Living for The Day After Tomorrow
Twelve-year old Karada Iokawa lives with her brother Hiro in an apartment together. Despite her short height, she does not like being treated like a kid. She wishes to be an adult soon to help her brother out.
One night, after a summer beach get-together with her brother as well as her friend from school, Tetsu (along with his sister), Karada runs off from the party after a former friend of Hiro's, Shouko, comments on how childish she looks with ribbons in her hair.
Karada heads back to the shrine she prayed to earlier that day, the one with a "wishing stone" inside the little shrine. There she prays once more, Shouko joining her. Under the moonlight, though, they switch ages - Karada is now an adult, and Shouko a child.
And thus begins for the both of them an unforgettable summer experience.
Living for The Day After Tomorrow initially had me worried with its age changing premise: not because I don't like age swapping in animation, but because I feared that it would be used simply for the sake of comedic hijinx. Fortunately, it's not the case here. If anything, it reminded me of the more serious parts of Big more so than Freaky Friday. That's not to say the show isn't humorous: there's still humor in this series (the younger Shoko is quite sarcastic and funny at times, not unlike Ruri from Martian Successor Nadiesco), and there are the obligatory moments where Karada has to get used to having an adult body. But really, it's the story and characters (not the humor) that makes this series great.
Anyway, back to the story. It's a very powerful one about growing up, and how scary it can be to have your wish come true. Who wouldn't be worried and upset if they were in the same shoes as Karada? I know I would break down and cry if something like that happened to me. I, too, would be too afraid to speak to anyone about something this odd (and I wouldn't be surprised if no one stomached the cause of the reversed ages in the first place). It's a wonderful story about family, togetherness, acceptance, and learning to move on. It's a feel-good story with an ongoing plot (as opposed to series like Aria, which are mostly standalone episodes).
The characters are also all very real. Karada is not just simply a doting younger sister like the Sister Princess girls: she has real concerns for her older brother, and feels that she may be a burden to his happiness at times. Contrary to his bland character design, Hiro is not simply a male character there to initiate the plot in the series: he has his own concerns and worries about the future and of Karada. Shoko, despite her initial appearance, is not a cold, unlikable woman who you wish would go away or chill out, but a believable, sympathetic character. I had as much concern about what would happen to Shoko as I did for Karada throughout the series' run, and kudos to the writers for not glorifying one's situation and shafting the other. Tetsu is kind of whiny at times, but then again, so was I when I was 12. So are most kids, for that manner. I'm glad he wasn't simply pigeon-holed into a rough-and-tough delinquent role like so many other series do to males his age.
However, there are some bumps along this anime's path. My biggest complaint with the anime is one I have with other series like Maison Ikkoku and Love Hina: thriving on misinterpretation as a plot device. To me, this is the kind of thing writers do when they can't think of a way to continue a story. They simply stall for time by throwing in something that simply makes the story longer without adding anything significant to it. I suppose it builds up suspense for further events (and boy are they doozies), but it gets a little annoying at times, considering some things aren't wrapped up until the final episode.
Another problem I had was with the character of Kotomi, the slightly older girl that hung around with Tetsu. I know it's common to add a new character in when you turn a manga into an anime: I found the addition of Meilin Li in the CardCaptor Sakura anime to be one of the things that made the anime more enjoyable (as well as added character for Shaoran). But in Living for The Day After Tomorrow, I found it very hard for me to care about Kotomi. She spends most of the series being rude to others unintentionally, as well as more or less stalk Tetsu. Not until the final episode does she contribute to the series, but anyone who's watched all twelve episodes would agree that even then her presence wasn't really necessary. If she were at least an interesting character this would be okay, but compared to the central three (Hiro, Kana, and Shoko) and Tetsu, she feels completely out of place in the series.
One thing I rather enjoyed in Living for The Day After Tomorrow was the art. In this day of digital animation making anything glow like a fluorescent light show, this series has a style of digital coloring that resembles more along the lines of 90's anime, but in a good way. The almost watercolor look to the scenery is wonderful and works very well for a series with such a peaceful setting. The character designs are clean and very nice, and unlike some anime out there, the characters look like they fit in with the backgrounds. And there's no blatantly obvious CG or anything of the type around.
In fact, the only thing bad I have to say art-wise is that the character designs make certain characters look way younger or older than they really are. Honestly, I didn't believe that Karada was 12 until the show told me she was. She barely looks 8, much less a girl around junior high school age. Amino, a boy in her class, supposedly is also 12, but looks old enough to be in high school. Hiro is around 27, but looks older than that (to me, at least). It's not a big deal: the show is relatively clean of fan service of any kind, but I still found even after the final episode a bit difficult to believe Karada's real age.
The music is pretty laid back compared to the typical anime soundtrack: even the opening and ending themes are peaceful, sounding more like something off of the radio than in an anime. The background music is good, but none that I remember all too well upon watching and re-watching. The voice acting is well done, which is essential for a show of this kind: hokey kids actors wouldn't do for something that can get really dramatic or sad at times.
Sadly, the English dub by Animax does sound hokey. While Hiro's voice is okay, his acting is atrocious. Child Shouko's dub voice is horrific, and adult Shouko sounds like someone you'd hear in a bad hentai anime dub. Karada, as a child, suffers from the classic English dub case of an adult woman trying way too hard to sound like a kid, and her adult counterpart fares little better. Tetsu's voice actor sounds like he's going through puberty as he speaks, and Kotomi...well, her voice is actually not that bad.
Living for The Day After Tomorrow is a great show that I only have a few gripes about. It's one of my favorite anime of 2006, and I'm not only did it get licensed, but that I now owe this series myself courtesy of Sentai Filmworks. If you're looking for an enjoyable slice of life anime with an ongoing plot, look no further.
Surprisingly touching, down to earth slice of life drama with very believable characters and great writing. Subtract one or two stars if you're watching the Animax dub. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Despite adult Karada being fairly well endowed, there'ss no fan service of the kind with her. Also, while there's very little in the way of physical violence aside from slapstick, there are some adult themes and drama at times (some of which may hurt closer to home than others for those watching). There's also one episode where a bunch of perverts try to make advancements on Karada. Nothing that teenagers and up couldn't handle.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-licensed digital source
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Living for The Day After Tomorrow © 2006 J-Ta Yamada / Asatte Production Committee
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