What They Say:
What’s salty, bursting with flavor, and just a touch crunchy? The most perfect snack Umai-bou, of course! Oh, but then there’s also Fue Ramune, Baby Star Ramen, and the iconic Sakuma Drops. And you can’t forget about Wata-Pachi. So many tasty things get in my mouth already! Welcome to Shikada Dagashi where your sweet tooth can find heaven. Ninth in line to run this fine establishment, Kokonotsu Shikada aka “Coconuts” would rather spend his time creating manga than thinking about Dagashi. But when a strange girl named Hotaru appears at the shop to recruit his dad, he’s suddenly pulled into her world of snack food obsession! Determined to make Kokonotsu realize his calling, Hotaru visits the shop daily to discuss the beauty, ingenuity, and overall taste of Japan’s famous snacks. Will her love of snacks, and maybe more, rub off on him? Get ready to sink your teeth into these tantalizing delights!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump to it, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. Though there are a few bigger moments from time to time with some of the challenges and activities that the kids get into this is mostly a dialogue driven show. That has its own fun areas with some of the sound effects, such as when they’re in the box, but also just in making it feel like a more fully realized world with the background sounds and even the crinkle of certain wrappers. Dialogue itself is fairly straightforward and plays well to the forward soundstage with a clean and well placed piece that hits some good moments and delivers on what the intent of it all is. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by studio Feel, the series has a really great look to it with a lot of detail and fluidity in the character designs in how they move about while also paying strong attention to detail in the snacks and all their packages. It’s something that it definitely needs to do and the payoff is there for fans of that element as it shows a real love of what they’re focusing on. The character animation is strong throughout with Kotoyama’s original designs making a great transition to animated here and combining that with some solid background pieces and a lived-in setting for the characters and it’s highly appealing. That comes across strongly through the encoding where colors are rich and vibrant throughout and there are no problems to be had with blocking or noise nor anything with cross coloration to be had.
The packaging for this release is a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case with two hinges inside to hold the four discs that make up the set. The release is one that comes with an o-card to it that has different artwork from the case itself, which is always a nice little thing. The o-card has a good shot of Hotaru that made up a lot of early promotional material with her holding a couple of snacks while wearing an appealingly designed outfit that shows a body in motion that feels like it can’t exist in reality. The main cover itself puts her and Kokonotsu together on a park bench where they’re a little more in line with reality, but not by much. Both are set against bland almost concrete-like backgrounds and some fairly subdued color choices that doesn’t really catch the eye, which is a bit odd considering how big the color design of snacks are in trying to appeal. It didn’t rub off here! The back cover for both is the same as it carries through the background with no additional artwork, but we do get a small strip of shots from the show along the bottom. The premise is well covered as are the extras while the technical grid breaks both formats down in a clean and accurate way. The case does have artwork on the reverse side where the right panel has a group shot of the four main characters while the left replicates the back cover. No additional inserts are included.
The menu design for the release is like the cover in that it’s very simple in its layout and approach, something that typically works well but feels even blander here thanks to the color palette. The main disc replicates the cover artwork with Hotaru along the right where she’s at least a bit brighter looking here as she’s set off to the right. The logo takes up a good chunk of real estate along the left which is decent but too dull in color. And those colors carry through to the navigation strip where we get a pinkish read that’s also very soft in tone and stands out all the more because of it when there’s so much and such small navigation text to be had. Everything is functional and easy to navigate both as a top level menu and a pop-up menu, but it’s such a bland experience going into it compared to what the show itself looks like that I really wish they had gone with clips or the opening sequence instead.
The extras for this release brings us a few familiar pieces that are definitely welcome, such as the clean opening and closing sequences and one of the original promos for it. We do get an audio commentary for it as well with the ninth episode getting an English dub cast gathering to talk about the show.
Based on the manga by Kotoyama that began in 2014 and has seven volumes to its name while being serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday, Dagashi Kashi is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the winter 2016 season. The series is one of those that I enjoy on a certain level because it is utterly a passion project about a kind of niche area that most people simply take for granted in that it focuses on sweets and all their varieties in packaged form. It’s a series that I think works far better in smaller bits, like many tasty treats, than a marathon session as that definitely colored my view of it because you see just how little there is here to sink your teeth into. But for those that viewed it weekly it must have been a delicious treat to get and savor.
The show focuses on a young man named Kokonotsu, who gets nicknamed Coconuts along the way in a most loving way, the son of a sweet shop owner out in the countryside. His father, Yo, wants Kokonotsu to take over the shop as the 9th head of it to keep the family legacy going but it’s not something that Kokonotsu is really all that interested in. He’s learned a whole lot of it by working there and through the osmosis of doing so, but he’s far more interested in being a mangaka than anything else. It’s a familiar family tale in this regard and it plays well as Yo isn’t overused for the most part but is a key ingredient to it all. The main focus is on Kokonotsu himself as he ends up getting involved in a deal that will alter his own life’s path based on the needs of others.
That need comes in the form of a very outgoing sexpot named Hotaru, the daughter of the Shidare family that owns a very well-known snack company. She’s been sent to recruit Yo into the business but he has no interest and Kokonotsu can’t understand why anyone would want his father, which is only lightly touched upon. Hotaru is deep and wide in knowledge about the snack world and is fully enmeshed in it, making for some enjoyable interplay between her and the osmosis-laden Kokonotsu. The deal she makes with Yo is an amusing one in that he’ll come work for the company only if she can convince Kokonotsu to take over the family shop. That puts a lot of pressure on Hotaru but she has such a passion for all of this and a desire to bring Yo in that she can’t pass it up. It gives her the in she needs and will likely discover that it’s really Kokonotsu that she really wants, both in person and for the company – down the line.
Though it takes a little bit to get to that point, once it does hit we end up with a range of stories that basically have the two teens going at it with their knowledge, tricks, and other elements of all things related to the snack world. These are utterly entrancing in the moment as you can learn a whole lot about it, including the running of the business in a bit of an abstract way, and really enjoy the quirks of some of it. Things like the card flipping games that some kids play, the various treats and their combinations, and of course some of the things like the ramune drinks and the like. It’s easy to get engaged in these pieces within the episode itself but when you look at it from the long perspective of the series as a whole it doesn’t leave much of an impression other than remembering enjoying the back and forth of it all.
Thankfully, the show does have a few other characters to balance things out a bit with Kokonotsu’s friend To, a laid back young man who runs the Cafe Endo with his twin sister Saya. To is fun because he’s mellow without being annoying and drops some good wisdom from time to time to try and get Kokonotsu to realize the position that he’s in. The two never get into anything serious and it has a really nice dynamic. Similarly, Kokonotsu’s relationship with Saya has a good ease about it that comes from her being totally into him since childhood but not making it a hugely overt thing for the most part because she doesn’t want to lose his friendship. She’s naturally different from Hotaru (i.e. flat-chested to Hotaru’s ample assets) and quite a bit shier as well which complicates things for her. She sees advantage in Kokonotsu taking over the story since it means he’ll stay in town and she can hopefully win him over.
The group dynamic is what helps it work better than it should in some cases because all of the characters are likable, even Hotaru. She’d be someone that would annoy me far too much in some other shows but with a smaller cast here it works for me amid the group. That said, there aren’t a lot of things that happen in the show that you can point to, even in the usual teenage sense. We do get a bit of time with a local culture festival that’s going on with shop stalls, but we don’t get most other school based things like beach episodes or camping trips. Even the pool episode isn’t anywhere near as overt as it could be. A lot of what we get, however, are the challenges that exist between Hotaru and Kokonotsu and those work well – in the moment. They don’t paint a picture of real growth over the long term of just twelve episodes, though I can see how over a longer manga series it could showcase Kokonotsu being drawn more into it through Hotaru’s energy and enthusiasm.
Dagashi Kashi is a series that has some very strong fans, and rightly so. It delivers big on an area that a lot of school based shows touch on in various ways when it comes to tasty treats but it makes it the central focus. And that’s something that really doesn’t do much for me as my sampling of Japanese treats simply doesn’t fit to my tastes – though I keep trying! There’s a real love of the snack here and some very fun characters that get caught up in small and silly situations in good ways. It’s a light show that’s not exactly about nothing but is of limited scope, which in some ways limits the characters. I enjoyed spending time with them but barely remember “what we did” after the fact, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a great looking show and Funimation delivers on the visuals for it as well as a solid cast that got a lot of time to invest in their characters. Fans of it will definitely love having it as well put together as it is here.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 9 Commentary, Promo Video, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, and Trailers.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.