(This review has been adapted from my blog/reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)
Ojisan to Marshmallow contains, not surprisingly, a lot of marshmallows.
I recently purchased some. The multicolored, multiflavored kind. I’m actually eating them as I type out this paragraph. The anime inspired me to pick them up from the grocery store to see what all the hubbub was about.
After eating a few handfuls, I am not too keen on having more. While it’s watching instead of eating, the same can be said of Marshmallow.
Marshmallow is as long as marshmallows are short. At about three minutes an episode, the anime has little time to create a simple and sweet show.
As such, it targets three separate yet unified angles: comedy, romance, and lewdness. Everything wrapped together by white-and-tasty marshmallows.
Much of the comedy is realistic enough to make sense but far-fetched enough to be considered silly given the circumstances. Iori leading Hige with a toasted marshmallow. The marshmallow makers believing in the “marshmallow fairy” (i.e., Hige). Iori’s brother dressing up as a woman in an attempt to single out Hige as an evil man.
The romance route initially just involves Iori and Hige. Technically only Iori because Hige is oblivious to any and all of her advances. Later on, the anime introduces Mio, another woman vying for Hige, creating a largely unnecessary love triangle. It does cut down on the repetitive nature of Iori trying and failing to seduce Hige, but, when the anime does not have a lot of time to work with, getting in the way of the “established” romance (that already is not going anywhere) does not make much sense.
As for the lewdness, it spices up the festivities – even if marshmallows are not inherently sexy. Iori trying to show off her “twenty-four-year-old marshmallows” or Iori seductively leaning over with a marshmallow in her mouth create a few moments as steamy as a marshmallow over an open bonfire.
A lot of the time, Marshmallow combines all three angles. Iori fakes moaning while Hige speaks on the phone in order to make their relationship sound more risqué. Mio’s breasts censored with “J-Cup” tags. Both Iori and Hige squished together in the in-between of a subway cart. All examples of the show using its different elements as well as it can.
Surprisingly, however, Marshmallow’s biggest problem is the element that ties the three previous ones together: the marshmallows. Despite the prevalence of and the importance given to marshmallows, the anime does not take advantage of its premise enough. It can, such as the brother using marshmallows to make a fake bosom, but, most of the time, it is just their smell that gets attention.
Nevertheless, the anime aims for and provides exactly what it set out to give. Nothing more and nothing less.
Just like a marshmallow.
The art of Marshmallow is rather soft. Many of the locations and the presentation in general are not exactly detailed, but they have a softness to them that makes the anime as light as the ‘mallows it contains.
Actual animation tends to remain low, although this outcome is mostly due to the nature of the show: Characters often stand around without moving. The anime either shows a couple of characters having a quick conversation or letting the cast react to a bag of marshmallows. Some instances, like Iori dodging or chasing after Hige, can prove that the anime does have some animation chops, but these moments are the exception rather than the rule.
Without a doubt, the designs of the main characters are the strongest part of the art. In fact, their looks are reminiscent of marshmallows: round, simple, and fluffy. From head to body, Hige is rotund. Iori owns a simplistic depiction – plain clothes, brown hair, and short ponytail. Mio’s figure makes her fluffy in all the right places.
Continuing with the marshmallow metaphors, the cast is a marshmallow. They do not have a whole lot going for them. They do not change much over the course of their run. They are consistent in their actions.
These traits sound negative (and to some extent they are), but, to reiterate, the show is short. Meaning, expecting grandiose development or complex characters from an anime about romance and marshmallows may not be the fairest of outlooks.
Breaking the characters down more accurately helps to see the previous metaphor. Hige loves marshmallows more than anything else. He is also dense – both of mind and body. Iori, on the other hand, loves Hige more than anything else. Plus, she is so forward that Hige mistakes her lust for scariness. As for Mio, she is somewhat selfish and slightly rude. She also competes with Iori for Hige’s attention as best she can.
Their relationships demonstrate a bit more about them. Hige treats Iori in the same way he treats his marshmallows: with respect. Iori has less intimidating sides to her than at first believed. She does not like the word “normal” (which she later desensitizes herself to), she knows how to cook, and so on. Mio is actually dating the president of Web-Related Company (the place where they work), making her feelings for Hige seem immature.
Anything else about the characters is unfortunately a negative. The actual strength of their relationships is lacking; the anime relies more on their individual selves rather than their grouping. Iori backing out of her confession, despite her forward personality, makes little sense. Hige rarely contributes to the comedy. Mio showing up again and trying to steal Hige away from Iori after Mio seemingly lost comes off as unfocused.
While these negatives are not that heavy, they weigh down this light-as-a-marshmallow cast.
Sound-wise, Marshmallow understandably does not have a whole lot in this department. It skips out on having an opening track for its episodes to make way for more content in its short three minutes (a wise decision).
And while it does have a few different ending tracks to offer, they are tiny pieces that exist solely to indicate the end of the episode. They are not catchy or complex. In fact, Iori’s ED has a grating start to it that sounds quite out of place.
Similar words can be said (or, in this case, written) about the original soundtrack. It’s a marshmallow-handful of slice-of-life tracks. Dainty, simple, and tame.
The voice acting, however, is a step above the musical offerings. Eri Kitamura as Iori has a mild way of speaking that is strangely alluring. Tetsu Inada as Hige uses a low and slow manner of talking that makes him the middle-aged gentleman that the anime’s title confers. And Kana Hanazawa as Mio included a nice accent for the “marshmallow-stealing” character.
While I didn’t much care for Hige – he was a bit too passive – Iori was a hoot. She is decidedly plain, but her determination to get Hige to notice her had me smiling throughout the season.
All of episode two, from the music getting cutoff after Iori tries to point out her wet clothes to her slamming her umbrella on Hige’s head, had me laughing. My other favorite moment happened in episode ten on the Ferris wheel. Iori hurling a few choice cuss words at Mio after she reveals her already-a-girlfriend status was hilarious.
What I despised, though, was the anime redacting even the slightest amount of progress on the romance. It was essentially one misunderstanding after another. The ending got them slightly closer since Hige no longer found Iori scary. But Iori going back on her words and Hige still unable to put two and two together made me more than frustrated with the whole season.
(And a small shout-out to the smiling boss with the big cheeks. He didn’t say much, but his extra silliness made me smile, too.)
Ojisan to Marshmallow offers about as much as marshmallows can. In other words, not a whole lot. A three-angled story, a simple cast, and some nice character designs are melted by not enough variety, poor musical decisions, and quite the frustrating romance. More marsh than mallow.
Story: Fine, comedy, romance, and lewdness hurt by underutilizing the premise
Animation: Fine, soft art, low actual animation, and marshmallow character designs
Characters: Bad, Iori, Hige, and Mio are simple characters weighed down by tiny yet heavy negatives
Sound: Bad, bad EDs, bad OST, nice VA performances
Enjoyment: Fine, Iori was fun but the romance was frustrating
Final Score: 4/10