No fights, no explosions, no over the top hissatsu waza, just a story about normal office work in a dictionary editorial division. Sounds pretty boring and mundane, right? I had the same thoughts when I read the synopsis on MAL before going in.
BUT the series pulls you in; not fully, I must say, but enough to continue the pleasant and eventful story of the series.
Araki is the head of the dictionary editorial division at Genbu Publishing, and is working on fulfilling his vision of making a brand new dictionary called ‘The Great Passage’. However, his retirement is fast approaching, and this dictionary might take a decade to make. He promises Matsumoto-sensei (a senior professor supervising the development of the dictionary) that he’d find a suitable replacement for himself. But finding the right person for such a specialised job is hard.
One day when Nishioka, the only other full time employee of the division, is narrating a story about a weird guy in Genbu’s sales team, Araki recognizes the talents and potential usefulness of this weird guy, and demands to meet him.
Araki’s first encounter with the weird guy, Majime — a shy soft-spoken bookworm, with a deep love for words — highlights the themes important to the series, mainly a love of words and the romanticization of dictionaries.
The series is visually impressive for a niche anime. The first thing I said when I started the first episode was, “wow! That’s beautiful!”. The art-style is simple yet beautiful. The low line usage in certain areas highlights the details in others. I really loved the characters’ faces: they had the right balance of simplicity and detail. The backgrounds were beautiful and detailed, with a complementary bright and poppy colour palette, good for a ‘light-hearted’ series like this one.
In the audio department, the voice acting was good (I really liked that lack of moe voices for the women). The background track seems overpowering at times, but usually matches the tone of the scenes, elevating them. It is a rare high budget anime in a niche of character-driven anime, when most of the industry is focusing on tits and action figures.
The story is heavily character-driven, and shows the everyday life struggles of developing a dictionary. There is no antagonist, or I should say, no human antagonist: the role is filled by deadlines, budget constraints and assigned (read: forced) side jobs. There is no cheap slapstick, but there definitely is humour; it arises organically from the characters’ personalities. The story felt very real, with each character’s struggles reflecting real life. The romanticization of words and dictionaries is not overused; just enough to drive the points home.
The character development is extensive with all the characters getting growth, on or off screen. Kaguya, Majime’s love interest, was an exception to this and did not get any growth or development, and was there only to act as the MCs lover. Majime showed a lot of depth in contrast and his nervousness and anxiety was well portrayed. The arc when he falls for Kaguya was especially well done, with all the little details got right. In the latter third of the show Majime shows considerable growth when he becomes the chief of the division after the timeskip: you feel like a proud parent looking at him taking charge in his shy, nervous way. (Speaking of timeskips, the ones in the series are just another example of the fact that timeskips can never be satisfying.)
After the timeskip, a character is introduced: new employee Kishibe. She was another character I liked, mostly because I could relate to her being out of place. She got a good amount of development in a relatively short amount of time, proving that screentime is not the only factor in good character development. All the side characters get good development and all the plot points are concluded satisfactorily. Overall it’s a well-rounded package and is paced well.
In all, I liked the show, but I acknowledge that it’s not for everyone. The premise may be too boring for many people, but like the previous anime we reviewed, patience is key. The show is very rewarding to anyone who finishes it. It is among the few high-budget shows in this vein, and one of the best. It's a good starting point in anime for people who are into character-driven adult dramas, mostly known by the term ‘adults’. I don’t mean this to say that a younger audience can’t appreciate mature themes, but simply because the experiences and kind of life portrayed in this anime will only fully resonate with a grown-up audience.
Good visual for modern standards
Great VA, but background score may seem overpowering at times
Great characters and good development
The story was good and real
A bonus for good visualization of Majime’s internal thoughts
A good watch for adults starting out in anime.