Shigofumi – From Hello to Heart-Wrenching in 20 Minutes [TIL]

While watching Angel Beats yesterday I got to think of an anime I love, an anime I think is under-appreciated. Well, it seems appreciated by all those who have watched it, but it definitely seems like not enough people have watched or heard of it. This anime is Shigofumi, Letters from the Departed, Stories of the last Letter, or what have you.

Another anime that I thought of and also came up on Twitter a couple of days ago is Visions of a Distant Star, a thirty minute movie made by one person, who is so heart-rending it is not even funny.

So the point I thought of regarding Angel Beats, well, if you know anything of Shigofumi it might not be too hard to see why I thought of it. In Shigofumi we get to see the last letter someone wrote after having died, and we also see their life just before death, or someone’s life as affected by the story… In Angel Beats, we’ve thus far saw the life stories of I believe four people, and these are small poignant moments, which deeply affect me. They usually do not take more than 4 minutes, yet you find yourself all teary-eyed after having watched them, even if you did not bond with the character depicted in them before. This is also true for Shigofumi, whereas most characters, and certainly those who send or receive the letters do not appear before “their” episode. And yet, after an episode of merely twenty minutes, you feel connected to them, you feel related to them, and their stories have impacted you.

By the way, that’s quite an interesting question: Do you feel related to them because their stories have had an emotional impact to them, or their stories had an emotional impact upon you because you feel like you could relate to them? Due to the short acquaintance you have with these characters, I’d say that in this case you feel like you can relate to them both because their stories are so human, and because their stories have affected you emotionally. I think either form of causation can occur, in different situations.

Well, the point that I wanted to discuss was this. I’ve talked on my personal blog before on how we get “swindled” into caring for characters, and how if we notice that someone is trying to affect our emotions in such a manner that we often rebel. Yet in these anime, and Voices of a Distant Star is definitely worthy of being in this category as after it ends one can feel quite emotional and choked up, the directors manage to pull it off. You get to “know” a character, you get to care for them, and you get emotional after a “mere” twenty minutes, though often it is a 5 minute segment that could do it all on its own. Quite a feat.

I wonder how much it has to do with these being stories of death. In Angel Beats we see the stories of those who have died after having lived unfulfilling lives. In Shigofumi those lives that had been lived are usually quite horrible, and those messages that get sent… sheesh.

Fumika is the protagonist of Shigofumi, and I am not kidding you, but I’ve just noticed that “Fumi”, the first part of her name means “Letter”. This is also relevant, because both parts of her name so to speak come up, both “Fumi” and “Mika”. We get to know Fumika, who’s the silent mysterious type, her talking and annoying partner – her staff. A fellow deliverer of letters, someone who used to know Fumika from before, and well, I can’t tell you the rest.

The anime in my mind is better in those episodes that do not truly connect to one another, the episodes where we “merely” get to see her deliver a letter. Well, in most cases we see someone’s life, their death, or the death of someone near to them, and the letter being delivered and its effect.

The second half of the anime ties us closer to Fumika’s story, to her origin, to the mystery surrounding her. I was moved by this segment as well, but it still felt slightly weaker, both because it wasn’t short and hard like a punch to the gut, and because it was both a bit disorganized and something that we could relate less to. Well, the other stories, I certainly hope they are nothing like the stories you and I live, but they have a lot in them that is quite similar to our everyday lives, or stories we hear on the news. The emotions in them are raw and real. Fumika’s story is a bit farther from our experiences.

The anime is sharp and modern, and the opening song by Ali Project is quite nice and catchy. I have to wonder where these guys (or girls, as the case may be) have disappeared to.

Shigofumi, a perfect 10/10 score. Short, heart-wrenching, anime poetry.

P.S. As a service announcement to all anime figure lovers, there’s an eBay figure sale here. Seller located in the USA, includes some nice things. Most sales end 4.5-8 hours from the time of this posting, so you might want to get moving.

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17 comments on “Shigofumi – From Hello to Heart-Wrenching in 20 Minutes [TIL]

  1. hikky says:

    HHmhm, I remember watching the first episode but had to drop it cause of some real life reason or whatever (can’t remember). Thanks for reminding me.

  2. rayneholde says:

    the first series that came into my mind upon watching shigofumi was shinigami no ballad, and cool thing is that i love both series very dearly for their capability to provoke my emotion.

    the same can be said with both hoshi no koe [ voices of a distant star ] and angel beats, thought for the latter case it is to be greatly expected since the script / story were worked on by jun maeda of whom is infamous for being labeled as ‘the emotional terrorist’ for his works with key [ air / kanon / clannad ]:3

    • Guy says:

      I never heard of Shinigami no Ballad before, I’ll have to look into it. I also know I should look into Key’s offerings, though I think I’ll prefer anime over the Visual Novel, but never got to it yet.

      I think it was in the Mai-Hime post where I mentioned this, but to me the important thing about media, in most cases, is its emotional impact.

  3. lovelyduckie says:

    Shigofumi has been high on my “to watch” list for a while

  4. Yi says:

    I’m guilty of not even having heard of Shigofumi. It’s interesting though how sometimes a short strong punch can deliver more emotional impact than a long drawn out arc. Well, this seems interesting so I’ll try to get to it.
    The structure you explained also kind of reminds me a bit of Jigoku Shoujo, where the first episodes mostly show individuals with a troubled life.

    Anyways, where indeed is Ali Project?

    • Guy says:

      Turns out in the last year Ali Project had released two studio albums, so I guess they had been busy. Also, as much as I like them, I must admit their songs sound too… samey, and TBH, without the lyrics, and their non-singles, I like much less. I had their full discography and I wasn’t that impressed… the lyrics make it work.

      Also, seems I didn’t watch the right anime, as they had a single in Sora Kake Girl, two in Phanton: Requiem for Phantom (This was on my to-watch list, but look, no one is talking of it now, so does this mean it’s not /that/ good?), AND, they will have a single in the upcoming Fate/Extra.
      Most data from their Wikipedia page.

      As for the other point, I wrote on it at length to a degree on my personal blog, you can email me for a link to the right post, or DM me on Twitter. The short answer is, YES (well, the topic was similar).
      It’s also why in a book or movie we can often become more emotionally impacted than in the real life. This is because it’s all constructed. You’re not assaulted by a thousand messages per minute, and have to weed things out, and connect the “dots” of what happened two months ago with what happens now in order to construct a theme. But, everything counts, everything. The shorter the story, the more important every single line or twitch is, and the writers and directors usually spoon-feed you, by not giving you anything that you should mis-understand, once you’re an “adult”.

      It hits you much harder, because it’s pure and unadulterated emotions, and everything is there in order to make what eventually happens much more noticeable. In real life, or across the span of a whole primetime series (24-26 episodes of 45 minutes per episode), there’s a whole lot of content that does not feed into this. So yes, shorter, and media, can make me choke up in ways real life hardly ever can.

  5. Reltair says:

    Ah, this gem slipped my mind until I saw this post. I watched all of Shigofumi back when it was still airing. An excellent and very heart-wrenching series.

    Oh man, Voices of a Distant Star. Why can’t everything have a happy ending? Happy endings make me feel warm on the inside. I know we can’t do without other types of endings though since those are interesting and serve to bring out other emotions in us.

    • Guy says:

      I think when things have a happy ending, and make us feel good, we tend to feel it less, as we can’t really see the smiles on our faces. When something is heart-wrenching, we really notice. I also appreciate media for enabling it, as it’s rare to feel in real life… and not necessarily pleasing.

  6. Ninjovee says:

    Shigofumi… Now that I have read more from someone who has watched it, it really intrigues me now. *nodnod*

    I should spare some time to watch it this coming week.

    speaking of which… I haven’t watched Angel Beats and Voices of a Distant Star as well… adding to download queue list. XD

    • Guy says:

      Angel Beats is only at 8/13 episodes, so it may yet go downhill and fizzle… Voices of a Distant Star is only 30 minutes, and SO worth it. It’s sort of a classic, so I’m surprised not everyone got to watch it.

      Feel free to come back and tell us what you thought of Shigofumi after you watch it! :)

  7. [...] theme, and then it added the “past lives were bad” theme which was pretty touching, and reminded me of Shigofumi. Then we had more comedy and hijinks. But I’m not talking about a comedic moment here, or a [...]

  8. Valence says:

    Added to watch list :D Looks interesting, will watch soon. Intriguing…

    And Voices of a Distant Star ftw. Awesome for an OVA.

    • Guy says:

      Just for an OVA? It’s just awesome.

      It’s basically a short story, in that there is nothing wasted in it. Each thing serves a purpose.

  9. [...] Shigofumi, and “Science Fiction”, could be seen as having a big question, “When people die, and they get to send one letter from beyond death, what will its effects be?” Now, this is a situation. In the case of Shigofumi, it’s the premise of the story, but not the question the story answers. Being more of an episodic series, the series poses different questions every arc: “You’ve found out you have cancer,” or “You are bullied.” The original situation is the background of the series, and we see the issue explored, but it’s not the story’s question. Well, according to me. [...]

  10. [...] at quite a few sequences, and I still found myself tearing up reading the story or thinking of it. This is a blog post about the Shigofumi anime, which deals almost entirely with emotional [...]

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