「TV Series of the Week」 Ashita, Mama ga Inai #01. (Series Premiere)

Ashita, Mama ga Inai #01. 「The little girl who lost love. I wasn’t abandoned by Mother, it was I who abandoned her」

Screenwriter(s): Matsuda Saya (松田沙也)
Chief Producer: Ito Hibiki (伊藤響)
Producer(s): Fukui Yuta (福井雄太), Namba Toshiaki (難波利昭)
Director(s): Inomata Ryuichi, Naganuma Makoto, Suzuki Yuma (鈴木勇馬)
Music: Haketa Takefumi

Ashita, Mama ga Inai isn’t the first drama series I’ve watched, but I’ve resolutely decided that it will be the first one I watch from beginning to end. I stumbled upon this wonderful childrens’ story of growth, acceptance and free will on Tumblr, ironically not so much an unadulterated place itself. The photo-set that caught my interest was a series of ten GIFs depicting the scene whereinosuto (played by Mana Ashida) delivers a wholly heartfelt speech that also garners the complementary conceptual symmetry of explaining the whole title of the series, translated literally to Tomorrow, Mama Won’t Be Here (and is one of a few striking moments in the first episode that had me tear-bound). Sure enough, a small girl crying on my dashboard evoked the same response as a small girl crying in real life would, and the show effectively welcomed me into the world of Japanese drama series. (Though I suppose it’s worth noting that Jun to Ai would have had this merit had I been able to find subtitles for it. My sensei would show clips from this asadora in class and that intrigued me enough to watch it for fun.) Needless to say, after an underwhelming exposure of romcom series recommended to me by female classmates back in high school and a four year time-skip, I was blown away by the presentation of Ashita, Mama ga Inai. It was nothing quite like any live-action series I have seen before and to me, an hour minimum long run-time finally made sense when actual plot and character progression where occurring in lieu of humdrum romantic-comedic stereotypism. Duly noted, there were elements that ensured your awareness that you were, in fact, watching a drama, whether that be some melodramatic tidbits in the writing or the noticeable cuts in shots that were presumably utilized to apply eye-drops to the actresses for that signature effect. But if you take a step back and settle back into your seat, one that isn’t a pretentious, high and almighty throne, then you can really see the show as quite the phenomenal spectacle playing on-screen. The cinematography, a cut above what you would expect of any given TV series; the set design fantastic and imaginative, especially for the “Kogamo no Ie” orphanage that the main cast lives in; the soundtrack superb and arguably the main contribution to the overall mood of the series as well as the mood of each individual scene (also, do check out the theme song, Dare ka Watashi wo by Kotoringo, it’s a wistful, pensive and soothing musical delight), the story strong in its premise and even more so in its  depth of writing; and lastly, its acting, while no Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild, nevertheless exquisite in performance – of course, the highest distinction belonging to nine year old actress Mana Ashida for her representation of the highly dynamic characters Posuto, who displays an eloquence with intermediate grammar and more importantly touching expressions of aggression, maturity, self-confidence, anxiety and affability all within the first episode. It’s almost hard to imagine children of their age being so developed not just as characters in written form but also as people in genuine form, but the context of the story is equal parts severe and well-disposed that the possibility is ultimately left hinging on your judgment. It breaks your heart that there are children experiencing this life-style in real life and it melts your heart that this is how they might overcome it. Either way, this show will damage your heart. As this is in no way a culture that I am familiar with, I wouldn’t be justified in saying that Ashita, Mama ga Inai is a gem of a series in this season; but judging from an immediate and rather controversial reception to its premiere, I think it’s safe to say it’s definitely making its mark as something special. It’s a dignified program that freely intersperses high-end drama with charming comedy to present a narrative that is profoundly attentive to both the cruel and mirthful natures of life. And it’s exponentially emotional when the characters experiencing this spectrum are precious and adorable children. God damn it, why.

*As a side-note: I am actually considering writing a review for every episode of this, which is amazing even myself. That is a feat I have yet to do even for any anime series, and in a very strange sense, this speaks volumes for the exceptional response that this premiere episode got from me.

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