Can-do Candy: Dagashi Kashi Full Manga Review

Two years after I declared Shidare Hotaru the best female anime character of 2016, I’ve finally read all 11 volumes of her manga, Dagashi Kashi. 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 Dagashi Kashi, 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 Sayonara Zetsubou-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.

 

Advertisements

Ponkotsu Kyonyuu: The “Busty Failure” Character

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.

Dagashi Kashi Confuses Anime Fans: Pre-Season 2 Hype (?) Post

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.

As for me, I can wax poetic endlessly about the show, and I voted Shidare Hotaru “Best Female Anime Character of 2016.” To say I’m looking forward to Dagashi Kashi S2 is an understatement.

New Year, New Look: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2017

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.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

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.

Given that the end of the year just passed, the blog has been full of reflective articles and the like. Check out my picks for best anime characters of 2016, read my Anime Secret Santa review of Queen Millennia, and take a look at what’s in the final volume of Genshiken. I also took a picture showing off in part one of my Christmas gifts: Nendoroid Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi!

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.

 

 

Best Anime Characters of 2016

BEST MALE CHARACTER

bestanimecharacter2016-yurakuteiyakumo

Yurakutei Yakumo, aka Yurakutei Yotarou (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu)

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

bestanimecharacter2016-shidarehotaru

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.

Ironically, she’s a rich girl, which plays on one of the classic tropes of Japanese fiction.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

[Apartment 507] Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi Fascinates Me

shidarehotaru-fakedrunk

I wrote a post about the eccentric heroine of Dagashi Kashi over at Apartment 507. You can find out why Hotaru might be my character of the year, and why her role as a sheltered dagashi heiress is so interesting to me.