If there’s one show making me laugh more than I would have thought possible this season, it’s Mitsuboshi Colors, a series about three kids romping around their neighborhood in a style reminiscent of The Little Rascals. There are plenty of other anime this winter full of silly moments, but Mitsuboshi Colors thrives off of our laughter and promises to do so for the coming weeks. Watching Yui, Sat-chan, and Kotoha interact with each other and other members of their community is a little bit like witnessing a tornado—everyone and everything they pass gets swept up in their energy. It’s easy to overlook the fact that these are grade school kids who are almost completely unsupervised in their play and show no hesitation in wandering the city. We see a mom, a shopkeeper, and a police officer, but none of them impose any particular restrictions on the girls’ freedom to explore. These self-proclaimed “keepers of the peace” will make you worry and cringe, but there’s also a high chance you’ll find yourself laughing uncontrollably every episode and looking forward to more.
Particularly striking is the scale of area already shown in just the past few weeks. Their story doesn’t take place in some remote village, but in the middle of Tokyo. While Colors is based out of a fort in a park, their adventures take them into much busier places like train stations, an underground fish market, a well-known shopping alley, and even Akihabara. They’re confident in their ability to move from place to place.
As much as I love these kids and their jokes, I do think they go overboard from time to time. We repeatedly see them take up the attentions of Saito, a police officer, as well as trespass into wet paint and track footprints up and down the street. Sat-chan grabs on to a stranger and threatens him in exchange for his handheld console; later on, she runs from shop to shop in the fish market asking adults about poop. Kotoha and Sat-chan even climb on top of Ameyoko’s sign to the horror and entertainment of bystanders.
As out of control as Colors seems to be, their acts aren’t without consequence. Saito constantly confronts and reprimands the trio, but not in a way that pushes them away. Their repeated visits to his station proves their affection and trust, despite calling him “the enemy.” Sat-chan’s mother and Whale Factory’s owner both capably manage Colors by sending them on errands and adventures around the neighborhood, like selling bananas and diffusing a fake bomb.
A large part of why I enjoy Mitsuboshi Colors so much is because it reminds me of some of the more memorable times of my childhood. I used to roam my neighborhood on bicycles with the same group of kids day in and day out. We’d run into the nearby woods without fear to build forts and swing on buoys strung from trees. It was normal to spend almost the entire day outside. Granted, this was within a residential subdivision, but it seems like more and more parents these days are too afraid to grant even this kind of freedom to their kids.
To some, this hands-off approach may look like a case of free-range parenting, but this way of life is much older and more grounded than that relatively recent term. Japan boasts low crime and homicide rates, and actively encourages its youth into independence from a very young age. Unlike where I grew up, ample public transportation and a cooperative community allows Japanese kids to manage themselves to and from school and other places. If something troubling occurs, like a train delay, or even an earthquake, kids know to turn to the adults around them for assistance. Anyone who watches anime knows students are also tasked with cleaning their schools on a regular basis.
The culture’s dedication to the community’s improvement as a whole relies on mutual trust and effort. Our societies may differ greatly from the one shown in Mitsuboshi Colors, but Kotoha, Sat-chan, and Yui prove a world where kids feel safe enough to explore their surroundings in a way that nurtures both playing and learning is a pretty fantastic place to be.
Watch Mitsuboshi Colors on HiDive.
Aiyar, Pallavi. “Behind the Independence of Japanese Kids Lies a Culture of Community.” The Wire, 09 Oct. 2016, https://thewire.in/71437/behind-independence-among-japanese-kids-lies-a-culture-of-reliance-on-community. Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.
Arnold, Katie. “How to Teach Girls They Don’t Have to Be Nice.” Raising Rippers, Outside, 18 Sep. 2017, https://www.outsideonline.com/2241096/how-teach-girls-they-dont-have-be-nice. Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.
Arnold, Katie. “What Sweden Teaches Us About Parenting and the Outdoors.” Raising Rippers, Outside, 12 Dec. 2017, https://www.outsideonline.com/2265761/what-sweden-can-teach-us-about-outdoor-parenting. Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.
“Japan’s independent kids | The Feed.” YouTube, uploaded by SBS VICELAND, 07 Sep. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7YrN8Q2PDU