Dagashi Kashi is a genuinely sweet-hearted anime. Normally I’m more into the mecha and supernatural anime, but every now and then I need a break from the space operas and gore. Dagashi Kashi falls into that realm of lighthearted anime that doesn’t trip into ridiculousness and yet manages a surprising depth without being too self-conscious.
On its surface Dagashi Kashi seems like one long commercial for the Japanese candy industry especially considering that “dagashi kashi” roughly translates as “cheap sweets shop” each episode has a specific candy/snack theme. The story starts out with the unexpected arrival of the sophisticated Hotaru Shidare at the small town Shikada Dagashi candy shop where she meets Kokonotsu Shikada the son, and aspiring manga artist, of owner Yo Shikada. It turns out that Hotaru is the daughter of one the country’s largest candy producing conglomerates and has come to town to scout Yo Shikada for her family’s business. Apparently he’s known to have legendary candy knowledge which makes him a very desirable hire. The only problem is that Yo refuses to leave his shop until Kokonotsu agrees to take it over the family business. Conflict. Kokonotsu wants to be a professional manga artist so Hotaru begins her quest to try and convince him to take over the shop by educating him on the finer points of Japanese candy. Obviously this leads to the aforementioned candy advertisements as Hotaru, Kokonotsu(coconuts), and his two best friends the siblings To and Saya Endou wind up in situations featuring candy/snack products.
Do not let the candy shilling put you off Dagashi Kashi. A lot of people didn’t particularly like this anime and I think that’s because they didn’t understand the subtlety of it. They probably took a look at the generously proportioned Hotaru and thought this was going to be something completely different. Jokes on them because there is an actual story here. Dagashi Kashi takes place during the summer and does follow a coming of age line complete with a love story. Unlike the nonsense that tends to wind up in your typical harem animes or the ones where you have basically predatory females stalking the male protagonist, this anime lets the love affair develop in a more natural manner. You see Hotaru is not the love interest for Kokonotsu. Hotaru acts as a catalyst opening the door to possibility for Saya as she starts to see her childhood friend as more than just a friend. This makes sense and it feels natural. To set Hotaru up as the love interest would mean forcing the story into a nonsensical mess.
Hotaru’s self-proclaimed purpose for coming to town is to make sure Yo Shikada agrees to work for her family’s company. Her entire demeanor shouts that she is all about candy. Somehow her look is at odds with all of that though. There is a simple answer for this; we are seeing Hotaru through Kokonotsu’s eyes. A mysterious girl drops into this small town as a representative of a large company. To small town Kokonotsu she is the most sophisticated individual he has ever encountered outside of the television and manga the two genre which color his perception of Hotaru. By all accounts Hotaru is the same age as Kokonotsu and his friends but she seems disproportionately mature. She is new and exotic, a peculiarity in the small world they have all grown up in and something for them to measure themselves against. Hotaru is the mysterious stranger who shows the small town folk their deepest hearts before riding off into the sunset.
Dagashi Kashi is a charmingly made slice of life anime. It is the type of feel good story you watch while remembering when you used to get summers off and that one girl you were always too much of a chicken to talk to. The candy shilling can be distracting but even that is done in a quality and amusing manner. Give Dagashi Kashi a chance, we need more anime like it.