One rule I have for choosing shows to cover for this column is that there must be some way to legally watch the show in English. While the overall proliferation of English-language anime streaming has made this not a real issue for more recent shows, it does mean there are plenty of older shows that I would otherwise love to talk about but cannot. However, every once in a while, one of those older shows ends up suddenly legally available in English in some obscure corner of the Internet, which nevertheless frees me up to talk about those shows. In this case, earlier this month, the anime streaming site Daisuki put up the 2005 anime Mahoraba as a premium-subscriber-only show; given how few people know of this site, much less are willing to pay for its premium services, I doubt many more people will be watching the show.
Still, one of my favorite anime from my early days of serious anime fandom has finally been made available in English legally, and if nothing else, that means I can finally blog about it.
The story revolves around Ryuushi Shiritani, a recent high school graduate who moves out to Tokyo to attend an art college, where he is striving to become a children’s book author/illustrator. He is able to make arrangements to stay at a nearby traditional Japanese-inspired apartment complex Narutakisou, run by his mother’s cousin. And as soon as he gets there, the landlady, Kozue Aoba, his second cousin and a cute high school girl, greets him.
Overall, things seem to be looking great for Ryuushi. He gets to stay at a beautiful apartment complex with a cute landlady, who is very sweet and gentle and supportive of his dreams of writing children’s books. Not only that, but Kozue seems to have met him ten years ago, which is always a promising sign for romantic comedy protagonists, and being second cousins, they are just distantly-related enough that no one would raise an eyebrow if the two were to get married. Sure, one of the other tenants has warned him to not “shock” her in any way, but that should not be too hard, right?
As you can guess, just that night, Kozue accidentally trips and falls onto Ryuushi, which does indeed “shock” her. The result: the sweet and gentle landlady suddenly turns into a boisterous and violent girl.
Turns out, Kozue has some anime case of multiple-personality disorder, where anytime she is emotionally “shocked”, she changes to a different personality, each with her own name, hairstyle, and eye color. In the above case, the boisterous girl is Saki, the red-eyed girl with a ponytail, and while she does take a liking to the new tenant, her brash and violent nature is still much harder to deal with than Kozue’s normal personality. Suddenly, Ryuushi finds his situation much less ideal, if these personality switches are going to be a regular thing.
However, after spending more time with Kozue in her normal form (who does not remember anything that happens while she’s transformed), he realizes that he still wants to stay at Narutakisou, with Kozue as the landlady; her personality switches are little different from the moody times people normally have. Of course, Saki is not the only alternate personality that Kozue has, as over the course of the series, Ryuushi encounters three other personalities (you can get a glimpse of them in the featured image at the top). However, as he gets to know the other tenants and Kozue’s other personalities, he starts to enjoy his life at Narutakisou, through both the fun and not-so-fun times.
That is the simple theme behind Mahoraba, a charming romantic comedy/slice-of-life show of old. Despite the multiple-personality gimmick, only a handful of episodes actually feature one of Kozue’s alternate personalities, with plenty of episodes instead just being the cast having fun, or in some cases, exploring the lives of certain other tenants in particular. Nevertheless, the alternate personalities help highlight how important it is to care about every part of a person, even the parts we find hard to handle. Our loved ones might not have distinct personalities like Kozue, but they may very well behave in very different ways at different times. It does not always have to be a bad thing, such as how some anime fans act one way around their non-anime-fan friends or coworkers, but once around other fans, their fan side emerges. Someone might fall in love with the non-fan side but find the fan side unappealing and wants them to shut that side away in their presence, but is that really true love?
Beyond loving every part of a person, though, I find that Mahoraba extends that to the rest of life. The various tenants have their own issues to deal with (of particular note are Sayo and Asami, a single mother and her daughter who live a relatively impoverished life and have one of the more notable late-anime arcs), and there is certainly more to Kozue’s personalities than just a fun gimmick. Like people, life oftentimes has many sides to it, and we cannot always choose to live in the happy sides of life. When we find ourselves in a more difficult (or sometimes just plain weirder) side of life, sometimes, rather than just trying to make it through, we need to embrace those different sides and make the most of them.
Overall, though, Mahoraba is a simple but charming show that has been one of the defining shows of my early years of serious anime fandom, and is likely a large reason why I have come to love these sorts of charming slice-of-life shows today. And now, it is finally available for legal English streaming on Daisuki, albeit only for paid subscribers (though if you want, you can get the free trial and marathon all 26 episode within two weeks). As for potentially objectionable content, one of the tenants loves drinking and partying, one side character is very much into the occult, and there are some crossdressing shenanigans in a few episodes, but with no sexual fanservice to speak of, it is overall a very clean show.
That is all for this time. I have been talking about relatively older shows lately in this column, so I think next time I will bring up something more recent. Until then, remember to show your loved ones how much you care about them this holiday season, even if they seem to change personalities at times.
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