Thursday, March 02, 2006

Shinigami no Ballad 01

title: Your Voice

Jigoku Shoujo with goodness rather than evil. The lead character Momo is a cute young white-clad shinigami ("death-god," a conductor of souls) with a dark feline familiar. Each episode appears to be self-contained, with her conducting someone out of the world.

I enjoyed this first episode a lot. It is the story of a middle-school romance in which the girl suffers from a disease that affects her breathing. Moving and wise: value life, and accept death.

Great voice work by Saitou Chiwa as the girl, in a voice I hadn't heard her use before. And Kobayashi Akiko's interesting, slightly dead, voice (Kisa in Zettai Shounen) was good as Momo.

The show succeeds Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora in its Thursday late-night time-slot. Perhaps it should be called the hour of beautiful death. Same animation production company, Group TAC. Japanese posters on 2channel seem to prefer this to Hantsuki. In my opinion, it will have to go a long way to equal that beautiful show. Maybe it can, we'll see. Both are based on novel series.

The director is Mochizuki Tomomi, who previously directed Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (YKK) and Zettai Shounen. Not too shabby. A specialist in effective silences and a simple but mysterious atmosphere.

The emotions in this show are not extreme, but that is part of its point. Mai accepts her death. This is not a show about struggle, but about acceptance. And the gentle pathos strikes deep.

One thing that drives me crazy is the show's subtitle: Momo the girl god of death. Totally unsuitable. That may sound okay to non-English-speakers, but it has entirely the wrong tone for this show. It sounds more like a put-on or a 1950's B movie.

The guys make fun of Kouta for going home every day with Mai. "Where are you going on your date?" they laugh. But Kouta likes Mai. On the way home, they discover a kitten left in a box under a park bench. Mai is determined to save it, since she feels that she is like it: a stray and forlorn kitten.

The next day, they go to the shrine where they left it and feed it cat food. Mai decides to call it Blue, like its eyes and the sky. She says that Kouta and she are its mother and father.

The day after that, when Kouta refuses to play soccer with his friend, the friend gets angry and tells him he should just go and marry Mai. When Mai and Kouta are tending the kitten, Mai has an attack and Kouta helps her use her inhaler. And she embarrasses (and pleases) Kouta by holding his hand as they walk away. The next day, Mai can't come, and Kouta goes to tend their child himself.

Finally, on the next day, Kouta's friend helps him with homework he missed, so Kouta feels he should agree to play after school. Mai is actually pleased, because it means she is not alienating Kouta from his friends. But she has another attack at the shrine....

At home that night, Mai's mother calls to ask Kouta if he knows where Mai is: she never came home. He runs off to the shrine, but she isn't there. He finally sees an ambulance outside her home....

The next day at school, we find out that Mai has died. After school. Kouta goes and gets the kitten, intending to abandon it where they found it. At the park bench, he meets Momo the shinigami (remember her?). She asks if she should kill the kitten. He agrees, then suddenly saves it. She tells him to remember the feelings he had at that moment, and continue to care for his and Mai's "child."

Mai appears to him, seeming quite accepting of the situation, but very loving toward Kouta, and thanks him for continuing to look after the kitten. Then she fades away. He collapses, devastated by his loss.

In the end, we see Momo rising into the sky, finally able to weep over fate.


風の谷の名無しさん said...

Since you were wondering about it on AnimeSuki...

Kouta's VA was Kaneda Akiyo. Her personal site is:

If you were going by the cast listing on Shoboi Calender, her name is spelled incorrectly.

hashihime said...

I was wondering about it on 2channel, too, in my clumsy Japanese. Thanks for the info.