Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shigofumi 1

So some of you are complaining that we aren’t really fulfilling our duties to keep you all up to date on the newest, hippest anime, so here, to shut you up, we present Shigofumi. This is pretty brand-spankin’ new. Episode one premiered just last month, with eleven more planned. We hear that some plot points were altered because of “recent circumstances in society at large.” Maybe that has something to do with poisoned dumplings from China. I love dumplings.

Two girls are standing by a wall of windows, talking about the letters from the dead that death gods deliver. One girl, naturally, doesn’t believe. The other insists that it’s true: “A girl brings it!” Because girls always bring bad news.

We fly out into the dark, cloudy city and drift down toward a crime scene. A bloody crime scene, complete with a chalk outline of a body. A detective bosses around some lowly cops. We drift back up into the sky just in time to see a girl floating down. She has little white wings, a short black pleated skirt, double-breasted jacket with a high collar, and a big hat, sort of like a train conductor’s cap. Neat. She lands on a roof and the wings disappear in a flash and turn into a big staff. The staff starts talking (you can tell that it’s talking because a crystal in the head shimmers). It’s annoyed: “Why can’t people just say it?” Why do they have to wait until they’re dead? The girls says that some things can only be said when you’re dead.

Back from the intro music, and we’re settled on another roof. A little shack on top. Posters of rockets and space shuttles. A girl is making fun of a boy because of his terrible handwriting. She falls off the couch and he’s more worried about his notebook that she’s reading and her. That annoys her terribly, because girls like to be the center of attention. He calls her Ms. Class President (because she’s a class president). She looks around the room and leans back to stare at the star chart taped to the ceiling. The boy watches her, until she starts rubbing her thighs together (they’re exposed by a short schoolgirls’ skirt, natürlich) and he becomes terribly embarrassed and whips about to face the desk.

“Ayase!” he tells her. He’s about to tell her something, while still facing the other direction. He still hasn’t learned to look at someone when you’re about to confess. Luckily, his faux pas isn’t too devastating as her phone rings at that precise moment. She picks up, says a few noncommittal affirmatives. Her first name is Asuna. She hangs up.

They found her father.

The boy sits in the waiting room at a police station. Asuna, escorted by two detectives, comes out of the elevator. They’re going to take her home. She looks sheepishly at the boy and apologizes. The next day in class the boy is fidgeting with his cell phone, apparently about to email Asuna with it (I wish I had a cool cell phone like him). The student in front of him is watching news about Ms. Ayase’s death on his own phone (freakin’ awesome). The boy heads back to his rooftop abode. We still don’t know his name yet, but he looks pretty sad, thinking about Asuna and all.

He reaches the roof and finds smoke billowing out of his shack. He runs in to find the formerly-winged girl and her staff. The staff sucks up all the smoke and the girl and the boy face each other. She’s Fumika. He wants to know who the other voice belonged to, as well, but Fumika doesn’t answer. Instead, she reaches deep into her satchel (letting go of her staff, which handily floats) and pulls out a letter. The screen turns into a “MAIL!!!” icon, and Fumika stands close to the boy with an envelope. It’s for Ayase Asuna’s lover.

The boy blushes, waves his hands in the air. Fumika is confused. He explains that he and Asuna go to different schools but met on the roof during one of his test rocket launches. Well, it was a failed launch, actually, and he went out to fiddle with the l’il rocket when it did go off, enveloping most of the roof in smoke. He found her, stunned by his ineptitude. And she’d been coming back to watch him ever since.

The staff gushes over this chance encounter. The boy explains that Asuna liked coming to look at his rockets, but she’d never been able to understand how they worked. Cute, and stupid. Fumika concludes that it’s a one-sided love, with him being the only side. A one-sided line. They do exist. She gets up to leave, for he’s obviously not Asuna’s lover. I’m surprised that her short skirt hasn’t flustered the boy yet.

The boy stops her. What if he were, in fact, Asuna’s lover? Fumika says then that the letter is from Mr. Ayase. The boy is flabbergasted. It’s a shigofumi, Fumika explains (hence the title): a letter from the afterlife. If I knew Japanese I would probably say something like, “Well, yes, it means ‘death letter’ or ‘after death letter’.” Something like that. So let’s just assume that I’m saying that.). The shigofumi is the last message from the dead. There’s a lot of zooming in on Fumika’s golden eyes. The boy doesn’t say anything, and finally starts laughing. Who could believe that? Surely not I.

The dead don’t have bodies, the boy says. How could they write letters? Now the staff pipes up. Some dead people do have bodies! There are apparently phases to death, and up to level four you still have a body. You can write letters and eat. So being dead is just like being alive, except not. There’s some more talking. Some yapping. The staff is named Kanaka. That’s what’s important. Fumika wants Kanaka to shut up. The thing is just merchandise, anyway.

The staff wants to leave. Asuna has no lover. Fumika looks sideways at the boy. She starts to leave really slowly. The boy thinks feverishly for a bit, and he yells for her to stop. He’ll accept the letter. Kanaka says that he’s not Asuna’s lover, and the boy counters that it’s not right for the letter to not be delivered. He’ll become Asuna’s lover. The staff cheers him on. Go love!

Next we see Asuna and her little sister packing things up in their home. Looks like they’re orphans now. Japanese orphans. Like in Grave of the Fireflies. Asuna cuts a string with a knife, and she stares sadly at the blade. Things aren’t that bad, Asuna! Don’t give up! Her sister distracts her, and then her phone rings. It’s the boy calling, checking up on things. Agh, he looks terrified. You know that feeling, when you’re about to call someone you really like and the phone is ringing and you’re terrified that they’ll actually answer and you’ll have to talk to them? That’s how he looks. Well, she does answer. They chat for a while. Asuna’s been busy at town hall (with the death, of course). She says that’s she feels fine. She must be really strong. Or suicidal! Her sister keeps talking to her. She’s going to hang up.

Fumika and her magical staff are watching the boy. He keeps Asuna on the line. He wants to confess his love, but all he can manage is telling her that his rocket is almost ready to launch. He wants her to watch. She smiles and says that she’ll come when he’s ready. She calls him Shouta. Shouta, a good, solid name for a good, solid rocket scientist.

Shouta hangs up and the staff berates him for being so cowardly on the phone. He explains that girls—living girls—want confessions to be delivered face to face. Fumika says that he’s wrong. Any confession will do? Kanaka wonder what will happen if the rocket blows up during launch. Will that ruin Shouta’s chance at love? Probably. Who wants a man whose rocket doesn’t fire? Shouta and the staff argue a bit. Doesn’t he know that you can’t win against merchandise? Fumika watches them and thinks that this might take a while.

We have a few scenes with Shouta soldering circuit boards, mixing up some solid rocket fuel, testing his rocket. We juxtapose this last bit with Asuna in an office signing something. Shouta calls her. Fumika eats the pizza that he’s ordered. We don’t hear what he tells her, but they’re both smiling. It must be good. Fumika eats the entire pizza while they’re talking. Score! Long conversations are always good.

Night comes, and Shouta struggles to name his rocket. “Asuna” is too predictable. Maybe he’ll name it “Miku” after her little sister. Fumika comes upon him from behind. She wants to know why Shouta believes in the shigofumi, when most people scoff. He explains that it’s because Asuna always believed that he could launch his rocket. You’ve just got to have faith, woman. Fumika says that’s a simple explanation, but simple is good.

The next day, I assume, Asuna and her sister are talking to a woman at their house. Looks like they’re going to be moving. Shouta admires his rocket (under a drape). He yawns because he was up all night thinking of a name for it. He wanders back into his shack. Fumika is gone, but the shigofumi is on the floor. Should he read it? Dare he read it?

Fumika and Kanaka are on one of the lower levels of the building. They’re arguing. The staff accuses the girl of disliking when shigofumi are returned. Fumika says that’s because she has respect for the job. They come across an open door and look inside. There’s a big bed with purple sheets, a ladder, some boxes, stage lights. What’s going on here?! I might have an idea, but I don’t want to say. Fumika looks at the bed in horror. The screen flashes and up comes the image of a naked girl flying through the air. Her skin is covered with letters. Can’t read. Japanese. Back to Fumika. It’s time to go. As she’s walking away the staff says that maybe Shouta needs some more time alone. Fumika suddenly looks in her satchel and discovers that the shigofumi is gone. She looks back at Kanaka, who admits to leaving it behind. The instructions said…

Fumika runs back up to the roof. Shouta is standing in his shed with the note crumpled in his hand. He demands to know what’s going on. How could Asuna have killed her father? The note says, “The one who killed me was my daughter.” Shouta doesn’t believe it. Fumika says that death brings out the honesty in people, but he tosses the note to the ground.

Next scene. Shouta runs down the street, thinking that it’s all a lie. Asuna and her sister say farewell to the woman from before. The woman drives off in a really tiny car. Really tiny, like a car that a really tiny person would drive. Shouta finds them. He’s panting. Next thing we know Asuna and Shouta are sitting on an outside bench in the dark. He says that he’s never seen her sister before, and Asuna replies that now it’s just the two of them. Shouta perks up, like it’s the two of them, the boy and the girl, but she continues that it’s just her and her sister now. He’s crestfallen, but hides it well. The girls don’t have a mother. Asuna will be going to a “facility,” and she’ll drop out of school and work. She’ll give up her own dreams of college so that her sister will be able to afford going some day.

Shouta thinks that Asuna can’t be a killer. He shouts that the rocket is finished. If it flies, will Asuna go out with him? She thanks him politely, but declines. No! She starts saying something about being a class president and something else, but Shouta looks to the side and sees Fumika and the staff. He jumps up and tells them that Asuna didn’t do it. Fumika says that shigofumi don’t lie. Behind him, Asuna stands up.

Shouta turns around and tells Asuna that they should leave. And then she stabs him! Shouta falls to the ground and bleeds all over. He looks dead. Poor Shouta. I kind of liked him. Asuna looks crazily at Fumika and staggers toward her. Fumika says that living people are liars, weak and ugly. Asuna swings the knife up and down at them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you