Sunday, March 9, 2008

Shigofumi, episode 9

Fumika, a laconic albino loli, delivers letters from the dead to those still living. Encapsulating what they simply couldn't say while still alive, the letters invariably lead to further complications (and often violence). Fumika watches on passively, lamenting the foolish nature of humanity - then moving on to the next delivery. That's how it starts, at least. As it progresses, more is revealed about Fumika's own unique history, as well as for some other characters.

At first, there was a strong vibe that Shigofumi desperately wants to be Boogiepop Phantom with a cloaked, impassive girl usually sitting back and watching people brutalize and use each other, only acting when it impeded her own mission. There are even some genuinely horrific moments (Fumika interrupts some thugs beating a man for impregnating their "merchandise" to deliver a letter to "daddy" - it's just a bloody baby's hand-print) and surprisingly risque material (sexual and deep psychological abuse of children, teen suicide - material strong enough to merit multiple edits to content before broadcast). It never seems to handle the dark topics with the weight you might expect, however, and comes across as rather formulaic: Fumika shows up in the middle of some crazy situation to deliver a letter from someone who had just died (and thus precipitated said crazy situation) that only serves to further complicate everything until everyone just accept the death/information in the letter. At which point Fumika leaves, dropping some wise comment about how broken humans are and how they constantly hurt each other and can only find the courage to say what's important after it's too late.

It's very tempting to dismiss Shigofumi as a darker version of Ballad of a Shinigami and that wouldn't be entirely off the mark. As the series has progressed, however, its shed a bit of his formulaic, episodic format and allowed the characters to grow somewhat. Fumika loses her air of mystery but gains a great deal of empathy. Combined with voice acting that somehow managed to from annoying-as-hell to wonderfully-endearing, the show manages to almost succeed despite itself.

I've been writing this show off every episode. Giving it just one more chance to add up to anything, and each time I find myself coming back again. It's hard to say why - there's nothing really solid or amazing going on here. A growing attachment to the characters just keeps bringing me back in the hopes that they'll do something worthy of my attention. It seems unlikely that'll happen any time soon, however, as the show is already near its end. Recommended only if you're happy with something that will meander and never really face anything head-on, especially if you have an appetite for little slices of melodrama packaged with a "humans are so flawed" emo atmosphere.
based on 9 episodes : ANN : Wikipedia : YouTube

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