Iokawa Karada has always felt like a burden on her older brother Hiro, especially once she becomes old enough to realise how much he has given up to look after her. One summer, she prays to the local wishing stone to make her old enough to be independent, and to her surprise, it grants that wish- although in return, Hiro’s visiting ex-girlfriend, Shouko, is reverted to a child. Now, Karada and Shouko must deal with their new situations, and hopefully find out something about themselves in the process…
Although the concept of characters switching ages sounds more like a premise for a comedy film, Asatte no Houkou takes this unlikely set of circumstances and gives it a more serious spin, showing us what happens when an adult gets the chance to relive their childhood, and when a child is suddenly thrust into a role of responsibility and maturity. It is certainly an interesting and long overdue approach, but unfortunately, it is also one that yields mixed results.
At times, Asatte no Houkou’s dreamlike setting and gentle atmosphere seems to make it the equal of any worthy slice-of-life series, weaving a compelling and absorbing tale not unlike that of Someday’s Dreamers or Koi Kaze. Scenes such as Shouko and Karada’s first shopping trip in their reversed forms, or Karada’s realisation that getting a job in the real world isn’t quite as easy as she imagined are both satisfying and memorable, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. As the series progresses, flaws begin to show in the once addictive content; at some points, the pacing becomes excruciatingly slow, whilst certain scenes feel rather forced and contrived in their attempts to move the plot in the required direction- in fact, the ending is especially laughable in this regard.
Unlike many shorter series, which pack in far more characters than it can ever hope to develop, Asatte no Houkou keeps its focus on a tighter cast, but even so, some of the characters remain woefully underused. Given what I’ve read about the manga, it is perhaps just as well that the series doesn’t delve too much into back story, but it is also disappointing that most of what counts for development in this series consists of Karada angsting and running away; admittedly she is technically still an elementary school student, but even so, it does get a little too much.
Visually, Asatte no Houkou is aesthetically pleasing with regards to its beautifully drawn backgrounds and the majority of character designs. The gentle colours and haunting soundtrack both set the tone for the series, bringing the world and its characters to life even when the content is less satisfying than it could be.
In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure what to make of Asatte no Houkou. Taken episode by episode, there were times when it captivated me with its excellence, but sometimes I treacherously felt myself wishing the progress bar on my media player would tick ahead a little more quickly. If you’re a fan of slice of life, and have the patience to sit through the slower parts, then it is worth investigating, but this is not a series that will sit well with everyone.