Dagashi Kashi – 08

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Well, that was certainly the strangest start to a Dagashi Kashi yet … I thought for a moment I was tuned into the wrong show! But I liked the reveal of Tou telling a ghost story during a stormy night at Kokonotsu’s place, which only his sister is scared of. Knowing Tou, if he can freak out his sister Saya, that’s at least something, even if Koko and Hotaru don’t react.

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Around the time I was wondering what candy, if any, was the focus of this segment, Tou whips out the “Ghost Story Gum.” Hotaru has collected and read all 144 stories, which explains why she’s not scared by any of them.

As for Koko, he gets hung up on the narrative inconsistencies, for which Hotaru has an answer: the people who write the stories are corporate slaves! If there’s a meta-commentary on anime here, it’s too subtle.

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From there, we transition to a Tou who is simply unreasonably into cup-and-balls, after watching a YouTube video of people popping off tricks with the thing. He desperately wants to be cool and popular, and thinks— quite absurdly—that an $11 child’s toy is the answer. Say what?

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Tou is immediately hostile and dismissive when Saya shows up (wanting to hang out with Koko, not him), but as usual Master Saya shows the boys up with some sick cup-and-ball action that puts the YouTubers to shame, then soaking up Koko’s praise with glee.

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Embarrassed by his lack of cup-and-ball progress, Tou runs off to the shore, where Koko follows him. Tou then whips out “Pop-a-Fortune”, a button candy with packaging that tells your fortune. The boys go from health to homework to seeing a girls’ panties, with mixed results.

‘Mixed’ pretty much sums up this episode…along with ‘sparse’. The art is great as usual, and there are a few sporadic chuckles to be had courtesy of Tou’s absurdity, but all in all it’s a quiet, inconsequential week.

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Dagashi Kashi – 07

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This week DK does a festival episode, only in this case, Kokonotsu and You are there bright and early before any customers arrive. Koko’s confusion as to why his dad is setting up a monjayaki pancake griddle for a candy stall is quickly cleared up by Hotaru, perched high in a nearby tree (a tidy reference to the Alice in Wonderland-themed ED).

We also get to see an annual tradition that’s very familiar to Koko: the okonomiyaki seller Tamai squaring off with his dad over selling pancakes. When You subtly threatens that she’d lose all the snacks people love using as toppings for her product, she quickly backs down, and the two make up. It’s all there, from anger to tears, and there’s comfort in knowing it will probably go exactly the same way next year.

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Turns out it’s Hotaru’s first ever festival, but with only 200 yen on her person, she has to find a way to procure more cash. Fortunately, she’s practiced precision candy die cutting for fun, and when she spots a stall, she immediately picks out the shape that will net her the biggest cash payout.

Kokonotsu and Tou are skeptical: even if Hotaru manages to do a good job, the die cutting stall guys are notoriously nitpicky and cheap. But to their surprise and mine, she’s actually really good at something (for once!), and earns the full 5000 yen (nearly $44). Furthermore, she Koko notices she looks really cute when she’s concentrating.

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Speaking of cute, in the second half of the episode Saya finally makes her appearance at the festival, resplendent in a yukata she spent a long time getting into. She wants to hang out with Koko, but Koko’s working his dad’s stall, and doesn’t realize how much she wants to be alone for him, so it’s up to his dad to notice Saya’s cues and send Koko off with her.

Koko does at least compliment Saya’s yukata – though only after she compliments his clothes. How it happened doesn’t matter; Saya is over the moon by being told she looks good, making the trouble of putting on the yukata totally worth it.

With that milestone achieved, the two simply have fun visiting the stalls, chowing down and playing games. It’s as near as makes no difference a date, even if again, Koko doesn’t realize the significance of spending time with Saya and only Saya.

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When Koko spots the goldfish scooping station, Koko does happen to notice a moment of hesitation in Saya, but she bids him proceed with scooping. Saya is remembering another time when Koko obsessed over the goldfish, all too confident he knew exactly how to scoop one, but ending up spending all his money with no result. The vender took pity on lil’ Koko and gave him a consolation fish, which he promptly gave to lil’ Saya.

So it happens this time. Just as Saya is done fondly reminiscing, Koko is broke again, and has a new consolation fish for her. The first fish he gave her is the giant one still floating (in a bowl way too small for it) in her family’s cafe. Regardless of whether he remembers, Koko again demonstrates his generosity and almost reflexive tendency to make Saya smile every chance he gets, which is enough for now.

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Dagashi Kashi – 06

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I kinda needed a week away from Dagashi Kashi, so last week’s hiatus was well-timed, allowing me to build back up a hankering for some fresh candy-cation. This week’s loose theme was “playing with your food”; specifically candies that you’re meant to play with before you consume them.

Hotaru brings the others to a shrine where she does a dance to the god of candy with a super-long gummi string, then breaking out a “Maken gummie” which comes in the form of a hand making one of the three rock-paper-scissors gestures. Tou learns another use for it is flipping a girl’s skirt, enabling Kokonotsu an unsolicited look under Saya’s, much to both their embarrasment. Saya promptly posterizes her brother.

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Hotaru tries to use the gummie string in a surprise competition that will determine if Koko inherits his dad’s store, but it fails, like most of her attempts to get him to commit to doing so. However, Koko inadvertently proves he was born to own a candy shop when she accidentally loses her grip on her gummie “nunchaku”, and without thinking he leaps into the air to catch the errant candy in hismouth before it touches the ground.

When Hotaru breaks out the ohajiki, Saya is naturally good at it without knowing the rules. Hotaru has noticed Saya is good at a lot of things she sucks at, and starts to think Saya would be a perfect fit working at Koko’s candy shop. She suggests as much to Saya, unaware of how much Saya likes Koko, and while Saya doesn’t give an answer, the thought of being that little bit closer to Koko lingers in her mind.

That takes us to the episode’s strongest and most heartwarming segment, a flashback to when Saya and Koko were still in elementary school, and she’d come by all the time to play.

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Back then, Koko was as enthusiastic about candy as Hotaru is in the present, and acts as a spokesman for combination candy and “nutritional good” Yoguret, a melt-in-your-mouth dairy candy that comes in blister packs like medicine, making it perfect for if, say, they were to play Doctor.

That was only an example, but Saya, who liked Koko as much back then as she does in the present, runs with it. But Koko makes her the doctor, and when she insists they switch, he always manages to get out of “examining” (read: touching) her by prescribing her the Yogurets as medicine. While comforting him when they’re all gone, the two stumble to the floor, holding hands and lying quite close.

It’s perhaps the first time in their lives they were quite that close to each other, and noticed each other as girl and boy. Cut to the present day Saya, all grown up, wondering why that particular memory suddenly surfaced, but sure that Koko probably forgot about it.

When she arrives at Koko’s shop, Hotaru announces the featured candy of the day is – yup – Yogurets. Both Saya and Koko instantly blush, and Saya retreats, but she’s clearly happy Koko remembered after all. Such is the power of candy. 

This episode clinched for me what I’d always suspected: Saya is the true star of this show, and the reason I’m still tuning in. Hotaru has her moments, but she’s a mostly static, cavorting jester, while Saya is a warm, vulnerable human being with whom we can empathize.

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Dagashi Kashi – 05

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“Don’t get high on your own supply.” It’s a useful saying for both drug and candy dealers, apparently, because You started doing so with his bottle ramune, and has ended up consistently eating all his inventory, causing Kokonotsu to assume they don’t have it in stock.

Hotaru and You using peer pressure on Koko was pretty funny, along with the way the two kinda feed off each other’s chaotic energy, even leaving the store together in the middle of the night, promising to come back “clean.”

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This is one of the rare cases where I’ve had a candy vaguely similar to one in the show: those little wax soda bottles that contain sugary liquid you bite the tops (or bottoms) off. I don’t remember them being that addictive, however.

Anyway, all mention of You’s addiction disappears in the next bit, which starts later that night, as Koko walks in on You recording a truly terrible dagashi review of Baby-Star Ramen, a “by-product” dagashi born from the desire not to waste anything.

Koko gives a far more impassioned presentaion, unaware You is recording him in a video that gets a lot more hits than he ever did, as well as impressing Saya (who only has one brief appearance this week).

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Next up, Yatta! Men, another ramen-based snack that comes in little tiny cups with peel-off lids. When Koko and Tou lament their lack of spending money, Hotaru suggests they attempt to win said funds by trying their luck at Yatta! Men.

It’s here where we discover that, like Aqua in KonoSuba, Hotaru has dreadful luck, and seems incapable of selecting a winning cup, even as she collects enough ramen for Tou to make a bowl and slurp it up. No doubt some of that ramen contains Hotaru’s tears of defeat and frustration.

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Finally, Hotaru tries to rally back with more gambling; not a great strategy considering her luck thus far. She chooses a candy called “Watch Out for the Sour Grape!”. She entered into the game believing she could tell which of the three candies in each package was the super sour one from the sunglasses of one grape on the packaging (which Tou’s sunglasses reminded her of).

However, she’s thinking of the old packaging; there’s no such “hints” on he new design, and even if it was the old design, it was just a rumor and not true. In any case, Hotaru loses again, and is unable to mask her sour-face.

And there you have it: another serviceable tour of Japanese confectionery stocked with, shall we say, sporadic laughs. But five episodes in, despite the diversity of the candy and resultant hijinx, Hotaru and You’s shtick is beginning to lose its luster.

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Dagashi Kashi – 04

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Rather than explore a combination of various confections, Dagashi Kashi focuses on only two this week; and one at a time. First is fugashi, the brown sugar-coated wheat gluten snack for which there are countless varieties. Hotaru decides she and Kokonotsu will do a blind taste test.

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What with the blindfolds and the bound hands and the stuffing of cylindrical things down each others’ gullets, the exercise definitely has a suggestive, kinky quality to is, as Kokonotsu points out in his thoughts early on, but that’s tempered by the fact Hotaru is so darned innocent and oblivious and purely interested in the candy and the competition.

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The second part is dedicated solely to Glico, a little box containing caramels that will each provide enough energy to run 300 meters. When Kokonotsu leaves his sketchbook at Saya and Tou’s cafe (containing an incriminating sketch of Saya that Tou edited to point out her slight chest) Hotaru suggests they use the caramels to fuel the 1,500m run to retrieve the book.

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Nothing kinky about this segment, but like the fugashi competition, the proceedings grow very dramatic as they progress, with Hotaru and Koko performing great feats of athleticism while crunching the nitty-gritty numbers. However, they eventually tire, and Koko remembers Glicos only come four to a box, leaving him one short of the cafe.

Hotaru gives him her last one and demands he leave her behind to accomplish his goal. He reaches the cafe, but unfortunately, it’s too late; Saya sees the sketch, and no amount of explanation will quell her rage.

Poor Coconuts…never any luck! Were it not for Tou’s “adjustments”, Saya would have likely been moved by the portrait. Then again, a gorgeous rich girl constantly wants to hang out and do stuff with him, so maybe he’s not so unlucky after all…

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Dagashi Kashi – 03

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On a hot day, as kids we’d usually go for a soda (or pop, depending on what state we were in), snowballs, soft serve, or frozen yogurt. It never occurred to me how great it can be to eat hot things when it’s hot out. Hotaru demonstrates this, I think, by firing up a stove to the shop and cooking up some tonkatsu Butamen; kind of a a mini ramen cup.

Tou, who’s back after a week off, put together what was going down and invited himself, knowing that in return for the intense heat, he and Kokonotsu would get to watch a cute girl eating noodles, not to mention getting so hot her dress gets see through. Naturally, Hotaru is totally oblivious to all of that.

Her only concerns are candy, snacks, and acquiring You for her father’s company. And that’s the other side of it: she doesn’t realize the power she has over Kokonotsu, courtesy of her looks and close casual manner with him. As far as she knows, the battle will be won with her convincing arguments for the primacy of candy.

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So rather than seduce him, which just isn’t in her character, Hotaru continues cockamamie plans, one of which involves You pretending to be a lifeguard to make extra bucks on the side, since the shop doesnt’ do. She’s unaware of her ability to seduce, so instead she tries to guilt trip.

She and You (also back after one week off) are awfully proud of their plan and are regarding one another in a better light all the time, but snagging him all comes down to her ability to convince Koko to take over the shop. Alas, an attempt to show the wonder of candy through strategic placement of kurukurubu jelly sticks in the pool backfires when Koko, Tou, and Saya see the “no food or drink” sign.

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The last segment is somewhat strange, in that Hotaru’s interaction with Kokonotsu is minimal. Like Hotaru with You in the previous segment, this looks like an effort to explore each two-person combination in the lean five-person cast. Hotaru curbs her suspicion that Tou is a pathetic confectionary tourist and shows him the proper way to deliver a Botan Rice Candy (with its edible wrapper) to one’s mouth: the same way one delivers a fastball to the plate.

Finally, after Koko shoos her off while the shop’s A/C is fixed (which seemed kinda mean; though Hotaru was somewhat in the way), Hotaru interacts one-on-one with Saya a little more. Just as Hotaru thought Tou might be testing her (though he wasn’t; he’s just an idiot), Saya sees Hotaru’s desire for “girl talk” that starts with a quesiton about Koko has her thinking Hotaru is testing her.

She is, but it has nothing to do with Saya’s crush, only the fact she’s never seen her with candy, something Hotaru cannot stand by and allow. She gives her some “Neon Seven”, a very cryptic kind of candy that Saya initially picks at wrong (both of their close-up expressions are hilariously rendered) but eventually learns to eat properly.

Saya is amazed and entertained by Hotaru’s wealth of knowledge (as anyone would be), and the two end up talking so long Hotaru never goes back to Koko’s…which kinda serves him right for shooing her off!

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Dagashi Kashi – 02

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Dagashi Kashi continues to be Shidare Hotaru’s (and Taketatsu Ayana’s) world; everyone else is just living in it. Kokonotsu lives in a goldmine of candy classics, Hotaru has more passion for them in one of her brightly-painted nails than Koko’s whole body. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm gap here, but the hope is Hotaru will eventually wear Koko down into accepting succession of his father’s store (though who knows if it’ll happen).

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Until then, Koko can hardly complain about being bored with Hotaru around; there’s literally never a dull moment with her around, getting into a big lecture about the proper way to eat Kinako sticks, then breaking out tablets of non-alc Namaiki Beer she somehow proceeds to get piss drunk on (and Hotaru is possibly even more entertaining in this state).

In both cases, Hotaru, despite being so well put together fashion-wise, doesn’t seem to know some of her mannerisms and phrasing can be inadvertantly titillating for Koko. There’s this subtext of Hotaru growing up so fast into the candy and snacks savant she is now (she could probably run her dad’s company today), she never had either the time or the inclination for romance. And yet, she’s by any measure extremely happy and fulfilled.

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On the other hand, Koko, and Saya for that matter, are still very much kids at heart. Koko doesn’t want to give up on his manga dream and gets embarrased when Hotaru does or says certain things, while Saya likes Koko, but Koko is of course oblivious. I do appreciate that while there is a clear love triangle here, Saya’s the only one remotely aware of it, and in any case the show doesn’t push too far on the romance or triangle angle.

Instead, what would have been another quiet, hot, boring small town day for Koko and Saya becomes…something else entirely, thanks to Hotaru happening to pass by showing off her Ramune Whistling skils, then going on to recite the entire history of the whistle, telling it like some kind of school drama, and casting both Koko and his father in unsubtle attempt to try to convince Koko that following his father is the best path for him.

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To his credit, Koko stands his ground. Convincing him isn’t going to be easy, if it’s even possible, but if anyone can do it, Hotaru can. She even gets Saya’s blessing, since if Koko doesn’t take over the store, it might mean he’s leaving town; leaving her behind.

So now both Hotaru and Saya share a desire to keep Hotaru right there, in the Shikada Candy Shop that is his destiny. The episode closes out with some menko, a card-flipping game Saya turns out to be really good at despite having never played, to both Hotaru and Koko’s dismay.

The trio just seems to be having a ton of fun, and I’m having a ton of fun watching them. I didn’t really miss You or Saya’s bro Tou, though that’s not to say I’d mind if they show up next week. In fact, I like that the show can keep characters in its back pocket and still run the table.

The only character who must be in every episode is Hotaru; she’s the linchpin of this whole nutty operation.

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Dagashi Kashi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Simply put, Dagashi Kashi is a taut, crafty, stylish laugh-riot. It is life from lifelessness. I had an absolute gas watching it, and it never failed to surprise me with a goofy facial expression here or a momentary trip to a different genre there. And the premise should prove to be a veritable goldmine of comedic and romantic material.

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The cast is lean, but makes every shot count: Shikada Kokonotsu (“Coconuts” to his friends-I’ll call him Koko) is the son of an animated small-town candy shop owner, Shikada You (a hilarious Fujiwara Kenji), who really wants him to succeed him as “ninth generation head”, but he’s currently in his mangaka stage.

Enter Shidare Hotaru of the famous Shidare candy company, who is looking for You but encounters Koko instead and immediately sets to work testing his confectionery instincts with umaibo.

The classic gothic lolita garb-donning young woman proves extremely eccentric, and well, very animated. Not just a pretty face with concentric irises, she’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and country boy Koko is super ultra intrigued. Taketatsu Ayana really sinks her teeth into the role with relish.

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In fact, once You returns, Koko gets swept up in the combined madness of his dad and Hotaru, who formally relays her father’s desire for You to come work for his company. You flatly refuses, but when Hotaru hears of You’s desire for Koko to inherit shop, she makes a counter-proposal on the spot: if she can convince Koko to take over the shop, his dad will take the job.

She may be mad as a hatter, but she knows what she’s doing when it comes to business and snacks. I myself know the joy of extravagantly shoving too many hot fries down my gullet. One of life’s little thrills!

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You wastes no time mistaking Hotaru for Koko’s girlfriend, which Koko vehemently denies (while blushing, natch) but Hotaru doesn’t dismiss the idea. She doesn’t say anything about it, actually. That segues nicely to Koko’s present love interest in the town, Endou Saya, whose brother Tou is Koko’s best mate (Saya is ably voiced by Numakura Manami)

Koko is oblivious to Saya’s feelings, but never fails to compliment her coffee as the only coffee he ever drinks. When a possible rival in love is brought up, she shows off her fiery temper, but even dropping dozens of sugar cubes in Koko’s coffee doesn’t faze him.

When Saya comes face-to-face with her competition, it’s quite by accident—as in Hotaru had an accident on her bike while too closely inspecting the message on her popsicle stick, and fell into a muddy rice paddock.

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Saya gets Hotaru in the shower, but when Tou walks in on Hotaru and sees her nakked, Hotaru doesn’t even flinch, introducing herself and apologizing for putting Tou out. Later while enjoying some free coffee (which Hotaru agrees is wonderful), she breaks out some “Young Donuts” out of seemingly nowhere. No matter what, Hotaru seems to be equipped with the right snacks for the right job.

There, Hotaru regails Saya about her mission and the “contract”she’s ended up in, which should keep her in town for the foreseeable future. Of course, she’s so flowery and dramatic and vague, it’s as if she’s telling some kind of fantasy epic. Which is kinda is, to her. Her victory is dependent on convincing “the one who would succeed the legend.” This should be a sweet ride.

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