Another title I haven't heard much about anywhere on the internet, I think that once again it went on my to-watch list after seeing a rather positive review on AnimeNewsNetwork and then earlier this summer I discovered that Sentai had put a number of their anime up on hulu and, since a lot of them are just one cour, resolved to try and make a real dent on my to-watch list before the end of the year and got to it!
Living for the Day After Tomorrow
Summary: Three years ago while living in America, Shoko was dumped by mail and has now (at 24) returned to live in Japan in an isolated, small town. As fate would have it it's the same time her former boyfriend Hiro lives in and she discovers the reason why he never returned to her, his 11 year old sister Karada. Karada is more understanding than she looks and realizes that her brother has had to shape his life around her and prays at a roadside shrine that she might become an adult immediately so she can free Hiro from his burden. But her extra years have to come from somewhere and soon Shoko finds herself much smaller than she should be.
The Good: While I couldn't completely suspend my disbelief for it the most interesting part of the show by far was watching Karada deal with the outcome of her wish and simply try her best to be an adult (with the story implying pretty heavily that in some ways she's a better adult than Shoko and possibly Hiro). Hers was by far the most interesting yarn in the story and the most emotional as well, the setting is realistic enough that it takes a while to convince any of the other characters that yes, Karada and Shoko has switched ages, and even though I was expecting a comedy I actually liked that approach a bit better, even if I didn't like a lot of the more serious elements that came along with it.
The Bad: When I saw all the brightly smiling promo pictures I thought "oh this will be a comedy with age-changing antics, fun!" and was quite unprepared for the slow, un-comedic, character drama that unfolded instead and I think because of that mindset I didn't enjoy the show as much as I could have. That said, this show also does have some problems with it's character development, it seems odd that Karada was able to pass as a twenty year old with ease (I live with 11 year olds, there is no way any of them are that mature, I can't even suspend my disbelief that far) and doesn't really change as much as realize that no, she's not a burden to her brother after all. Likewise, Shoko is still rather bitter over being dumped (since Hiro gave absolutely no reasons for it) and the story is more about her trying to forgive him, and Hiro eventually admitting that he needs to be more open and more courageous to say things that may hurt people but will ultimately make their relationships stronger. So as you can see, both girls' "growth" revolves around Hiro (which is a bit awkward since he is most decidedly not a protagonist in this story) and in some ways it's a very non-Western kind of character growth as well and one I had a really hard time sympathizing with. The story felt stretched out and limp by the end, I think it would have worked better as a movie with a shorter run time, even if that would have made it hard to fit in all the events that needed to happen for the girls and Hiro (and in some ways side character Testu) to change.
The Production Values: I was a bit surprised to see how recent this show was, 2006, since the show just looked older than that. Perhaps it's because hulu wasn't streaming an HD version and that soft blur effected it, and perhaps it's because it's based on a manga which must be a few years older (ANN lists it at 12 volumes and only gives 2005 for a date) but the character designs just looked dated and the color pallet for the entire show was oddly muted. The backgrounds being done in a softer, more watercolor or chalk pastel style I can understand, it fits with the quite tone of the show, but everything looked just so dull that I'm still confused about how this show can be only seven years old.
In the end I can only give this 3 out of 5 stars for being okay but entirely too long, having trouble giving the right characters meaningful development (since, even if Karada has to grow the most in the story in the end most of that seems to regress which made me even more frustrated), and having the art look just a bit off. Can't say I can recommend it to anyone but someone whose already a fan of slow paced character dramas, if you are one however and in the US go check it out on hulu or purchase the DVD.