It looks like somebody in Japan watched Freaky Friday and thought: hey, wouldn’t this actually make a nice serious drama? That’s basically what Asatte no Houkou is: a serious, realistic drama about a little girl and and adult woman who literally get their wishes granted…to become an adult and a child, respectively. Instantly, in front of a shrine with a wishing stone. Could this possibly work, blending what sounds like a comedic premise with some heavy-duty emotional weight?
This show threatens to be a soap opera, and it would be if it weren’t a freaky fantasy.
The answer is, so far, yes and no. The characters behave much more realistically than in most anime–they hide and express their feelings at different points, their motivations are multilayered, etc. I find this refreshing. When the show’s fantasy element happens at the end of the first episode, the characters react in the way real people who have gone through something deeply out-of-the-ordinary (and disturbing) do. There are even fleeting moments where the serious parts remind me of the more serious sections of Honey and Clover (another JC Staff show–and without the wonderful monologues of H&C. But I digress).
And then I remember: this is a show about girls who change bodies. How seriously can I take this? I face a similar problem with shows that try to be serious and empathetic and have obnoxiously outlandish character designs; that was how I felt about Kimi Ga Nozumo Eien. Here, the show faces an uphill battle in getting me to buy into this premise as a setup for a weighty drama. It’s holding so far, as of episode 2, because the show dangles some promises of interesting characterization and conflict down the road, but maybe I’m just turning into a stuck-in-the-mud fogie and simply have a hard time taking certain kinds of ideas that seriously…
Nevertheless I really enjoy the fact that this is not a typical anime. Its character dynamic is way different, in a good way. This might turn out to be the kind of show the lesser known OAV Iriya No Sora wanted to be–an emotionally truthful, original fantasy set in the summertime and filled with pathos, magic, and wonder. I certainly hope so–because I’m going to keep watching this.