The adventure of watching the 102 episode Kodocha (1996-98) has been an interesting pastime. I found Kodocha on the same anime outlet on the Roku Channel where I discovered Kaito Joker. I watched the series as I could, but I wondered why the last viewed episode 51 swung the list back to episode one. This would be part of the adventure.
When I began viewing Kodocha, I had the dubbed version through episode 51. I read that FUNimation gave up the dubbing project after this, and so I assumed that the remainder would be subbed. Nope. Not a hint of an English translation. The last 51 would be raw. The only time I encountered a raw episode was an episode of Hugtto! I passed on since it featured a character whom I didn't appreciate. But to give up on Kodocha after catching a flavor of the franchise and the premise of feisty girl Sana versus delinquent boy Hayama?
Thanks to an understanding of the general premise and the story synopses I found, I plowed through the full set of Kodocha episodes with an inkling that I comprehended most of what passed. And some of those scenes surpassed any hope of comprehension.
The experience is divided between the 51 episode with 11 year old Sana Karada in her last year of middle school and enjoying a busy life as child actress of the TV show Child's Story (Kodomo no Omocha). Sana is a hot item and fan favorite, between her TV stint, commercials, and a promo created team of teen girl stars forming idol group Sho Roku Tai. But she enters not so much a classroom as a war zone. It's girls vs. boys as Sana leads the female resistance to the hellion-boy plans to disrupt teacher's lessons, a coup led by Akito Hayama. Sana breaks the control of Hayama over the teachers, but she gets kissed in the process. The whole series centers on three exchanges of Hayama's lips on Sana, and the reaction to these moments tell a large share of the budding relationship between these two characters.
The second set brings us a maturing 12 year old girl excited by her first year in high school and donning the school uniform. But her opportunities to act are scaled back thanks to the underhanded antics of an entertainment consortium. Sana decides to use this time to acclimate herself to school life. But projects come her way, thanks to her relationship to Naozumi Kamura. Both orphaned, they trace their beginnings back to the same orphanage. A movie project leads to a bigger gig in New York City, an adventure that was long and tedious and develops into Naozumi finding his family roots (no problem for Sana; she finds her biological mother and father in the first half). By the time Sana and Naozumi return to Japan, you have two established couples, Sana-Naozumi, and Hayama-Fuko. Fuko is Sana's BFF from day one at high school. But the final arc of approximately 12 episodes watches these pairings dissolve and Sana and Hayama becoming friendly again.
But it's not all budding romance between polar opposites. Kodocha is noted for brilliant omake selections. Concept pieces which explain why the kids are seen as prehistoric characters and butterflies in the opening credits. Weird lessons in drawing the caricatures of Sana and the bat-mascot of the show, Babbitt. Crazy songs where Babbitt counts from one to ten for reasons hidden in the archives of raw anime. It is these little odd add-ons which make the series charming.
The music of the series is remarkable. I tend not to absorb anime tunes. And the opening theme would not be an exception, even if I don't like the macarena. But I love the hard scatting style of Panic, the stiff syncopation of DAI-BU, and the mellow blues style of Love Me Deeper. These melodies kept churning through my skull at work, driving hither and yon, and almost occurring in my dreams. A sweet collection of songs.
The animation is standard pre-CGI of the end of the millennium past. But the complexity of the eyes, the emotions generated between characters, the bizarre use of colors (and lack of color in the winter avalanche scene late in the first half) and the near WB antic movement of characters which reminded one of the Tasmanian Devil ... hallmarks of the Kodocha experience.
There are rumors that the latter half will be subbed by 2023. If so (and if still living deo volente!), it would be a series to give a second look.