Shigofumi was created by Yuzawa Tomoro and written by Okouchi Ichiro under J.C. Staff Studio in 2008. How well does it hold up when compared to their other works? Let’s find out.
Our heroine, Fumika, is a postman but not an ordinary one. She delivers Shigofumi, the final memento of the dead delivered to the world of the living, usually in the form of a letter. That’s a good sign to start with. It is an intriguing idea and could make for a really good episodic title on the level of Petshop of Horrors. Unfortunately, the concept isn’t taken full advantage of. A lot of the episodes deal, at least in part, with Fumika and unraveling what happened to get her in the position she’s in. By itself, that wouldn’t be a huge problem. Sure, it would be an odd decision but a major underlying story could work if it was well told. What makes it a huge problem is that Fumika’s story is boring, predictable and not very well handled. The ultimate payoff is a letdown too.
I will say, to the series’ credit, most of the time the episodes that focus more on the concept and have a lot less of Fumika’s generic tale are really good. The one about the game designer, the bullying episode and the story of a tennis player who receives a shigofumi from her estranged mother are all really good. The first three episodes, before they really get into Fumika’s story, are good too. Just not as strong as those three.
Now, there is some really serious content about abuse, suicide, and sexual exploitation. Some of it is well handled, some of it, not so much. So you may want to consider that before deciding whether or not to watch it.
You know how some episodic anime have a problem with under-developed one-shot characters but have really developed and complex reoccurring characters? Oddly enough, Shigofumi has the opposite problem. The reoccurring characters are exceedingly bland and underwritten. In contrast, a lot of the really good episodes that deal more with the concept follow the characters who are important to the story and really take the time to flesh them out, give them verisimilitude and they even develop with their own miniature story arcs. Which leaves me with the same question I had when I watched Shingeki no Kyojin, if the writer can clearly write characters then why are the main focus characters so cliched and drab? Oh, and expect the pop culture idea of dissociative identity disorder to pop up. Although Shigofumi, like Akuma no Riddle, has enough fantastical elements that it doesn’t come across as out of place.
The artwork is okay. The character designs, backgrounds, and action are all pretty decent. They aren’t anything grand or amazing but they do their job just fine.
The cast is a bit more mixed. While there really aren’t any people in the cast who can’t act, there are a lot of stale characters. Which leads to some actors, like Asano Masumi, Ueda Kana, Terashima Takuma and Chiba Saeko to deliver really stagnant performances. In contrast you get some really strong performances from the actors voicing side characters who show up once or twice. Iwanaga Tetsuya, Hirakawa Daisuke Okano Kousuke, Kitamura Eri & Arai Satomi all do very well in the little screen time they get. The music is pretty good too.
There’s a little bit. The episode about the tennis player happens to also feature her girlfriend in a prominent role. Their relationship is pretty cute too.
Shigofumi has a really good concept and it shines as a series when it takes advantage of that concept. The problem is that far too much of the series is occupied with bland major characters and a generic, predictable plot line that only serves to weaken the series. In the end, it’s still decent but it could have been so much stronger. The final rating is a 6/10. If the concept sounds compelling to you, you might want to give it a shot. I would personally suggest watching the first four episodes, episode 6 and episode 10 while skipping the other half of the series. Next week, Conqueror of Shamballa.