Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru Review

This is review number three hundred and thirty eight. This anime is part of the Fall 2010 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, or “And yet the town moves” or simply Soremachi because f*ck that title. It’s an anime about the random thoughts of a dog. Wait, no it isn’t. It’s about something else. Anyways, let’s just read on.

Story

This anime follows the everyday life of Hotori Arashiyama. She is a regular girl working at a maid café. Her life is anything but ordinary though, as she injects a colorful charm to the most mundane of days. Her interactions with her friends, family and neighbors are focused on by the anime, and you can tell Hotori is making sure her life isn’t as laidback as you’d expect it to be.

Taking the Pants Off

So trying to finish the Fall 2010 lineup, I come across Soremachi. I honestly have no hope that this show will be good judging by the title. “And yet the town moves” just sounds like a really dull title, and I have grown a bit impatient of dull titles. Reviewing more than three hundred shows will make anyone grow hatred of anything, really. I expected the show to suck, but I am so glad I’m wrong with this one. Soremachi is a wonderful gem, and it’s a rarity for a lot of reason. I’ll be listing them down in my review, because I would love to talk non-stop about this anime. To sum up this anime though, I’d say this anime has a lot of heart. There are a lot of shows that capitalize on their innovative concepts or interesting ideas, but rarely do you come across a show that is just simple. It isn’t doing anything new, but it’s so enjoyable to watch because it’s doing a lot of things right. The story is simple yet charming, the characters grow on you, the comedy is perfectly executed and there is just an aura of natural goodness as you watch the show. You can tell it isn’t doing anything grand, yet the simple-ness it possesses is so amazing that you want to watch more of it. Soremachi honestly rekindled my love for anime, and that’s a huge thing for me. When I review shows, I often get giddy when an interesting concept is delivered smoothly or when there is satisfying payoff in one of the show’s many plot points. Rarely do I really fall in love with a show, and Soremachi is just so good that I really just want more of it. It has its flaws, and I’ll be pointing it out as well, but this show just has a lot of great elements that really made it such an incredible anime experience. It doesn’t try hard, but it leaves a long lasting impression for anyone that’s really willing to try it.

Before we go to the story though, let’s talk about the Slice of Life Comedy genre. There are Slice of Life shows and there are Comedy shows, but there are also SoL/Comedy shows. These three genres are different. Currently, SoL/Comedy shows has one undying element that makes it a profitable genre. I’m talking about “moe” or cute sh*t. SoL/Comedy has this annoying sub-genre I like to call “marshmallow shows”. These are shows about normal life, but it’s about cute girls doing cute things. Ever since f*cking K-on, the genre has become a mainstay and every season you’re guaranteed to see a marshmallow show from any studio. Almost every studio has done one, and the reason is pretty simple. Marshmallow shows are very easy to make. It capitalizes on every anime fan’s one weakness: being attracted to cute sh*t. So all you have to do now is to grab a four panel manga about cute girls, animate it and it’ll print money. I don’t care what the hell it’s about. Animate it and it’ll be popular. Anime fans can tolerate any cute show put in front of them. So even if it doesn’t have a story, character development or any sign of progression, marshmallow shows are guarantee to be a success. You just have to make sure that it’s loaded with a lot of cute things, and the one dimensional characters are cute enough to make them interesting. It’s bound to make money, so a lot of studio pumps marshmallow shows out. They’re easy to make, and the return is sure to be more than your investment. However, being a reviewer, I absolutely hate marshmallow shows. It ruined the SoL/Comedy genre, they all look alike, they’re lazy beyond belief and I hate myself even more because even I am not impervious to the cute sh*t. I often give them a score of eight, because being impartial means giving everything a fair shake.

Soremachi is interesting though, because it’s not a marshmallow show. K-on’s effect is still pretty big in 2010, so the marshmallow genre is really just steadily growing here. Soremachi isn’t one of them though. In a sea of cute sh*t, Soremachi is one SoL/Comedy show that decides to say “nah, I don’t need to make my characters cute”. It delivered a standard SoL/Comedy anime and, believe me when I say this, seeing one is absolutely rare. It didn’t want to be K-on, and that’s saying something when almost every show that preceded that KyoAni nightmare tried to capitalize on its success. Soremachi isn’t one of them, and it’s probably why it’s not so well known. For someone that is used to seeing a lot of marshmallow shows though, I think you’ll love how the elements you’re used to see in those shows aren’t in this anime. It functions like one, really. At first impression, this anime is like Tamako Market with a lot of the characters living in a downtown market. You actually think that it’ll be like Tamako Market, and you’ll just see the characters act cute all throughout. I certainly didn’t mind, but the show acts different from what I’m accustomed to. There’s a scene like this:

It is two siblings taking a bath. It’s a normal thing, but you’re so used to seeing perverted situations like these in other shows that you’re taken aback knowing it doesn’t happen here. Big sister is really just taking a bath with little brother. I know that sentence sounds Ecchi if you read it out loud, yet it isn’t. If this is a marshmallow anime, this scenario would involve a lot of steam and a cute character fainting from blushing. That’s what’s going through my mind when I watch this anime, and I’m often so happy knowing that it doesn’t happen. Also, just look at that scene. It’s a normal scene from real life, really, because anyone with siblings has bathe with their little bro or sis. This anime plays it as it is, and it’s so captivating to watch. It’s literally a Slice of Life scenario, and it’s not embellished in anyway. It’s just a normal scene presented in a normal way. That’s rare. This anime loves doing normal things like this, and it’s so wonderful to watch. It understands what genre it wants to be, and it isn’t doing anything outlandish to make it interesting. It captures scenes from real life, and that approach to anime is something I respect a lot. Knowing that this anime isn’t pretentious, isn’t trying hard and isn’t trying to be something you’ve watched before then I’m sure the experience will be a unique one for anyone that tries it.

The first three episodes will be a bit of a hurdle though, since the story is pretty dull. I think it only really picks up at the fourth episode when you realize what it’s really trying to achieve. If you’re watching this anime for the first time as well, then you’re first reaction will probably be “Oh, Shaft made this?” and then you roll your eyes because you know this anime will visually assault you. I’m not really sure, but it looks like Shaft only has one director that makes their shows. Akiyuki Shinbo, good gawd save me, directed this anime. You can tell from how the scenes play out, and how the show loves to emphasize empty spaces. There are scenes with nothing in it but the characters, and his visually storytelling is usually so jarring that it becomes a part of the experience. Here’s the fun part though. Akiyuki Shinbo is toned down in this anime. Yes, Mr. “I will screw your mind with split second shots and mind numbing dialogue” isn’t fully unleashed in this anime. This makes the second rarity about this show: a tamer Akiyuki Shibo directorial style. When you think of this guy, you think of the monogatari series or the Madoka franchise because he is currently gawd for Shaft. Anything he touches is gold, and his style is part of what makes the studio so well known. Bakemonogatari aired a good year before this anime, so it’s really surprising that Akiyuki Shinbo didn’t go full out in this anime. There are no split second scenes, no frames with a lot of written non sense in it, no fast dialogue to confuse viewers and even the colors are toned down. He usually loves strikingly bright colors to assault your senses and mix that with odd CG. A lot of people call him a genius for this kind of directorial style. I like to call it “grandiose storytelling” because it’s a bit pretentious but also well done that you can’t really hate it. I think Shaft fans now expect him to bring out his grandiose storytelling in any anime he presents, and that’s often the biggest draw. So it’s a bit unexpected that he didn’t go full grandiose storytelling on this anime. It’s almost as if he respected the original source, and decided to let the beauty of the manga to speak for itself. Really, even the Shaft head tilt isn’t littered in the anime, and that’s so rare. Watching an Akiyuki Shinbo anime with very little of this:

It’s a bit scary. This might be the only time I ever see his style toned down, and I honestly like it. Akiyuki’s grandiose storytelling is really starting to get boring and detrimental to promising shows that isn’t a monogatari. He’s often forced to deliver this kind of style because a lot of people like it, but it’s becoming a bit cut and paste. It’s especially bad because his style often force a show to be like monogatari when it could’ve been something a lot more amazing. It destroys the promising anime in that process, and I doubt it can ever recover. A good example of this is Sasami@Ganbaranai and Mekakucity Actors. Two mediocre shows, sure, but there is potential there obviously held back by the grandiose storytelling. They didn’t need it, but Shaft wanted it there so it ruined the series. Granted, the shows have very little good elements, but I also believe that Akiyuki’s style had a part in their demise. Sasami@Ganbaranai had a gawd story that can be as interesting as Haruhi Suzumiya if it didn’t look like monogatari. Mekakucity Actors had a chance to pay homage to its Nico Nico Douga roots but trying to look like monogatari ruined it as well. I’m honestly tired of his grandiose storytelling, so it’s really refreshing to see a friendlier version in this anime. The style doesn’t take focus away from show, but actually compliments it. All the empty spaces, the wide angle shots, and the constant establishing shots add to the shows enjoyment. The great part is that they never fell tiring. You can marathon this anime, and you won’t even notice the grandiose storytelling. It isn’t there, but in its place is something a lot more humble from a guy with a pretentious visual style.

Anyways, let’s talk about the anime now. This show is about a girl named Hotori Arashiyama, and she works at a maid café in their downtown market district. It doesn’t have a lot of customers, but it’s also never quiet. There’s always something crazy happening, and it often stems from Hotori being a crazy character. There is no overarching story, but most episodes follow other characters and their life. It stays grounded, which is part of the show’s charm, and the comedy is never over the top. It also doesn’t take away from the simple story the anime is trying to present. Let’s talk about the next rarity in this anime though: our main character herself, Hotori. She is possibly the only comedy man in the anime, meaning that she does all the jokes and she acts as the stereotypical hyperactive girl that is designed to deliver laughs. The rest of the cast are all straight man, wherein they act as the normal guy just reacting to the comedy man’s joke. This means that Hotori is the only eccentric character in the show, and everyone is just living with her zany attitude. They’ll often react funny to her stupid comments, or they’re so used to her stupid attitude that they put up with it. This doesn’t happen to a lot of SoL/Comedy shows, because it’s hard to pull situational comedies if you only have one eccentric character. At some point, the shtick is going to get stale. Even with a lot of straight man, having only one guy pushing out jokes will get pretty tiresome. Soremachi didn’t turn stale though. Hotori became interesting because the show utilized one thing a lot of SoL/Comedy shows don’t use: character development. It’s actually pretty genius because they fleshed her out, and widened her role in the show. She isn’t just an eccentric maid in the show. She is also an eccentric student, an eccentric sister/daughter and an eccentric friend to a lot of the characters. She isn’t just delegated to churn out jokes, but there are also chances for her to fulfill her role normally. She’ll be a normal worker, maid, sister, daughter and friend to add contrast to the show, and it works surprisingly well. By the time the show reaches its second half, you’re already in love with the character. You don’t see a lot of shows put effort in one character to make the entire anime interesting, and yet Soremachi achieved this. If you’re not impressed yet then add the fact that Maka Albarn’s annoying voice from Soul Eater is somehow made charming in this anime. Hotori has the same voice, and it’s actually a part of what makes her a great character. Maka’s voice sounding tolerable? That’s f*cking rare.

The first half of the anime is pretty much Hotori interacting with a lot of people. I think the setup is pretty unique with a lot of the funny stuff happening inside the café. I love lines like these:

It gives you an idea what the anime is about. The true beauty of the show appears though when Hotori interacts with her math teacher. This is really where the show hits its peak and it’s very beautiful. The banter between Hotori and her math teacher is really inspired, and it’s a huge part of what makes the anime really fun to watch. The math teacher is your typical guy really doing his best not to smack his student, and Hotori is just crazy enough to unintentionally provoke the poor guy. The comedy is never over the top and the show is patient with it. Most marshmallow shows would rush a skit to deliver the punch line, but Soremachi is willing to drag the dialogue to make the punch line a lot more effective. The episodes focusing these two characters will really draw you into what the show has to offer some more. At the second half though, the focus branches out. Some episodes won’t focus much on Hotori. It would often just be about another character and their everyday adventures. This is where the charm of the Slice of Life really comes from. The normal lives of the normal characters are possibly what make this series really great. One of my favorites is the episode about Hotori’s little brother having a date with a snobby girl. It’s nothing special, but the setting of the story is so vividly captured that you can’t help but smile. It comes to a point where the date ends up in a candy story, and little bro need to hide from his friends because they’ll mock him when they see his date. Candy shop owner makes the save, and a sweet moment is shared between little bro and his date. It’s so simple yet so effectively told that you’ll really want to watch more of it. The way it captures a simple moment in life is so inviting to watch that the second half will really make the experience worth it.

I’d also like to point out that this anime has one of the best last episodes I’ve ever seen. The flow of the episode from Slice of Life to Comedy to some other genre is so smooth that you’re really just caught up in it. If you didn’t feel sad then you obviously didn’t enjoy the anime, but how can you not cry? It’s so beautifully presented that you’re really meant to cry. The last episode encapsulated all the emotion you had while you watch the anime, and it really shakes your very being as you realize that you’ve fallen in love with the show. I have never experienced this as a reviewer, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel that again. This anime is so amazing that the final episode will tug at you hard, and that’s a clear sign of a great show really leaving a mark on you. All of the elements come together in that episode, including Akiyuki Shinbo’s ability to slow down the story and make a heartfelt scene. In this anime, it’s so effectively strong that it adds a lot of emotion in the final episode. Yes, I’m praising the final episode and even I’m amazed by it. You can call this a rarity as well.

This anime doesn’t have a really strong story, so the characters really carried all the load. They did a great job of it because they’re the big reason why this anime is so great. To be fair, they are pretty one dimensional and a lot of them are forgotten pretty early. A good example is the old lady running the maid café. She appeared in the first half, and she became a background character come second half. This is intentional on the show’s part though, because it only really needed Hotori. Anyone attached to Hotori will have an episode focused on them, or some episodes have Hotori with another character. This is the only time a character will ever be focused properly. Even though the second half has episodes dedicated to other characters, Hotori is still part of it in some minor way. The episode with her little bro has her giving him money to spend with his snobby girl-friend. She still plays a role in the show, and I think it’s because this Slice of Life is Hotori’s life. Did that make sense? The show revolves around Hotori so she naturally takes up a lot of space. Despite that, the supporting casts are all still pretty effective. The biggest selling point with these characters is that you expect them to be a stereotype, but they come off as simple characters. Hotori’s math teacher is actually your typical overly serious character with no sense of humor, but he doesn’t really play the part. He resembles it, and the character is a lot simpler than that. His seriousness only comes out when he’s with Hotori. Most of the time, he’s just a math teacher that loves the subject. I remember how the anime gives us his flashback about his elementary teacher giving him a bullsh*t response to a math equation, and he’s been carrying that disgust all his life. It comes to a point where Hotori reminds him of his teacher, and hilarity ensues. See, he’s not a serious character stereotype. You could say he’s less than that, because stereotypes exist in a structured show. Real life doesn’t have them. These simple characters come off as human, which now makes them complex. I hope that made sense, but it will if you watch the show. Quick, someone agree with me on the comments.

One character that I’m absolutely infatuated with is Hotori’s senpai named Kon Futaba. She is the typical cool character that loves rock, but she’s a lot simpler. She is just a girl that loves rock, and she just happens to have blue eyes complementing her blonde hair. She is never really put on a pedestal for viewers to admire her beauty, but she does that naturally on the show. Ok, they put a maid outfit on her but that’s just the show trying to be amusing. It has come to a point where I only watch the ED sequence so I can see her again. It’s stupid. Hotori’s friends are all interesting in their own way though. The guy that visits the café just to see her, the big breasted stereotype that loves the guy that loves Hotori, the girl that looks like this:

I’m sure some sick f*ck finds her cute, and I salute you. Anyways, they all had some great moments in the show. They’re all relatable to a degree, and you often root for them because you also feel their pain. They might have one or two episodes focused on them, but that’s really enough to find the characters likeable. I mean, scenes like having trouble asking someone out, being in absolute bliss when your crush falls asleep next to you, and getting mad at someone when they want cream puffs when you visit them are all scenes that you can relate to. It’s grounded and it’s the thing that makes it so fun to see the characters. I also love the interaction with adults. A lot of shows don’t really highlight it, and some marshmallow shows slowly phase it out, but the show also draw strength from relatable scenes of students talking to adults. A lot of marshmallow shows only have cute adults in it, but the ones in Soremachi are ready to give a lecture and to smack the students around for acting stupid. It adds another layer of Slice of Life to the SoL/Comedy anime.

Soremachi_02_Minitheatre.org.mkv_snapshot_13.15_[2015.11.29_20.24.36]

Lastly, I’d like to talk about Hotori one more time. To get a better idea of this character, I want to point out Azumanga Diaoh. Remember that show? It is a JC Staff classic, and it’s supposedly started the cute girls doing cute stuff trend. I don’t believe that though, because cute girls doing cute things emerged as a pattern. It’s never really intended to be that specific thing, kinda like how the original tsundere is just a normal girl but people liked her personality. A pattern of snobby girls being all tsun-tsun to their crush emerge and the tsundere stereotype is born. Ah, I drifted off. Anyways, Azumanga Daioh had one standout character that resembles Hotori. It’s the ever popular Osaka. Remember her? Here’s a video for people too young to have heard of her. Shame on you though, go see it. Osaka is a simple character, but she has some really golden moments in the show. She’s a seemingly bland girl that the other characters would embellish as an eccentric for simply being in Osaka. She then played her role as such, giving us classics like this. Hotori is the same. She delivers really solid moments that stand out in the show, and we appreciate her for being such a goofy character. The more she acts eccentric, the more we love her for it. It’s the same thing for Osaka, so I’m sure a lot of people will appreciate Hotori simply because she embodies the outlying data that is Osaka.

This is a really rare Shaft anime. It has their M.O. but it’s subtle, because the original source is really given more attention. Shaft prides itself with its stand out shows, so it’s really surprising seeing such a different show from them. I am honestly a bit tired of watching Shaft shows, so I’m glad they can go a different route from time to time. It’s different now though, because they’re busy milking the monogatari and Madoka franchise. It’s the same old crap over and over again. Isn’t that a level of hell or something? To be fair, Nisio Isin is a really great author so I doubt the monogatari series will ever lose its shimmer. Shaft is also doing some other shows like Nisekoi but I haven’t seen them yet. I prefer not to watch a lot of Shaft shows if possible. If they’re as great as this one, then by all means, but this is a rare one so I’ll see those Shaft shows when I see them. I’ve already praised Akiyuki Shinbo’s style in a previous paragraph so I’ll keep this one short. He’s a genius but he’s losing his charm. He knows how to make something better, and that is a mark of a true talented director, but he’s stuck doing the same thing over and over. I would love to see his style improve other series besides monogatari, but I doubt it’d happen anytime soon. Anyways, he’s a genius. Thank you for making this anime great.

Sight and Sound

Masakaru Ishiguro created the manga, and his design is pretty great. It’s basically the same as the anime, but you can tell that more detail is given in the manga. For one, the characters are cuter in the manga. Yeah, it’s pretty stupid but these characters look better in printed form. The biggest reason is the color palette of the anime. It doesn’t really suit the characters, and it’s because these are Shaft colors and not the Soremachi colors Masakaru intended the characters to have. It’s not that big of a deal though, because it doesn’t really make the characters look bad. As I said, they’re still the same in the anime. I love his design, because it’s very interesting how he doesn’t shy away from bad looking characters. To have an old lady in the cast is something, but to put her in a maid outfit is just a great idea through and through. Hotori still looks the same, except she has tamer eyes in the manga. It’s not much though, since the eyes don’t really make the character. She is still this girl with a crazy personality that has a rounder head than other characters. The maid design nicely stands out in the manga, and it’s because of the attention to detail given to it. It’s an interesting part of the manga, because a lot of characters aren’t given that much detail. Kon, for example, looks pretty bland but I think this was done on purpose. Kon looks a lot more boyish in the manga, and knowing when to add detail is what makes Masakaru’s design pretty interesting. His design also isn’t that uniform, since not all characters look the same. I think this is the best thing about his design, because it makes characters a lot more interesting. Hotori is unique, and Kon is unique. No one else in the show has the same character template as them, and they all celebrate their individuality. You can tell characters apart, and you can add this to the list of rarity that makes the show great.

Animation is pretty great. Shaft does incredible animation, even though they prefer to visually rape you first. Soremachi is no different, because the animation is pretty top notch. Character movements are pretty flawless, and there are even chances for them to really show off like rocking out in the cultural festival. You can tell the characters’ personality still comes out when they play their instruments. It’s pretty cool. Hotori’s energy is captured perfectly by the anime as well. She loves to run around, go all goofy and the animation is ready to bring out her charm in every scene. This anime is pretty laidback though, and I love how that calm mood is established nicely in the anime. The empty spaces that is part of Shinbo’s grandiose storytelling works great here, since it adds calmness to a scene instead of the eerie effect we’ve known him to do. The abundance of silence also adds to the laidback feel the show is looking for. It does get weird though when the show cuts into the random thoughts of Poko. I wanted to talk about him here. He does stupid lines like:

And it’s probably the weirdest part of the show. We don’t even know whats the hell this thing is until the second half when it’s revealed that he’s Hotori’s dog. He looks like a traumatized raccoon, and it’s pretty weird. It does become a novelty part of the show the more you get used to it though. Anyways, the animation isn’t perfect since establishing shots look pretty cheap. Faraway shots are used so often that it does reveal the limitation of the animation. The facial reactions are spot on though, and these are the hardest thing to animate. Hotori can be happy, sad and angry in one scene and the animation is flawless in its delivery. The slapstick is also nicely presented, even though there’s not much of it, so the animation is just really great overall.

The anime’s OP is Down Town by Maaya Sakamoto. She has done a lot of OP songs in her long career, and you can tell it’s because she has a really great voice. I love this song, because it’s so nice to listen to. Maaya adds a really wonderful charm to the song as she sings with grace, and it makes the song really special. It’s just a simple song but the wind instruments nicely stand out. It complements Maaya’s singing and then bursts into a really catchy chorus. The OP sequence is just as great. It features the staff of the maid café just acting cute, and the other characters just flash on the screen via Akiyuki’s split second scenes. It features the great energy of the anime, and you’ll just grow to love it the more you watch the song. The OP song and sequence is such a great part of the anime that it’ll be something you’ll miss when you finish the show.

The same feeling goes for the ED. The anime’s ED is “Maids Sanjou!” by Maids. It’s sung by the four student characters in the show, led by Kon in bass. It’s a really stupid song about the characters just singing for random fun. In the lyrics, the point out that they can’t do rock because the members they have can’t possibly do it. It’s a really unique band though, because they have a violin and an accoridion in their lineup. It’s apparently arranged by Round Table, and I know them from Chobits. I feel old. It’s a charming song with great personality, and it’s accompanied by a really cute ED sequence. It features the band just rocking out to their non-rock song. The characters’ personality adds a lot to the sequence, and it’s just something you’ll fall in love with the more you watch it. One of my favorite ED sequences that’s for sure.

Overall Score

8/10 “It’s simple, but it possesses an undeniable charm you won’t find in any other anime.”

I’ll say it again: this anime is a rare one. It’d be another decade or so if we ever come across one. I’ve seen enough sh*t to stand by that statement, and I actually like the fact that there is nothing like it. Despite being simple, cliché reliant and even bland, this anime has a special charm to it that reminds us why Slice of Life is such an amazing genre. If you like simple good non marshmallow flavored SoL/Comedy then you’ll love this anime. If you like strong characters in your comedy then you’ll like this as well. It’s simple and easy to fall into, so you’ll enjoy it if you prefer laidback shows with very little effort on the audience to watch. If you like Osaka with Maka’s voice then you’ll love Hotori as well. This is a gem of an anime, so I highly recommend it.

Thoughts~

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