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Anime Review: Fuujin Monogatari December 26, 2014

Posted by navycherub in Anime, Review.
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I participated in MyAnimeList’s Secret Santa event this year, and I received Fuujin Monogatari, a simple show about people who have discovered flying cats and magic wind-controlling powers. I have been intending to see it for a while now and I had as good an excuse as any thanks to my secret Santa. How does it hold up?

Slice of life as a genre has a small problem. By itself, there is not much to base an entire show on – there has to be some sort of focus, a setting or concept that allows for individual stories to exist while also providing a solid base that pulls all of the ideas together. Fuujin Monogatari takes its identity as an episodic slice of life show to heart, almost to a fault – the individual episodes contain themes and ideas that are usually interesting and sometimes even compelling, but there is just about no connection between episodes thematically. The consequence to this is that Fuujin Monogatari is a show of widely varying quality.

Not to say that there is not a string tying the show together, loosely at least. That string is the titular wind, which the main characters (among others) can control at will, for some reason. This seems like it might be an important mechanic that would set Fuujin Monogatari apart from similar shows, such as having the main characters using the wind powers in otherwise normal situations to make them more interesting. In execution it is actually not so. Instead, the show offers a low key usage of the wind powers, mostly used for interesting visual effects while the story and the characters take breathing time. This is also useful for the viewer, as this downtime provides a relaxing section of an episode where one can reflect on the events that have occurred; on the other hand, these scenes could be replaced by just about any sort of relaxing or visually interesting scene, making the wind mechanic seem like little more than a gimmick in the end. A very pretty gimmick.

The art in the show is a juxtaposition of purposefully rough character designs and almost impressionist background art, which works to a good effect and is most definitely the strongest part of the production. The minimalist design of the characters allows for exaggerated yet meaningful motions and facial expressions, and they also give the characters a definitively “Asian” look. There is not much detail in their designs; luckily, the show avoids characters looking too similar to each other by keeping the cast small, though in darker scenes where you can’t see the color of their hair they look a little too similar. The backgrounds, though, are consistently beautiful. It’s almost a shame that Nao is so obsessed with taking pictures of clouds, because the world of Fuujin Monogatari is lovely and detailed, contrasting in many ways the simple character designs – though they both share the sketchy, purposefully rushed-appearing aesthetic, keeping the overall feel of the show internally consistent, despite the huge difference in detail.

There are also some cool visual ideas used sparingly in the show – portraying texts with handwritten-looking colored text on the screen, or a phone call by overlaying the characters onto each others’ settings, or flashbacks and dreams indicated with characters filled in with a single color. On one hand I appreciate that it did not abuse these things, but on the other they feel a bit wasted, sometimes only being used once in the whole run.

Similarly, the soundtrack and voice acting are lovely but subdued. This is a good thing – the sound is never overbearing, but is consistently supportive of the atmosphere that Fuujin Monogatari naturally builds. Voice acting is done in a subtle way, never overacting but also hardly ever relaying strong emotion, even when a scene calls for it, which is unfortunate.

However, the most hit and miss aspect of the entire production is the writing. As I stated before, there is little consistency when it comes to theme. Supporting others, avoiding responsibility, and finding your worth are all examples of ideas that Fuujin Monogatari plays with, but none is given a decent amount of time before the next comes along to take its place. In this sense, Fuujin Monogatari tries to live up to its main character Nao’s goal as stated in the very first scene – to capture the wind. Like the wind, Fuujin Monogatari moves and changes as it pleases. Consequentially, not all episodes are created equal. There are a handful of absolutely amazing, perfectly executed episodes, and it is not a coincidence that these episodes tend to make good use of the interesting visual style matched with an equally simple concept as well as Nao as a competent narrator, but there are many more flops, usually too self-indulgent to come off as meaningful.

The episode about trying to get a perfect picture of a runner, for example, manages to use Fuujin Monogatari‘s strengths to much better effect than an episode about helping a momonga learn to fly, even though the latter has much more to do with the show’s distinguishing idea. I should also point out an episode that takes place almost entirely in the nurse’s office, featuring a fever dream contrasted by a completely normal conversation which utilizes Fuujin Monogatari‘s visual style to an extent never matched again.

If only every episode was as simple and effective as that one, this show would be an instant classic. As it stands, though, it is a compilation of mostly uninspired stories interspersed with small moments of genius. If you are a fan of the slice of life genre, you will definitely find plenty to like in this show, but people less patient with the trappings of the genre will frequently have their patience tested.

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