Kotoyama, the author of Japanese snack-themed manga Dagashi Kashihas a new manga: Yofukashi no Uta(“Song of Staying Up Late”), named after a song by the band Creepy Nuts. Eschewing a specific focus on a product or gimmick this time, Yofukashi no Uta maintains a similarly entertaining and humorous format of back-and-forth banter, a mysterious girl who seems out of this world, and a boy who feels stuck in place.
Yamori Kou has been having trouble sleeping lately, as if he’s missing something. His malaise causes him to inadvertently push friends away, and he wanders around at night aimlessly. He meets a girl, Nanakusa Nazuna, who seems to enjoy the evening hours with a cheerful and gregarious attitude, but who turns out to be a vampire. Nazuna gets a taste of Kou’s blood, which turns out to be unusually delicious, and after some conversation, Kou decides he wants to be a vampire himself. However, in order to be turned, he must fall in love with her.
The basic dynamic between Kou and Nazuna is that Kou is okay talking about romance but gets easily embarrassed when discussing raunchier topics, whereas Nazuna is the opposite. Their contrast is fairly similar Kokonotsu’s and Hotaru’s from Dagashi Kashi, but without the focal point provided by candy as a consistent topic. I admit that I do miss the dagashi talk, but I also understand that that can’t just retread old ground. And the way Kotoyama writes character interactions is still charming, so it’s in good hands.
One big difference between Yofukashi no Uta and Dagashi Kashi is chapter length. Whereas the latter tended to be only about eight pages or so, the former is more standard shounen manga size. It gives the manga more room to breathe, and I’m curious to see how Kotoyama does over time with more space.
I’m going to try and keep up with the series however I can. With Volume 1 on sale in Japan November 18 (along with a Dagashi Kashi collection of artwork), it’ll be a great opportunity.
Adapting comics into animation involves taking images which, at most, hint at or represent motion, and filling in more of the gaps that or imagination would have otherwise. While how faithfully an animated work tries to adhere to its comic can vary, I’ve noticed that even those that try to follow the source material can at times “over-animate,” providing what is perhaps too much flair and thus changing the overall fee of a given title.
Over-animating isn’t an established terms by any means, but they’re convenient for my purpose. The way I’m defining it is the degree to which added material not found in the original can make a given scene feel noticeably different. This is often done by taking the source material and then exaggerating what’s there, either through the sense of motion or by adding additional elements. Think of it as the opposite of those times when a show fails to capture the splendor of a good fight scene from a manga—when it comes to over-animating, the spectacle can potentially wind up either being a distraction or changing how we even think of particular characters or moments.
Three examples come to mind in this respect: Mysterious GIrlfriend X, Dagashi Kashi, and Laid-Back Camp.
Mysterious Girlfriend X, about a boyfriend and girlfriend who literally swap spit. Whereas the manga portrays saliva as a simple white, the anime drool glistens and drips like honey, giving it an extra dimension that makes it feel less ethereal compared to the original. When I read the manga, the saliva seems like a means to an end. In contrast, the anime seems hyper-focused on that particular fetish.Dagashi Kashiis similar. While both comic and cartoon feature attractive female characters and a degree of titillation, the first season takes it one step further every time. Suggestive moments like eating tube-shaped snacks called fugashi while blindfolded are exaggerated by the addition of a massive, super-sized version. A flashback featuring kids playing doctor as a way for the character Saya to get closer to the boy she likes has an accidental chest-touching scene thrown in. The manga is fairly racy, but the anime is hyper-horny.
Unlike the other two, my use of Laid-Back Camp (aka Yurucamp) has nothing to do with perversion. Instead, it has to do with how the character Nadeshiko is made to be extra ditzy compared to the manga. At one point, Nadeshiko notices her new friend Rin, only to run into a window like a bird not knowing how glass works. This isn’t especially different from how Nadeshiko is portrayed in the manga, but it’s almost not quite the same either. She’s not especially bright and she’s ruled to a large degree by her instincts, but Nadeshiko is never quite so dumb as to literally run into glass.
While I have my own preferences, it’s not as if I’m saying that sticking faithfully to the manga should be the way to go all the time. The drool of Mysterious Girlfriend X might resonates more with fans if it’s thick and viscuous. The girls of Dagashi Kashi might make a greater impact when the suggestiveness is turned up a couple (dozen) notches. And perhaps Nadeshiko being a little dimmer makes her a more endearing and humorous character. Even so, I want to emphasize how these changes can transform how we view a title and its characters, despite having so many similarities between versions. It’s the little things that can make all the difference.
Two years after I declared Shidare Hotaru the best female anime character of 2016, I’ve finally read all 11 volumes of her manga, DagashiKashi. Now, it’s time for a full review of this eccentric and wonderful series about Japanese snack nostalgia and the thirstiness of youth
Shikada Kokonotsu is a small-town high school boy who dreams of drawing manga professionally, but his dad wants him to take over the family business—a shop that sells dagashi, a category of Japanese snacks that are made to be cheap so that kids can afford them with their small allowances. One day, the vivacious heiress to the Shidare snack company, Shidare Hotaru, arrives at their store with a mission: to recruit Kononotsu’s dad to her family’s company. However, in order to do that, Kokonotsu needs to take over their shop. Thus, Hotaru takes it upon herself to convince Kokonotsu to embrace the dagashi passion in his blood by making daily visits and challenging Kokonotsu in various snack-related ways.
I love reading reactions to Dagashi Kashi because of how it seems to frustrate many anime and manga fans. At first, it seems to be a fanservice-heavy rom-com/harem work with a veneer of Japanese snack nostalgia, only to quickly reveal itself as the opposite. Sure, Dagashi Kashi is filled with attractive and powerfully charismatic girls, but it’s their passionate and humorous interactions over the snacks themselves (as well as the history lessons provided) that are the true backbone to this series. This might not be what others want out of DagashiKashi, but it’s exactly what won me over.
One can hardly call Dagashi Kashi an ultra-complex manga, but it’s endlessly entertaining, and its characters memorable and fully realized. Hotaru is the lynchpin of the series, a whirling dervish of intensity, passion, and mild misfortune, but every character carries their weight in making it a delightful comedy. For example, Endou Saya, a childhood friend who harbors a secret crush on Kokonotsu, is a perfect “normie” character—someone who only has a casual connection to dagashi but rounds out the main cast as a result. Every time a new character is introduced, they also quickly endear themselves. The key example is an employment-challenged character named Owari Hajime, who shows up when Hotaru vanishes for a brief period. While the hole Hotaru creates in her absence can’t be filled by anyonese (a plot point in the series), Hajime differentiates herself by being this adult who’s both more mature than the kids around her yet ill-equipped for the real world.
The humor comes across to me as a kind of manzai battle royal. While manzai comedy classically involves one boke (buffoon) and one tsukkomi (straight man), the classifications are modular within the context of Dagashi Kashi. Most of the time, Kokonotsu is the one who’s reacting to characters’ shenanigans, be it Hotaru, his best friend Tou, or even his dad. But sometimes, Kokonotsu lets himself be carried away by Hotaru’s dagashi antics, and it’s up to Saya or even Hajime to call him out on it. However, Kokonotsu’s casual reactions can be completely disarming to her, which puts her out of the driver’s seat, so to speak. The humor is sort of like a cross between Lucky Star and SayonaraZetsubou-sensei, and if that doesn’t quite make sense, it’s because Dagashi Kashi is kind of its own thing in the end.
Another interesting aspect of the series is that it’s a very different experience reading it compared to a Japanese audience. For many who grew up in Japan, dagashi are just a part of life, and part of the appeal of Dagashi Kashi is that it’s a trip down memory lane. For foreigners like me, however, it’s more about discovering a little-explored aspect of Japanese culture. In that regard, I love learning all this dagashi trivia, and there’s plenty to go around. In fact, the series can be so information-dense that it’s sometimes hard to believe that Dagashi Kashi chapters are generally only eight pages.
It’s hard to decide which chapters are my personal favorites, but a few stand out upon reflection. First, there are a couple that are meant to celebrate the announcement of the anime (seasons 1 and 2), and they’re intentionally drawn to be dynamic and action-packed, as if to challenge the animators to do something about it. Second, there’s a chapter that features Snickers, of all things. It lets a non-Japanese reader like me sort of get the nostalgic experience that’s expected from Dagashi Kashi. (As an aside, Hotaru actually presents Snickers as an ideal emergency survival food due to its high sugar, fat, and calorie content.) Third, there’s one about red bean ice cream bars. Hotaru, for some reason, essentially asks which would win in a fight: a red bean bar in the summer or a red bean bar in the winter? The question is as nonsensical in the story as it is in this paragraph, and that’s what makes it great.
With a series like Dagashi Kashi, it can be difficult to see how the series ends or whether it’s satisfying. I will say that I enjoy the conclusion, but it more or less resolves in an open-ended fashion. While it’s not entirely ambiguous, be it in romance or the pursuit of dreams, it feel as if the message of Dagashi Kashi is that these characters are still young and have their entire lives ahead of them. In other words, even as the manga finishes, the characters are capable of doing so much more. It’s a nice message to end on, and an appropriate way to send Hotaru, Kokonotsu, and the rest of the crew off.
Over the past few years, a new-ish character archetype seems to be emerging in manga. As far as I know, there’s no widely accepted term in Japanese or English, but the two common words used to describe them are kyonyuu, or “giant-breasts,” and ponkotsu, or “piece of junk.” The former word is pretty self-explanatory, but the latter likely requires some explanation.
A ponkotsu character is described by the Pixiv Dictionary as a type of moe female character who seems cool and capable on the surface, but is a comedic wreck on the inside. Two examples of ponkotsu characters in recent memory are Kawashima Momo from Girls und Panzer, the student council vice president who tends to panic in high-pressure situations, and Aqua, the “useless goddess” from KonoSuba! In fact, one might argue that all of the characters in KonoSuba! count.
The small trend, then, seems to be pairing the ponkotsu type with a large chest. I’ve found who qualify for that criteria are Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi (above), the titular character from Magical Sempai, and Takizawa from Bijin Onna Joushi Takizawa-san (both below).
As heroines, “busty failure” characters appear to share many of the same physical characteristics and mannerisms, even when ignoring chest size. In particular, their facial expressions seem to exist on a spectrum ranging from “incredibly smug” to “profuse blushing,” with these characters most commonly falling somewhere in the middle. Also, they’re frequently incredibly intense individuals.
Given their beauty and their curvaceous figures, there’s an obvious sex appeal component to the archetype. What’s unclear is why this exact combination has taken traction, in contrast to the standard moeblob, e.g. Asahina Mikuru from the Haruhi. For example, clumsy dojikko types are a dime a dozen, but there’s plenty of characters of all chest sizes who fall under that umbrella. Perhaps there’s something fascinating about having these girls be, in a sense, “mentally clumsy.” Maybe it’s that having these girls be “perfect” physically provides a powerfully arousing contrast with how easily flustered they are.
With the new season of Dagashi Kashi starting up, I wanted to tell my readers about one of my favorite activities as of late: reading reviews of the first Dagashi Kashi anime on MyAnimeList.
The reason is that I take an odd pleasure in seeing innocent anime fans grapple with Dagashi Kashi. While the show has its fair share of positive comments, it also sports around a 6.7 rating—pretty low for the site. Many of the reactions from MAL users involve a combination of puzzlement and frustration over what Dagashi Kashi is. These reviews are typically along the lines of, “I thought this was going to be some epic fanservice romance but all they do is talk about snacks for 25 minutes!!” Those viewers wanted 90% rom-com, 10% snacks. Instead, they got the opposite.
Dagashi Kashi is clearly not a show for everyone, given its odd premise and eccentric cast of characters. But as the new season coming in the next few days, I’m looking forward to more flabbergasted expressions from people who decide to jump in for the hell of it.
The Year of the Rooster has arrived, but given the tumultuous nature of 2016 it’s hard to be…cocksure.
Bad jokes aside, it’s time to look backwards and forwards. And as we enter this new year, I’d like to once again express my gratitude towards my Patreon sponsors.
Yoshitake Rika fans:
Hato Kenjirou fans:
Yajima Mirei fans:
You might have noticed things being kind of different. Half on a whim, half as a result of ruminating on the dated look of Ogiue Maniax for the past year, I decided suddenly to change the look of the blog. While I think ultimately it’s the content that matters, I got the feeling that people were turned away by the fact that the site looks like it’s from a decade ago (which it pretty much is). This is actually the first aesthetic change I’ve made in a very long while. The last time was when I moved from Blogspot to WordPress back in 2007!
I’d like to know you think about the new look, so feel free to drop a comment. In fact, don’t be afraid to tell me what you’d like to see out of Ogiue Maniax. I can’t accommodate everyone, of course, but I’m still keen on finding out what my readers think.
I also finally got around to reviewing the first volume of the fantastic Ojamajo Doremi16, the light novel sequel to the beloved early 2000s magical girl anime. And leading off from November’s post on the latter part of the original Aikatsu!, I wrote something about Aikatsu Stars!
And over at Apartment 507, I discuss both the end of Sabagebu! and what this bizarre survival game-themed manga brought to shoujo manga, as well as some of my favorite anime openings that came at the tail end of 2016.
The last article I’d like to mention is my very first of the new year, about the manipulation of time in adapting manga to anime. I think it’s a good way to start off 2017, personally.
I’m fascinated by the idea that people change when they’re onstage, that they can almost see their “performer” self as a wholly different persona. There are plenty of real-world examples of this, from Freddy Mercury to Magic Johnson to Umehara Daigo, and within anime this past year we saw a couple as well. The best most recent example is probably Katsuki Yuri from Yuri!!! on Ice, but I think an even more amazing case of this is the eighth Yurakutei Yakumo.
Whether it’s as a young, frail boy, an overly serious adult, or a sneering wizened old man, Yakumo lives a compelling life full of equal parts friendship and struggle with his own identity. But when he’s performing his rakugo, it’s clear that there are elements buried deep within himself that come to the surface. His performances, the subtle changes he makes to play different characters within the same story, feel especially real. The fact that he’s so reserved in his actual life but excels in telling dirty stories when in front of a crowd encapsulates all that he is.
BEST FEMALE CHARACTER
Shidare Hotaru (Dagashi Kashi)
Appearing in the very first anime season of 2016, Shidare Hotaru made an immediate impression on me. Her striking appearance and intense expressions struck me like lightning. More importantly, her endless fervor for inexpensive Japanese snacks is something I relate to on an equally deep level. All too often, when people are interested in food, it comes more from a desire is to chase only the best eats, to become one of the elite, instead of appreciating everything the world has to offer. Hotaru isn’t like that. She truly loves all dagashi from the bottom of her heart.
What’s more, thanks to Dagashi Kashi, my recent trip to Japan this year involved searching for all sorts of Japanese munchies. Let it be known that Corn Potage Umaibou are one of mankind’s greatest inventions, and that we have Shidare Hotaru to thank for helping to spread the gospel of dagashi.
2016 was actually full of excellent characters who went the full gamut from realistically subtle to hyper-real dynamos. It’s what made deciding best characters especially difficult, and something I mulled over until the very last second. Even after solidifying the picks in my head, I could still sense my own hesitation. However, what I think ultimately brought me to pick Yakumo and Hotaru is that, even though they’re very different people, the flames within their souls burn brightly for their chosen passions. Incidentally, those passions are quite similar themselves. Rakugo and dagashi are traditional enjoyments of the common man in Japan that have both become dying arts in a certain sense with the movement of the times. How does one adapt and change while preserving the spirit of these cultural artifacts? That’s the fight both Yakumo and Hotaru are in, and they’ll go down swinging if they have to.