Dagashi Kashi (2016)

Dagashi Kashi (2016)

Episode 01- 12

Taste her world.

I’ve heard of the term candyholic before, but I ain’t never seen anyone quite as fanatical about ‘sweet stuff’ as Hotaru Shidare, the busty, hyperactive protagonist of Dagashi Kashi. With her zany blue eyes, shoulder-length lilac hair and loli attire — Hotaru constantly seen in a white blouse (which varies in design) sometimes adorned with a red bowtie, along with a short black skirt, matching pantyhose and heels — the eccentric sweet-loving heroine is, hands down, one of the best parts of Dagashi Kashi, a slice of life-comedy anime with a sugary twist. Whether she’s forcing poor Kokonotsu to partake in weird and wonderful schemes/ activities involving confectionery — a bizarre bondage-themed candy eating contest instantly springs to mind — or spilling out her encyclopaedic knowledge of all things dagashi, sometimes even going into minute detail about the history/ unique purpose of each and every product, the feverish (often excessively dramatic) Hotaru is an absolute riot, her character making this 12-episode anime a pure euphoric delight!

Let me backtrack for a moment. You might be asking yourselves, what the hell is dagashi? (I was thinking the exact same thing when I first started watching the series.) Well, it turns out that dagashi are inexpensive and filling single-serve sweet snacks, each with its very own bright, wacky packaging. These Japanese sweetmeats sometimes even come with small toys or prizes, and range from hard candy, gum, and chocolates to yummy munchies like small cups of ramen, rice crackers and preserved fruit, the goods themselves — often referred to as Botan/ Rice Candy when marketed outside of Japan — generally targeted towards elementary school children, made cheap enough to purchase with loose change.

‘No, they’re Super Saiyan sour!’

Look, enough about that. I’m not here to give you a lesson on dagashi. Needless to say, the mere thought of an anime solely based on colorful kiddie snacks did pique my interest, the show playing out like one big screwball cartoon commercial, each 22-minute episode advertising a variety of scrumptious odd-looking sweets — there were times that I genuinely wanted to reach into my television set and pull out a particular snack just so I could try it myself.

Written and directed by Shigehito Takayanagi, The World God Only Knows (2010), Dagashi Kashi is based on a Japanese comic series by Kotoyama. Serialized in mid 2014, the manga was first published in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday magazine before a single-volume light novel adaptation (titled Dagashi Kashi: Mō Hitotsu no Natsuyasumi) was released late the subsequent year. Taking place in a rural beachside town over a hot Summer break, our story trails 15-year-old Kokonotsu ‘Coconuts’ Shikada, a high school boy who, though lacking the confidence and skill, dreams of one day becoming a famous manga artist. In his spare time, Coconuts is often forced into manning the register at his dad Yō’s small roadside store, Shikada Dagashi, which sells traditional Japanese candy (otherwise known as dagashi), Kokonotsu’s seemingly irresponsible father eager for his son to inherit the family business, seeing as it was run by the Shikada clan for eight long generations — and who would wanna break the tradition now? Coconuts, however, has no interest in taking on the mantle. Constantly at odds with his father’s wishes, Coconuts only works the checkout when he’s tricked into doing so, our hero frequently doodling during his shifts, his mind often wandering, focusing on other, more exciting prospects.

‘I’ve got a confection to make …’

Everything changes with the arrival of a trendy teenaged cutie named Hotaru Shidare, who comes into town in search of the ‘famed’ Shikada sweet stop, hoping to recruit Kokonotsu’s father, this stranger turning out to be the daughter of a wealthy candy developer who operates out in the big city. Unable to leave the shop unattended, Yō (in sheer desperation) strikes a deal with the whimsical teen, agreeing to come to work for her family’s business if she can somehow convince Coconuts into stepping up as storekeeper of Shikada Dagashi. From here on in, Hotaru makes it her mission to coax Kokonotsu to the syrupy side, the sweet-talking beauty (using her knowledge and undying passion for dagashi) attempting to persuade our hero into managing the stall via an assortment of silly games, riddles and tall tales centered around the tasty treats, each more bonkers than the last.

Spotlighting exploding Bomb (or Boob?) Ice Cream, Super Scary Story Gum and Popping Fortune-Telling Chocolates, along with elongated gummi worms, non-alcoholic candy beer and a variety of other sweets, Dagashi Kashi is entertaining, humorous and surprisingly educational, namely when it comes to the titular treats, each episode split into two bite-sized sections that highlight a handful of distinct products. And viewers learn a lot here, too; we discover why not to heat up Butamen on a sweltering summer’s day, especially if the AC unit is down, and how many Glico Caramel kilocalories are needed to race to a specific location, one piece of the chewy, heart-shaped candy supposedly able to fuel a 300-meter sprint, that’s if the runner happens to be of a particular height and weight and travels at a certain speed. Heck, we’re even shown photos of the real-life goods during each ‘next up’ preview!

‘I’m thankful for sweet friends like you.’

While the shenanigans mostly take place in few limited locations — bar a trip to the swimming pool, where Yō moonlights as a lifeguard, and an episode centered on the summer festival — the scrumptious artwork and kooky designs boost overall proceedings, the cast of silly characters and their oddball interactions remaining deliciously amusing throughout. As mentioned earlier, Hotaru — who eats, sleeps and breathes dagashi — is the clear MVP, the dead-eyed Kokonotsu’s lack of enthusiasm brilliantly counteracting the curvaceous candy addict’s over-the-top antics, her larks providing countless comical moments.

Then we have the Endō twins, classmates of Kokonotsu’s who help their parents run a nearby cafeteria named Cafe Endō, the Endōs having known the Shikadas ever since childhood. The youngest of the pair, Saya, who’s appears to have a longstanding crush on Coconuts (and can be rather awkward around him), works as a barista, the gal coming off as relatively cute and fashionable due to her juicy light-brown hair, ‘yaeba’ and numerous accessories, chiefly her helix ring-earrings and two rook piercings. Saya also feels like the most ‘normal’ character in the cluster, interacting and behaving in a way that most regular folk would. Her big brother Tō, however, is not so trendy, the guy mostly seen in a tacky Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, the laidback dude being one of Kokonotsu’s best and oldest buds. And while clearly not identical (one is female, the other male), Saya and Tō both have a matching snaggletooth, which gives them away as siblings, as do their mannerisms and quirks, the twosome bickering like a teenage brother and sister typically would.

‘Feast your eyes on this!’

In terms of animation, studio feel., Mayo Chiki! (2011), has done an exceptional job in cooking up such a succulent series, Dagashi Kashi bursting with imagination and flavor. The backgrounds and scrummy eatables are highly detailed and realistic, while the characters are both quirky and distinctive, being fluent in movement and expression; these striking designs are what initially drew me to the series before I read anything about it. And what of fan service? Well, unless you have a food fetish, there’s really not a lot on the menu — we get some minor swimsuit action (bummer that Hotaru walks around in a hoodie over her sexy black one-piece), a naughty shower scene (which plays as the introduction between Hotaru and Tō) and some slight jiggle, along with a couple of wet t-shirt moments, where audiences get a sneak peak at what’s underneath some soaked garments.

And, to top it all off, the show has been fittingly wrapped with a mouth-watering opener and an inventive closer; there’s the funky ‘Checkmate!?’ performed by J-pop artist MICHI, which kicks things off with an abundance of zany energy, while the end track, ‘Hey! Calorie Queen’ sung by Ayana Taketatsu, plays over some cool psychedelic Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired visuals. On a side note, the English Dub produced by Funimation is actually quite commendable, the track featuring the likes of Fairy Tail’s Todd Haberkorn (who voices Natsu) and an excellent Tabitha Ray, Hinamatsuri (2018), the latter injecting our delectable diva with just the right amount of spice.

‘Batter up buttercup!’

Destined to cure the most ravenous of appetites, Dagashi Kashi is oodles of fun, the anime hitting the sweet spot over and over again; really, it’s a lot better than it has any right to be. Fortunately, we haven’t seen the last of Hotaru, her curious candy obsession or her outlandish characteristics, as a second season of Dagashi Kashi just recently finished its broadcast run (in March of this year), which kinda makes up for the narrative’s lack of resolve. So yes, I may be feeling sickly satisfied, but I’m honestly still hungry for more Hotaru!

4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended

Reviewed by S-Littner

Dagashi Kashi is released through Madman Entertainment Australia