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Mizuiro Jidai

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Hiroshi-kun Doesn't Seem to Know Yet
Source: TV
Layers: 1
Sketches: 1
Cel Number: D2
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Added 7/23/2018
Updated 7/23/2018
Mizuiro Jidai - Episode 26 - "Carefree Yamada-kun"

Mizuiro Jidai is a series that I feel has largely been overlooked or perhaps forgotten as the years went by.

The drawing style is at times a big strange. Faces in particularly sometimes come acorss as weird, but they can also be cute.

The story however is engaging and fairly serious for the most part. It seems to start innocently enough, but as the young characters being to mature the story begins to deal rather frankly with matters of growing up.

I located this cel as part of a set of 3 others, all 4 sold as "series unknown". To this day I have no idea what the others cels are from, but I recognized this one almost immediately. Yes, it came with the matching douga.

About the Series

Mizuiro Jidai is an anime series spanning 47 episodes, originally broadcast from April, 1996 to February, 1997. It is based on two manga series-Mizuiro Jidai, and Shin Mizuiro Jidai, both by author Yuu Yabuuchi. Mizuiro Jidai tells the story of the plucky young middle schooler, Yuuko Kawaai. Occasionally called "Yuu-chan", but we'll stick with Yuuko for the most part-I have plenty of "Yuu's" to try to keep up with as it is.

In particular, the core focus remains on her relationship with nextdoor neighbor Hiroshi Naganuma. While they were friends their entire lives to this point, Mizuiro comes just in time for a potential "change in the winds" between them.

Core Characters Overview

Of course, it wouldn't be interesting if there were just these two characters. We are quickly introduced to Yuuko's best friend-a rather loud, boisterous girl named Takako Takahata, or often just "Taka-chan".

Perhaps the easiest way to describe Yuuko is by contrasting her with Taka-chan. Visually Yuuko has black hair, while Taka's is brown. Taka is taller with a more mature figure, which is shown to sort of bother Yuuko at times. Their eyes are sized and shaped a bit differently. Both start out with moderately long hair, Yuuko's being straighter.

As to personalities, Yuuko is shown to be quiet, and not generally looking to rock the boat. She is very much a "go-along to get-along" type, which in her case often ends up backfiring.

Taka-chan on the other hand has a tendency to be very headstrong and forward, at least with Yuuko. She's not shy about letting her friend know the score, and her insights are often surprising considering her bluster. Taka-chan loses her temper fairly easily, and she can be very vocal about it too.

While I could go on, I should bring poor Hiroshi-kun back into the mix. He's a good natured, generally friendly sort of boy. He can be a come across as a bit unconcerned about Yuuko's feelings from time to time, but it's mostly just misunderstandings.

If I tried to go over every nuance of the series, there's no telling how long this would be. I do want to bring a few other not quite-so prominent characters briefly into the mix. Among Hiroshi-kun's male friends are Miyauchi (often shortened to Miyau) and Hashimoto. Miyauchi is ultimately shown to have feelings for Yuuko. He seems like a kind fellow, if perhaps a bit obsessed. Hashimoto on the other hand is a more of a trouble-maker. He has a bit of a know-it-all attitude about him, and at times he is the most boorish character on the show.

Adjusting One's Glasses

It is worth noting that Hashimoto has an analogue among the girls of Yuuko's acquaintance. Maririn (sometimes called "Marilyn" in the subtitles), is a rather snide little rumor-mongering troublemaker of her own, though of a somewhat different sort from Hashimoto. While he prefers to scheme and plot, Maririn is quick to "help" Yuuko with relationship advice. Yuuko is of course not the only girl with a potential interest in Hiroshi-kun, and Maririn wastes no time in informing her of specifics, as well as offering her take on how to keep him. No, Maririn does not have a boyfriend. She's the series' resident "(Theoretical) Relationship Advisor/Expert".

I singled these two characters out for one other visual commonality. Maririn and Hashimoto, the latter probably a surname, are the only two recurring cast members among the children who wear glasses. As someone who wears glasses myself, I wonder whether there is any significance to this. It seems like both of them have glasses that occasionally are shown glaring, but it isn't nearly so obtrusive as it could be.

The Scene in Context

As to this exact cel, it occurs just past the middle of the series. Yuuko, Taka, and Hiroshi are taking summer classes at what is called "cram school" , with Hiroshi-kun in the Advanced Class. In this episode, we are introduced to a rather goofy sort of good-timing lad known as "Yamada-kun". He rather quickly tells Yuuko he loves her, in a very casual off-hand manner. While she has been guardedly civil, Taka-chan makes no bones in letting Yuuko know her opinion of Yamada-kun. In fact, it is actually Taka-chan starting off the video.

As others have heard him tell Yuuko he loves her, this sets the rumor mill a-flyin'. Yuuko and Taka are discussing the matter with two girls they met at cram school, as well as new friend Kitano-san. Kitano-san is in the same cram school class as Hiroshi-kun, but has not to this point heard the rumors within their class. Worrying over what to do, poor Yuuko is alarmed to hear Hiroshi-kun greeting her from behind. Her friends quickly come to her aid, forming a tight huddle around her. They begin pretending they were casually chatting more generally. She hustles him out the door, insisting that he head on home without waiting for her- they are engaging in "girl-talk". Obviously perplexed, Hiroshi-kun leaves for home, with Yuuko watching him through a window on the inside.

"It doesn't look like he knows." Kitano-san offers. When this scene first appears on screen, Yuuko still seems to be watching him leave. She closes her eyes as she starts shifting attention to Kitano-san. It is this split-second while her eyes are closed and attention shifts that is rendered onto the cellulose in the photo above.

Taka-chan insist that Yuuko must have nothing further to do with Yamada-kun.

It is interesting to see these sorts of shifts occuring as single frames. Perhaps it's not the best view of Yuuko, but these transition frames are positively necessary for making the animation believable.

Condition of Cel and Douga

The matching douga came slightly stuck to the cel. To my relief, the douga came loose with only minimal damage.

Thoughts on the Series

I'm very pleased to have this piece in my collection. While it has a bit of shoujo romance about it, it is a very different feel from Marmalade Boy. The latter deals in emotional gut-punches, throwing the series leads from one potential rival (or other contrived disaster) to the next.

Mizuiro Jidai is much more subtle-while Yuuko has difficulties to overcome in her relationship with Hiroshi-kun, in some ways they feel like real troubles. It's not adversity purely for the sake of drama. Their troubles feel real.

It has elements of modern "slice-of-life" about it, but it really isn't that either. In some respects it feels almost like the re-telling of a real girl's struggles to navigate the minefields of adolescence. I say this not having the experience of growing up a girl, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt.

While the drawing style takes some getting used to, the core of Mizuiro Jidai is quality drama, and I would say at least solid voice acting.

Voice Talent

For this article, I have decided to touch very briefly on the voice acting, specifically series lead and co-lead, Yuuko and Hiroshi[-kun].

Yuuko "Yuu-chan" Kawaai was voiced by Masami Suzuki, whose roles include Hikaru in the Pokemon TV series, Amelia/Ameria in the Slayers franchise, and numerous characters in the One Piece TV series. I especially like her approach to making Yuuko sound uneasy.

Hiroshi "Hiroshi-kun" Naganuma was voiced by Jun Akiyama. The only other voice role I see for him on Anime Encylcopedia is that of Takan-kun in Coji-Coji, which I had not heard of until typing this. There are several listings for this name on IMDB. I would think it's possible any of them could be the same one.

I really like Hiroshi-kun's voice, it has a highly authentic feel. He usually speaks softly and thoughtfully, though he can definitely let you know he's angry or troubled. His voice even seems to change as the series progresses. It's sort of a shame Akiyama-san doesn't seem to have done much voice acting. Overall, I liked his performance, and would have been interested to hear him in more anime.

Content Notices

If you decide to watch Mizuiro Jidai you can probably find it somewhere if you look around. As far as I know, it is not currently licensed for distribution outside of Japan-certainly not in the US anyway.

I would advise discretion in watching it, however. While I wouldn't call it graphic nudity as such, they occasionally make jokes showing Yuuko's dad naked from behind (unintentional on his part, apparently). I don't find those jokes very amusing. Also, very near the end of the series they show up close a new mom clothed but breastfeeding her baby, which I could easily have done without. There are other occurrences, but the last one mentioned is by far the most revealing in a sense. I would call it graphic.

Sex is also occasionally mentioned-though not in detail as far as I can tell, as are reproductive changes in girls as they mature. It's not hard to guess why reproductive changes would be discussed. This is what I meant when I said--

"... as the young characters being to mature the story begins to deal rather frankly with matters of growing up."

About the Name

"Mizuiro Jidai", may sound like a rather dull or awkward title, but there's actually a lot of meaning behind it. Late in the series, the format changes from telling the main story to each episode featuring a particular character recalling an event which to that point was either glossed over or not mentioned. This is an interesting idea.

Anyway, most of these one-off stories begin with the same expression.

"We're not adults yet, but we're not children either. We're not in the springtime of our lives yet, we are in our Aqua Age."

"Aqua Age" is often regarded as the official English translation, because it is used in the manga and in the animated series. However, I have read that this translation was picked mainly for its compactness rather than its accuracy. I have seen both "The Blue-Green Years" or "The Blue-Green Spring" offered as being "better" translations, with the latter suggested to be closest to the intended meaning.

My understanding is that there is some wordplay in the title, but at the moment Japanese wordplay sort of escapes me. In any case, "mizuiro jidai" appears to describe a very fluid, uncertain time of life-everything is changing. Basically if early adulthood is the springtime of life, Yuuko and her friends are in the period before springtime. However, it doesn't seem to convey winter either.

Rather than mull over the title for too long, perhaps an anecdote from the series will prove more useful. One of the later episodes features Yuuko's parents, who are both roughly about middle-aged. Her mother says to her father, something about Yuuko being in her "mizuiro no jidai"-we'll go with "blue-green years" for a moment-he replies with a pair of questions, something to the effect of "'Blue-green years?' Does that mean we are in our 'deep-blue* years'?"

Perhaps this one simple exchange conveys the meaning of the title better than any sort of awkward translation ever could.

*The literal translation is "ultramarine".

Anyway, thanks for letting me share my thoughts on a relatively unknown series with you. Stay tuned for more in the future, and don't be surprised to see this series mentioned again soon.

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