When I first started to watch this, I didn't really know what to expect. I wasn't sure what sort of slice-of-life values were going to be in it, and what it was going to focus on and teach. Of course, the name being what it was, I thought it would have to do with udon; I wasn't completely off base in that, but there was much more to this than udon.
Family, growing up, and finding one's place in the world even at the age of 30 was what was presented when I watched it.
30-year-old Souta Tawara, a web designer who had moved to Tokyo, comes back to his hometown in Kagawa after his father's death to originally help clean out the house which was next to the now closed-down udon shop his father used to run.
When he enters the udon shop portion next to the house, he finds a young child sleeping in there who is more than what he seems.
Souta then meets old friends, and with memories of his time in Kagawa triggering (quite mysteriously), starts to wonder if working in Tokyo is really what he wants to do, or if he wishes to stay in Kagawa.
Souta Tawara is an indecisive 30 year old who started to grow to dislike Kagawa as he found his own calling not in creating udon like his father, but in web design. As he comes back to his home town, he starts to regret his decision and feels he was selfish in his decision.
Poco is a young "child" who is adopted by Souta. He's innocent, cute, and holds a huge secret which Souta discovers in the first episode. He also seems to have a mysterious power to help people remember things, and can spark long forgotten memories.
Shinobu Nakajima is a childhood friend of Souta who works at a hospital. He doesn't get along well with his father, and his mother is constantly pressuring him to get married. He's a bit brash and rough around the edges and speaks his mind easily, but isn't quite sure of his own future and is still a dependable friend.
Rinko Oishi is Souta's older sister. She wants to be better with handling children, but is often put out with how most kids are afraid of her. She gives off a feeling of maturity, though she's uncertain of her future just as much as the other characters are.
Other characters appear, and though they're important (such as the person who discovered Souta's talents with web design, and Souta's eccentric work partner from Tokyo who is ironically the first to discover Poco's secret), they seem to know where they are in the world and thus the focus isn't on them.
Animation and Sound
I nearly didn't watch this anime because, with the exception of Poco, everyone else seemed to have the same generic, boring character design that anime characters have been getting over the past couple years. There was nothing really special about the character artwork, though the backgrounds were incredible many times and really brought out the feel of the countryside.
The intro song is catchy, and the outro song fits well with a slice-of-life anime. I always watch the intro and outro songs on the first episode (or second when the first episode of an anime sometimes skips them; this was not the case with this anime). The background music played perfectly with the daily situations and dramas the characters got into, and was profound when it needed to be but subtle enough at other times to push the mood.
I'm going to try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.
I marathoned this series. It's only 12 episodes long, and each episode is actually closer to 17-18 minutes in length rather than the typical 23 minutes due to it dedicating about two minutes to Gaogao at the end. This is not really a good or strong point of the anime, but it does make it easier to watch all 12 episodes in one sitting.
While I kept clicking for the next episode and enjoyed watching to find out what Souta would ultimately decide in regards to his future, and was pleased that this series actually took a 30 year old as a protagonist who still wasn't sure where his life was going and had regrets towards his deceased parents (particularly his father), there were some drawbacks.
The series moved in the typical day-to-day format that most slice-of-life anime tend to proceed at. Souta (and Poco) were the two most developed characters with a side dish of Nakajima and Rinko, but if the episodes had been at full length, perhaps we could have seen more of those two since they have their own struggles.
Not once in the entire series do we meet Rinko's husband.
In an anime about family, growing up, and finding one's place in the world...I found that small tidbit disappointing.
Also, even though the main focus was on Souta, and Nakajima's issues with his father are addressed in one of the episodes, it felt like an "oh by the way" sort of thing.
Rinko got a little more screentime at the end to express some of her own worries, but it was extremely short. Yes, neither Nakajima nor Rinko are the protagonists (Souta and Poco are), but I felt like their situations should have had a little more to it.
The final episode, though it had me practically bawling, felt a little like a cop-out. There was no reason for it to have ended in the way it did, and while part of the show's message is growing up and moving on, it didn't really happen in a proper way.
I think that's the issue; there were hints at the ending and what was to come, as well as other tidbits in Poco's behavior. However, the way in which it was done in the anime was not in a proper time nor place, and while this emotional moment was going on, it didn't include everyone else.
I hear that, in the manga, that event doesn't happen...which isn't unusual for 12-episode series (especially with the manga incomplete), but the ending is one that I both understand and disagree with.
I understand what happened and why, but I don't agree with what the animators ultimately decided with in regards to a particular character. Souta gets closure, but I'm not too keen on the rest of what happened.
Family is important, be they the people you're related to by blood or the people (and animals) you've had in your life who support and love/care about you. People grow up and find their own journeys in life; That's the main message in this series.
However, the ending still bothers me. Though we're teased a bit after the credits, that doesn't make up for what they did. I did dock some points for that; I had to. It really wasn't placed properly, and though it was obvious of what was happening during the anime, it both didn't mesh with the story (which is mostly light-hearted and fun) nor with the situation (which went from everyone having a good time to tissue alert in a split second).
Then, there was how everyone acted afterwards which also bothered me. I'm no stranger to loss; even if you know who your friends and family are, and know they'll always be in your heart even if they're no longer in this world or beside you...the characters continue as if they aren't saddened at all by the turn of events.
To me, that's unrealistic and frustrating.
In short, the series was really good up until the last couple minutes of episode 11, and what the animators decided in episode 12 (especially as they tease us and make us think that we're getting a 100% happy ending just to turn around and go "NOPE"). It doesn't match up with the light-hearted tone the rest of the series had (yes, there were some serious parts, but that's expected in a slice-of-life series), and just doesn't feel like a proper ending.
However, I would recommend this series if you're a fan of slice-of-life. It's definitely worth the journey, and though the characters can feel a bit flat at times and the final episode (though a tear-jerker) wasn't done very well, it's still a pretty good slice-of-life anime.