#1 A fascination with candy
Not everybody has the same reaction to being told that they must inherit a family business. For some it’s an ambition in and of itself, while others feel that having to inherit the job of their parents forces them to forego their true calling. The latter is the case for Kokonotsu Shikade, who is burdened with having to one day take over his dad’s candy store in rural Japan.
He actually wants to be a manga artist, but his father insists on him becoming the ninth generation to keep the store going. And, while his manga work is unimpressive, Kokonotsu does know a lot about candy and has a lot of ideas for how the place might be improved. When he then finds himself manning the register one day, the store is visited by Hotaru Shidare, heiress to the Shidare snacks company, and a total fanatic when it comes to all things sweet and delicious. She has come to visit this famous shop out in the countryside. Though she is incredibly weird, Kononotsu soon finds himself befriending her and being promptly dragged into all kinds of candy-related activities.
Perhaps this strange girl might be able to convince Kokonotsu to take over the store anyway. Perhaps it might also be the final push he needs to quit it entirely.
Each episode of Dagashi Kashi is filled with short comedy adventures relating to various kinds of candy. This can be the characters discussing some trivia or backstory, a blind taste test, arguing over the correct way to eat certain snacks, or even tangentially-related games. It sounds like a weak subject to dedicate a full anime too, but Dagashi Kashi is so creatively-written that it manages to spin entire stories around even the most simple of snacks. Only on rare occasion did I find a sketch too far-fetched and even then you still got the entertaining main characters to look forward to.
#2 Kotoyama’s character design
Kotoyama is an artist who intrigues me because I very much like their unique take on character design. Hotaru makes a bomb of a first impression with her blueish hair, frilly clothes, and unique pupil style. It contrasts wonderfully to the plainer look of Kokonotsu, who himself has some subtle touches to set him apart from dozens of other dark-haired anime boys.
While Hotaru steals the show, I also found myself taking a liking to Saya Endou; the girl who works in the local café and who is Kokonotsu’s childhood friend. Both girls have an impressive range of expressions and this ends up being a huge boon to the series’ comedy. Hotaru, for example, struck me as a very serious, haughty character when I first saw her, but she has her goofy and childish sides. Her deranged fanaticism for candy is also executed brilliantly thanks to her design, the animation, and Ayane Taketatsu’s voice-acting.
Every character felt that little bit special and those touches did a lot to endear the show’s cast.
#3 Cute romantic influences
While it’s a comedy anime first and foremost, Dagashi Kashi plays around with a romantic aspect that it puts to good use.
Saya and Kokonotsu have been friends since forever and, now in their teenage years, find that there is some romantic tension that has developed between them. Neither of them is confident enough to just throw it out there, but they make little steps forward and backward. Sometimes they end sharing a beautiful moment together, sometimes Kokonotsu is so dense that he doesn’t even pick up on the most obvious of romantic advances.
The introduction of Hotaru also throws a wrench into their relationship, as Kokonotsu is obviously captivated by her appearance and energetic personality. Not helping at all is how often their interactions end having an erotic touch to them, flustering our teenage protagonist and distracting him from the more obvious romantic path. Sadly, as with so many other shows, this romantic side-plot is kept in relative status quo unless we get a season 3 out of this that shakes things up.
#4 A daring season 2
The first season of Dagashi Kashi is standard stuff for a comedy series like this. It’s 13 TV-length episodes with some reliable comedy and good characters. Fun while it lasts, but not something with a lot of staying power.
Season 2 changes that up, firstly by cutting the length of each episode in half. This forces storylines to become more focused and it works wonders for the pacing, without cutting the show too short. The story also takes some daring moves and—while still irreverent towards candy—does a lot for Kokonotsu’s character. His family business ends up in dire straits as the shop deteriorates around them, his father ends up hospitalized, and they face competition from a genuine supermarket.
This season works so well because it takes characterization and plot points that seemed to just exist for jokes and finally confronts the characters with it. Can Kokonotsu’s store survive in the modern day? Can he genuinely pursue his passion for manga even if that means the end of his family’s livelihood? If you feel that season 1 is a tad underwhelming, I can recommend sticking with it just to see the payoff that season 2 delivers.