I decided to give Mizu Iro Jidai a look based primarily on its resemblance, on the surface, to several sentimental favourites of mine from the 80s and 90s which follow a group of characters through a given stage in their lives. Among them are classics like Maison Ikkoku and Touch, which appeal to me primarily for their gentle pace, characterization, and wistful portrayal of bygone decades. Mizu Iro Jidai doesn’t quite have the same appeal of those series – nor is it able to sustain its strengths throughout its 47-episode run. However, in its best moments, it manages to provide a likable portrayal of the pangs of adolescence that should appeal across generations.
Mizu Iro Jidai, which literally translates to “Watercolor Years”, primarily revolves around Yuuko, a timid middle schooler, her more extroverted best friend, Takako, as well as a next-door neighbor, Hiroshi. The characters themselves are somewhat forgettable, but this doesn’t really become detrimental until later on in the series. This is because the primary appeal of the first half, at least from the perspective of an older viewer, lies more in its sympathetic portrayal of the common tribulations of early adolescence, rather than any significant attachment to the characters themselves. Although they’re not quite “blank slates”, the simplicity of their personas does allow the audience to easily remember themselves in their shoes and remember those very same incidents in their own past.
Consider, for example, an episode which revolves around the first day of new classes, when the main character finds herself in a new class that is isolated from most of her old friends. There is certainly a level of human drama in this situation that most of us can remember from our younger years, and the straightforward way in which the series draws these conflicts allow us to inject some of our own memories into the experience. The lack of obvious markers of a young target audience (for example, repeated comic relief bits or characters) is another aspect of the show which allows it to double as a vehicle for this kind of sentimental enjoyment.
Ultimately, however, I found that the series started to lose my interest when it drifted away from focusing almost exclusively on evoking the universal trials of growing up and instead tried to become a more traditionally character-oriented show. It might make more sense to describe this difference through example: Early episodes revolved around fairly universal topics such as resolving conflicts among close friends or experiencing jealousy for the first time. In comparison, the later episodes had more traditional episodic diversions such as the romantic adventures of side characters, Yuuko’s mother being (comedically) suspected of adultery, and so on. While the difference probably won’t affect younger viewers too much, in my case it meant the show lost its cross-demographic appeal, as I simply didn’t find the characters interesting enough on their own to hold my attention. That is among the primary reasons I would not call the series a particularly memorable one, but it does provide an element of youthful charm for those who are seeking it.
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