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"Sentimental Journey": Old School Shoujo for the Whole Family

“Have you had nights when can’t fall asleep?
Didn’t anyone’s face appear in your mind.
Unforgettable memories and uncontrollable emotion.
Open the twelve doors named bittersweet feelings.”

-Sentimental Journey Introductory Poem.

So begins one of the more unique anime to come out of Sunrise studios in 1998. That’s no small feat either. Surnise produced Gasaraki, one of the most realistic mecha shows ever produced, that year, along with Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop, two other titles you might recognize. But Sentimental Journey, at least in concept and structure, is like no other anime I’ve seen.

It comprises twelve different stories, each featuring a different girl in a different locale in Japan. The stories are bound together by a common thread: each of these girls has an unrequited love in her past, and, whether it is interfering with her ambitions to be a good violinist or helping get two friends together, it has altered her life in some way. As it is twelve short stories, I can’t go into specifics without spoiling episodes. But they are all well-handled, though some have their eccentricities—one episode is narrated from the perspective of a soda bottle, for example. They each have the tone of a shoujo (girls’) drama, though certain episodes smoothly incorporate a nice bit of humor (and not just the usual canned gags, but some pretty sharp, wry jabs as well), some spooky horror, or even a little bit of fan service (thankfully, only one or two shots throughout the twelve episodes). The series also has a lot of Japanese cultural references and elements, and it grounds the series in reality, which makes each of the stories easier to get into. It ultimately feels like a collection of short stories or short films, but the stories are each unique, interesting, and tightly handled, and it’s all sweet, touching stuff with a little depth and philosophy.

On technical matters, though, Sentimental Journey clearly got the short end of the budget stick at Sunrise. Though it was produced in 1998, the music and animation hark back to the late 1980s in style. The character design is very bishoujo-y and some of the transitions between sections of episodes are little more than well handled cheats (kimono patterns in one episode, for example). But none of this is distracting and doesn’t get in the way. Even the music, which is straight out of the 1980’s, fits the surroundings and tone of the show, and, by this point, it’s almost delightfully retro. It’s kind of like watching a TV show from your childhood, but one you’ve never seen it before.

I’d talk about Sentimental Journey‘s dub too, except it’s non-existent. That’s fine, because the Japanese track is pretty good, though a little cutesy at points, especially if you pick up on the speech patterns of certain characters. I would whine about some of the subtitle translation, but I’ve never actually taken a Japanese class (I’ve just picked up a lot of the little sayings from too much anime), so I’ll let it slide.

Besides, it’s only thirty dollars (list price) for all twelve episodes of the series, and it’s rated a mere 7 and up. Though it’s not kiddy fare, it’s clean stuff—no blood, no cursing, and less sexual content than you see on the average American sitcom, so kids in the household need not be shooed out of the room when viewing it (though the older animation might drive them away anyhow). Taking everything into account, it’s not often you get five hours of entertainment for only thirty bucks; seriously, d-rights and Media Blasters made this a bargain. It’s probably not for everyone, but fans of shoujo and old school anime will probably enjoy it without a second thought, because Sunrise didn’t miss a beat in 1998.

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