Mahoraba Heartful Days (2005)

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Mahoraba: Heartful Days (2005)
Mahoraba: Heartful Days (2005)

Shiratori Ryuushi is a young artist who dreams of writing and illustrating children’s books. To achieve his goals, he decides to move to Tokyo for training in this field at one of the local schools. He is to live in the Narutakisou estate with his distant cousin, Aoba Kozue. Upon his arrival, he is welcomed by her, the owner, and the other residents, who live together like one big family, helping each other out. The boy quickly discovers that most of them are quite eccentric, yet very friendly people. Additionally, Kozue harbors a secret. Whenever she gets scared, her personality drastically changes until she falls asleep…

Mahoraba Heartful Days (2005) – Audiovisual Design

Visuals

As soon as I saw the character design, I immediately fell in love with it. Such character designs and the overall artistic style are some of the things I miss most in recent series. The wonderful play of light, abundance of details, sensational backgrounds, and brilliant shading. The icing on the cake was the animation itself. Dynamic, creative, and highly expressive. It’s almost impossible to see anything like this anymore – and that’s another thing I fell in love with at the very beginning of my journey with Japanese media.

It’s worth mentioning that there is basically no 3D graphics here. Even the vehicles are fully hand-animated. Each episode maintains as high a standard as the initial ones. There wasn’t even a single moment where you could see any time or budget savings. Studio J.C. Staff did an incredibly good job on this series.

Audio

The cast features many very popular and talented names from the time when Mahoraba was released. Veterans will certainly recognize them (many of them are still active today). Horie Yui, Itou Shizuka, Shiraishi Ryouko, Arai Satomi, Asano Masumi, Horiuchi Kenyuu. Basically an all star cast. The soundtrack not only perfectly matched the atmosphere of the series, but was also catchy enough that I will definitely return to it. Mahoraba has only one opening and ending in all 24 episodes. The song used in the opening – 大事Da・I・Ji (Daiji Da I Ji) will definitely find a place on my playlists.

Mahoraba Heartful Days (2005) – Plot and Characters

Introduction

I have no idea why I didn’t watch this 19 years ago during its premiere. I also don’t know why it took me so long to discover this series. After watching, I can confidently say at the very beginning of this post that Mahoraba has everything that should make it an absolute classic and a title that would be a shame not to know. However, for some reason, no one seems to mention it anywhere.

A Quick Overview of Mahoraba Heartful Days’s Plot

Shiratori Ryuushi is a young artist whose dream is to write and create illustrated books for children. Wanting to develop his dreams, he decides to go to Tokyo to receive training in this field at one of the local art schools. It turns out that he has a certain address in Tokyo where he can stay. He is to live in the Narutakisou estate with his distant cousin, Aoba Kozue.

Na miejscu zostaje przez nią serdecznie powitany. Powitali go również inni mieszkańcy, którzy – jak szybko się okazało – żyją ze sobą, jak jedna wielka rodzina, pomagając sobie wzajemne i wspólnie spędzając ze sobą część czasu. Chłopak szybko odkrywa, iż są to w większości dość ekscentryczni, jednak bardzo przyjaźni ludzie. Jeszcze tego samego dnia dowiaduje się, że tego Kozue skrywa pewien sekret. Gdy tylko się czegoś przestraszy, zmienia się diametralnie jej osobowość do czasu, aż nie zapadnie w sen i się przebudzi.

What is the series about

Mahoraba, at first glance, is a typical series about the lives of people living together in some estate. Usually, these are completely strangers renting various rooms or apartments. At that time, it was a very popular concept, and many classic and popular anime used it. For example, Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi, Hidamari Sketch, or Maison Ikkoku. Each of these series used it in their unique way. Mahoraba is no different.

This anime is an adaptation of a manga of the same title. It perfectly combines comedic threads, iyashikei, and also a bit of drama or even a touch of fantasy. The main strength of similar series is the creation of characters and the relationships between them. The variety of characters and their very individual traits provide an important basis for the later development of related plots. Mahoraba is filled to the brim with such well-written characters. Each of them (even when it comes to side roles) has something unique and memorable.

It is worth mentioning at this point that, despite having a main theme around which all events take place, the plot itself hardly exists – similar to most iyashikei series. Of course, this does not mean that it’s boring. Absolutely not. From episode to episode, we learn new things about many characters. Almost every (even secondary) character has their dedicated episode. There is a clear progress in the development of characters. There are also many touching threads. However, the most important of them is the mystery of Kozue’s secret and what caused it.

Characters

Main Character

Shiratori Ryuushi arrives at Narutakisou because he wants to become a children’s book illustrator. He knows that Kozue is his distant cousin, but he doesn’t remember that they have met in the past. Kozue, however, remembers the day they met but keeps it to herself. Ryuushi can’t refuse to help others, which often leads to him being exploited by the residents of Narutakisou. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have a positive impact on his academic performance. Despite initial concerns, he quickly forms bonds with his neighbors, especially having a soft spot for Kozue.

Residents of Narutakisou

Aoba Kozue is the main character, and also the owner and hostess of Narutakisou. She attends a girls’ high school with her friend (Chanohata Tamami), who also rents a room in Narutakisou. She is extremely kind-hearted and eager to help others. Kozue has several personalities that emerge when she experiences strong emotions (including fear). Each has different characteristics, but also different hairstyles and eye colors. However, they all share one common trait – each loves umeboshi (pickled plums). The reason for her condition is revealed only at the end of the series.

Kurosaki Sayako and Asami are a single mother and her daughter. They live modestly, doing tedious work at home. Sayako loves her daughter very much but is naturally very lazy and quickly discouraged from doing anything. Asami is her opposite. Despite living in poverty, she enjoys every little thing and is an incredibly cheerful child.

Momono Megumi is a student for whom partying is the whole purpose of life. At least apparently, as her behavior has a reason revealed in the second half of the series. The problem is that she organizes these parties in Shiratori Ryuushi’s room, preventing him from studying and developing his skills. Megumi is loud and quite annoying but liked by everyone. She puts a lot of effort into subtly bringing Kozue and Ryuushi closer together.

The last resident of Narutakisou is Haibara Yukio and his mascot Jonny, whom he uses to communicate with others. He is an unfulfilled writer and the only things he does are smoking cigarettes, fishing in a small pond on the estate, and participating in Megumi’s parties. We learn the least about his life. While every other character had their dedicated episode, Yukio’s past remains a mystery.

Other characters

Among the side characters, Shirogane Miyabi is worth mentioning, an art teacher at the school Ryuushi attends. She has a unique personality and portrays herself as a Yamato Nadeshiko, an ideal image of a classic Japanese woman. This fits perfectly with her profession and gives her authority. She doesn’t get much screen time, but for some reason, she is quite memorable. Another important character is Minazuki Mahiru, a girl from a wealthy family who for some reason is very keen on getting close to Asami and Sayako.

Additionally, there are many other less or more important characters for the overall story. This includes Ryuushi’s friends from school, the entire Minazuki family, and the intrigue associated with them, Sayako, and Asami.

Trivia and other things

The series features many references to other anime, manga, and visual novels of that time (including To Heart and Shuffle!). It’s also worth mentioning the youkai called Nurikabe (塗壁), which appears literally everywhere, even in the opening animation. Its name translates to ‘plaster wall’, and it’s said to manifest as an invisible wall that hinders or misleads travelers walking at night. It certainly symbolizes the blockage of Kozue’s consciousness. They appear exactly in the colors of the protagonist’s eyes during her various personality changes.

The surnames of all the main characters contain kanji that signify colors, which match their personalities. Shiratori (白鳥) – white, Aoba (蒼葉) – light blue, Akasaka (赤坂) – red, Chanohata (茶ノ畑) – brown, Midorikawa (緑川) – green, Kanazawa (金沢) – gold, Kurosaki (黒崎) – black, Konno (紺野) – purple, Momono (桃乃) – pink, Haibara (灰原) – gray, Shirogane (銀) – silver.

Mahoraba Heartful Days (2005) – Evaluation and Summary

Mahoraba once again made me realize that something I loved about Japanese pop culture, which was still very present in the 2000s, is now almost irretrievably lost. This doesn’t mean that contemporary anime is hopeless (as seen in my posts about seasonal series). It’s more about a specific atmosphere, warmth, an almost incredible artistic freedom, and the passion of people, which literally pours out of the screen. This was also aided by the character design and a much more creative approach to the animation of characters and their emotions. It’s a bit hard to express in words to people who haven’t cut their teeth on older Japanese works (while not being mainstream in the West – this I must emphasize strongly and decisively).

At this point, all that’s left for me is to recommend this hidden gem. Especially to fans of such atmospheres – in this case, it’s an absolutely mandatory position.

Finalny werdykt

Final evaluation

Which translation do I recommend to watch Mahoraba Heartful Days (2005)?

  • Froth Bite – definitely the best available option. Fansubs like in the good old days. There are a lot of useful notes. Even for old-timers – I myself learned a few new things that I would have missed without it.
Ostatnia modyfikacja:
10 April 2024

Last modified:
10 April 2024

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