After taking the Summer season off, Shaft returns with two shows for the Fall season; the first is a sequel to my top show from Spring, Arakawa Under the Bridge, and the other one is Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru. Going into the season, I felt a little bad for this show because it was getting dealt a tough hand. If Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru was another character-driven series with a mix of comedy and seriousness that seems to be Shaft/Shinbou’s trademark then it would have to directly compete against Nino and the crew of Under the Bridge for it’s placement amongst the successful anime of the season. Very stiff competition indeed. If it wasn’t and was instead a more plot driven show, the possibility of Shaft being Shaft™ sinking Soredemo was high.
Rating for episode 1 – 3/12 D
Rating for episode 2 – 8/12 B+
Rating for episode 3 – 10/12 A
Anticipation Level: 2.5/5 Average
Hotori is your typical slightly spacey high school girl with an overactive imagination and a love of detective novels. She recently started working at a maid café run by an elderly woman who decided to convert her normal café into a maid one. The switch in format hasn’t helped business at the café much but that hasn’t slowed Hotori’s unerring quest to cause mayhem (intentionally and unintentionally). And it follows that hilarity ensues.
I didn’t like the first episode of Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru. It wasn’t very funny and I thought the main characters were not the type of characters that one builds a good show around and it felt like Shaft/Shinbou was trying way to much. I knew this was a possible result, every now-and-again Shaft/Shinbou serves up a miss in-between their hits; the last time was Dance in the Vampire Bund and before that it was probably Maria+holic. I hoped this wasn’t the case because when Shaft/Shinbou gets it right, their shows are so uniquely satisfying and we always need another one. Instead, I hoped Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru was an example of a Shaft/Shinbou series that as a whole turn out very good but the first episode wasn’t so hot; Natsu no Arashi was a great example of this.
So I watched the second episode (hoping for the best) and it was like a switch was flipped; it still wasn’t perfect but it suddenly was a much more enjoyable show. The pacing picked up and felt more right. The first episode spent entirely too much time on “Hotori doesn’t know how to be a maid” and then “Tatsuno is a little too obsessed with maids.” Contrast that to the second episode where we learn of Hotori’s home life (and why she’s willing to spend so much time at the maid café), why she took a job working in a maid café when she doesn’t particularly like playing the maid stereotype, her irrational crush on her homeroom/math teacher, and several scenes of Hatori acting like herself – bothering the police officer that patrols the shopping district first for not having a license to ride a scooter and then by putting up unauthorized advertising for the maid café being two such scenes.
The voice actor behind Hotori is Chiaki Omigawa (Maka from Soul Eater, Jun from Natsu no Arashi, and P-Ko from Arakawa Under the Bridge). There are some out there that don’t much like her voice work, which I can understand since her voice is so distinctive. It doesn’t allow much of a middle ground. I, however, have liked her vocal work so far but, after episode 1, I wasn’t sure she was right for the part. Or should I say that she was too perfect for the role. Every time she whined her “Waaahh!” at another injustice that her character had to endure, I could feel my jaw clench. She was perfect and I didn’t think I could take it (blame many years of being an older brother and having to listen to my many younger sisters reacting and sounding like Hotori before they matured). I wondered why they couldn’t have gotten someone a little less perfect, a little easier on the ears.
Turns out I just needed to be patient and let the show hit it’s stride and allow Hotori her full range of emotions and characteristics for the decision to have Chiaki Omigawa voice Hotori to look like a good idea. Which it did (hitting it’s stride) starting in the second episode when it began to move past it’s introductions and into the meat of the series i.e. a slice-of-comedy-life type series about a girl who likes to solve mysteries and the third episode continued this trend by introducing the final main character (if the OP/ED is to be believed) and Hotori solving her first mystery.
Speaking of mystery solving, watching Hotori solve the mystery of the strange paintings in episode 3 was quite the experience. I wouldn’t go so far to say she’s an idiot savant but the difference between how well she solved the mystery and her normal grip on reality was very pronounced. I hope every episode features at least one mystery that Hotori solves and if the Harlem Globetrotters show up it would just be icing on the cake.
Since this is a Shaft series, it’s important to mention at what level of Shaft being Shaft™ does Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru have since different people have different levels of tolerance to SbS™. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there’s been a relatively low level of SbS™ so far. There’s been a few background scenes that are reminiscent of Bakemonogatari and a few other touches like Hotori kicking the “camera” while sitting at her desk in episode 2 and we got the required “I’m in despair!” scene in episode 3 but overall the effect of SbS™ has been rather tame. Instead, the animators at Shaft seem to spending more time and effort on increasing the raw animation quality of the show. I’ve seen it theorized that the great DVD/Blu-Ray numbers to Bakemonogatari has given Shaft a welcome infusion of money and I definitely think that’s evident in both this anime and Under the Bridge. For example, the last time I saw falling snow done as well as I saw in episode 3 was back when KyoAni did Kanon several years ago.
In conclusion, at first glance Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru looked liked it was flop but that possibility seems to have been averted if episodes 2 and 3 are indicative of the rest of the series. Instead, it seems set to take it’s place amongst Shaft/Shinbou’s trademark character-driven, slice-of-life/comedy/insightful shows that are such a treat to watch. If it emphasizes the mystery part of the premise then it will even be able to separate itself from Under the Bridge (which has been way better then I thought possible) and carve it’s own niche out.
I’ve been enjoying Hotori’s facial expressions and eyes so far.
Some of the other cast members.
Various observations about the animation.