Shouwa Monogatari – 3

Or whatever the hell episode this actually is, since they seem to change the order around constantly with no real explanation.

I’m glad this series is finally being subbed, though of course it’ll take a while for the group to catch up to the RAWs – but I’m grateful they’re doing it. This is a good show – not spectacular or anything, but quite unlike anything currently airing. It manages to create a nostalgic, wistful tone that makes me feel oddly sad every time I watch it.

You get a little history lesson with every episode of Shouwa Monogatari, and I’m enough of a Japan geek to take real pleasure in that. This week, it’s Funabashi Health Center – a real-life onsen/amusement park that opened in Funabashi, Chiba, in 1955. It wasn’t until the commercial featuring the ultra-catchy jingle aired in the early 60’s that it became a sensation. Alas, it closed in 1977 to be replaced by – you guessed it – a shopping mall (Lakeport) but this series is set during the peak of its popularity. Kouhei is crazy to go there and check out all the cool stuff his rich buddy got to see – but his Dad can’t be bothered to take him there. Or anywhere – on winter break, spring break, weekends…

Fact it, Kouhei’s Dad seems pretty much like a dick to me. He treats both his sons like shit, never smiles, and though it’s implies his company makes decent money he spends next to nothing on his family. For the topper, this week he slaps Kouhei hard enough to knock him flat on his rear end in the snow. Admittedly, this was after Kouhei and his friends got into a spot of bother by sneaking onto Haneda Airport to check out the new jet hangar and ended up on a US military base in Yokohama, causing his family a lot of worry. But that doesn’t excuse hitting him in my view, never mind the rest of Dad’s meanness.

This has come up in anime before – in Seirei no Moribito (by far the most thoughtful and disturbing incident) and Oreimo (with a much older son) to name two. Clearly this is something not uncommon in Japan and hardly a taboo subject, but I must confess I can never envision a valid reason to hit a child in the face hard enough to send them flying. Are sons commonly subject to this in Japan, I wonder? It certainly didn’t raise an eyebrow here or in Oreimo.

In the end, Dad does at least build the paper model plane Kouhei needed to finish for his rich friend – and after Kouhei gives him a birthday gift of a “ticket” for Funabashi and coupons for 10 neck massages – along with an apology – it’s implied that he’ll finally take his son on the trip. But when Monday comes, I’m sure he’ll go back to being a dick. In the meantime, it’s a real blast seeing the daily lives of middle-class Edoites in the 1960’s – the trips to the sento, giving cigarettes as birthday gifts – and getting a glimpse of the city as it was then. This series is nothing if not lovingly detailed – if probably a bit rose-colored – in its depiction of the Shouwa era.

My one disappointment – we didn’t get our “casual stroll” segment at the end this episode. Hopefully it’ll return with episode four.


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