The slice of life genre of anime always needs a hook to let itself stand out. Himouto! Umaru Chan uses the titular character’s multiple personas to switch up situations, Nichjou and Azumanga Dioh rely on bizarre characters and situations to make the otherwise mundane fantastical, the list goes on. However, Dagashi Kashi takes a different path. What could this hook possibly be in an anime about a bunch of teens hanging out in a candy shop? Let’s take a look and find out.
Story and Formula
Shikada Dagashi, a plain little sweets shop owned by the Shikada family for eight generations. Yo Shikada, the shop’s current owner, wants nothing more than to see his son Kokonotsu take over the family business, but Kokonotsu himself doesn’t share this dream. No, good ol’ coconuts would rather spend his life as a mangaka, sharing his art and ideas with the world.
One day, a mysterious purple-haired girl by the name of Hotaru Shidare shows at on the Shikadas’s door to recruit Yo to work for the prestigious Shidare snack company, which is unsurprisingly owned by Hotaru’s father. Too stubborn to let the family business die, Yo refuses the offer, with the caveat that he will change his mind if Kokonotsu agrees to take over the shop. Determined to see her mission through, Hotaru vows to spend every day trying to convince young Kokonotsu to put aside his mangaka dreams and become the Dagashi (sweets/snacks) vendor he was always destined to be.
Going forward, the formula is simple: Kokonotsu is hanging out either at the shop or with his friends. Hotaru shows up to either talk about, quiz Kokonotsu on, or shoehorn into conversation some kind of dagashi (though sometimes Kokonotsu flexes his dagashi knowledge of his own free will). So what’s this hook that I’ve been teasing this long? Well, Dagashi Kashi not only serves as a comedic slice of life anime, but also a PBS-esque documentary on dagashi. Each episode looks at a small selection of real-world dagashi and explains their history and the intention behind their creation. Of course, a pure documentary would be boring, so Dagashi Kashi also works to bring likable characters to the table. Without further ado, let’s meet our cast.
Kokonotsu “Coconuts” Shikada
Heir to Shikada Dagashi, Kononotsu is a meek and mild-mannered young man with dreams of becoming a manga artist. Though he much prefers drawing to working in the shop, he has shown a great amount of knowledge both in how to run a shop and the histories of the snacks the store stocks.
Kokonotsu is a very passive person when not talking about his drawing, and as such relies on the other characters to be entertaining. This may sound bland at first, but there’s something very real about him. Every friend group has that one quiet guy who’s boring alone but makes a group or even just a friend feel more complete when they’re around.
He also has a crush on Hotaru; it’s not explored whether the attraction is just physical or more than that, but there we have it.
The eccentric heir to the Shidare dagashi company, Hotaru arrives at Shikada Dagashi in hopes of recruiting Kokonotsu’s father to her father’s business. Since Yo will not leave unless Kokonotsu agrees to inherit the shop, she spends most of her days grooming poor Coconuts to be a proper dagashi shop owner. Typically speaking, most knowledge coming out of the anime will be from her since she prides herself on being a true expert when snacks are involved.
As a character, Hotaru is entirely obsessed with dagashi to a point where it becomes a strangely hobbled way of life; she contemplates dagashi-based gods, uses dagashi as medicine, and often uses language assuming the other party knows she is talking about dagashi (often leading to awkward one-sided sexual tension). It’s notable that this eccentricity comes off differently depending on which language you watch the series in. In Japanese, Hotaru speaks in the voice of a proper ojou and creates a juxtapositional humor between her sweets-crazed behavior and her voice’s inherent dignity. In Funimation’s English dub she has a stereotypical quirky girl voice that makes her feel less mysterious and more like that one weird friend that you’d get tired of if she were anything besides a cute girl. If you don’t have a preference in language, I’d actually recommend taking a look at both and seeing whether you prefer one voice over the other; the tone of the show can actually shift a surprising amount on Hotaru’s voice alone.
Also she has wicked sick lolita styles.
The current proprietor of Shikada Dagashi, Yo is a child at heart. Though Kokonotsu sees him as an oaf (though he’s not wrong to say that), he’s a kind man who treats his customers with the kind of warmth that to this day is romanticized in the very idea of a candy shop owner.
Really, there’s not all that much more to say about him. He cares very much about his son and business, but at the end of the day he is mostly a plot point and the driving force in the events of some episodes.
One of Kokonotsu’s best friends, Toh (allegedly) runs a cafe with his younger twin sister. Most of Toh’s time is spent lazing around and contemplating ways to get more popular with the ladies.
Generally speaking, Toh is the character that Kokonotsu gets most enthused with due to their shared desire to be popular (not to mention the lack of sexual/romantic tension or familial annoyance that come with the other characters). As one would expect from the series’ “cool guy,” he’ll often look for ways to pick on others in a playful manner. Otherwise, he simply fills the best friend role.
Saya has been close friends with Kokonotsu since they were both children, and she has had a massive crush on him for every moment of it. Throughout the series, Saya often stays back and plays the role of an onlooker more than the meat of whatever situation is at hand. Sometimes the rest of the cast is playing a game and she shows up to beat them all, or she just acts as one of the victims of an at-length history lesson on dagashi.
She’s not always on the sidelines though, there are a couple episodes where the main focus is Saya’s crush on Kokonotsu and their history as friends. In all honesty, these episodes are the best in the series; they’re charming, sweet, and really make you root for them as a couple despite nothing in that vein actually going down within the series.
As a character, Saya plays a similar role to her brother, Toh. She’s a mostly chill person who just likes having a good time with friends, though she can be aggressive when set off by one of the guys acting stupid or when her flat chest complex is agitated. When it comes to interacting with Kokonotsu, everything she does is exaggerated: her anger is greater, her cool demeanor is liable to become shy, and in general she just seems to have a better time around him. I don’t know if there’s a set name for the “the girl that the series wants you to root for” romantically speaking, but if there is one, I’d say Saya fits that role amazingly.
When it comes to the technical side of things, Dagashi Kashi is competant, but not mind-blowing in any regard. It may sound a bit harsh, but even though everything is quality from the environments to the sound design, it’s nothing new. We’ve all seen small towns more charming than this one, and that’s pretty much the entire series; the same can be said of the music throughout the series. Even the OP, which I usually have a soft spot for, is decent if you’re watching an episode every week, but definitely skip-worthy when marathoning or even back-to-backing episodes.
However, I almost feel that the averageness of the technical side makes the anime that much more charming. This anime doesn’t care about setting outside of the simple fact that it’s in a small town, what matters is the characters, and I feel that that’s where the anime shines.
For a series that mainly relies on a wimp and a gothic lolita talking about snacks to constitute its runtime, Dagashi Kashi is suprisingly charming and heartfelt. Kokonotsu and his crew feel like a real group of friends that, though all eccentric in their own way, feel genuine at all times (well, maybe not so much Hotaru). The only real issue to be had is that Dagashi Kashi is a strange brand of dry, even for a slice of life. If anything, this series is best enjoyed simply when you have the time and feel like it, and not really in the place of something meatier… kind of like dagashi.
Dagashi Kashi is unique and intriguing. The characters and the situations are as comedic and charming as one could hope for, and the sheer strangeness of the high concept only adds to the fun to be had.
If you think you would enjoy hearing about the history of popular Japanese snacks, or even if you just want to ogle a purple-haired lolita, Dagashi Kashi is worth a look.
- Good after dinner, or lunch... or if you're just bored...
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