12 Days of Anime – #6 Fune wo Amu

First off, I’d like to extend my gratitude to Flower of Anime  Evo for bringing this show to my attention this past fall. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve tried hard this year to cut as many shows as I dare can from my schedule to free up time for other aspects of my life. While this has helped me dodge many series that I know I would’ve found to be a waste of time, it has also raised the chance of me missing out on something I might love. Something like Fune wo Amu.

I vaguely remember reading the synopsis when the season was first announced and being intrigued by the dictionary aspect, but then I somehow forgot about it once new episodes started airing. This is part of why I share my seasonal picks with you all–so you can catch me in my foolishness!

Fune wo Amu was originally a novel by Shion Miura, and follows Majime Mitsuya in his journey to publish a new dictionary titled, “The Great Passage.” This is exactly the type  of animated work I would expect to be aired on Noitamina, a network once known for its larger demographic window. The past several seasons have hacked away at my opinion of their programming with inclusions like Guilty CrownNanana’s Buried Treasure, and Kabaneri. Now with Fune wo Amu on the table, I have renewed faith, tiny though it is.

If I were to pigeon-hole the anime into a genre, it would be adult fiction. A more specific target includes the working class, notably the publishing industry. The mark may seem small, but the appeal touches more than one might expect. From infancy, we all struggle to form words. At first, we don’t know language. We jog through life gathering words to formulate our thoughts and intentions. Then we realize that in addition to learning how to speak, we must also determine the what and when.

“…in the ever-changing world, unable to find the right words, there are those who lead troubled lives caged with their own trapped feelings. We need a ship people like that can feel safe boarding.”

So we turn to dictionaries. At least, that’s what we used to do. We would go to the library and approach our own bookshelves and pull out a physical book to find the most appropriate word and meaning. For the longest time, I thought the Mirriam-Webster the only dictionary in the world. Then in college, my literature teachers pushed me towards the Oxford English Dictionary. I realized then that there are tons of dictionaries in every language imaginable. In today’s fast-paced world of cell phones and tablets, we have almost immediate access to countless dictionaries. I would argue, however, that most of us subscribe to one that is most convenient to our chosen device. Since I have an iPhone, I tend to ask Siri for definitions when I’m in a hurry. Some people have the Dictionary.com application. It’s hard to imagine a new dictionary, much less a physical one, surviving in this world.

I believe dictionaries are still relevant, just as I believe that the written and spoken word constantly evolve. The dictionary department in Fune wo Amu understands this to be true, as well, and have devoted themselves to creating a work that acknowledges the language humankind has formed until now while also looking to propel people into the future. Their dictionary will be one of many that will be needed to empower humans–no one dictionary is enough. There are too many factors to consider–like culture, sex, age, industry–for a single dictionary to be sufficient.

“People board the ship we call dictionaries and find the perfect words to gather the small lights floating to the top of the dark waters. Words are lights.”

A huge part of what makes this anime work so well in addition to its script is its cast of characters. Majime cannot be described as an every man, but he does capture many of the insecurities to which a wide audience can relate. He originally works in a department that does not suit him, lives alone, struggles to communicate with both men and women, and has never experienced romantic love. His mind is a wealth of knowledge, yet he finds it difficult to relay the correct words to his audience. Then there’s his eventual coworker, Nishioka, who seems similarly assigned to the wrong department. His comfortable speech, convincing arguments, and charismatic appeal would be assets to the sales department, yet he is assigned to dictionaries. As we see Nishioka and Majime interact with one another, a surprising compatibility emerges that brings out the best in them both.

On the home front, Majime’s landlady and her grown granddaughter bring their own unforgettable personalities to the screen and enchant us the way they do Majime. I could honestly watch an entire series about just the three of them–that’s how interesting I find their interactions. Take’s motherly treatment of Majime balances well with her jabs at his lack of progress with her granddaughter. Kaguya’s career goals also pair nicely with Majime’s own aspirations with The Great Passage. The two are drawn together as neatly as the anime’s not-so-subtle imagery of his sea to her moon.

With only eleven episodes to the series, I know I will not get to see the publication of The Great Passage, nor are we likely to receive a continuation (not when there are light novel adaptations to give sequels to!), but I am still grateful to Fune wo Amu. Seeing series like these come into being remind me of why I love anime and continue to include it in my life almost daily. I sincerely hope that if anything I described sounds the slightest bit interesting to you, that you give this show a try.


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8 thoughts on “12 Days of Anime – #6 Fune wo Amu

  1. Been watching this weekly and it’s a slow boil but weirdly satisfying.
    The stakes are low, so the conflicts don’t keep me hooked. The characters aren’t too interesting in their own right, and I find the metaphor between Majime and the sea of words to be too cliched.
    But man do we need more adult dramas like this, ones that speak to an older audience and respects their ability to appreciate solid storytelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, absolutely yes do we need more shows like this aimed at the older demographic. Talking about the characters, I found them interesting since quite a few of them reminded me of actual people I know, but I do have to admit that people like Majime are very, very far and few between. His complete lack of knowledge regarding technology and his whole manner of speaking and interpreting the world around him defies believability, but I have a couple of friends who strong represent various aspects of his personality. I’m glad Fune wo Amu was made and I hope it won’t be the last of its kind!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. /me blushes in awkward and happy embarassment.

    You are most welcome! I am so glad it resonated with yet another soul out there!

    And yes. This is undoubtedly one of my top series of the Fall season (together with Natsume s5 and the wonderful Udon no Kuni) and … I can only wish there were more of these delightful and odd semi-mythical beasties out there. ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fune wo Amu is such a unique and special experience that it would’ve been a crime for me to have not watched it 🙂 I also loved the slow boil of romance between Majime and Kaguya that I don’t think I’ve ever seen displayed elsewhere in anime.

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  3. Thanks for pointing this out. I had pretty much given up on Noitamina, and didn’t even try watching this as it aired. Based on your writeup I gave it a shot and have really enjoyed the first three episodes so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had heard of this series at the beginning of the season, but since it wasn’t really easily available it dropped away from my thoughts. Based on your post here, I gave it a try and then finished it in 3 days. A very well-done story, told over a looooong time frame. I found it a little different from your observation on Take, in that she seemed more like a wholehearted supporter of Kaguya and Majime’s relationship and was trying to set them up from the beginning, and encouraged both of them without guile or sarcasm. And I so loved the picture of Take in the butsudan. Would that everyone got such a wonderful picture to be remembered by.

    One thing I liked about their relationship was that it wasn’t portrayed as a “We are so totally in love with each other” thing. It almost felt more like the result of an extended omiai, where Majime was definitely smitten, but Kaguya was more portrayed as interested. It also really felt like a situation where Majime was not necessarily Kaguya’s “soul mate” or anything amazingly romantic, but more of a Right Person in the Right Situation. “Mr Right Here, Right Now” gets a bad rap in comparisons in romantic stories, but I don’t think that there’s enough credit given to relationships where people grow to enjoy each other for their presence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Regarding Take, I do not disagree with your assessment of her character as a genuine supporter of Majime and Kaguya. She just had a few funny scenes where she muttered under her breath about the two of them being slow to act or understand one another that I giggled at and appreciated.

      You perfectly describe the unique relationship between Majime and Kaguya, and how theirs was not a love of fiery passion or even at first sight. It was exploratory, curious, and open to circumstance. They could have just as easily passed by each other like two ships in the night (if we’re continuing with that metaphor) kept apart either by words or a lack of them.

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