Archive for the 'shigofumi ~stories of last letter~' Category

Shigofumi: “I hate you!” “Well, I hate you MORE!”

“No, I hate YOU more!”
“No, I hate YOU even more!”
“I hate you times infinity!”
“I hate you times infinity PLUS ONE!”

Repeat ad nauseum. Ah, childhood, those long-gone halcyon days…

The conclusion to Shigofumi operated much the same as the other Shigofumi delivery episodes, strangely enough, except this time the focus was Mikawa Fumika and the trauma of a media circus. The result of the trial is left somewhat open-ended, although I presume from the shot of Kirameki in a prison visiting room, that the jury found him quite guilty of child abuse. But what happens to Kirameki isn’t the main point, however; it’s the very tangible tension between Fumi and Mika.

Fumi (the original personality) probably didn’t think about the media storm that would come from her suing her father for child abuse, and, as such, was not prepared for the flurry of reporters swamping houses and the rumor mill grinding away at full capacity at school. It’s obvious mere minutes into the episode that she can’t stand all this attention on her, and it is not long that she progresses close to the breaking point. I would argue that she has it in her mind to punish herself (and not Mika) for the incident three years ago,  and the current aftermath. It’s probably a guilt complex grafted onto her via her father’s abuse–since even her beloved father despises her, the fault must therefore lie with her, and so she is to blame for everything. However, no matter how much she tries, she is ever cognizant of the fact that she is being watched at every turn, and this slowly begins to grate down her defenses.

Eventually, she, of course, cracks under the pressure, and tries to take her own life. Then Mika steps in, and that whole heated exchange takes place. Fumi wants to shoulder the blame by herself, and Mika thinks that she is the one who should be punished. It’s an interesting war between dual personalities who happen not to occupy the same body at the moment  And yet, despite the difference in ability to handle the pressures of living, the two of them realize, somewhat belatedly, that they really aren’t that different at all. Rather than being two competing personalities, they are instead two halves of a complete person–Fumi having created Mika to bear the pain. They both have different maturity levels, and Fumi has missed out on three years of maturing, yet, in the end, as they come to understand while telling the other what they wanted to do in life, they aren’t that different at all. Hence the cathartic breakdown in both of them, each telling the other that they hate them.

They don’t, of course, hate each other–that’s merely the spoken manifestation of their realization. It doesn’t matter who they are, whether or not they are together, or whether they have gone from two into one (they clearly don’t, according to the ED sequence)–it’s now solely about how they, having realized that they can’t necessarily depend on one another, must instead strike out on their own. That, I think, is the true lesson Fumi learns–she isn’t necessarily to blame for the events in her life, and neither is MIka. WIth that, she can finally find the strength to change.

Or so one presumes. I’d like to see a And Three Years Later… OVA episode where we find out what’s gone on since the conclusion of the series, but, alas, that will probably not happen. Unless one happens to be the sort who writes fanfiction…

Thoughts on the series as a whole: Having not seen Boogiepop Phantom or Kino’s Journey, I don’t know how this series stacks up against those two behemoths, but I can safely say that, as a series, it certainly stands out on its own merits apart from those two series. Which is the way it should be, as I’m sure, despite the similarities in comcept between the three, they each approach the concept with a different theme or idea in mind, and develop things in a different manner.

The series was certainly well-directed and well-written, if not consistently spectacularly so. I think the best episodes were, ironically, the ones that didn’t focus on the overall plot relating to Fumika at all (exceptions being the two Kirameki episodes, the one where he took center stage, and the one where we find out the horrors of his abuse), as those episodes were more devoted to telling an episodic story, and as such had tighter scripting and much more dramatic impact. That’s not to say the plot wasn’t interesting (multiple personalities always are interesting, anyway), but I felt that the series shined on these episodes in particular. I can honestly say I quite enjoyed watching the series, and hopefully, if you’re reading this, it means you either a) enjoyed it too or b) stuck with it to the bitter end, and I doubt (b) people will be much interested in reading an entry about the series anyway. Hopefully those in (a) liked it as much as I did.

Shigofumi: Two Become One (?)

It’s not every day that someone with dissociative identity disorder gets to to physically shoot their alternate self. Or do they?

The implication is certainly heavy in the Department of Shigofumi Fumika Being Quite, er, Dead (for real this time), but we don’t know for sure at the moment. The actual process of implication, however, interested me. When Fumi spies MIka at the top of the shrine staircase, she immediately runs up to hug her, seeking solace and comfort in her very presence. The series handled the dichotomous personalities as aptly as most filmed things do with split personalities (the different personalities talk to each other through the magic of camerawork dividing shots between the personalities) but this scene in particular stood out for me. As Fumi hugs Mika, the two are essentially one, and Fumi is dependent on the presence of Mika in order to be able to cope with the pain of Kirameki’s torturous mockery of love. But, then, of course, Mika tells Fumi the truth: she is the one who shot her father, not her.

At this point, and I believe those in film studies like to refer to this phenomenon as “symbolism”, Fumi breaks her embrace of Mika and takes a step or two backwards (see picture). It is here, of course, that Fumi realizes just how separate Mika is from her, and, upon invitation to, supposedly shoots Mika. At the end of the episode, we are treated to Fumika (the real deal) trooping down to the police station for a questioning on the truth of the shooting incident, whereupon she immediately requests that charges be brought against her father, ostensibly for child abuse, with the declaration that “This time, I’ll be the one to shoot.”

If Fumi really shot Mika back there, then it’s entirely possible that what’s happened isn’t the death of Mika, but rather a symbolic (there’s that word again) representation of the fusion of the two discrete personalities into a whole once again. This is, of course, the Holy Grail of all dissociative identity disorder patients who are cognizant that they suffer from multiple personalities. With Fumi acting much more firm, and unwilling to take any more of her situation, it almost seems to me that this is exactly what’s happened. Maybe not even fusing both personalities into a whole–the act of shooting Mika could also be interpreted as Fumi regaining personal control over her life, also demonstrated by her strictly-business attitude in the questioning.  Whichever it is, I”m sure we’ll find out the thrilling and exciting truth behind everything in the final episode!

Shigofumi: The Last Miracle Consented to Men

This was a good episode, and probably the most “uplifting” of all Shigofumi episodes to date. It’s uplifting in the Bokurano sense, though, in that watching it leaves this bittersweet feeling flooding through you, in the way that only stories about death can. We see, in this episode, the progression of Takehiko from graphic artist for a videogame, to depressed man dying of cancer, to even deeper depression as society and family treats him like dirt, to…well, we’ll get to it in a bit.

It’s a simple story of a dying man’s fleeting jaunt with a young girl (no, it’s not dirty, get that brain of yours out of the gutter)–a kind of dual perspective on the whole life thing. The bright-eyed, cheerful Fumika never seems to let anything get her down, whereas the simple act of watching Dragonman (which, by the way, sounds totally awesome and I request, nay, demand spinoff OVAs) brings Takehiko to the brink of depression, worsened by the police officer arresting him for kidnapping a child, despite the fact that this isn’t what he’s done, and despite Fumika’s protestations.

Takehito is, of course, dying, and as the day progresses he realizes more and more that what he felt as his goal in life–drawing to make people happy–has failed. He’s quit his job due to his terminal illness. He lashes out at his mother, who allegedly despises him for being an otaku, for little reason at all. Yet still Fumika seems to enjoy his presence, in her own oblivious way. Yet even still, as his life collapses around him, he thinks of ending it all.

And then Fumika pulls out the game she’s been playing all day. It just so happens to be the game Takehito was working on (coincidence? I think not) and, of course, the cheerful face of Fumika playing it finally, at the end of a practically harrowing day, finally finds a reason to live, and keep living.

And then dies. Such is Shigofumi.

Takehito was obviously searching for a deeper meaning in life (hence his quitting of his job, his somewhat odd statements to Fumika at the start of the episode) and yet, at the end of it all, found it was staring him in the face and smiling. With cat ears. It’s an incredibly simple episode, but it’s elegiac in nature and we all know how that makes me feel (deeply satisfied, that’s what). I think the simple, packaged, take-out moral here is that happiness doesn’t have to be something grand, a life’s masterpiece of epic proportions, but, rather, just simple pride that one person, however insignificant, has taken pleasure in something you’ve done.

It’s fitting, and somewhat sad, then, that Fumika switches off the Not-Game Boy Advance at the end of the episode. It could be read as a twisted way to end the story–she switches the game off, showing to the viewer that maybe the pleasure Takehito took in her obsession with it was merely fleeting–but I don’t quite think so. Rather than an acknowledgment that his final pleasure was meaningless, it’s more of a realization that he’d found what he was looking for: not pride in the game, but Fumika. After all, he gave his now-ruined life to save hers. It’s only fitting, then, that she should save his (well, metaphorically speaking), not only through the mechanism of playing the game, but also through her devotion to him throughout the entire episode. I think the drawing is indicative of his deep respect for her, which she may not quite fully grasp yet.

Maybe if she puts the cat ears on again, understanding will dawn…

Shigofumi: Mandatory Beach Episode with Stave Fanservice

I am now officially moe for Kanaka. Not only does she take baths, she surfs, too!

This episode was totally filler from start to finish, but I don’t mind–it was a hilarious and fun episode. That’s one of the strengths of Shigofumi, I think. It’s capable of being both deadly serious and riotously hilarious, and, occasionally, this occurs in the same episode. That’s a hallmark of skillful writing and direction, there. It’s one thing to have a series be serious, and directed/written well, or to have a series be comedic, and directed/written well. It’s something entirely different to be able to handle both par exellence, which is exactly what Shigofumi is doing. It’s not a groundbreaking series by any means, but it’s solidly done.

As a filler episode, this episode was primarily focused on the “comedy” aspect of Shigofumi. I found there to be several jokes done throughout the episode that were done well; my favorite from the episode has to be the interaction between Kaname and Matoma. It was  just so delightfully absurd that I had to giggle uncontrollably at their perfect foil to the wild antics of the four girls. While there’s a wild pillow fight going on in the next room, Kaname offers tea to a stave. Tea. How can a stave drink tea? I don’t know, but that’e exactly why Matoma’s affirmative response was hilarious. I was expecting him to point out the obvious, that he couldn’t drink tea (which would have been exactly what Alastor would have done, had this been Shakugan no Shana instead of Shigofumi) but, instead, he agrees. I don’t know if it was the fact that it subverted my expectations or what, but the three cuts to them in the room, alone, being stoic and manly and professional while the girls throw a huge party next door, were absolutely brilliant.

The series truly has everything you could want in an anime: cute girls, check; thought-provoking episodes, check; excellent comic relief, check; surfing staves, check. I’m finding it hard to believe that we’re only starting the year and already we have two strong contenders for best-of 2008 (Shigofumi and true tears). And next season looks nuts. Best year in anime history?

Shigofumi: Oh, What Fun! Now We Have Split Personalities!

I don’t really know why, but half of Shigofumi is sort-of fluffy and light, and the other half is deeply disturbing. Frequently in the same episode.

And that is, of course, why I like it so much. Episode 8 dealt with the emotional trauma inherent in child abuse. Split personalities are a very common reaction to parental abuse, as the abused has a desire to escape from the abuse and live a different, better life. This was illustrated, of course, through the magic of anime in episode 8. I think the episode also caught the trauma of the abused in a more general sense, i.e. the torment of being abused by someone you love. The pain is worsened here, since Fumika does not know other human beings other than her father, and therefore she thinks that this is perfectly normal behavior. It’s strangely reminiscent (and I really hesitate to bring this particular book up, as I haven’t read it and can’t figure out whether or not it is kosher) of Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called “It”. I don’t know that much about it, but it seems to be somewhat similar. In the case of Kirameki and Shigofumi, Kirameki is abusing Fumika due to lingering hatred for Kirei. He may be a brilliant author, and he may also be a apathetic psychopath, but at the same time he’s also very human and prone to the same fits of passion that overwhelm us all at times. He’s not an easy character to swallow or pigeonhole after this episode, but it is clear that he is the antagonist. Shades of grey, people. Shades of grey.

Of particular note in Shigofumi is the level of twistedness that Kirameki has, and the individual episodes themselves. The general level of over-the-top direction and scriptwriting creates the right sort of atmosphere to drive the points they try to make home. There’s something to be said for subtlety, and, on the other hand, there’s something to be said for getting the viewer emotionally tangled up with a character’s story and communicating via film their pain by using hyperbole. Shigofumi, of course, uses the latter method to great effect.

Looking the director and scriptwriter up on ANN, I see some quite interesting credits (this is the part of the post where I start having pretend film-nerd freakouts). Sato Tatsuo, the director, directed and was otherwise heavily involved with Stellvia, which is something I need to go back and watch again (doubly so now that I have this juicy tidbit of information). The scriptwriter, Okouchi Ichiro, was also involved in writing Stellvia, as well as Planetes and (brace yourselves here) is the original creator of Code Geass. Yes, that Code Geass. Now I understand why Shigofumi is so over-the-top. Taniguchi Goro’s influence must be spreading!

Kirameki: Misunderstood Genius, or Psychopathic Lunatic? YOU BE THE JUDGE.

Whatever he is, he makes me look like Chiaki here.

Shigofumi episode 8 was extremely clever in many ways. We look deeper into the personality of Kirameki, Fumika’s father, at the same time as we get Wacky Sister Hijinks. It’s a win-win situation no matter how you slice it.

Kirameki’s deranged ravings about beauty and truth and glass show him to be a master at stringing words together to form poetic novels of unspeakable beauty, so he’s undoubtedly a genius. However, we see, his waxing poetic has affected many people. Including one girl who decided to take her own life after reading about the beauty of death in one of his books. The girl in question may not have been the most stable of people to begin with (we know nothing of her background, and will continue to know nothing, so speculation is moot), but as wrenching as someone taking their life over words in a book is, what’s even more wrenching is Kirameki’s reaction to the shigofumi.

THAT’S RIGHT.

BURNING IT.

It’s a slightly twisted way to express one’s gratitude to an author for changing their personal belief on death, but Kirameki’s utter rejection of the letter as garbage is probably the more reprehensible act here. The proper emotion concerning a suicide over something you have written is probably quite difficult to put into words–it’d probably be somewhere between pride in your words to move someone so dramatically, if negatively; and utter shame that, well, someone committed suicide over a book you wrote. This is not Kirameki’s emotion whatsoever. He’s seemingly oblivious to the fact that the letter is from a dead person, and he fails to grasp the significance of the letter. Simply because it is not beautiful, he wishes to destroy it.

It’s illustrative of the fact that yes, one may have the potent gift to write beautifully with glass pens, and one can certainly be an unparalleled genius at authorship, but that doesn’t mean you actually get what it means to be human. I think in some regards this is why I’m mistrustful of writers who are advertised by copywriters and quotes on the cover as having “beautiful, lyrical writing” or some other nonense such as that: they’re certainly impressive writers, and it must have taken a long time to arrange each and every word into place so that the whole reads beautifully and poetically, but…it’s hollow. Or, at least, that’s how I feel. It’s certainly beautiful and poetic, and makes for great quotes, but ultimately these works have less power to evoke the emotion and thoughtfulness that they’re supposed to, at least for me. There’s something lacking in them, and in Kirameki: a kind of “naturalness”, a rough-around-the-edges feeling. Kirameki can certainly wax poetic with the best of them (the nigh-on hilarious quotes we get from his books prove this), but he lacks what it means to be human, and so, for all his bluster and lyricism, he’s nothing more than a common psychopath. Or so I think, anyway.

How NOT To Stop Bullying, Lesson One

Do not stab bully with a screwdriver. This is counterproductive.

I feel very, very unclean right now. I think I need to have a mini-Passover or something. I didn’t think Shigofumi would be able to top the second episode’s father-selling-daughters-for-sex-and-money revelation, or would even try to top it.

It did.

Episode 6 was horrifyingly uncomfortable to watch, and i was never really bullied that much in school. Maybe it was because I was never bullied in school that made it so uncomfortable to watch. The “bullying is bad” storyline has been made before, of course, countless times, but that’s unimportant as Shigofumi does a really good number showing the brutal effects of bullying, in part because the writers aren’t trying to shy away from the, well, brutal. From people giving horrible “sympathy” to the bullied, merely making their problem worse unto death, and then turning the tables on the somewhat hapless bystander, and then hapless bystander turning the tables AGAIN. It was quite a ride.

The clever mechanic of letting Morishita see inside the head of Kikugawa through the anonymity of the Internet was a clever device, as it lets the bullier (even if a relatively passive one) get a glimpse inside the mind of the buillied. Of course, then again, he feels the pain himself later on, and responds in a quite different manner than the passive Kikugawa. Everything about this episode screamed “quality” at me while I was watching it, although I was too busy feeling icky to quite properly notice. I wasn’t even planning to talk about it here, but, uh, well, you see how well that went.

true tears may be my favorite series of this season, but Shigofumi is getting a close second, just for this. I’m surprised winter season has been so good–normally, there’s not much to watch. Maybe I’ve changed, or maybe this is just an unusual winter season. Whatever it is, I think 2008 will be a wild year.

First, we put Fumika in a box. Then, we set a vial of poison in the box…

Then, we set the vial of poison to open if a certain sort of atom decays in the next hour. Is the Fumika alive or dead when you open the box? Can you even tell?

That seems to be the question posed in Shigofumi 5, wherein a deeper plot concerning the shadowy origins of Fumika are revealed, by the boy who had a crush on her (and she on him), no less. It’s fitting, therefore, that the series made a Schrodinger’s Cat reference in this episode, then, since we don’t actually know what’s going on with Fumika or why she is working for the Shigofumi Praesidium. Is she alive? Is she dead? The plot angle isn’t something I anticipated from the series at the beginning (or, well, I did, but in a different form than it is now). I’m assuming that the mysterious reason she’s doing this is to atone for her sin of killing her gradient-hair father (who doesn’t sound like he’s too hot of a guy from the small clip we see of him at the beginning).

Shigofumi seems to be adept at leavening more serious themes with comedy, which is a good thing. SERIOUS BUSINESS is all well and good, but sometimes you need a laugh, and the character designs are too attractive to waste on a serious show. I’d almost argue that the character designs and overall art style fit a series of this calibre: they’re just “serious” enough to not make the serious side laughable, and they’re soft enough to make the cute moments (such as Fumika terrified of cats) be appropriately cute. It’s a hard thing to explain, but the designs are attractive, and the overall art direction is quite well done. It’s not visually the same as true tears, but it doesn’t need to be. Plus, the Shigofumi uniforms are stylinh–it’s like postal worker uniforms, except anime. And awesome hats. More girls need awesome hats.

Shigofumi Does Yuri

So, yeah. Best episode of Shigofumi yet, on the mere basis that they tantalized us (me) with tasty yuri. They even had finger sucking, which just made me flip out hardcore.

On the less pandering side of things, Shigofumi is somewhat as I expected it to be, and somewhat not. The baseless prediction I made (reminder: the story would be told through a series of interrelated deaths leading to a chain of stories) isn’t actually there, although in episode 4 we find out that the entire series takes place in one city, which means that we’re going to get some overlap. I think the detective character has popped up more than once in the series. And it’s also a lot like Shinigami no Ballad (which, by the way, has its first light novel coming out in the States at the end of March, if Seven Seas keeps up with it; everyone’s going to buy it, right? Right?), except I think Shigofumi is less afraid of being twisted. Asuna basically being molested by her father via proxy was Bokurano levels of twisted, and, although the series hasn’t been quite that bad since that episode, it shows they’re not afraid to show the grittier side of human life.

Comparisons with Shinigami no Ballad are, of course, a good thing, and what Shigofumi lacks in soft, warmth it makes up for it with style. In spades. Fumika isn’t afraid to resort to violence to get her way (as Sen-chan’s father found out rather frighteningly) and, although no one’s actually been shot with the existence-destroying gun yet there’s this lingering ominous feeling that it’s going to be used at some point. The series is confidently and tightly written. The non-recurring characters are largely flat, which isn’t really that much of a problem–there’s only so much you can do with a character in the space of 24 minutes. What it does do well is give you a good snapshot of that character at that particular moment surrounding the receipt of a Shigofumi–conflicting emotions and all.

Also, something else I’ve just noticed: the delightfully bizarre Nanase Hikaru is doing music. You know, the one who did the excellent music for Zettai Shounen and whose real name is Itou Masumi, who composed the similarly bizarre Azumanga Daioh opening song. Yeah. Her. Need soundtrack now.

Shigofumi episode 1: BAD END

I didn’t even notice this scene until I skimmed for screencaps.

So, Shigofumi was seeming like an okay rehash of Shinigami no Ballad but after that ending, no, it’s something different. Can’t fault me for thinking that, though, since both Fumika and Momo have white hair.

The first episode was fairly well-done. There’s not much to say about the plot at the moment (we’ll get to that in a bit), but I rather liked the characters. In contrast with the Shinigami no Ballad comparison, Shigofumi has considerably more light humor to leaven the mood, at least in the first episode (and then it takes said leavened mood and stabs it with a knife–literally). Kino Fumika had a delightfully personalityless personality, and her talking staff Hermes Kanaka* has the sassy personality that magical staves needed to fill the void left by Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha’s Donna Burke-voiced Raising Heart.

On the plot, I’m going to make a huge leap of logic here, and make the 99% baseless assumption on the overall plot structure of the series in general based on two things: one, how the episode ended, and two, the title of the ending theme, Chain. It’s just a passing impression I got, and, again, this is mostly speculation, but somehow I think what’s going to happen is that each episode will tie into the last via the mechanism of the Shigofumi–i.e., end of episode, someone dies, the Shigofumi gets sent to a new person, and we end up with a chain (get it now?) of connected stories that end up far from where they began.

Or I could be completely wrong and they’re shooting for a more standard story arc format. But now that I’ve thought of this concept, I desperately need to see it at some point.

*FOOTNOTE: I bought the Kino no Tabi novel the other day, so I’ll finally be able to experience it! Then this joke won’t look like I’m being a poser!


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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