Portrait of a Family

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A  nostalgic look at how the ED sequence of Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari (Poco’s Udon World) completely sold me on the show.

Just when I thought that maybe I can’t get into single/surrogate parent drama anymore (last season’s Lightning and Sweetness failed to do much for me), this show came along and charmed the hell out of me. The funny thing is that I had resigned to drop Udon World by the end of its first episode,  but then I saw the ED and decided to give it another shot.

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Udon World didn’t start by showing or providing much information on its protagonist’s past life. It’s easy enough to infer from the first episode alone though, and by the end of it we know that Souta’s parents have passed, that he also has a big sister, and that he left unresolved friction with his father. Then, the ED came along and provided all we need to know about the dynamics of the Koyurugi’s household through extremely effective visual story-telling.

Technically, there’s nothing flashy about this ED sequence. It’s practically a montage slideshow, and yet the amount of gravitas they packed through specific art direction and choice of framing is staggering. For starter, look at the early still frames depicting the family of four, and you can infer the temperament of  each family member and the dynamics between them just by looking at the specific pose and expression of the characters drawn. It’s the sort of art I deeply admire, one that manages to convey a lot through visual details alone. In this case, you can actually cut down the amount of flashback needed in the actual show just because these frames already told you a great deal.

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Can I mention just how much I love the art direction in this show? The ED art is perfectly suited to showcase Udon World’s distinct visual tone: warm and earthy color palette combines with soft filtering to create an evocative look that’s very easy on the eyes, while the appealing character design blends perfectly within this style. The overall mood I got is one of great contentedness, but  also one that’s suffused with heavy nostalgia and bittersweet longing. Love the song, too; Goodwarp’s Sweet Darwin is a very appropriate accompaniment, a gentle lullaby with soothing vocal whose lyric synchs perfectly with the imagery (‘darwin’ is a curious choice of word here, but I guess it has something to do with Poco’s human-animal nature as well as being a wordplay on ‘darling’).

There are powerful forward and backward association invoked by this childhood sequence. Seeing Rinko for the first time in the show made me chuckle and think, ‘ah, you’re that lively kid who don’t sleep in proper position..’,  and the overall imagery will become increasingly relevant as you watch more of the show and get to know the characters better.

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‘Temporary’ is one of the key adjectives in Udon World. As the show winds down to its end, there is an emerging theme of taking things for granted, not properly appreciate things until they’re gone forever. Again, the ED illustrated this gentle reminder through the shift from past memory to  imagery of adult Souta, standing in front of an appropriately childlike backdrop of fallen stars with a look on his face that will get increasingly painful the more episodes we watch (take note that in the later episodes’ ED, they added a few more frames that further contextualize the ED as ‘Souta looking at his past memories’).

And then, the little dude came along.

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Honestly, I tend to dislike this sort of one-note magical creature whose main function is to ‘heal’ the main character, but there’s something in Poco that genuinely moved me. Maybe it’s just a sheer matter of execution (they never feel like they’re overplaying his cuteness somehow), or maybe because he’s situated dead center on the ephemeral atmosphere that this show conjured. A peaceful resignation that even if fantastical thing happened, it’s still a world where no sweet, beautiful things last forever—and Poco is just one of these things.

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And thus, we closed with a pair of terrific family portraits, intertwining the past and present of Souta.

In sum, a terrific sequence that neatly encapsulated the central theme, general mood, and narrative thrust of the show. So, basically everything about it.  As I mentioned above, watching the ED for the first time altered my perception of the show from ‘just another single parent melodrama’  to something that’s a creature of its own, full of promises on themes and characters that hit close to home and would stick with me. I proceeded to continue watching, and it’s been a wonderful experience, eliciting genuine reaction from me and planting its roots deeper after each episode.

And now I’m off to see the final episode at last. Yeah, already got my tissue ready, don’t worry.

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