thankfully that gets dealt with before the end of the episode, as he relays through Mimi’s sister that while he’d never take her back after what she’s done, if she comes back to put an end to their marriage, “I would gladly let him have you.”
I really enjoyed this episode, both for the hopefulness and happiness that Mimi shows, having found a person that she loves and who loves her, and for the interesting visual look. It mixes 3D and 2D imagery in the same frame, so a drawn Mimi is cooking in a filmed real kitchen, a drawn can is set down on a real counter. Other times, the entire frame is 2D, with drawings replacing the scenery. Another thing that I appreciated was the glimpse into the life of these two fairly normal people, interested in food, talking, sex, sleep.
Otona Joshi no Anime Time isn’t going to be a show for everyone. They are very definitely targeted, just like it says on the tin, at adult women. And yeah, I’m a guy, but I really did enjoy seeing the perspectives that these two shows showed, seeing the way these adults’ stories were told. The shows are not exciting, and I wouldn’t say they’re ‘healing’, because they do have some moments of conflict, and they show just a realistic depiction of some people’s lives. But what they do have is a different feel, and are a very enjoyable way to spend some time. Rest assured, this isn’t the Lifetime Movies for Women show, no ginned up melodrama or stolen children. Just people trying to move through the events of their lives. And sometimes it’s really nice to see that there are other people just moving through their own lives, and take some comfort in the fact that everyone does it.