A couple of my favourite things in anime include food and character-driven feel-good narratives. If it has beautiful animation and amazing music, then I know that I’m going to have strong positive feelings about it once I have finished watching. Then there are those super rare moments where an anime will be so mind-blowingly awesome as to leave a special sort of imprint on my mind and heart. One that will have me thinking about it and the themes that touched me intimately for a long time to come afterwards. Poco’s Udon World is one such anime and today I wanted to give you five fantastic reasons for watching it if you haven’t picked it up quite yet.
Poco’s Udon World is a seinen, fantasy, slice-of-life anime 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 confronted with remnants from his past that make him consider the dark shadows that led to his falling out between him and his father, one that was left in limbo right until the old man’s death.
Marvellous Musical Score
When I initially watched the pilot episode of Poco’s Udon World, I was quite surprised by the musical score! I had heard instruments that one wouldn’t typically hear in the medium and it felt so wonderfully Polynesian to me, reminding me heavily of my own cultural roots. As the pilot kicks off, we hear the ukulele and the harp and then as the segment continues to progress, we gets bits of the violin, fiddle, and sprinkling of the piano for that extra added evocative touch. If one takes all of these and tosses them into a blender with compositions that effortlessly transitioned between upbeat, melodic rhythms and contemporary classical tunes with a slight cinematic flair, then the brew crafted is a perfect balance of light-hearted fun and heart-felt emotional elasticity.
Takamatsu & Shōdoshima Scenery
I have loved ones who live in Japan, and one of them frequents Kagawa very often to visit his son, and he sends me pictures every time that he goes there. Takamatsu and Shōdoshima are a couple of breathtaking places in Japan that I would absolutely love to visit one day, and seeing how gorgeously they were animated in this series, completely wowed that interest furthermore!
There are shots of touristy locations as well as the superbly stunning white sand beaches, panoramic ocean-scapes, and lots of old shrines and cultural remnants that are tucked away in Kagawa. They are shown beneath bright, beams of sunlight with vivid greenery as well as the more greys and muted tones that come with rainy days. I love how transportive the atmosphere and ambiance are, almost like I could picture myself standing there with the characters.
The Beautiful Tradition of Udon-Making
A big portion of the anime’s backbone is Sōta’s father’s old udon making business. Even though the shop has been closed up for a while, it was a well-known and well-loved place for a lot of the locals of the small town that Sōta is from. It also harbours some darker memories for the protagonist himself from when he was a child. It’s both uplifting as well as psychologically curious to see how the long tradition of udon-making runs through Sōta’s family, and the parallels that it creates for the narrative on an allegorical level.
There is a certain practise and methodology that Sōta’s family utilised in making fresh udon for their shop, and I found it delightful to see how these techniques end up crafting a metaphorical guide for Sōta with respect to confronting his complicated feelings for his father and the misplaced sense of shame, guilt, and loneliness that has stemmed from those feelings, which in turn helps him work through various levels of grief. Plus, the udon and other traditional dishes shown here just look so damn mouth-watering and delicious, making it a must-see for any foodies out there.
Trials & Treasures of Single Fatherhood
The easiest part about being someone’s child is that we get a sort of tunnel vision with nit-picking the travesties that we are faced with, as young people every denial or NO can seem like the beginning and the end of an entire lifetime. When there are single parents involved, then the lies and excuses we tell ourselves seem much more acceptable, regardless of whether it’s warranted or not. It isn’t until we are in a parental-type situation ourselves, when we are placed in a position where someone else’s well-being depends solely on our abilities to stand up and be responsible, that we are able to recognise just how much our parents do for us and what the truth behind their seemingly strict and unfair intentions really are. That is when the hard part really begins.
Through Poco’s Udon World, we get to witness a grief-stricken character with some deep-rooted baggage, learning a rather hands on object lesson in single fatherhood, which helps him to become more open-minded, understanding, and compassionate with the plight that his dad faced in raising a son alone. The portrayal of the ups, downs, and in-betweens of trying to raise a kid is exhibited so sincerely. It’s not an easy task and as humans we are bound to screw up, more so if we have challenges with emotional availability, and it’s incredibly moving to watch the hardships and the joys that Sōta will face as he realizes the profound nature of fatherhood.
The Strength of Self-Forgiveness
The number one reason that you should watch Poco’s Udon World if you haven’t yet, is the theme of self-forgiveness. Everything else that I’ve mentioned thus far contributes in one way or another to the toughest lesson that we as people shall learn in life and that’s the act of forgiving ourselves for past mistakes and regrets.
The strength that comes from accepting one’s blunders, shortcomings, and fuck-ups and then using those errors to become a better and wiser person is one that spills over in all aspects of life. It helps to build compassion, understanding, and patience for others in similar situations. It teaches us kindness and the foundation for self-love, but most importantly, it inspires us to keep moving forward despite the things we’d like to change. The acceptance of past deeds helps us build a staircase for future opportunities, particularly when it comes to friendships and loved ones.
When I finished watching Poco’s Udon World, I was dealing with some serious shtick of my own and it ultimately helped me to learn that letting go of my pain, regrets, and even my grief was the best way for me to not only fix the things that bothered me the most about the past, but to help shape the potentiality of my future. In that sense, this anime is such an excellent feel-good and motivational work of art.
Poco’s Udon World ended up being one of my favourite surprises a couple years ago and I’m stunned more people aren’t talking about this gem of an anime. It just has so many fabulous things to offer its watchers, and is a series that I shall always recommend. Similarly to slice-of-life titles akin to Natsume’s Book of Friends and Chihayafuru, this title is all about the relationships we have with one another as well the one we share with ourselves, and you definitely won’t be disappointed by it!
Source: Manga by Nodoka Shinomaru
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Fantasy
Season: Fall 2016
Studio: Liden Films
Director: Seiki Takuno
Content Warnings: Preparation and consumption of food. Death of loved ones and grief. Dysfunctional parent-child relationships. Mild child abuse. Child abandonment. Scene of drowning. Teenage bullying. Mild sexual innuendo. Mildly strong language. Brief nudity. Alcohol consumption. Smoking.
AniList: Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari