Review: Shigofumi – Letters from the Departed

C.C. demands... I mean Fumika demands more pizza!

I have some gripes about the shows from Winter 2008. Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei made less and less sense (I had no idea what was going on halfway through the season), the vampire fever was catching on (I liked Rosario + Vampire, but seriously way too much vampire shit coming out everywhere), decent but completely unspectacular romance anime (True Tears and H20 both solved the love issues in the cheapest/easiest way), and Spice and Wolf/Aria magically put me to sleep after watching every episode (they were good I admit, but my eyelids were so heavy after every episode). My favorite show of that season popped up out of nowhere, an anime that I never heard of (I tend to know what’s going to be my favorite of each season). One of my friends called me at 8 pm, gushing about some anime telling me to watch it asap. I read the summary, and thought “bleh, sounds so bland, it probably sucks or is going to suck sooner or later”. He managed to convince me to watch it, and I was indifferent during the majority of the episode.

It seemed like yet another romantic comedy except with not enough girls and rather sub-par animation. The “shigofumi”, which translates into “after death letter”, did get my attention. Letters from the dead sounded like a pretty cool premise. The anime wasn’t just cool, it was mind-blowing. The guy who I thought was the main character got knifed in the heart by his love interest Asuna Ayase and dropped dead bleeding all over the place by the end of the first episode. The character who delivered the letter, Mikawa Fumika, just watches this unfold and gives a small speech about how dead people are “better” than living people. The first episode then ends with Ayase raising her knife about to cut Fumika.

The first half of the anime is essentially a series of 1-2 episode one-shots about the people who receive shigofumi from Fumika. There were some really cool letter ideas, from a bloody-hand print a baby sends to his father who had him aborted to a letter of condemnation from a kid who was bullied to suicide to one of the kids who watched him get bullied. The most moving episode by far was definitely the one where the graphics designer quit his job and finds out that he has terminal cancer. He gets arrested for being a lolicon (even though the little girl was screaming at the cops to not hurt her uncle) when he took his niece out. His car breaks down and when he tries to leave to get help, his niece after him and says that she doesn’t want to be alone. When his niece showed him the game she was playing in which he drew the characters for, he was moved by how his niece plays the game and smiled. He reminisces on why his passion in life was to draw, but suddenly a truck comes their way. He pushes her out of the way and gets run over by the truck and killed. After his funeral, his shigofumi was addressed to his niece, in which he drew a picture of her her sleeping (in cat ears XD) with the words “thank you” at the bottom left.

Out of this anime, I only have gripes with two things. First and foremost, the main storyline. The one-shot side stories were so sad, moving, dark, scary, and just so good. However, the main over-arching plot was the most bland and boring choice that could possibly have been made (therefore, I will not bother going over it). There were no attempts to explore the mysteries behind the shigofumi (such as how the lolis are recruited to be mail delivery-girls) and instead the main plot centers on Fumiko’s past. And as far as characters go, Fumika’s friends (friends of hers when she was alive) have the most bland personalities and characteristics and the only cool and unique character is Fumika’s dad (wow, definitely one of the craziest villains I know of by far). All parts involving Fumika’s past were bland, from the revelations on how she has a split-personality (it was actually superfluous) to the completely irrelevant two girls-one guy love triangle (Fumika doesn’t care and the guy is adamant, everyone loses and it doesn’t affect the plot at all).

Overall, I rank this show number one for the Winter 07 season. It had a unique premise that you rarely see in anime, it portrayed realistic death (Ayase getting shot because the police thought she was going to attack an office with a knife, a kid getting killed by bullies who went too far, etc), the stories were heart-wrenching or dark/depressing, and you can easily sympathize with many of the characters. The OP is by Ali Project (if you’ve heard one song by them, you’ve heard them all), and the ED (Chain) suited the anime perfectly. The music overall is very good, and fits the mood of the anime really well. If you like dark/depressing/tear-inducing anime, this is an anime you have to watch. Even if you aren’t, watch this anime anyway, you won’t regret it.

Rating Breakdown
Draws you in instantly, sure sign of a good show.
Easily relatable characters make for an enjoyable experience.
Great. Character designs by Kouhaku Kuroboshi who did the designs for Kino no Tabi.
Animation quality suffers at times; noticeable differences.
Matches the atmosphere perfectly, but overall Ali Project is repetitive.
While the show has a few flaws, this should not deter you from watching an enjoyable story.
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  1. I thought it was a great anime as well, and dealt with social issues really well, but I disagree with you on the main story. The premise itself wasn't so bad (psychological analysis of how a young girl deals with domestic abuse), but I feel the way they executed the plot could've been better, as you said. I also felt like the mood changed way too much in the show. For instance, the bullying episode preceded the cat episode (which I felt was a really bad mood swap), if I recall correctly. The mood of the show was so inconsistent, it could be rather off-putting.

    • Hmm, I guess I was a bit unclear. What I meant to convey was that amongst all of the one-shot stories there were compared to the main plot, it was rather overshadowed. The main plot was rather bland in comparison, and rather predictable. Everything else kept me at the edge of my seat, and gave me a thrill that the latter half of the anime (the parts that centered around Fumika) never gave me save for those parts you learn more about Fumika's dad (once again, the guy is disgusting freak but such an interesting character).

      And the cat episode was before the bullying episode. The different moods of the show was to portray how different people write different shigofumis. From revenge, to forgiveness, to apologies, to regrets, etc. I found that to be a plus for the anime. It always kept things new, fresh, and interesting.

  2. Glad there's someone else who liked Shigofumi as much as I did. I figured you'd immediately wake up at the end of the 1st episode. It's basically Winter 2007's "Mami". I was more engrossed by the exploration of the dark side of humanity to be bothered by the subpar main story arc. I treat anime animation the same way I treat gaming graphics, as long as the content's good, graphics/animation quality mean little to nothing to me. I don't exactly have a fashion sense or eye for art.

    Point is, this show rocked and it had a yuri episode=Bonus points.

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