It was a rainy day when I sat down to watch the first episode Poco’s Udon World (Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari) in the Shinjuku Wald 9 theater in Tokyo. It was almost like fate—after all, the majority of the episode takes place on a rainy day as well. As I began to watch the episode, however, I started to hear sniffling from the woman sitting next to me. It wasn’t as if anything sad was happening on screen, but this woman was so moved by what she saw that she had begun to cry. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
At a press conference after the screening, a staff member noted that the original creator had been watching alongside the fans, crying because she felt so nostalgic for her home prefecture of Kagawa. Hearing this, I realized: the woman that was sitting next to me, crying while looking at the Kagawa landscapes was the original creator, Nodoka Shinomaru. If the creator was so moved while watching the adaptation of her work that she cried, then they must be doing something right.
The story of Poco’s Udon World revolves around Sōta, the 30-something-year-old son of the owner of an udon shop. Although he moved from the countryside of Kagawa Prefecture to the cityscape of Tokyo long ago, he returns to his home to retrieve his father’s belongings when his father passes away.
In just an instant, in one of Sōta’s flashbacks, we see how different Kagawa is from Tokyo. You can see the sky in the former. A Kagawa native himself who moved to Tokyo to become a voice actor, the actor for Sōta, Yuichi Nakamura (seen left in the photo above), commented that, while he didn’t feel much nostalgia for the anime’s setting because he was raised in a different town, he did resonate with the contrast between Tokyo and Kagawa. While Tokyo’s buildings are close together, Kagawa’s buildings are spread apart, making the sky more visible.
This feeling of space also plays a part in the anime’s atmosphere, which is one of loneliness. Having just lost his father, we see Sōta walking around in his hometown alone. The only inhabitants we ever encounter outside of Sōta’s home throughout the episode are a little old lady and a frog. According to the voice of Sōta’s child companion Poco, Shiho Kokido (seen center), she was surprised to find that, unlike in Tokyo, there weren’t many people walking about in Kagawa. Nakamura further explained that the reason there weren’t many people around is because if a resident wants to get around, they usually have a destination in mind when they get in their car to drive somewhere. Because of the distance, walking around and stopping at a local cafe is less of a common occurence.
While this lack of people walking around outside is another move by the director Seiki Takuno to remain faithful to the setting, it also creates the perfect atmosphere for the opening episode. When Sōta returns to his hometown, his family isn’t waiting for him and no one is there to greet him. Because of this, he finds himself looking back into his own past when his mother and father were both still alive.
Sōta is reminded of when he abandoned his father and his line of work in order to go to the city. And as the places Sōta visits–a countryside path, a shrine, an old storehouse–are all drawn with extreme detail and beauty, the sense of loneliness and sadness lingers.
The entire feeling of the show, which is initially made up with dreary colors, is changed completely when a little child named Poco shows up in Sōta’s life. With bright blonde hair and personality filled with childish innocence, Poco brings light and energy into Sōta’s life. On a canvas of beautiful but solemn landscapes, Poco starts to become the catalyst that will force Sōta to change his life.
Will this change in his life be him taking over his father’s udon shop–something he loved as a child, but said he would never take over in his adolescence? According to the director, as the manga has not ended, the anime will have an original ending that is separate from its source material, so we’ll have to watch the series to see where Sōta’s emotional journey in Kagawa leads him.
Poco’s Udon World will premiere on Japanese television on October 9. No overseas streaming platform has been announced yet.