He sees dead people …

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In “Hanada Shounen-shi”, we meet a potty-mouthed brat named Ichiro Hanada.

He is the village troublemaker; the bane of pets and neighbors. He calls his mother “demon hag” and his sister “fat and ugly”. He also doesn’t care much for school and would rather chow down than listen to his long-suffering elementary school teacher.

One day while fleeing from his enraged mother on a bike, he runs into the path of an incoming truck. Next thing he knows, his soul is watching things from afar and heading upwards. But he is sent back because it’s not his time yet.

Nine stitches later, he is back home. But Ichiro can now see ghosts which is bad news for him since he scares easily. The ghosts want him to do things for them like hand over a long-delayed Christmas present or tell a loved one to keep on living.

While this little scamp grouses about helping dead folks, Ichiro often gives in to their requests because he does have a heart. Along the way, Ichiro learns about people, love and life.

Ichiro and most of the cast are ugly. You can see for yourself in these samples. But there is a charm to the characters especially Ichiro’s dysfunctional family. Most of the episodes are worth watching and guaranteed to wring a tear out of the viewer. They don’t get too schmaltzy either.

I’m warning you though. This show is not for kids. There are plenty of toilet jokes and bawdy humor plus our hero prances around in the buff in several scenes.

I would recommend it for those 14 and above.

“Hanada Shounen-shi” is one of the few anime I’ve seen that uses American songs as the intro and ending to the series. It was a jolt to hear the “Backstreet Boys” to be honest.

A brief but magical life

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In anime, the guy sometimes doesn’t get the girl in the end and not everyone lives happily ever after. People get hurt or abandoned. Love doesn’t conquer all. The hero dies. Some series end like it was just another day in the life of the characters.

When I was young I favored shows that had a happy outcome or at least promised some sort of happiness in the future for the protagonist. I’m not a kid anymore.

Life can be tragic, brief yet still beautiful.

“Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora” or as Wikipedia translates it “Things That are Precious to a Mage: Summer Skies” was one of two series shown in Japan this summer which caught my interest.

The animation is done in an unusual way as you can see from the three scenes I included here. It’s as if someone drew on photographs. The characters are simply drawn but they move in a world that looks very realistic.

The short series focuses on Sora, a teen living in a small town who gets accepted to a summer internship program in Tokyo. She is a mage since her late father was also a magic user. Mages are part of this world. They get trained by the Bureau of Magic which sends them out to fulfill requests by ordinary folks.

This is not a world like Harry Potter’s so don’t expect to be awed by the effects or requests. It’s all quite boring actually. Kinda like having the city repair the pothole in front of your house except the workers use magic to do it.

Sora is a country gal awed by the big city. One can imagine she’d be easy prey for any grifter. But she has plenty of magic powers and tries her best to make sure the clients are satisified with the job she’s done.

She befriends several people from the program which include Gota, a teen who didn’t realize he had magic powers until his father admitted he gave up being a mage. His mother left saying she could not live with a liar and Gota was thrust into a world he knew nothing about. His magical abilities seem close to nil until Sora helps him out.

They also fall in love but Sora carries a secret.

SPOILER ALERT. DON’T READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT TWIST

She is dying which explains the sometimes extreme reaction she has when she feels she has failed or not lived up to the client’s request.

Sora graduates with the rest of her class, returns home to Biel and dies after she fulfills a promise she made to her dead father.

Gota finally visits her town years later wearing as a necklace the stone Sora gave him. The viewer is shown how the others have fared as well.

Some folks might just groan at this series and find something else packed with action or fanservice. Consider the show a snapshot into a girl’s short but memorable life. Sora made her brief existence count by helping others or making them happy, For her, it was enough.