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"Kodocha Vol. 5" Always With a Smile

by on May 25, 2006

Poor, poor Sana. Her life is a living hell, and she just keeps getting more and more depressed… I’m kidding. Despite all of the drama that has occurred in her life over the past four volumes, this charming young girl has always managed to bounce back with a smile. All is not well though, as Momma’s new book is being released, and the details of Sana’s origins could destroy her career as well as her emotions. Lets see how things turn out.

The first episode deals with the official release of Momma’s book. In the wake of said release, her ex-husband returns to borrow money. Apparently having been through this before, Momma and Sana terrorize and scare him away, resulting in a really funny scene. Afterwards, everyone is seen reading Momma’s book and the media is immediately whipped into a frenzy over its contents. In it, Momma reveals that she found Sana when she was a baby, and given Momma’s unlikely chances of bearing a child, she immediately adopted young Sana as her own. Years prior, Momma and Sana agreed to eventually release this book in the hopes of finding Sana’s real mother. As Rei and Momma argue over the ethics of revealing the strange origins of a girl as young as Sana to the public, Akito speeds through the journalists huddled outside and whisks her away to his house to hide for a while. I love the scene with the ex-husband. This odd and somehow likable character (despite being a deadbeat) should appear more often. The fight between Rei and Momma is appropriately tense, and both actors turn in a believable performance for the situation.

Things slow down a bit in the next episode, as Sana takes time out at Akito’s house to gather her thoughts. The pair bond more than ever, and Sana, at least for a little while, is able to forget the troubles and heartache brought on by Momma’s book. Naozumi calls a press conference and on national television, calls for people to respect Sana’s privacy, as he too was an orphan. In the hunt for information, several reporters track down Zenjiro, who is forced to don all manner of disguises to elude them. A shocking event happens as Rei leaves a message on the Hayama family’s answering machine: Sana’s real mother has arrived! This is mostly a transitional episode, but serves to advance Sana and Akito’s relationship more and hey, Zenjiro is great in any scene he’s in, and he gets plenty of screentime.

The penultimate episode of Disc 5 is a real tearjerker. Sana rushes home to meet her biological mother, a mixture of excitement and fear in her heart. After Momma delivers a slap to Sana’s mother, Sana herself comes in and faces her. Rather than the emotional, upsetting scene that the other characters (and I) believed it would be, Sana hits her with a barrage of questions, keeping a happy outlook and trying to make Akito laugh. Her real mother informs her that she has a three year old daughter, and Sana agrees to meet her “new” sister. Instead of revealing to the young girl that Sana is her older sister, the two play like friends, presumably not to burden the child with the information that she has a lost sister. At the end, Bio-Momma asks if Sana would ever come live with her, and Sana replies, not unkindly, that she already has a mother, and will never leave her side. The final scene is one of the most powerful moments in anime, as Sana and Momma reaffirm their mother-daughter relationship. I admit, I cried during this episode. Yes. It’s THAT touching. I’m on the fence about Sana’s mother. On the one hand, she seems to be incredibly repentant about abandoning Sana, and still deeply cares for her, but on the other, I don’t know…. when she asks Sana to come live with her one day (after only having known her daughter for less than two days), it struck me as having a lot of nerve. Like she’s taking advantage of Sana’s good nature and forgiving personality. I suppose it strikes a chord with me as I’ve had some familial issues with long-lost siblings. Whatever the case, overall, this episode is anime perfection.

The final episode is a whimsical recap done in trivia game show format. While it does nothing to advance the plot, it is extremely well crafted and funny. A guest appearance by Kodocha manga creator, Miho Obana, caps it off nicely. Excel Saga did a recap episode in the same fashion, but Kodocha puts it to shame (my opinions of the mid-to-latter half of that show’s quality notwithstanding). In other words, this episode has great laughs, but little plot.

This volume is almost as good as the first was. Although the story about Sana’s lost mother is new to the last five episodes, that plot is tied up in such a way that I, too, felt the same sense of closure that Sana did. The interview with Akitaro Daichi is interesting, and his comments about the casting of Sana’s Japanese voice are quite entertaining. Another thing I love about this series are the covers. They’re dynamic, and are always informative about the contents of the disc. At this point, there’s not much else to be said about Kodocha. With equal parts comedy and drama, men and women and parents and children alike can all find something to love about this wonderful series. Each subsequent volume is sure to get just as high marks….

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