Poco’s Udon World (うどんの国の金色毛鞠) is a seinen, fantasy, slice-of-life anime adaptation of the manga series written by Nodoka Shinomaru. The anime released in Fall 2016 and was produced by Liden Films. It has been on my watchlist since its simulcast season for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s about food, which as a foodie, is a huge weakness of mine. Secondly, the animation from the PVs really caught my attention and made me feel like it would be a series that I’d adore quite a bit. For September, when I sat down and randomly pulled an anime title out of my Anime Watchlist Death Star Mug, this was the one that was chosen! After watching the pilot episode, I can safely say that I strongly believe Poco’s Udon World will end up becoming a timeless classic for me.
Poco’s Udon World is about a man named Sōta, who is 30 years old and has returned to his hometown of Kagawa from Tokyo to attend his father’s funeral. In the process of visiting his father’s home and closed-up udon shop, he tumbles into a young boy that seems to be lost and homeless. In the midst of figuring out how to help this boy locate his family, Sōta is faced with remnants from his past that make him contemplate the dark shadows that led to a falling out between him and his father, one that was left in limbo right until the old man’s death.
My very first impressions from just the opening song was one of complete astonishment. The animation style is absolutely exquisite! When the actual episode began, I was further stunned to silence. Poco’s Udon World is one of the most beautiful anime serials that I have ever seen. Combine that with the emotionally evocative yet curiously comedic story and characters, the delightfully complementary music, and the glorious shots of food—I’m pretty sure I’m in anime love.
I normally save this for later, but I need to get my gushing out of the way. The craftsmanship that went into creating this show is divine. The backgrounds and scenery consist mostly of watercolours and soft-brush techniques to illustrate gorgeous imagery. The pastel palettes and the delicate use of shading and blending, which when coupled with the fine lines of the character designs, are utterly masterful. Anime scenery is the one thing that I cannot get enough of. If anyone follows me on Tumblr, y’all may have noticed that I tend to re-blog a shite ton of scenic images from all the anime I can. Then we have the food, which has a more modern and formulaic artistic style to it, where everything is brightly coloured and sharply detailed. It’s almost photo-realistic in its meticulous depictions, and always fricking mouth-watering. That’s how you know food animation is positively ace: it immediately makes you hungry. So, it’s definitely safe to say that I would recommend Poco’s Udon World based on the animation alone. Granted this was the first episode and there is a chance the quality will take a dip as the series progresses (common trend in some anime).
Beautiful aesthetics aside, the biggest appeal (for me) with Poco’s Udon World is the narrative. As I watched Sōta return to a home he clearly hadn’t visited in many years, I could empathise with his sense of loneliness and loss. When I say loss, I mean that in an almost literal sense. By the episode’s finale it becomes apparent that Sōta and his father had a terrible falling out, which led to him moving away. The loss that Sōta feels is a literal loss of time; the loss of opportunities to reconnect and place differences aside to make fresh, new memories rather than be left with the haunting residue of pain and shame.
Character-driven stories are essentially what I live for when it comes to all the media I consume, particularly with anime and novels. People are such fascinating creatures to me, and it’s because no two humans are ever truly alike that I tend to love reading and hearing about them. In this anime, from just the first 24-some-odd minutes of watching, I gauged an abundance of themes that that I feel Poco’s Udon World may tackle. Some of them include:
🍜 Conflicting levels of grief in the face of losing a parent, especially when they’ve had a bitter or heart-breaking falling out and remained distant until the parent’s death.
🍜 Feeling a sense of obligation to something or someone out of sheer guilt rather than nurtured feelings of respect and the feelings of wanting to carry on a legacy out of that respect.
🍜 Loneliness from losing a mother that one carries around with them as a heavy burden because they were never able to adapt to or process through the grief of that loss, which then impacted all of the relationships they’ve had since her death.
🍜 The feelings of comfort and validation that one gets from being responsible for another person, which allows them to place their own turmoil aside, albeit momentarily; being a caregiver helps them ignore or deny their own feelings of inadequacy and pain.
🍜 Having a sense of identity crisis that comes from being bullied, causing them to forsake their dreams for something more “typical” or less prone to humiliation.
🍜 Realising the value of family dynamics and togetherness and aching for it when its gone.
There is actually quite a bit more that came to mind in addition to the ones I’ve listed. This shows me that if all of these elements are given appropriate levels of care for development, Poco’s Udon World will become one of the most multi-faceted narratives in the anime medium. For a series that is 12 episodes in length, I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be able to do this. If it doesn’t hit all of them, then I’m positive (hoping with all of my heart) that it can address most of the themes that spoke to me.
A couple of other things that I feel are worth taking note of include the music and child that Sōta is currently caring for. The music surprised me almost as much as the animation because I heard instruments that I wasn’t expecting to hear. For example, one of the first things you get to experience as the pilot begins (post opening) are the ukulele and the harp. It felt so wonderfully Polynesian to me and took me back to the islands for a little while. That initial air of nostalgia was fabulously comforting to my Polynesian soul. Then as the episode unfolded, there were bits of violin and fiddle with a sprinkling of piano towards the end for an extra emotional punch. The composition varied between rhythms that were upbeat and melodic and typically associated with smaller populated regions (such as the countryside where neighbours are basically like relatives) and then contemporary classical with a cinematic air to evoke strong emotional reactions (such as the use of the piano). It worked splendidly with both the serious and light-hearted aspects of whatever was unravelling on-screen.
Lastly, the kid that Sōta meets is so fricking adorable. Normally, I don’t really care for shows that have children, and I almost never watch them in anime (I watch one series a year with children in them, maybe). For some reason they merely don’t appeal to me. Credit it to my being older or maybe it has to do with the fact that I don’t particularly care for children. Whatever the case, they aren’t my cup of chai in anime. However, this child (who is currently unnamed) was positively charming. I think a lot of it may have to do with his unique identity, as well as the ways that Sōta looks at him, with such affection and contentedness. It makes it virtually impossible to find him annoying, even as he gets into mischief. He’s also not a whiny screamer and I appreciate that above all else.
Overall, Poco’s Udon World has left quite a hefty first impression on me, and I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that it won’t let me down with the following 11 episodes. At the very least, I can look forward to yummy noodle dishes, scenic shots of Kagawa, and lovely instrumentals.
If you’re interested in trying Poco’s Udon World for yourself, you can watch it on CrunchyRoll.