Some of the best anime out there have picked out for themselves a very specific audience to appeal to. Yuru Camp speaks to campers, Shirobako is a love letter from animators to animators, Rakugo is, as its name suggests, for those who are into Rakugo. These shows work because they know the experience of their audience, weaving stories that are familiar to them.
That relatability with the audience is the first step toward success – but the emotional beats they tease out of their stories are what really let these anime fly high.
This is where Kakushigoto slips up. On the one hand, it’s a cutesy look at day-to-day lives of manga artists. On another, it’s a look at confidence, of an artist learning to be proud of the art he puts out, and on another it’s a touching tale of a single father and his young daughter, and the mad lengths he’s willing to go in order to provide for her.
While these story beats exist side by side throughout Kakushigoto, the anime never really ties them together. Comedic skits lead to emotional character moments that sometimes land but often don’t. One moment we’re following Kakushi and the team as they comment on the tyranny of publishing deadlines, the next we’re back at home with Hime for a character moment that, while written sweetly as all this show’s little moments have been, never really feels earned given the lack of buildup leading up to it.
The show also struggles a little with overstuffing. There are a lot of characters in this show, but the only ones that are written with any degree of depth are Kakushi and Hime while the others slip back into familiar anime tropes. Story threads are picked up only to be never explored. Who is Kakushi’s wife? Is she missing out at sea? Why is she missing out at sea? What happened between Kakushi and his step-father? And, importantly, how does Kakushi being a manga artist fit into any of this? The show wants us to care, but in failing to chase down these threads it doesn’t give us much to become invested in, becoming confused instead in deciding what story it wants to tell.
The culmination of this overstuffing comes at the end of each episode. Each is bookended with a dramatic snippet set years in the future, in a storyline that concludes in the very last, very crowded episode. This episode takes such a hard veer left that it really would have done better as a separate season, or an entirely different anime.
Now, I’m not saying this is a bad show. I had a good time watching it, and there are enough well-written moments for you to laugh at or wax sentimental over. It’s very honest as well, which is a big deal for me, and you can really feel the team really understands the lives of manga artists. The animation is great, too, taking on an unusual, cartoon-y flair sets it apart from other anime. But because it never really puts together all the little story pieces it set out at the onset, it fails to take its story as far as it could have gone.
(+) Honest, heartfelt story beats give this anime emotional life
(+) Beautiful, rather unique art style sets Kakushigoto apart visually
(-) Almost like you’ve got two different anime running at the same time
(-) Some characters exist solely to boost Kakushi’s ego