Dead Men Tell Tales – A Review of Shigofumi (2008)

After the excellence that is ‘Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’, I had decided to catch up to some ongoing shows with new seasons and, due to an itching for an echhi comedy, I settled for ‘Noucome’ as well. Noucome was pretty damn funny but nothing to write home about. Then a friend told me to check out ‘Shigofumi’ and write a review on it. Four days later, I obliged.

That title up there is basically what Shigofumi, which is translated to ‘letter from the departed’, is all about. Slap on an overarching plot and you get the makings of an original anime leaning supposedly heavily on the psychological thriller side. I used the term ‘supposedly’ as it eventually devolves into a meager slice-of-life romp with uninspired twists and a less than satisfactory ending.

To elaborate on the anime’s name, imagine dying and being allowed to send a single letter or object to any one person in the world. There are no rules to what you can send so the creative possibilities that can arise with this premise are seemingly endless. Add to that a supernatural postal service comprised of former live-folk and things get even more interesting. This is the gist of Shigofumi. The anime builds on this premise to go into a mystery of sorts concerning a certain postman, Fumika, who, unlike all other postmen, doesn’t age. The region over which she goes about her daily duties is related to her death and gradually connections are made to link it to the overarching plot.

This all sounds intriguing, no? Of the many anime my friend had offered me to watch and write upon, I picked Shigofumi just for the premise. I thought it would have made a shorter and better version of the ‘Jigoku Shoujo’ series where a young girl goes around granting people a chance to curse the source of their issues in exchange for eternal damnation. Shigofumi actually kind of emulated what made Jigoku Shoujo work and even, at times, surpassed it. Sadly, though, this was only true for episodes that did not focus on the overarching plot.

Shigofumi failed to have me interested in its main course. The appetizers and dessert were delightfully grim but the rest lacked flavor. It tried too hard to be this ‘intelligent thriller’ so much so that it failed to be at least somewhat surprising. This is mostly due to not refining the finer details regarding the whole postal service and the rules involved. You don’t have a clear understanding of how one becomes a postman nor do they delve into the obvious major flaw in the plot – why don’t most people know about the letters anyway? There’s also the fact that Fumika repeats several times that the postmen are not allowed to directly interfere with the lives of humans and yet they keep doing so over and over again. And then there’s the whole Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) twist in the main plot that is so lazily implemented that it feels like an insult to both the audience and the disorder itself.

It’s quite disheartening to see that this anime with so much potential suffers so damn hard from the crappy writing. I could have let this slide had they not linked even the most disconnected of the episodes to the overarching plot. It’s quite a shame seeing as these few episodes are actually quite good. You have murder out of necessity, suicide, child abuse, the whole shebang! None of these subjects are grossly romanticized nor are they watered down for casual consumption. They don’t preach that they are not acceptable and evil. They’re just things that people do in this messed up world due to circumstances. I like how these topics were maturely treated. But, as ol’ Ouroboros hisses in disdain, the main plot really undermines the only decent to good writing and directing in the show.

The cast of Shigofumi was just average. Nothing really special. The only standout character was a certain author, Mikawa Kirameki, but that was only because of how hilariously retarded he was. He was handled much too bizarrely to be even seen as an actual character at all. It’s like he was being controlled by a bunch of 4chan anons all of whom were trying to one-up each other with the next crazy ass thing for him to do. Hmmmm, I’d be interested in seeing an anime or visual novel like that done properly. Twitch Plays Anime. No one steal this idea.

Anyways, J.C.Staff did a God awful job with the animation for Shigofumi. They botched it. They botched it real bad. I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves. By the way, the pictures are all still frames – none of that in-between frames stuff.

Bottom left’s eyes.
Eyes and mouth.
Eyes once more.

The music was also nothing noteworthy. Hell, I don’t even remember any background music except for I guess some hard bass in some scenes. The ending song was alright. The opening song was funky. Ali Project makes some weird but catchy songs, I gotta say. If you don’t know who they are then the names ‘Another’ and ‘Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra’ might help you remember.

I could have gone a bit more into why Shigofumi’s narrative largely sucked but I decided not to. I wouldn’t recommend the show to anyone but I would mention it to folks who want some good old man based creepypastas. Plus they might actually like the overarching plot (like the majority) so going into heavier spoiler territory would be distasteful. I also don’t want them to miss out on the sombre third episode on casual suicide.

To conclude, ShiGOfumi gets a 5 out of 10 from me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s