Fune wo Amu started, looking to justify its status as one of the season’s most exciting prospects… and guess what? The word “exciting” probably isn’t the one you’ll look up in your dictionary after watching this.
Why is that? Because this show is, in fact, the embodiment of “dull”. We have a protagonist, Majime, who’s indeed serious, but also very flat. He likes books, especially dictionaries (everyone’s favorite piece of media) and when you talk to him he goes off weird tangents about the meaning of the words you say. Would you really have him as your friend? Probably not. Worse than his off-putting personality, he doesn’t really say anything of much interest; you can’t even go to him if you want to learn profound life lessons or anything of the sort.
But, hey, he loves dictionaries, and that’s enough for this show. It’s centered around the making of a dictionary named The Great Passage, for which one more man is needed; and Majime is a rare individual who has the required passion for words. In fact, we see him obsessing over the “sea of words”. He’s drowning in it; in other words, he’s unable to express his feelings. And that’s where dictionaries come in. They’re the boat that allows one to cross the sea; thanks to them, we can go on, always afloat, as they give us the tools to pick the right words and express ourselves correctly.
The problem with this concept is it’s… fairly shallow. The vast sea of words: how romantic! The great struggle of man against nature unleashed: how fascinating! But, though the dictionary-boat may help us cross the sea… where are we headed? Now, this is a question the show may very well answer later on, but one must have their doubts about this. For now it’s a pleasantly vague imagery; one that lulls us into a delightful drowsiness, unaware of the surrounding darkness.
The anime doesn’t help with some moments which can only be qualified as utterly strange. When Kouhei finds Majime, there’s a weirdly presented romanticism to the encounter. Majime is idealized: he is the only person to shine amid the dull grey surroundings, coming forth as The Great Passage’s ray of hope. One will easily understand that purpose, but the execution is awkward. The grey tone from which is extracted words and their golden halos (in case you needed a reminder that words matter in this show), the lazy blurry effect put over the room; none of this feels refined. It’s crude and only serves to make the scene strange instead of the fateful encounter it aimed to be.
The whole of the animation is so. It’s tempting to say it was fairly rushed, for not a single moment stands out as well done. It’s standard at best.
Finally, there’s a strangeness to the pacing. The ending is anticlimactic, coming after the encounter which was presented as the climax, and even before that, it’s hard not to feel taken aback by the abruptness of it all. The first half presents a lot of generalities and is fairly easy-going, but then the last part dedicates around nine minutes to Kouhei finding Majime, which happens in twenty-ish minutes at most.
There is but one saving grace: Nishioka. His personality is that of a self-assured, effective worker: he’ll tell you few are as good as him, and speaks with much liveliness. He’s certainly a lot more dynamic than the actual protagonist, who’s a huge weight on the show. Finally, we must mention the middle segment, a cute informatory session on the individuality of dictionaries. It’s not the most incredible thing, but it was fun, which is more than enough.
All in all, Fune wo Amu is far from impressive. Nearly everything about it is flat; the animation, the cast, the concept about dictionaries… Either the latter is developed to an unexpected extent and becomes interesting, either the adventures of Majime are sure to become more effective than day-long dictionary-reading marathon.
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