Written by TheBigN
No matter how we slice it, death is inevitable, and I guess for most of us that live, that inevitability and that finality is damned annoying. You can’t overtake it, cheat it, escape from it and all that jazz. It’s the boss character that can’t be defeated no matter what, though many try their hardest to keep on living. As someone who’s filled with uncertainty and dislikes that, the vagueness of “the end” also bugs me. As a Christian, I should be comfortable believing that with my demise comes something better than anything I’ll ever experience in life. But I do wonder how this will occur, as well as think about all the many situations, worries and doubts that come with thinking about finality (What’s going to happen?!?), and I feel that a lot of people have those same types of feelings. And though I don’t want to think about it, those questions are always there, making it hard. For the moment, Shigofumi brings the questions, complexities, and maddening thoughts about death to full force, and I for one welcome this. 😛
From the three episodes I’ve seen so far, we still don’t really know too much about the “main” character, though that might change quickly. For now, we see Fumika, a postal worker from the other side, deliver letters from the dead, or “Shigofumi” to people still living on in the world. And it’s done with the help of a wisecracking staff who doesn’t really seem to do much at the moment expect get excited at the follies of humans. These shigofumi have an important characteristic, as the writer stating nothing but the truth on it. Considering the source of the letter, the concept is already very unsettling, but I do like how it seems that the deceased retain some semblance of self, as the contents vary for each writer.
With the sorta episodic nature at the moment (remember, I’ve only watched just three episodes), people have compared it to a little cross between Kino’s Journey and Jigoku Shoujo, and that association does make some sense. We do have the taciturn, almost monotone Fumika’s (in what I’d like to think as an unusual role for Kana Ueda, who’s doing a decent job so far) relationship with Kanaka (the staff) resembling that of Kino and Hermes, and Fumika can apparently hold her own in a fight when she has to, and Fumika resembles Enma in that both fulfill wishes on more supernatural terms (mind you, this based only on 2 episodes of Jigoku Shoujo watched). Though Fumika calls her recipients rather than the other way around and seems to be a bit more proactive (she’ll do whatever it takes to get the letter to the right person) than she has to be to get things done.
I would like to stretch the Kino comparison a bit more though regarding what’s been shown so far. Much like how the traveler and the motorrad go to different places that present different aspects of humanity to the viewer, so do the postal worker and the staff observe situations where we are shown different facets of death. We’ve already seen examples of how death is a very complicated subject to deal with, from its rationale, to its execution (pun intended), to the aftereffects for those left behind and those who’ve moved on, among other things. There have been demises that seem rightly justified by society’s standards (what are they, BTW), and demises that weren’t; instances where the situation made no sense, the recipient had it coming to them, or it was too soon, and so on, but that’s just scratching the surface. But there is more than just saying, “HERE IT IS! THAT’S IT”; along with showing off the best/worst humanity has to offer, Kino’s Journey raised some interesting questions about what it means to live as part of such an ambiguous world/society, if not just wondering more about traveling. Based on the first three episodes, Shigofumi also looks like it might go down the same route of societal introspection, though the focus seems to be narrower in scope (but how narrow is it really?).
One thing that I really like about Shigofumi so far is that it makes me think about such an uncomfortable subject in a way that isn’t heavy handed or really biased in one way or another. As previously said, the concept of death is tied to us closer than most things that we have to deal with in the world, and even superficially, one can tell that it has a great hold on humanity. A great example of this occurs in the edited episode three, where the rationale behind a suicide is something that “surprisingly” most people can relate to. When you see how relatively easy in concept it is to go through with the act, it’s not hard to see how simple it really can be to do things like murder as long as you have the right cause to do so (and this concept is presented in another episode). The natural impulse is to think that something so grave that can be done so easily is disturbing, and that this also highlights how fragile we can be. Of course, I could just then ask myself “Why is this the natural impulse though?”, wonder if there a matter of being brave/unhinged in being able to bypass this impulse, think about why I’m actually going through this topic in the first place and if thinking about it is a “good” or “bad” thing, and so on. This is very conflicting and frustrating stuff (“The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”), but shows like this have the tendency to help expand my viewpoints and choices for the future in life. It’s really good for anime to cause reflection on “important” topics every once in a while.
It has been said that the setup lends itself to either being something special if done well, or a trainwreck of epic proportions, though I don’t understand how the latter can take place (I’m optimistic like that, though I’d probably enjoy the train wreck anyway). I for one hope that the situation remains in the former category, and save for the “lol Kino” moments for me, based on the first couple of episodes of Shigofumi, I want to keep seeing good things from the rest of the show.