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Kodomo no Omocha Review (Kodocha)

Kodomo no Omocha, commonly called Kodocha, isn’t the most widely known series, but is generally well-liked by those who’ve seen it.   The clean and simple appeal of Kodocha lies with its very likable main character, its fun combination of generally spirited humour with sincere moments of emotion, and an endearing chemistry between the two lead characters.  Kodocha certainly has its weak spots – the first batch of episodes feel a bit rough, while some of the middle and later story arcs occasionally lose the show’s balanced charm.  Some of the antics targeted at its younger target audience also tend to tire out an older viewer.  However, those who can look past these aspects will find a delightful show which alternates between being amusing, sad, crazy, touching, and quite a bit else.  An episode of Kodocha per day is a sure-fire way to keep a smile on your face.

Kodocha generally follows the ups and downs of Kurata Sana’s life as she balances school, friends, and work .  Sana is often described as a “child star”, but as this review points out, that term has come to give off a “vaguely icky vibe” these days.  Sana doesn’t represent the typical child celebrity or idol that probably figures into most people’s minds when they hear the term.  When the show begins, she is an average, though very hyperactive, school student who also happens to take part in an after-school television variety program that is the series’ namesake (“Kodomo no Omocha”, which means “Child’s Toy“).  While her role in the acting world does rise and fall at various points throughout the series, the series always keeps a very down-to-earth portrayal of it.

I can easily say that Kurata Sana is one of the most endearing characters I’ve come across – possibly one of my favourites from any anime altogether and certainly the primary reason I enjoyed this anime to the extent that I did.  To quote again from this review, “the show achieves something which I think is not easy – making the audience believe that the main character is a special, wonderful person, and someone you’d like to know.”  When Kodocha begins, Sana’s initially constant perkiness and volume is a bit overbearing and brash (this applies to the opening episodes in general), but after a settling in period of sorts, the character becomes a much more well rounded one.  Her energetic, outgoing side does indeed fuel a great deal of the lighter moments of the anime (making the target demographic a bit more obvious), but it remains endearing throughout primarily because she lacks the sort of annoying traits (such as ditziness) that often accompany “energetic” characters in anime.

As the story moves, however, we see that despite her typically cheerful attitude, Sana carries many of the apprehensions that you’d expect of someone her age – yet even when she hits one of many obstacles in the story, she remains forward looking rather than wallowing in a pit of despair.  That is what makes her a appealing character – right when you, the viewer, start to sit back and feel sorry for her, she will pick herself right back up on her own.  In other words, she’s a character that is easy to sympathize with but also admire for her positive outlook and headstrong approach.  It is particularly refreshing when you consider that these characters are quite young, and are characters in a show aimed primarily at younger audiences, yet they frequently display greater maturity in handling their conflicts.  The way Sana herself matures throughout the anime is worth mentioning as well, since it’s done in a very gradual way that I didn’t notice until I went back to the first episode after finishing the series.

The other main character is Hayama Akito, who is described by Sana throughout the early season as both her sworn enemy and best friend.  When the show begins, he seems to be in a familiar delinquent child role – a pessimistic troublemaker with little regard for the feelings of others – but our, as well as Sana’s, perception of him is quickly reversed after delving a little into his background.  The reason he works so well in this anime is that he is a near-perfect foil to Sana’s friendly, outgoing nature – while conversely she is the only one who can cause any disturbance in his aloof behavior.  There is one particularly amusing scene where Hayama, who is used to brushing people off with sarcastic remarks, notes that Sana annoyingly seems to have a response for everything he says.  The best moments of the show tend to be when the two interact – either in serious or comedic scenes, while conversely the lulls in the show tend to be the story arcs where they are separated.

One of the very best things about Kodocha is that, with a few exceptions during the middle arcs, it knows how to maintain a general tone of lightheartedness while letting the serious moments resonate.  Thus, for example, when the relationship between Sana and her mother is treated with an emotional three-episode-arc that finds the humour level toned down dramatically, it feels perfectly natural despite this shift in balance.  I would certainly say that the way that Kodocha manages to combine such off-the-wall humour with sincere, touching moments of emotion is partially what sets it apart from so many others in this genre – though hints of it only begin to appear around the sixth episode.

Kodocha, story-wise, is divided up essentially into three main segments.  The first segment introduces us to Sana and her classmates and then follows the various events in their day to day lives – ranging from stories involving incessant reporters to the divorce of a friend’s parents.  These early shows are propelled forwards by a subtle and charming bond between the lead characters.  The middle portions of the anime, however, are a little more uneven in quality.  A subplot involving the coincidental return of a lost relative of Sana’s, for example, feels far too theatrical for a series that had kept itself relatively down to earth prior.  Another arc, where Sana travels to New York with a secondary male lead character, suffers from a similar fate and is worsened by the lack of chemistry with the primary cast back in Japan.  Both of these arcs, incidentally, are stories that were invented outside of the manga.  While the anime does a great job of adapting the manga’s content, it is a little less successful at crafting original story arcs.

In many ways, it was almost an experiment: if you changed everything around her, could Sana still carry the show almost all by herself?  The answer, I found, is mostly yes, as I still found myself enjoying the show, but it would be a lie to claim that some episodes weren’t a chore.  Thankfully, the anime pulls itself together and reincarnates the wonderful formula from the early episodes in a slightly modified form at the end, with Sana returning to school and the old cast being formed once again.  This all culminates in a closing arc which rounds off the story very well and gives us a satisfying resolution.

Once again, I face the Maison Ikkoku dilemma when it comes to giving a final impression of Kodocha.  Just like MI, Kodocha isn’t a perfect series in regards to its execution – it has its high points and low points and I can definitely think of a variety of improvements that would improve the overall effectiveness of the show.  There are also aspects which won’t appeal to everyone – the comedy may be a bit too frenetic for some, others may have a hard time relating with the emotional drama of children.  However, the most important thing is that the overall impression that Kodacha left me with is extremely positive, and I am completely satisfied with the experience of following these characters from the beginning to end.  It’s a show that always left me in high spirits, and even now I think I could easily load up the first episode and blast through the entire series again without tiring of it.  Indeed, I find myself dropping back into the show for an episode occasionally, just to have some more fun with the cast.

4 responses so far

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4 Responses to “Kodomo no Omocha Review (Kodocha)”

  1. francoon Jun 27th 2010

    if you liked the anime, check out the manga too. only 10 volumes.

  2. ojisanon Jun 27th 2010

    My God, it’s been so long since I watched this – I MUST go back and see it again.

    Your thoughtful review does it credit, but you do make it sound a bit more smooth and integrated than I found it. Story arcs aside, the show throws regular, uncontrollable hyperactive fits – Sana’s songs, the animated ‘draw a character’ sequences, and almost any bit that involves getting from Point A to point B in Sana’s day. Sometimes it reminded me of babysitting my neighbour’s three-year-old.

    And yet, that’s part of its charm, and highlights the thoughtful stuff as well. Sana-chan really is God. 106 episodes (if I remember correctly) and still at the finish I wailed “You can’t end NOW!!!”

  3. Theowneon Jun 27th 2010

    Yes, I suppose you’re right about that. I think the reason is that I wrote this review after finishing the series, and the ending section of the series definitely tones down the randomness. I went back to the earlier episodes, and they are definitely a very off the wall in comparison. Maybe I’ll add a few sentences on that to the review, thanks for pointing that out.

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