New Year’s Eve, the day of the exhibition, finally arrives. When the doors open, no one comes, but gradualy people trickle in, and before long, the venue is packed with people soaking in the photography, baked goods, potporri, and storytelling. It’s a rousing success, as they recieve lots of glowing surveys from attendees: both friends, family, and the general public. Afterwards they celebrate a new year, and with her father’s camera, Potte continues to capture treasures that would otherwise get lost to time.
And so ends a very good, laid back slice of life series, ending in top form, just like it begun. This exhibition was not only the culmination of the group of friends’ artistic efforts, but also an excellent way to involve pretty much the whole town in the show’s finale. It ended with everyone doing what they love (at the moment), and actually being praised and acknowledged for it, which goes a long way towards shooing away those feelings of uneasiness and self-doubt.
There’s a point while Shihori is looking at Fu’s pictures when she tells her she may have figured something out about photography without even knowing it. Fu always admired Shihori for taking pictures that everyone can love, while Fu believed she was being selfish in her choice of subjects. But the goal of a photographer need not simply be to appeal to one’s audience, but to take capturing images that matter to you and having the feelings shine through in your work for all to see. After all, that’s what happened when Fu first saw her father’s images, and got her interested in following in his filmsteps.
As the girls start vigorously preparing for their big winter exhibition, Maon decides that instead of whistling or singing, she wants to do a recital, like one that moved her long ago. However, when the time comes to write something down, she has a lot of difficulty, which is compounded by the increasingly public buildup and expectation. With the support of her friends, she’s not only able to recite her story in front of a large audience at the Virgo theatre, but is able to recite the ending straight from her head. Her bold venture lends added courage to her friends in theirs.
As it’s been established that Maon is the group member with the most diverse and fleeting passions, we expected a degree of trepidation in her efforts to write a one-person play. But lo and behold, she follows through, by the seat of her pants and in the face of enormous anticipation – without any rehersal or even an ending in writing. Maon didn’t make it easy for herself – writing something can be far more emotionally and intellectually labor-intensive than, say, baking cookies, making tinctures, or snapping pictures.
Her story is simple, pleasant, and very much autobiographical. It wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t embarass herself up there like a presidential candidate, either. It was a nice touch for her to tell the story of how she literally found her voice thanks to friends like Norie, without whom she’d only dream of speaking to a full house in a theatre. Her friends are right there backstage cheering her on, and Fu is there to snap a tender moment when Maon is finished her story and basks victoriously in the bright lights and applause. Whatever Maon is, she’s no longer someone who never finishes things!
Kaoru tries to get everyone together on a Sunday for undisclosed reasons, but they all have plans, doing what they’ve chosen to do. Kao-tan begins to falter in what she wants to do, and doesn’t want to bother her friends with her half-hearted efforts, but Norie and the the others pick up on this. At her sister Soyomi’s behest they arrange a surprise party to cheer her up, and she declares her plans: to create an grand exhibition, including Potte’s photography, Norie’s sweets, Maon’s live whistling, and her own fragrances.
We never thought I’d hear the bawdy, animated Norie saying something like “It’s not good for this chaos to persist!” or for Kaoru to be led across town at bamboo vinegar-filled gunpoint, or for her friends to stage an intervention for her. But all this happens. This is a Kaorucentric episode. We’re with her as she gloomily frets about whether she’s doing the best she can. Norie later scolds her for worrying about meeting some kind of standard; what’s important is to do your best and have fun.
It’s a pretty common theme in anime for a girl to feel like she’s “no good” or even “the worst”, and while we can hear her thoughts, Kaoru’s outward behavior is really not all that different from her normal self. Still, Norie has known her far too long, and knows something is amiss almost immediately. She, along with Potte, Maon, and Soyomi, waste no time prodding her to let out whatever it is is on her mind, which turned out to be the proposal of an exhibition, which will combine everyone’s myriad talents into a unified whole. Funny, I’ve never taken her for an exhibitionist…
The first half of the episode is taken up by a typical night-in-the-life of Momoneko-sama, the resident fat fluffy pink cat Fu loves so much. His activities include saving a smaller girl cat from a bully, and driving away a boar from a garden. In the second half, we learn the result of the confession of the girl from the Road of Aspiration, Shimako. She was turned down, and is incredibly depressed. It falls to Riho, Hoboro, Fu, and the others to take care of her after a food bender and cheer her up.
We didn’t really need a cat-centric episode segment (especially a cat as badly-drawn as Momoneko; though there were better-drawn cats herein), but we got one anyway. I guess we can be grateful it didn’t take up a whole episode. We’re also grateful the second half not only involved actual humans, but a human with problems; namely, she was shot down. It was nice to have this half basically revolve around her, even though for much of it she’s unconscious. One thing’s for certain, this is a town full of nice, caring people who have no qualms about helping a girl in distress.
This week, Fu encounters someone else with pain, albeit not as deep as the pain from a lost loved one. Of course, in a way, Shimako did lose a friend. He always considered her a friend, but after her confession, she won’t go back, and deletes all his photos from her camera. Shimako’s friend Manami agrees to snap a picture of her, but not one of her wearing a false smile. Photos don’t just capture the surface expressions, but always reveal the truth of the emotions beneath them, as long as the right people are looking at them.
Fu learns that her fellow photographer, Shihomi Riho, has become fast friends with Hoboro and is staying with her for the time being. When Riho tells Fu she doesn’t photograph the sky anymore, Fu is worried Riho may quit photography altogether. Fu joins Riho and Chimo on a trip to Kure to visit Riho’s senpai Misano, an illustrator who now owns a cafe like Chimo. Misano often experiments with strange food combinations, because she likes the diversity, just as Fu likes taking pictures of everything she can. The lesson is to never limit oneself to one rigid dicipline or one dream.
What do Fu, Riho, Chimo and Misano all have in common? They all believe “Greed Is Good.” Through all the good times and great photos she’s taken, Fu has remained ever weary and unsure of exactly what she should be doing or aiming for. When she first interacts with all these older young women, she is visibly nervous and self-conscious, as if she feels guilty for subjecting them to her lowly presence. I wouldn’t call it low self-esteem or self-worth, but certainly a feeling of inadequacy and not meeting her full potential. In reality, none of that is the case, and as she even says to herself, she’s often simply overthinking things.
Fu wrongly assumed Riho only took photos of the sky, in the belief that when one becomes Serious about something, one concentrates on that one thing and hones it until one is better at it than anyone else. Photographing everything is self-indulgent and undisciplined, right? Wrong – Riho’s past gift to Fu of a train ticket with no destination says it all: that ticket is Fu’s future. No one can decide when and where it will occur – or what form it will take – but Fu. So she should keep trying anything and everything she can. The sky’s the limit. Diversity is good…as is greed.
The Road of Aspiration arrives; a town festival in which lanterns are lit, wishes and confessions made, and even tears shed. Potte doesn’t remember the last two times she went, but the last time was when her father was still alive. He promised they’d go again but he got too busy, and then passed away before the promise could be kept. While damning rain dominates the day, things clear up just in time, and Potte enjoys the festival with her friends and the rest of the town.
An event Potte hasn’t experienced since her father was still alive is an able test of her relationship with the grief she holds inside. Grief isn’t an enemy to be overcome, but a part of you. Even the birthday of a dearly departed friend or relation can cause a surge of emotions and memories. The festival is a good way both to take stock in one’s life thus far and organize and express one’s dreams for the future.
As far as festival episodes go, this was very laid-back and breezy, reflecting the tone of the series as a whole thus far. And while Potte definitely misses her dad on a day like this, she seems quite resolved to smile every time her loss comes up, and not cry. Reconnecting with her friends, living in beautiful moments and snapping them with film all help her maintain. Because the day after the festival, after the futures are wished for, the work begins to reach them.
The first half goes back to 1999 when Maon crosses paths with Fu, Norie and Kaoru for the first time. Maon is inspired by hearing someone whistle at the top of a hill overlooking the sea, and figures out how to do it herself. Ten years later, Maon’s company cheers up a recently-rejected Norie, and when Maon whistles at the sea, Norie can understand her, as if she could read her mind.
We were surprised to be treated to a character-centric episode where the character was someone other than Fu, namely, Maon. We learn that whistling isn’t just something she does to distinguish herself from the others; she’s so bad with words, that she seems to express her feelings best by whistling. Which is, of course, nice and whimsical!
There’s a great little moment when she first encounters a sober-for-once Norie (always good to see other sides of her) and while she’s thinking, she almost involuntarily starts rhythmically whistling. At this point she’s been whistling for a decade, ever since she first met Fu, who was visiting the town with her father, as well as Norie and Kaoru. Small world!
Fu’s old friend Chihiro comes to Takehara to visit her and meet her new circle of friends. She finds them all warm, friendly, and energetic as they tour the town and sample the food. She’s also glad that Fu is doing so well. Kaoru’s sister invites them to an hours-long hike all the way to and up Kurotaki Hill. Chihiro comes away with many new friends and happy memories.
Everyone has their little quirk: Potte is always snapping pics; Maon is always whistling; Norie is always yelling or jumping around; Kaoru is…actually pretty normal, but she has a weird older sister. Add Chihiro – the crybaby – to the mix, and you have a veritable motley crew of quirk. But damn it all if it isn’t a charming-as-all-hell crew. The whole episode was humming with positive vibes.
Chihiro has trouble making friends, and had every reason to worry that even Fu had possibly abandoned her for new, less skittish friends. But there was no such conflict or competition to be found here. Everybody’s happy! And honestly, with all that great food and stunning scenery, how could they not be? Other nice details: Chihiro making little stuffed guys for everyone, and Potte’s mother was once in a motorcycle club – rad.
Potte, Kaoru, Norie and Kou pay a visit to the island where Pottes grandfather lives, and stay at an in owned by Maon’s family. Watching her work hard at the inn and put her customers before herself, they all come to the conclusion her parents are grooming her for inhereting the inn. When they confront them about it, Maon assures them her work at the inn is just as important to her as her musical dreams. It’s also revealed that she has a tendency to change her dreams with great frequency.
This series is like a cool, breezy day by the seaside. It’s so happy and fluffy, and yet so sincere, we can’t help but be charmed. Norie can try our patience when it comes to her energy level and rivalry with Komachi, but this week she gets serious and speaks up when it looks like her friend’s parents are pushing a very timid and reserved Maon into a future of servitude. It turns out to not be that big of a deal; as Maon is wishy-washy. As for the parents, they’re just ecstatic she has actual friends.
Ever the photorecorder, no one is safe from the crosshairs of Potte’s Rollei. She has a wealth of material, as she’s surrounded herself with warm, loving people. The gorgeous quaint island village setting is like a tall glass of fuzzy sunshine. Also notable, Potte’s grief is all but gone from this episode. She sees her father in her grandfather’s face, but doesn’t fret. She watches Maon with her father and isn’t envious or wistful, but joyful.
At the Tamayura cafe, Potte & Co. are served delicious, gorgeous food, she is determined to capture it with her Rollei 35S. She isn’t satisfied with her first attempt, but opportunity knocks when Komachi a school friend of her little brother Kou, challenges Norie to a cooking contest to see who can make the best desert for him. As Komachi and Norie lovingly prepare hotcakes and peach jelly for Kou, Potte finds that photographing the process of making food is far more rewarding.
Norie is definitely the most annoying character of the core quartet, but her little rivalry with Kou’s would-be girlfriend is sweet nonetheless, and the series made sure to include Potte as the observer and recorder of their competition. There are some issues with this cafe: how does Potte’s tiny grandmother reach the register? How can Tamayura afford to give away so much food? Also, Maon and Kaoru are basically sidelined this week.
One must set aside such practical matters and just enjoy the happy vibes, which we did. We love food, and we love making food, and hell, we love watching other people making food; especially food we don’t know how to make, because then we learn. So any episode that spends time making food – and does it well, which this did – we’ll be happy. That’s all we ask of light, breezy slice-of-lifes like this: competence and positivity.
Back in her hometown, Potte instantly settles into a circle of friends, and reflects on what a good idea it was to move back. They help one of their teachers with the bamboo festival, then have a sleepover in which they bond further. The older sister of Potte’s friend Kaoru notes how Potte’s sadness about her father’s passing has changed to warmth, and she can see it in her growing collection of photos.
Taking photos is tricky. You can’t take too many all the time, or you’ll miss out on real life by constantly closing one eye and looking through a viewfinder. You have to find the right balance of living and recording said life. We think Potte has a good balance going so far. She’s not the kid everyone hates who is always snapping pics of you without asking. On the contrary, everybody loves the photos, and she’s quite good at taking them.
After the dual debuts of Un-Go and Guilty Crown, this was a slow, warm and cheerful respite, serving almost as a digestif for all that intensity. Sure, the passionate teacher is a little cliche’d, and so far Potte’s friends kind of too neatly fit into molds (childhood friend, check; loud energetic pigtailed Norie, check, tranquil, quiet, whistling Maon, check) but watching them simply existing in this comely town was most enjoyable, yes it was.
Junior high student Fuu has decided to make a big change in her life. She’s moving back to her birthplace of Takehara, to be near the Seto Inland Sea, attend a new high school, and make use of her late father’s camera she inherited. This episode is mostly a flashback of her life before moving, documenting how much her father and his pictures have meant to her, the build-up to her decision, and saying her goodbyes to her best friend Chihiro. Armed with a blessing from her mom and a published photographer friend of her father, he strikes out Takehara, where she goes by the nickname “Potte.”
Man, that was just a lovely, warm, calm, breezy episode of anime. The landscapes and twisting roads and stairs of the hilly town are exquisitely and imaginatively rendered. The palette is subtle, muted, but still lush, adding to the realism. But it doesn’t just look beautiful; all the people are beautiful as well. No excessive proprietary jargon; no factions, just real friggin’ life. And a girl starting fresh, like Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha…only without the yelling and no love interest. Sure, there’s crying, but it’s established that Chihiro is a crybaby…though when Fuu leaves, both of them have grown more “aggressive”.
Fuu/Potte is out to make her dearly departed dad proud; to carry on his tradition of capturing little scenes and moments often forgotten in the course of life. He taught her a lot, including how to work his very slick Rollei 35S mini-camera, and all that knowledge is still in her heart. The Camera is the tool to draw it all out, and replace her grief with happiness. She says if she can capture those warm happy moments just right, the “Children of Light” will come out. Sounds like a terrorist group, but we’re sure it’s not. Photography is used early and often to provide back-story and imagery from the past, and by episode’s end, we felt we’d learned a great deal about Fuu in a very short time. We want to learn more still.
The first season RABUJOI reviewed in full gear was Fall 2010. We perhaps chose too many series to watch; some would not pass muster this time. By the time our one-year anniversary rolls around, it looks like we’ll be in store for another sizable batch of series.
There are many promising series coming, none we’re looking more forward to than GONZO’s first anime since the pretty but ultimately ho-hum Shangri-La. This time, they appropriately went with a past strength in the Last Exile franchise. We urge anyone interested in awesome steampunk to take a gander at its 2004 predecessor, it’s one of our all-time favorites.
Other sequels of note: Bakuman, which we enjoyed thoroughly and couldn’t possibly pass up; and the restaurant slice-of-life Working!!. There’s also a new Gundam – and this one may mark some changes to the classic formula – we’ll see. We saw a six-minute preview of Mirai Nikki back in December – this fall we’ll see what it’s all about.
The only summer carryover will be the excellent Mawaru Penguindrum, which means other than that one series, our schedule will be wiped clean when October comes around. We still believe one or two series below will be sacrificed so that we may have time to sleep, eat, and socialize. To that end, titles marked with an *asterisk constitute our “maybe” pile.
Bakuman 2 – J.C. Staff – Autumn – NHK-E
Ben-To* – David Production – Autumn – TBA
C³ – CubexCursedxCurious* – SILVER LINK – Autumn – TBA
Chihayafuru* – Madhouse – October 4, Nihon TV
Guilty Crown – Production I.G. – October – Fuji TV/noitaminA
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – GONZO – October – TBA
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE* – Sunrise – October 9, MBS/TBS
Mirai Nikki – asread – Autumn – TBA
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle* – Sunrise – Autumn – NHK-E
Tamayura ~hitotose~ – Hal Film Maker – October – TBA
UN-GO – Bones – October – Fuji TV/noitaminA
WORKING’!! – A-1 – October – Yomiuri TV
Summer 2011 Carryover:
Mawaru Penguindrum – Brains Base – AT/X