Shigofumi: Letters From The Departed Review

Overview

This is anime review 8

What if the dead could send one final message? This is the question that Shigoumi presents, and I’ve got to say it’s pretty interesting. The idea of these letters from the departed got me into the show, leaving us with one major question:  was what I saw good or not?

Characters

Since I do my best to avoid spoilers here, there is really only one character that matters, Fumika. You can also argue that her companion, a magical talking staff, Kanaka matters too, but to a much lesser extent. Everybody else in this series is supporting cast, or only relevant in his/her episode.

Fumika & Kanaka delivering a shigofumi

Fumika is a mailman, specifically, for shigofumi. All of the delivery people for shigofumi are dead and no longer age. However, Fumika is a special case. This is really all the viewer knows, only gaining bits of information on the character as the story progresses. This aspect of the show is done very well, since the concept of the story is interesting on its own, but slowly learning more abut the mail carriers is also equally interesting.

As for the supporting cast, they range from annoying to interesting. The more episodic episodes had generally interesting characters, however, in the main story some of the recurring characters weren’t nearly as interesting, or just flat-out annoying. The biggest example being Kanaka. I didn’t mind the staff interjecting here and there, but overall this character was obnoxious. If you’ve seen the show, you know what I mean. If not, it’ll become apparent pretty quickly.

Story

The story is an interesting subject. I had expected a more episodic series with very little, if any, cohesive and connected plot. However, only three episodes were semi-episodic. You’d be best off watching these episodes in order, despite initial impressions.

Shigofumi has a very strong start. It begins with a two-part episode set that was highly engaging and interesting. It set up the idea of the world well and had me extremely interested in what would come next. The twist being that episode 3 started up the main story.

It was here that the story became more like a mystery series. This was not at all what I had expected, and had me even more interested and invested than I was before. At this point, it should be apparent to the viewer that this is actually a story about Fumika. Everything the viewer sees ties back to her story in some way, even if it’s not obvious in the moment.

This is what set the story out for me and kept me going. Having a mystery, and realizing that the story was more character driven than impressions first gave me, is a more unique spin on how this sort of show would normally be handled. Normally, this type of show would be entirely episodic with a balance of funny and serious plot lines. However, in this show that is not the case.

At this point the show starts to slow down. The mystery aspect of the show is too quickly resolved, and the resulting plot from that point on is not nearly as interesting. Don’t get me wrong, Shigofumi still had charm and intrigue, but not nearly as much as it did before it tipped its hand.

The conclusion of the show at episode 12 was only ok. The beginning and the middle sections of the show were done so well, that the end felt a little lack-luster. This isn’t to say that it was a bad ending, in fact, it was pretty fitting. The problem was that it just didn’t feel as impactful as other parts of the story had. This is somewhat mitigated by the extra episode on the DVD’s which ties everything up more nicely.

Episode 13 was able to wrap up and tie together a lot of the plot points that might not have seemed as relevant before-hand. This was a nice touch though since it not only tied everything together, but made the point of the series more obvious. Well, that’s not exactly true, it basically says the point several times in that episode. This didn’t bother me though, it wasn’t done in such a way that suggested the audience was too stupid to figure it out, but rather as a way to demonstrate the point and its application.

While the story is overall pretty solid and enjoyable, it should be noted that this series is dark. There is a lot of messed up stuff in this show, and it could be uncomfortable for many viewers. This is especially true for younger viewers. If topics such as suicide, rape, or abuse bother you, this series may not be for you. I’ve seen these topics covered before, and I felt that Shigofumi was darker than what is typically depicted in this medium. The topics were relevant, and had important messages, but again, it may be too much for some people.

Animation & Sound

The animation for Shigofumi is average for most of the show. There were a few moments in the series where I found myself being impressed with the scenery, but for a show like this I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Shigofumi is currently only available with subtitles. Although not my norm, I didn’t have any problems watching this one. The subtitles were easy to read and the voice actors felt like they were all good fits for their respective characters. There was a small hiccup in the beginning of the show where I couldn’t tell if Fumika or Kanaka was talking, but that had to do with how the scene was presented and not the voice actors’ faults. Other then that, I enjoyed the voice work.

As for the opening and closing themes, I thought they were pretty great. Granted, the opening is in the same vein as Rozen Maiden or Another which I enjoy particularly. Take a listen:

Don’t own the video or music. Note that this is both the opening & closing played in the same video

I found that the opening had some nice visuals that related well to the main story. The real highlight was the music though in this respect. The ending theme had the right feeling for how episodes typically ended that felt like a release of emotion, which the show captures well.

Score & Where To Buy

I found Shigofumi to be a pretty solid show. It kept me interested through its 13 episode run. For most, this show is going to impact the audience emotionally while still giving some room for thought. For this reason, I give the anime 8/10 with the recommendation to try it.

While I personally own this show (as is true with pretty much all my reviews), I don’t think the show is for everybody. As I mentioned there is some pretty dark and heavy subject matter that is going to bother some viewers. In addition to this, the end doesn’t measure up as well as I’d like, which would normally be a deal breaker, but I can understand why it ends the way it does and the significance for it. This makes for a minor annoyance at worst, but may be enough to detract from the experience for some.

Shigofumi is currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks and can be purchased from Rightstuf for $37.49 if you aren’t a member on their site, otherwise it’s a bit cheaper. It is only available on DVD and as mentioned, there is no dub at this time.


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