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.