I remarked that the Japanese will do an anime on anything. Although this is a caliber of romance, it is a more mature effort. This is no high school rom-com, but something more serious. However, it is packaged around the struggles to create a new dictionary. So, you are immediately thinking ‘How dull can that be?’ And, in a broad sense of thing, yes, it is rather dull. I mean, you are just doing research work to make this project fly, as you track down the real meaning of words. It’s the old Connotation vs. Denotation battle that my Freshman English teacher used to hammer into us as we dissected poetry…..but I have digressed again. It’s tough being an old man.
This is “Fune o Amu” (“The Great Passage”), which actually started out as a live-action movie. We have Mitsuya Majime (guy to the left). He is in the sales department, but does a really bad job of it. Whether he is one of those people who couldn’t sell ice water in hell or just isn’t committed to it, he is rather lackluster, much to the chagrin of his bosses at Genbu Shobo Publishing. One of the things the company wants to do is come out with a new dictionary. This is met with dismay.
Aside from the fact that it takes years to make one of these books, sales for them are rather thin and many people feel whatever is out there will work. Then, you have to decide what words you are going to be putting into them. And who will write those definitions? A lot goes into something like this. Up there is a co-worker and soon-to-be friend Masashi Nishioka. He is actually working in the dictionary department and feels that Majime’s talents and demeanor are better suited to an endeavor like this.
The series is more than just the struggle to come up with a vibrant, useful dictionary, but also the struggle with Majime trying to grow and mature as well. Look, it’s never too late to grow up and age is just a number. We do see how he can impress people with how he looks at words and what they mean, and his meticulous approach to things is helpful, when you are compiling a dictionary with about 80,000 entries.
It’s a short-run series, as it only does 11 episodes, and the title of each episode (which gets defined at the end) is the theme of that particular entry. The only problem with the show is that there is a time skip, but you do not initially recognize it as such. I mean, the work plods along and you don’t know that two years (or however long it was) has passed. It doesn’t honestly affect anything, but you should know that an opus like this is a marathon (as compared to writing a book).
They also have an added feature “The Dictionaries”, where a group of dictionaries discuss how important they are, but how they fill a variety of needs for a variety of people. I think this was done to try and cut the dryness of the series. Here is where the problem lies for me. I liked this series, but I am a wordsmith. I really like to know where the words we use came from and how they arrived at the way we used them, when 200 years earlier, it meant something else. I enjoyed the struggled they had with their contributors who just did not grasp what was required of them, so you have one professor who basically writes and essay for every word, when you need something pithier.
I mean, they even had an episode dedicated towards the quality of the paper for the dictionary! Yes, I am sure that this is a series that will sink below the horizon for a huge amount of people. There are no giant fighting robots, no shoot-‘em-out sequences, no unfettered fan service. Potentially the most dramatic part is when Majime has to try and confess his love in a deliciously clumsy and awkward approach that perfectly defines his character. It is less a love letter and more a definition entry.
I mentioned that anime is about pushing boundaries, but it doesn’t always have to be strange. It can also find interest in the common and seemingly mundane. I am going to suggest that you give this the two-episode tryout. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you’ll never know until you try.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Sober, solid artwork)
Plot 8 (Look for the double meanings)
Pacing 7 (Does hit slow points)
Effectiveness 8 (Does it quietly well)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)
Overall 8 (Quiet but effective)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. What about that money-eating insect?