Also known as the transliteration from Japanese, Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – or SoreMachi for short - Yet the Town Keeps Going is a new comedy series, based on a manga by the same name, from studio Shaft and its main director Akiyuki Shinbo. I’ve made it clear that I’m a big fan of both the studio and the director, so I was quite excited about this show, especially with the season premiere of Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge – by the same studio and director – from last week exceeding my expectations. Unfortunately, this first episode was kind of a middling affair, not ever finding a good comedic rhythm and feeling all too plain.
As expected, the music was quite good. The OP song, DOWN TOWN sung by Maaya Sakamoto, was lively and bouncy, as was the OP animation. The OP sequence felt pretty normal, not particularly Shaft-like. There was plenty of dancing by the protagonist Hotori, who was spinning around a broom like a baton or moving a metal tray around her body like a pair of nunchucks. It had a very lively-city-at-night feel to it, sometimes reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop’s OP with the spotlights and contrast between light and dark. Fitting for a song called DOWN TOWN.
The ED song, Maze Sanjou! by Maze, was very good as well. The animation sequence featured 4 of the characters playing in a band and singing with various backgrounds from the show flashing behind them. I’m not sure, but it sounded like the song was sung by the voice actors as well – I thought I heard Omigawa’s voice when Hotori was singing. Notably, the song does include both an accordion and a violin, along with the standard electric bass and drums. Like the OP, the ED didn’t feel distinctly Shaft-like, but doesn’t mean it wasn’t great anyway. Hotori’s dancing and wacky antics towards the end were very cute.
The background music was pretty subtle and pretty varied in style, all very light. There were parts that I recognized as being very Round Table (most well known among anime fans for featuring Nino and doing the OPs to Chobits, Welcome to the NHK!, and, of course, Diebuster).
As for the contents of the episode, it was pretty plain, surprisingly devoid of humor. It dove right into the story of our main character, Hotori Arashiyama (Chiaki Omigawa), a high school student working as a waitress at Sea Side Cafe, a maid cafe run by a rather homely old lady, Uki Isohata (played well by a very male Takahiro Sakurai). The first half was about her introducing her workplace to her friends the buck-toothed Harue (Ryouko Shiraishi) and the neurotic Toshiko (Aoi Yuuki). Toshiko starts lecturing Hotori on the proper behavior of maids at a maid cafe, leading to some predictable gags (“welcome back, master,” or “maids must be clumsy”), before she realizes that fellow student Hiroyuki Sanada (Miyu Irino) is a regular there and decides that she wants to work there as well.
The second half involved Hotori and Toshiko dealing with their math teacher Natsuhiko Moriaki – played ably by Tomokazu Sugita – who is quite strict about the school’s rule prohibiting part time work for students unless allowed by a teacher. At first, they run away when discovered on their way to work, but have to face him head-on when he follows them all the way to the cafe and enters as a customer.
At the beginning, the angles of the shots and the constantly moving camera made me think of Shaft’s and Shinbo’s previous Bakemonogatari or Dance in the Vampire Bund (of which Aoi Yuuki was the star), though as the episode went on, I was more reminded of their other sea side cafe series, Natsu no Arashi! (in which Ryouko Shiraishi was the eponymous star and Chiaki Omigawa also played a main role). Indeed, that’s the show this one is most comparable to, both in the setting and the lighthearted character comedy.
And about that comedy bit… comedies are supposed to be funny, and this episode just wasn’t. All the elements were there: the peculiar setting, the quirky and quirkier-looking characters, the slapstick action. But the show just seemed to be going through the motions. None of the jokes caught me as witty or clever. They just felt stale and, as mentioned above, predictable.
The ostensible heroine of the show, Hotori, was pretty boring, a bit too much of a straight man. I will say that she was very cute, with her sideways ponytail, malleable and a bit chubby and rounded face, and, of course, that maid outfit. It was all amplified by Chiaki Omigawa’s distinct voice. Far more charismatic was Toshiko, who was the excited and energetic catalyst in both halves of the show. Aoi Yuuki’s ability to transition quickly from a soft feminine voice to a more masculine in-control one worked well for her.
Story-wise, there’s a typical love-triangle being set up here, with Toshiko clearly being obsessed with Hiroyuki who just as clearly has a crush on Hotori. I wonder if it’ll lead anywhere, but my guess is that it will be more of a running joke, similar to the love triangle between Hajime, Arashi, and Takeshi in Natsu no Arashi! This was the only real story thread introduced in the first episode, but there are plenty of characters to be introduced, so we shall see how it goes. If Shaft likes anything, it’s to take their sweet time in introducing the characters of the cast.
Thus this was not an inspiring first episode to this new series. Then again, I was not so hot on the first episode of Arakawa Under the Bridge earlier this year, and that one ended up quite fine. That said, I would hope for at least some good gags or foreshadowing of plot to come in a first episode, and I found neither in this one. Just good music and fun OP and ED sequences featuring Hotori being a lot more entertaining than in the actual episode. Still, being a fan of many of the people involved in this, I’ll be watching this with a skeptical optimism.
- Maaya Sakamoto, the singer of the OP song DOWN TOWN, stars as the main heroine Nino in this season’s other Shaft show, Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge. The background music to this show was done by Round Table, a band better known as Round Table featuring Nino, which, fittingly enough, features a singer named Nino.
- Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge also has Chiaki Omigawa and Tomokazu Sugita playing in main roles.