Review #70- Shigofumi

key_art_shigofumi

Greetings! Welcome to the next review, of which we will be looking at the anime Shigofumi. B-Ro will not be joining us, as he has been overwhelmed by finals week. Moving forward, please beware of potential minor spoilers.

Now without further ado, let us begin the review!

Summary: When someone dies, what should their final words be? Words that couldn’t be said while still alive—of love, hate, hope, regret, or perhaps words without any importance. These words are sent through letters called “shigofumi” from the recently deceased to the living. Fumika is a mail carrier of these shigofumi, delivering them alongside staff and her partner Kanaka. However, there must be something more behind Fumika’s silent exterior; shigofumi mail carriers are deceased humans with the same appearance they had just before death. Despite this, Fumika is still aging… -MyAnimeList

Plot: 5/10

Having a unique premise is a good way to capture the viewers attention. However, a unique needs to be executed well to be truly captivating, and Shigofumi fails to do so in a number of ways. Still, it does some impressive things given that the premise initially seems rather limited. It manages to vary the contexts of each “shigofumi,” creating a story revolving around them, but not making them a plot convenience. The mood is well maintained as well, being primarily somber. Yet, even when someone passes on, it is not always sad, which makes the random side stories far more bearable. However, setting up the main plot is long winded, and does not really exist until half way through the series. There are a lot of side stories to the main plot, which can be distracting at times. Additionally, the whole plot is confusing as to where it is going, even when they try to bring everything together.

Characters: 7/10

The anime has a nice variety to its cast, both dead and alive. Many of the characters make excellent foils for one another, such as Fumika and Kanaka. None of the characters feel cookie cutter either, which is refreshing. The development of the characters can seem rushed at points, but is not really a problem. The biggest issue by far is that many of the character arcs are only partially complete by the end of the series. This leaves many characters, especially those featured in side stories, feel somewhat disposable, rather than actually relatable characters. Part of this can be attributed to the fact most of the main characters truly come into play much later in the anime than they really should.

Animation: 8/10

The animation matches with the somber mood of nearly every episode, being fairly muted and simpler. However, it is still clearly an older animation, and can be a little hard to look past during some crucial scenes.

Soundtrack: 9/10

One aspect Shigofumi really nails is their soundtrack, which matches nearly perfectly with the melancholy and somber mood of the show. The opening is extremely reminiscent of shows like Rozen Maiden and Another, since all three have openings done by the same artist. The ending is not particularly amazing, but works for what the show aims to do.

Themes: 9/10

As a show with death as an extremely prevalent motif,  it makes sense the themes would relate to it. The shigofumi letters are the primary means of communicating themes, ranging to regret to revenge to contentment. Each of these can be seen in what was written in the letters and how the receivers respond to said letters. Honestly, this would have been enough for the show, and they could have explored these types of themes expertly using the shigofumi. However, they decided to take add another dynamic in an identity theme, which primarily played out through the plot. However, this did not work quite as well as the other themes, due to the somewhat messy plot, and really detracts the anime’s thematic potential as whole.

Final Score:  7.6/10

Final Grade: C

LowKev’s Take

I actually discovered Shigofumi while looking up recommendations based on a similar show, Jigoku Shojo (or Hell Girl). The concept certainly had me intrigued. The idea of being given a letter with the final words of someone recently deceased has many possible avenues of exploration, and explore them is exactly what Shigofumi did. The concept roped me in, but it’s the implementation of this concept that makes this show so stellar (or at least one of the main reasons). The very first story arc regarding these letters was very well done, complete with a few twists and jaw dropping moments. It was so good, that I was worried that the rest of the show would be of less quality in comparison. However, the subsequent arcs managed to explore different ideas while retaining that quality. Shigofumi explores some really heavy themes, and not every character gets a happy ending, but all of them feel like they were written with a real sense of purpose. Some of the stories were a bit over exaggerated, but I feel that was in order to emphasize the themes present. I found each of them moving in their own unique way. Let’s talk about the main duo driving these stories. Fumika is a very well executed character. She manages to be rather stoic while showing just the right amount of emotion at the proper times. This keeps her not only mysterious, but also relatable. Conversely, while Kanaka was a bit annoying at first, I quickly warmed up to her, finding her a near perfect foil to Fumika’s character. The other reoccurring characters were also very well done (Chiaki was particularly a standout), but there could have been more development with them (which is part of a larger issue I will get into). I absolutely must say that I adore this show’s atmosphere. The washed out art style and beautifully melancholic music are a near perfect pair. The soundtrack in particular is stunning, and is one I will be properly purchasing soon. There are multiple moments in the show that have really stuck with me due to the aesthetical qualities. I haven’t experienced a show with this type of inviting, stylistic, and beautiful atmosphere since the third Rozen Maiden season (which coming from me is high praise). However, among all of these things, there is also an underlying plot present. My complaints of the plot and this show in general really stem from one main issue: this show should have been longer. With this concept, I feel they easily could have added more arcs with Shigofumi recipients while expanding and really fleshing out the main storyline (I mean look at Hell Girl and all of its episodes). I loved the story of Shigofumi and its themes, but it often felt like it was moving way too fast for its own good. There could have been so much more of an emotional impact and a better explained storyline if there was more time to execute it. Despite this, I still loved how the side arcs fed into the main plot, I found the emotional impact still strong despite the rushed nature, and I was invested the whole way through. I still prefer this over it having too many episodes or leaving on too much of a cliffhanger. Whenever I see this show mentioned, I often find the word “underrated” next to it, and I can certainly see why. Shigofumi is a beautiful hidden gem that I am glad to have stumbled upon. The concept and aesthetics got me interested, and its story and emotional weight completely won me over. Absolutely give this one a shot.

Final Comments: Shigofumi offers a unique premise and with support from a fantastic soundtrack, it is able to excellently explore themes through its premise. However, its slow start with both characters and plot really hurt its potential and leaves the anime floundering.

Thank you for joining us for this review! Have you seen Shigofumi? What are your thoughts on this anime? Be sure to comment below. We are going to be reviewing the first season of the popular My Hero Academia next, so look forward to that!

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