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[R2 DVD box art]
AKA: Shinigami no Ballad: momo the girl god of death, しにがみのバラッド。 (Japanese)
Genre: Slice-of-life drama with afterlife-ish elements.
Length: OAV series, 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Maiden Japan through Section 23 Films.
Content Rating: PG (Some mature situations, including sickness and death.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Haibane Renmei, Fruits Basket, Shigofumi: Tales of the Last Letter. Also worth mentioning is the American comic "Death: The high cost of living", based on the work by Neil Gaiman.
Notes: Based on a novel series. There is also a manga available by Keisuke Hasegawa (with art by Asuka Izumi) serialized in LaLa and LaLaDX.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars

Momo, Girl God of Death ~ Ballad of a Shinigami

Synopsis

Momo is a shinigami, and together with her winged familiar, Daniel, she is responsible for bringing the recently deceased to their final resting place. This is the story of the lives she brings over and how it affects the people around them.


Review

Death is never an easy subject to create anything around, especially when you choose to do so around an animated medium that is, for a bigger part than strictly necessary, seen as a medium for the younger generation. Especially more so, seeing as the approach taken in this show better suits those who already carry the memories of those passed on. Shinigami no Ballad is, in short, not the kind of show you normally expect when you hear the word "shinigami".

This is particularly apparent when you see the main character in the show, Momo. She is perhaps the most disarming messenger of death you'd ever be likely to meet; a young girl, clad completely in white (except for a pair of bright red shoes) and with a long mane of white hair falling down her back. The only thing that really feels out of place would be the huge, black scythe she brings along with her when she works.

Curiously enough, the show is perhaps not as much about Momo, but more the people she influences in various ways. Being highly episodic, each episode brings along a new main character for the duration of its runtime, and the whole thing plays off in a casual manner despite its serious tone and material. Not that the show isn't completely without its more dramatically intense moments, mind you.

I guess you could call that the only "downside" to this show. It's six episodes long, so you could probably argue that you aren't really getting to know these people very well, unlike a longer-running show with the same cast all the way through. And while that is a valid point, I think it's important to realize that it's the stories themselves that are important, with whatever feeling they might convey. It's the situations that should be familiar to the viewers, not the characters.

This does, however, bring the show's real downside. It won't be accessible to most young people -- especially children -- simply because it's highly unlikely that they've experienced any of what is going on, and are more likely to become bored with it. Which is a shame, because the show itself is surprisingly down-to-earth about the whole thing, even if it's starring little girls wielding huge pieces of menacing-looking farming equipment. (And yes, I've seen "Children of the Corn.")

The main thread in Shinigami no Ballad is one of death, true, but even more so about life and the memories we carry from people we remember. It's also as much about how we view ourselves or how we think others are looking at us, especially in light of how much we value our memories and friendships. And, amazingly enough, the show itself is rather lighthearted, mostly because Momo herself is a bit of a busybody, involving herself in lives she won't be taking away anytime soon. Although in most of those cases, it's because of lives she HAS taken away, with souls who haven't been able to settle down until the ones left behind has come to terms with this.

I'm not really all that familiar with how the Japanese view the afterlife and the path there, but despite that, this show is easily accessible to anyone, regardless of social and national background. Not as much because of Momo and what she represents, but more because of how her presence and actions influence us and how we see each other. I originally said that each episode brings a new cast to the table, but in fact, some of the cast of the original episode does make an appearance in a later episode to show how time passes. It's a nice touch to a gentle show that, despite its subject material, can be seen by anyone at any time.

A little tacky at times, definitely melancholic, but a memorable experience all the same.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: It's a show about a death god, so naturally, people will die in this show, all of them in sickbed and/or through old age. Other than that, though, there isn't anything in particular to point out that would make this one inappropriate for people too young to handle the subject matter.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Momo, Girl God of Death ~ Ballad of a Shinigami © 2006 Mediaworks, Pony Canyon
 
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