Cozy to Cold

Cozy to Cold – An Isshuukan Friends Analysis

You might have seen my first Isshuukan Friends analysis last week where I focused on directing. All those scenes we looked at last time are supported by the show’s warm and cozy atmosphere. Actually, in the case of Episode 4, we should probably say that the scenes are supported by a contrast against the show’s usual warm and cozy atmosphere. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have to set the metaphorical table before we flip it (or maybe we wouldn’t want to do that…?).

Oh well. Let’s figure out how atmosphere can influence drama.

The first thing you notice when you turn on an episode of Isshuukan Friends is the watercolor-like background, coated in a pastel color palette. While Isshuukan is far from the first animation (Japanese or otherwise) to utilize a soft, brush-strokey background, it might be the one that benefits the most from it. These backgrounds (combined with a couple other elements we’ll get to in a second) create a relaxed atmosphere that meshes perfectly with Hase and Kaori’s interactions. These characters are timid in their friendship—especially Hase.

Psycho Pass, for comparison.

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Directing the Heart

Directing the Heart – An Isshuukan Friends Analysis

While Isshuukan Friends did have its issues—primarily a wimp protagonist and lack of romantic resolution—it makes up for those issues with fantastic atmosphere and moments of stellar directing/editing. Shougo also saves the day on an almost episodic basis, showing that the writers were at least aware of what they were doing to us. It’s a little like they wanted to punch us in the face, but were at least kind enough to bring us an icepack afterwards. For the sake of time, let’s blame it on the manga artist and move on.

In this essay, let’s figure out how smart directing can turn a small conflict into a powerful drama. If you’re interested in atmosphere—don’t worry, I have an essay on that coming as well. Now, prepare yourself for a lot of pictures. At the beginning of Episode 4, Hase is insecure as usual, and is struggling to express himself to Kaori (as usual). A rift is about to slash through their friendship, just as the cloud streak and bar of the fence slice between them visually. These characters are very clearly about to have an issue with each other.

This is more symbolism than anything, but this episode throws way too many dandelions in our face to not mention it now: dandelions symbolize friendship in this show, specifically the kind of fleeting friendship Kaori experiences because of her memory loss. The dandelion seeds drift away as easily as her friendships might if she doesn’t work hard to maintain them. Obviously, the two dandelions in this shot represent Kaori and Hase. Actually, this will be super important in a second, so remember it and keep an eye out for dandelions!Read More »