Review/discussion about: Dagashi Kashi
One of my favorite candies is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Although not just any Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I am not a fan of the regular-sized ones let alone the mammoth kind. Also, I don’t much care for the miniscule ones from the orange, portable bag. No, they have to be the bite-sized kind with the golden wrappers. Their peanut-butter-to-chocolate ratio is superb; I could eat them for hours.
In other words, Reese’s cups are just not the same without the gold. Similarly, Dagashi Kashi is nothing without its dagashi-driven damsel.
Candy, as Dagashi Kashi indirectly explains, is not the right word for the treats talked about in the anime. No, these delectable offerings are dagashi (hence the title). While they are mass produced in the same way as candy from America, dagashi are more than just taste and branding. They have special designs. They have particular purposes. They have a history worth learning.
So the anime takes this mindset to heart (and to mouth). Each episode is dedicated to a variety of dagashi that are more interesting than the next. A bottle filled with a sugar-like substance whose bottle can also be eaten. Heart-shaped chocolates meant to make one run farther. Caramels that were originally designed to deter cigarettes. Numerous dagashi are showcased over the course of the season. Too many to reasonably list.
To this end, Dagashi Kashi is extremely educational in its content. It talks about the mascots behind Baby-Star Ramen. It describes how there is no real significance to the eight letters of the Seven Neon dagashi. It tells the tale of how Miyako Kombu derived from the leftover bits of kombu, a local food.
Also on the dagashi industry itself. Some have extra winners to get more dagashi. Some can be used for more than just eating, like jumping rope or blowing whistles. Some have particular packaging with cute characters to entice kids to pick them over the many, many others.
In other words, like a dagashi store, Dagashi Kashi holds a veritable wealth of (educational) goodies.
Now, the anime understands that nothing but education can get stagnate, so it includes comedy and sexual material to alleviate this issue. The comedy is light, confectionary even, using silly reactions, goofy explanations, and personified dagashi to make the learning fun. The sexual material is likewise light, focusing on a flapped skirt or, almost always, Hotaru’s breasts.
Granted, because the sex does not deviate from her huge chest, it tends to be repetitive and lacking in creativity. Quite unlike the dagashi the anime so actively supports. Even so, the simplistic, not-over-the top direction it takes with the sex does go along with the dagashi motif. After all, dagashi themselves are simple but hugely popular treats.
Beyond the dagashi and the education and the sex, the anime doesn’t have much more. And that’s a problem. The overarching plot of Hotaru trying to convince Coconuts to take over his father’s shop gets addressed only sparingly and does not get resolved come the end of the season. The implied romantic feelings between the semi-love-triangle go nowhere. And the slice-of-life escapades that do not directly deal with dagashi – like going to a cultural festival – are too few and far between to be considered worthwhile.
Not that there has to be more. But when the anime regurgitates information about yet another dagashi, it makes the whole experience feel as though it lacks any substance, any purpose.
Dagashi Kashi takes place almost entirely within the dagashi shop that Coconuts and his father run. The quaint place has its wooden walls lined with the treats, making it a fun little dive to hang out in.
The anime does venture outside of the shop, though. Saya and Endo’s café gets a few visits. A small spot near a river or a local pool are shown. The side of the road, a train station, and Hotaru’s mammoth mansion.
These places are not as detailed or prominent as the dagashi shop, but they help to highlight a common thread of the art: seclusion. Besides the cultural-festival episode and the few stragglers that pass by or into the shop, the anime is mostly devoid of other people. This secluded countryside comes off as very niche – just like the dagashi and the history they contain.
Actual animation ends up even stronger than the art. The reused setting gives the anime more resources to spend on expressive faces, blinking, and bodily movements. And of course, Hotaru’s breasts receive extra care to make them even more enticing than they already are.
Speaking of Hotaru, her character design is extremely strong. Medium-length purple hair with a black-rose hair piece. A black-and-white outfit with buttons, suspenders, frills, a skirt, and heels. Red nails. Blue-spiraled, mesmerizing eyes which reflect her overzealous passion. And a gorgeous figure that defies all of the dagashi she eats.
Saya’s design is not as stunning, but it’s still nice. Long, blonde hair that gets different makes. Multiple earring accessories. A tiny fang to make her slightly cuter. Varying outfits, like casual clothes and a yukata. And a slim, pretty figure. Similar to Hotaru, she is attractive. Dissimilar to Hotaru, her attractiveness comes not from eccentricity but rather simplicity.
While the rest of the designs are normal, other shout-outs are deserved. The ED’s Alice In Wonderland visuals are quite fun and fitting – Hotaru makes taking part in dagashi feel as though it were an imaginary (and possibly drug-induced) trip. And the “And so…” eye-catches were nice, too.
Dagashi Kashi has to rely on its characters to do most of the heavy lifting in the anime because substantive plot does not exist. Another way to look at it is that, because the setting takes place at a deserted countryside candy shop (and café), it puts a lot of emphasis on the characters. Pressure for them to command a presence.
Unfortunately, one character alone cannot carry the weight of all this dagashi – try as she may (and she would try).
Starting with the lesser characters, Endo is arguably the weakest of the bunch. As though he were around simply to balance out the boy-to-girl ratio, he does not have much in the way of characterization. He wants to be popular (to get with the ladies), and he almost reveals his sister’s feelings for Coconuts on more than one occasion. That’s the extent of his character.
Coconuts fails to be much of a character, too. He is painstakingly plain with zero personality and a go-with-the-flow attitude. His main purpose is not to be a main character but rather corroborate or introduce many of the dagashi facts that are brought up. On that front, he does fine, but that does not make him all that fun of a character.
Coconuts actually has another trait, but Dagashi Kashi does not seem to care for it. The reason why he does not want to take over his father’s dagashi shop is because he wishes to pursue a career in drawing manga. From what is shown, he has a knack for it. But the anime rarely uses this characteristic in conjunction with the dagashi, existing as little else besides a stepping stone for the premise.
You, Coconuts’s father, has a bit more going for him. He owns the dagashi shop the other characters hang out in. He runs an (unsuccessful) video channel. He is generally carefree to the point that Coconuts questions his father’s ability to do anything let alone run a business.
His main problem is similar to Endo and his son: You does not have much else. He does not have a close relationship with his son. He does not interact all that much with Saya and Endo. And the moments he does share with Hotaru are dominated by her presence. He does act as a comedic relief character, but, in a comedy anime, that does not mean much.
Saya pulls ahead of the men but only barely. She has a knack for coffee brewing, and, more importantly, she loves Coconuts. Of course, she refuses to make her feelings known, creating for many a moment of frustration.
Surprisingly, she does not care much for dagashi, yet she is skilled at all of the games and quirks related to them. Card flipping, marble shooting, and prize winning chief among her abilities. Similar to the rest, though, her character does not do much throughout the season. She blushes when Coconuts gets mentioned, and she can play a mean game of kendama (a ball attached with a string to a wooden catcher), but she does not bring much comedy or pizzazz on her own.
That’s a common issue with these four: They are inherently not interesting. Their traits, personalities, and actions fail to bring engaging interactions because what they say and what they do lacks style.
And then Hotaru shows up.
Hotaru more or less makes Dagashi Kashi. Without her, the anime would be nothing more than educational material. From the get-go, she is a titillating character. Yes, her massive breasts attract a lot of attention. But it is her craziness. Her bubbly personality. Her never-ending font of determination that make her a character one cannot help but like.
Besides her breasts, her defining trait is her incessant love of dagashi. Every part of her life – from curing a toothache to reading poetry – revolves around dagashi in one form or another. Indeed, the whole reason she showed up at the dagashi shop run by Coconuts and his father in the first place was because of dagashi-related business.
Throughout the whole season, Hotaru proves her worth constantly. She, like Coconuts, has a vast wealth of knowledge when it comes to dagashi. In fact, she is the one to usually spur the boy on. She brings about comedy with her fake-but-maybe-not accent as well as her ironically horrible luck when it comes to dagashi games. And her bouncing breasts, purple lingerie, and misunderstood mannerisms provide sexuality without overbearing the audience or taking away from the dagashi she preaches.
Compared to Hotaru, the four others are more boring than watching the guy who is watching paint dry. She overshadows Endo, Coconuts, You, and Saya. Twice over.
She outshines the rest to such a high degree that it begs the question: Does her complete domination serve a purpose?
Arguably, yes. From an outside perspective, dagashi is a tame topic. Sour shells, fortune-telling pieces, and powdered snacks are not the best conversation starters. That is, much like the main cast, dagashi is admittedly dull. But with the addition of extra facts, different outlooks, and better enthusiasm, dagashi quickly becomes interesting.
And that is exactly what Hotaru does. She makes dagashi fun, interesting, by bringing with her the traits, the ideas, and the mindset necessary to turn this boring topic into an intriguing one. Not just with dagashi, though. She applies her magic to the other characters, too. She shows that Endo has some smarts to him. She gets Coconuts to think differently about his life and about people. She demonstrates that You is more than just a lazy man. And she gets Saya to understand her own feelings a bit better.
Granted, these developments are small, and Hotaru is usually oblivious to these separate instances. But she no doubt makes the cast, like dagashi, more interesting than they were before she arrived. An outcome that even the most intense paint-dry-watching people could appreciate.
Perhaps expectedly, the original soundtrack of Dagashi Kashi does not usually rely on more tame tracks. Instead, it heightens and lowers the tempo. Two tracks in particular stand out. The first is a slow, methodical tune that sounds as though it originates from the countryside with its languid sounds. The second is reminiscent of a Mexican standoff often played when the dagashi antics started rolling up the fun.
It’s an OST with a nice number of tracks (over forty), but, besides the two listed above, the whole package is not impressive in its offerings.
Voice acting mirrors the characters. Ayana Taketatsu as Hotaru shines with her energetic and sincere way of speaking whereas the rest of the cast provide acceptable performances for their roles (but nothing worth noting).
Moving on (or moving back to the beginning), the opening track is a nice addition to the anime. The vocalist’s leveled way of singing works well with the quickness of the instruments. In fact, comparing their combined effort to Dagashi Kashi itself, the contrast is large. By the halfway point, the piece adopts a more triumphant tone when both the singer and the beat reach loftier heights. While nothing is available to win (save for Coconuts’s willingness to run the dagashi shop), this new tone matches how the anime (i.e., Hotaru) views dagashi: like flying through the sky unimpeded.
But the true winner of the music is the ending track. Mixing accordions, castanets, and dainty chimes, the piece remains consistently fast and fun. Alongside the various hollers, the silly lyrics (“Calorie Queen!”), and the happy vibe, the ED comes together as a catchy piece that, like eating dagashi, is a treat to hear again and again.
At the beginning of this one’s run, I was concerned that it would not go anywhere. My concerns, unfortunately, were met.
No matter the medium, a tale will always have an extremely hard time if it tries to bank on a single aspect. In this case, this aspect is Hotaru. To be fair, the anime does have its dagashi, but, to reiterate the earlier discussion, it is Hotaru’s involvement that makes the dagashi more than just treats to eat.
To that end, I myself found her to be quite the fun character. Her respectful nature towards the cast was nice. Her joking around with You was silly. And her general sexiness was hard to look away from. She was easily my most favorite part of the show.
As for the other characters, I cannot say I liked them all too much. Saya’s romantic feelings did have me smiling, and You’s “Yo…yo…” chant was goofy. But Coconuts himself and Endo as well rarely made me happy.
On the dagashi itself, I was not necessarily engrossed by the topic. But to give credit to the anime, I learned a lot about dagashi. While I had never heard of such specialized snacks before, and I more than likely still have a lot left to learn, it was cool being exposed to a piece of culture halfway across the globe. Even it at times the subject matter was not the most interesting.
Dagashi Kashi does what it can. The animation levels are nice and the different musical offerings are fun to listen to. Even so, the story lacks anything else besides information, everyone but Hotaru fails to impress, and the amount of entertainment plummets as a combined result. Reese’s gets gold; this one doesn’t even get bronze.
Story: Fine, dagashi and education combine to create a simple tale that lacks substance
Animation: Good, okay artistic direction, meaningful seclusion, above average actual animation, and nice character designs for both Hotaru and Saya
Characters: Fine, Hotaru commands the purposefully boring cast
Sound: Fine, good OP, good ED, okay OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, Hotaru is fun, lots of learning, but everything else fails to engross
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3