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 Crown, Nanana’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.