Review of Mizuiro jidai (1996)

Moving picture, 20 hours

Seen in 2015.

The everyday concerns of a regular girl and her friends.

Didactic coming-of-age dramedy. The first 38 episodes tell an impressively linear story of junior high, ending in graduation. Episode 39 is musical clip show, followed by side stories. The target audience is probably a bit younger than the characters.

“Mizuiro” is literally the colour of water, not pigment-cake artists' colours. The title is sometimes translated as “Aqua Age”, referring idiomatically to the years between childhood proper and the “springtime” of young adulthood. Incidentally, the Kesh in Always Coming Home (1985) refer to roughly the same period in life as the “clearwater years”.

One episode noted in the English-language literature on Japanese culture in anime shows the female protagonist’s family celebrating her first period—which would mark the end of her clearwater years—with traditional “red” rice for supper, and at the end of the last episode she says she’d like to have a child some day. When high school choices are discussed in episode 25, there is a case for ”none”, and a house wife is heard. In the next episode, the protagonist goes on a date with a second boy without telling her boyfriend, thankfully undermining her Mary Sue qualities. There is a didactic air to many such scenes, but the touch is light and the perspective fairly well rounded given the sexism of contemporary Japanese culture.

The typical plot revolves around the protagonist seeing something unusual, worrying needlessly about it, and finally getting a reassuring explanation. To an adult viewer it’s so uneventful and relaxing that it took me many years to get through the whole series. There is none of the sexual objectification that crept into the rush of late-night Japanese animation on similar subjects a few years later.

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series