Genre: Mystery, Letter Delivery
Main Studio: JC Staff
Back in deepest darkest January, I had this show pegged as my ‘best show of season’ type thing. I guess it still is the best show of the season, but it really hasn’t been a very good season now that I think about it. That’s not to say Shigofumi is bad by any stretch, it isn’t, but it just isn’t quite as good as it could have been.
Shigo means ‘after death’ and fumi means ‘letter’, making ‘After death letter’. Actually that sounds like a totally different show detailing what people do after they receive a death threat. Anyway, Shigofumi are letters from the recently departed that are delivered to the living that the dead have beef with, or other unfinished business. Delivering these letters are a group of staff-carrying dead girls dressed in cute postal worker outfits. Shigofumi follows the exploits of Fumika, a relatively new Shigofumi delivery person as she goes around doing her thing, and eventually gets wrapped up in a larger plot concerning her true nature, her past, etc.
Oh yeah, she can fly. Did I mention that?
The main concept of the show is really strong, and the initial two episodes are by a far way the best episodes in the show. They introduce the concept, and tell quite a dark story in an appropriately mysterious and well directed manner. The first episode even manages to pull a twist that even surprised jaded old me, which is quite an accomplishment. Initially Fumika while being the main character barely gets any screentime, with most of the episode is spent focused on the living recipients of the letters. Fumika would show up, be sullen and mysterious, explain yet again what the hell a Shigofumi is, and then she sodded off.
The few episodes after the initial plot arc were all stand-alone and also barely involved Fumika. I don’t dislike her or anything, but the concept of short stories about how a letter from the afterlife might affect people really interested me for some reason, and these single episode stories generally work really well. I therefore was slightly disappointed when a plot about Fumika’s old school friends investigating her started up, and began to take up more and more time of each episode. This plot eventually became the show, and the initial stand-alone structure was mostly done away with.
Of all the mysteries presented in the show, I would say that the main plot concentrates on what is arguably the least interesting one. On one side we’ve got a mysterious organisation that seems to be highly efficient at delivering a Shigofumi to people, even though no-one on earth seems to have any idea what they are (I can only assume that they only just started up or something). Also we have lots of dead girls who have somehow been conscripted into working for them, issued a hyperactive talking staff/computer/email client things, and given a delivery area to work. Even though we only see a couple of deliverers, the scenes in the weird otherworld imply that there are probably hundreds of them. I personally wanted to know more about this stuff.
Unfortunately what we received were a bunch of revelations about Fumika’s family, an alter ego, and her old school friends. None of these characters apart form her totally insane and fruity father are particularly interesting. There is also a love triangle thrown in that don’t really go anywhere, just because you pretty much have to put that sort of thing in a show just in case any girls happen to be watching. I will give credit where credit is due though; the show did not end how I expecting (Think Tuvix), so that was at least something. It also wrapped up the presented plots satisfactorily.
It does definitely gains marks for having a genuinely unique premise, and it contains some really dark scenes such as one where bloody hand-print of a baby is mailed to its father who is responsible for it being aborted. Also there’s a bunch of stuff about suicide which is always fun. Of course I expect there are people out there who will enjoy the main plot more than I did, the parts which I haven’t spoiled anyway. I think it comes down to whether or not you are okay with a mostly character driven main plot, which is something I am fine with if it doesn’t totally obscure any real plot from occurring. A good (hah) comparison would be those episodes of Lost where the flashback has nothing to do with anything except giving us a better look at some character. I hate those as well.
Another minor criticism I would have of the show is that some of the stand-alone episodes have good premises, characters, but endings that are either oddly unsatisfying or just plain confusing. I’m really not sure what the message of a couple of the episodes was supposed to be. Specifically, that’s episodes 6 and 10, so if anyone does know what the hell I was supposed to gain from them, then please leave a comment or something.
“It’s a letter sent from the afterlife, Biatch!”
I should probably say some more positive things about the show at this point. Let’s see, it has reasonable art, excellent music and atmosphere. The opening has nice visuals but is accompanied by Ali Project’s most phoned in anime theme yet, though it probably sounds the same as all their other work to those unfamilar with Ali Project’s stuff. The animation is servicable, and occasionally really well directed, especially when Fumika busts out her sweet gun, which she does disappointingly infrequently.
Overall I would still recommend Shigofumi to anybody looking for something a bit different, if only for the first two episodes. I would hardly classify it as a work of genius like Paranoid Agent, Texhnolyze or Happy World. Wait, scrap that last one.
Arbitrary Rating: 8 – Shigofumi. A Letter sent from the afterlife.