The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Mitsuboshi Colours: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“I did think this through. You can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighborhood. Okay, that didn’t make sense but you know what I’m trying to say.” –Spider-Man, Avengers: Infinity War

In Tokyo’s Ueno district, Yui, Saki and Kotoha, three grade-schoolers who count themselves the “Colours” and are devoted to defending the peace in their neighbourhood. Their everyday adventures occasionally cause them to run afoul of the local police officer, Saitō, but overall, the girls’ adventures are harmless fun: the Colours look after a panda-coloured cat, play hide-and-seek, help Saki’s mother sell bananas, visit the zoo and museum, attempt to collect tickets from local shoppers and even organise a Halloween event to gather candy. Mitsuboshi Colours is uncommon among the anime I’ve watched, in that it is reminiscent of some of the children’s shows I used to watch; these shows didn’t always have a specific Aesop to tell, and instead, simply portrays a series of events that characters experience. These events might be unremarkable, but there is always humour about them, as each of Yui, Saki and Kotoha find themselves in situations that are unexpected, contrary to expectations. In spite of this, the Colours always manage to take things in stride, and always make new discoveries around a familiar neighbourhood. In this way, while the Colours may not always keep the peace, through the world from Yui, Saki and Kotoha’s eyes, viewers are able to see things from a new perspective, one that is filled with curiosity and naïveté: unaffected by the harsh realities of adulthood, or the challenges that accompany adolesence, the Colours are aptly named, as their world is remarkably colourful.

The main draw about Mitsuboshi Colours, then, is the fact that the anime is able to so aptly portray the idea of childhood innoence and the fact that children possess a very unique world-view. Whereas adults are guided by prior experience, logic and reason, children are inquisitive and willing to explore. Consequently, when it comes to decision-making, Yui, Kotoha and Saki have a tendency to pick choices that seem foolish or irrational to adults, invariably creating situations that one cannot help but smile at. Indeed, children often pick up on things that adults miss, and Mitsuboshi Colours never fails to capitalise on this to drive the show’s humour. However, it is here that Mitsuboshi Colours strikes a fine balance: humour can occasionally get out of hand, and someone’s feelings inevitably get hurt. This is not the case in Mitsuboshi Colours, and it became easy to get behind Yui, Saki and Kotoha’s schemes. At worst, they are an inconvenience for others (such as when they attempt to find out why certain stretches of the shōtengai shopping district are closed and end up tracking paint everywhere, or bothering shops by asking if they sell eyeballs after imagining this is the solution to a puzzle), but at their best, the misadventures can also be uplifting: the Colours brighten up visitors to a local park when they play a zombie game, and later, while selling strawberries to people partaking in hanami so they can earn some cash for cakes, they end up brightening up a job-seeker’s day (even though it costs him his last five hundred yen). Altogether, this is the joy in Mitsuboshi Colours: the Colours are doubtlessly mischievous, but they’re also aware of those around them. While they might be rambunctious enough to push a few buttons, they know which lines not to cross. The end result of this is that Mitsuboshi Colours creates an energetic, yet gental, source of comedy through the misadventures Yui, Saki and Kotoha have.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For me, the magic moment in Mitsuboshi Colours was when Yui, Kotoha and Saki pick up an RPG-7 replica and prepare to use it against the local police officer, Saitō. Saitō is initially unable to tell the difference, since the replica is well-made, and there’s a hilarious stand-off that lasts until it becomes clear the RPG is a toy. Moments like these are the norm in Mitsuboshi Colours, and drives all of the comedy – a fair bit of the conflict comes from Saitō overreacting to the girls, who in turn are motivated to antagonise him further, leading to hilarious misunderstandings.

  • From left to right, we have Kotoha, Yui and Saki (who’s affectionately known as Sat-chan). Kotoha is taciturn and has a sadistic streak a kilometre wide, but also enjoys video games and is rarely seen without her Nintendo DS. Yui is the group’s leader, but she’s also shy and the most pragmatic of everyone. Saki is carefree and energetic; most of the Colours’ adventures come at her suggestion. Together, these three form the Colours. The Colours have parallels with GochiUsa‘s Chimame Corps: Kotoha is basically a more sadistic, games-loving version of Chino, Saki is Maya with a fixation on crap and Yui is a bolder Megu.

  • As soon as I got these vibes out of Mitsuboshi Colours, the anime became an order of magnitude more compelling; Mitsuboshi Colours suddenly becomes Chimame Corps’ Fantastic Adventures, and everything suddenly felt more adorable as a result. Each of Yui, Saki and Kotoha’s traits are a bit more exaggerated than Megu, Maya and Chino’s, but since there’s no real equivalent of Cocoa and the others here, it makes sense to liven up each of Yui, Saki and Kotoha, who are playing a ramped up version of hide-and-seek here.

  • Mitsuboshi Colours is set in a shōtengai somewhere in Ueno, which is located near the heart of Tokyo. I imagine that some of the locations in Mitsuboshi Colours were probably modified to fit the story better: a quick glance at Ueno finds that there isn’t exactly a large park capable of housing the Colours’ clubhouse. However, there is a shopping district in the area, an elevated freeway running through, and Ueno Station itself.

  • Moreover, Yui, Kotoha and Saki are often seen chilling near Shinobazu Pond: as children, they wouldn’t be able to go too far, but anything within walking distance is fair game. Mitsuboshi Colours does a reasonable job of bringing this area to life, showing that there is an eclectic collection of shops in the area – I’m certain that one could find an exotic meat shop in Ueno, along with a shop that specialises in replica weapons (real firearms are illegal in Japan, and folks are only able to apply for special shotgun and airgun licenses under some conditions).

  • One day, Saki visits home and finds her mother struggling to move her last box of bananas. The girls offer to help out and each manage to sell their quota in their own way, with Yui’s approach being a reminder of how Megu might’ve gone about doing things. While it takes some effort to clear all the bananas, the girls manage to succeed – Saki’s mother gives them three chupacabra costumes as thanks, and the girls immediately use them to mess around in the neighbourhood.

  • As Mitsuboshi Colours continued, Nonoka joins the cast: she’s a high school girl who occasionally encounters the Colours, and holds aspirations to inherit the family business so that she can continue to sell bread. Whereas most anime has high school girls act as children might (GochiUsaK-On! and Kiniro Mosaic immediately come to mind), Mitsuboshi Colours presents Nonoka as being more similar to Non Non Biyori‘s Honoka: slightly more mature than the children in some areas, although still childish in others.

  • This change in perspective makes Mitsuboshi Colours fun – although rather more knowledgable than Yui, Saki and Kotoha about the world, she’s still young enough to have flights of fancy. Conversely, Nonoka’s older sister, Momoka, intends to turn the family business into an onigiri shop, and her cooking happens to outstrip Nonoka’s. While she’s shown as having trouble with men, Momoka is quite friendly towards the Colours, especially when they enjoy her onigiri more than Nonoka’s bread.

  • On the day of a parade, Yui participates along with her classmates before joining everyone in the summer festival. Yui, Saki and Kotoha each attend different schools, but Mitsuboshi Colours portrays them as spending a lot of time together, similarly to how GochiUsa had Chiya and Cocoa attend the regular high school, and Rize and Sharo attend a more elite school. In spite of spending less time together in the classroom, the four have numerous adventures and experiences together that make them friends; Mitsuboshi Colours similarly shows that Yui, Kotoha and Saki are close despite going to different primary schools.

  • There is quite a bit of non sequitur humour in Mitsuboshi Colours – these stem from the puns that Yui attempts to make, as well as Saki’s more juvenile sense of humour. However, it wouldn’t be appropriate to say that the humour in Mitsuboshi Colours is subtle: comedy here works as a result of expectations being subverted, as well as the timing of delivery. These are universals in humour: when a work uses timing and contexts to drive its humour, one can appreciate the joke and laugh at the expected spots even without the same cultural background. This is something Steven Chow particularly excels at; his comedy films might be Chinese in origin, but have found an audience around the world nonetheless.

  • Upon reading Kawaisō na Zō (“The Pitiful Elephants”), Yui, Saki and Kotoha worry about the wellbeing of the animals at their local zoo and swing by the check things out. The original book was written to familiarise children with themes of sadness and the desolation of warfare. Upon arriving at the zoo, the Colours’ worries double after noticing that primary school children get free admissions, leading to the question of how the zoo would afford food for the animals at all. These sorts of questions are an extension of the curiosity that children display, and at their age, I used to wonder about such things.

  • Depending on who owns the zoo, zoos receive a combination of public funds from taxpayers, private and institutional donations and proceeds from admissions. I’ve not been to the local zoo for two years; back then, we visited because there were pandas, and the price of admissions had gone up dramatically (the surest sign that the zoo’s expenditures were outpacing the revenue and donations it had received), but overall, the animals were still in great shape. Similarly, when exploring the zoo, Yui, Kotoha and Saki slowly realise that in the present day, their zoo appears to be in decent shape, too.

  • Their worries assuaged, Yui, Kotoha and Saki continue spending the day exploring the zoo. A child’s curiosity is boundless, and each of Yui, Kotoha and Saki exhibit the sort of thinking that accompanies inquisitive primary school-aged children do. When I look back to my time as a child, I was similarly curious about the world. However, I’d frequently get in trouble for asking questions about things that weren’t relevant, or exploring out-of-bounds places. My instructors caught on shortly after and realised there was a way to encourage this sort of curiosity without causing extra work.

  • This is how I became introduced to the wonderful world of books, tomes of knowledge housing answers to the questions I sought. From why the night sky was black, to what evolutionary purpose the stripes on a zebra served, I read books like no tomorrow. It’s a story I’m fond of telling because as a child, my favourite thing to do was read, and this is something I feel more children would benefit from (balanced with a healthy combination of playing outside, as the Colours do). These days, I’ve heard that screen time has gone way up amongst children, creating anxiety and other problems.

  • While Kotoha’s always got her face inside her DS, the other girls are very much attuned to the world. In an anime like Mitsuboshi Colours, there’s always enough going on so even someone like Kotoha is focused on the real world. Here, they speak with Daigoro “Oyaji” Kujiraoka, the boisterous owner of a local toy shop who sports unique novelty eyewear in every appearance. Daigoro gets along fine with the Colours and is seen providing puzzles and activities for them. His actions are actually quite helpful to the neighbourhood, allowing the girls to occupy their time with something that’s age-appropriate and keeping them out of trouble as able.

  • Daigoro’s activities don’t occupy the girls’ entire time, but the time it does occupy helps keep them happy and away from trouble. After spotting some statues, the girls decide to go around the shopping district and photograph themselves so that everyone is immortalised. This moment also showcases some of the background art style within Mitsuboshi Colours: I’ve noticed that in some anime, backgrounds have a painting-like quality to it. I imagine that this is a stylistic choice; some anime have previously employed this style, and while it does feel a little crude, it also allows for details to be put in without taking focus off the characters, who are fluidly animated.

  • Like the Chimame Corps, each of Kotoha, Yui and Saki are adorable in their own right: I’ve no favourites among the Colours, and this is reflected in the fact that for this post, all of the screenshots have Kotoha, Yui and Saki present in some way, mirroring the fact that the anime is as amusing as it is only because everyone is present. Here, the Colours have managed to get a shopkeeper to lie down for a picture, and I’m particularly fond of how smug Kotoha looks. Saki’s laugh is also adorable – while mischievous, the Colours aren’t destructive in any way.

  • Kotoha is usually pretty detached about things, being more engrossed in her games, but whenever Yui becomes irate at Kotoha, she’ll call Kotoha’s gaming skills into question. Looking back, I was rather similar to Kotoha when it came to skill with games: I never could make it past the first level of things like Super Mario BrosJungle BookDonkey Kong and the like for SNES, and I didn’t fare any better with the GameBoy, having only gotten through a few missions in games like Super Mario Land and Volley Fire.

  • Of the adventures the Colours have, my personal favourite was the Halloween special: Saki and Kotoha create a special zombie-themed event rather than go trick-or-treating, and the park’s visitors end up participating out of curiosity. When the whole park is “infected”, leaving Yui to save everyone, the visitors are pleased at how everything turns out, and in the aftermath, Yui, Kotoha and Saki receive candy from everyone for having livened everyone’s days up. Heartwarming and cheerful, moments like these show the Colours at their best.

  • When the Colours begin wishing they had an extra member of sorts, they decide to swing by the local museum in the hopes of recruiting an exhibit to fight by their side. Naturally, nothing comes out of this, but the girls do spend a pleasant day at the museum, where they check out a range of exhibits. If I had to guess, I’d say this was the Ueno National Museum of Nature and Science owing to the venue’s sizeable paleontology exhibits. The Colours do live in a nice area since they’re so close to everything, to the point where they can just swing by and visit. When I was a primary student, visits to zoos and museums were exciting field trips.

  • When the Colours become interested in gathering tickets for a prize draw, they go around hassling the customers of a shopping mall to give them their shopping tickets in exchange for tissue packs. The day’s antics are ultimately harmless, and the girls end up securing the number of tickets needed to play in the draw, only to win a packet of tissues instead. This exercise provides two lessons for viewers: it acts as a reminder that sometimes, taking shortcuts to accomplish something can fail, and second, attempting to re-sell something typically results in a net loss for the seller because things are typically marked up, so the original dealer and everyone involved in the process makes a profit.

  • I’m actually quite fond of Momoka: as a university student, she’s caring and dependable, even more so than Nonoka. Her hime-cut and stern facial features brings to mind the likes of Strike Witches‘ Mio Sakamoto, although Momoka is voiced by Hisako Tōjō (Hinako Note‘s Chiaki Hagino). Yui is voiced by Yūki Takada (Aoba Suzukaze of New Game! and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid‘s Elma), Marika Kouno (Hinako Note’s Yua Nakajima and Silence Suzuka from Uma Musume Pretty Derby) voices Saki and Natsumi Hioka (Super Cub’s Shii Eniwa) plays Kotoha.

  • When New Year’s arrives, the girls get New Year’s money from their parents, and immediately set about trying to acquire some firearms with which to blast Saitō with. They end up swinging by an airgun shop with an impressive collection of replica firearms: among the weapons seen include a POF P416, M4 carbine, MP5-K, MP7, Ingram Mac-10 with suppressor, Karabiner K98, UMP, Remington Model 700, MG-42, AT-4, SVD with a modern polymer body, and even a Barrett M82 50-caliber rifle. These are a handful of the weapons I do recognise off the top of my head, a consequence of spending far too much time in shooters, and several of the M4s are modified to have optics.

  • Giving the Colours even replicas of these would be a bad idea, and at any rate, 1500 Yen isn’t enough to purchase one anyways (an airsoft MP7 goes for around 350 CAD, for instance). In the end, the shopkeeper declines to sell the Colours any airguns, citing the law as prohibiting such a transaction even if they did have the funds, and the girls end up visiting Daigoro, where they buy a set of handheld transceivers, informally known as walkie-talkies, such that they can communicate their plans more readily. While lacking the same range as mobile phones, their advantage is that they can communicate reliably at closer ranges, making them great tools in a range of situations where it may be impractical to use mobile phones.

  • As winter begins setting in, Yui, Kotoha and Saki decide to make a time capsule with an empty biscuit tin after they finish them off. This ends up being an endearing idea, and while finding mementos is easy enough, determining a good spot to hide their capsule proves much trickier. They initially try to bury it underneath a large tree, but upon encountering Nonoka, the Colours learn that the can would probably rust before the decade is up. In the end, the girls figure that Daigoro might be able keep the time capsule safe.

  • In ten years’ time, the Colours will be high school students, possibly the same age as Nonoka, and things will be quite different, but for now, life in Ueno continues on as it has for the past age, with Kotoha, Saki and Yui running around, making the most of their childhood and solving whatever cases come their way.

  • As spring returns to Ueno, the Colours decide it’s time to take another shot at playing hide-and-seek. This time, they dub it hyper-hide-and-seek, for they’re using the walkie-talkies to make things more exciting: whereas Kotoha and Saki totally ditched Yui last time, this time around, Kotoha hides somewhere more reasonable. However, Saki decides to be sneaky and hides in her cabachubra costume. Yui and Kotoha manage to work this out, and Kotoha totally trashes Saki as a result.

  • By the time the cherry trees are in full blossom, the Colours end up helping Saki’s mother sell off extra strawberries from her shop in order to earn a bit of cash for some sweet cakes. Amongst the crowds of people partaking in hanami, the girls manage to sell of the strawberries rather quickly – there is truth in this, since freshly-picked strawberries are delicious. When I was in Japan several years back, we stopped by a roadside strawberry stand by Enakyoo Bridge in Gifu, and the vendors had assured us that their strawberries could be eaten as is, since said strawberries had been grown without the use of any pesticides. Small experiences like this really made the trip memorable.

  • With Yui, Kotoha and Saki down to their last basket to sell, they convince a young man who’d come from a difficult job interview to buy the strawberries. While it seems like they might’ve screwed him over in the moment, a positive mind might suppose that the unexpectedness in the moment might give him the encouragement he needs to keep trying. In this way, Mitsuboshi Colours tends towards the idea that the energy children bring to the table should be encouraged in an environment that is supportive and safe of adventure and exploration.

  • There’s no better way to wrap things up than to have the endlessly energetic and fun-seeking Colours sleep, having hauled a futon all the way out into the park for their afternoon nap (to Saitō’s shock). Overall, it’s easy to recommend Mitsuboshi Colours, as the series represents a reminder of how carefree childhood really is: it’s an A- in my books, and with this post in the books, I’ve now knocked out three slice-of-life series sitting on my backlog (having beaten both Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu and Action Heroine Cheer Fruits earlier). This leaves me with enough time to determine what posts will be written next: I have an Oculus Quest-driven location hunt in mind on top of the special talk for Hanasaku Iroha, and both are going to be larger, so the extra time will be an asset.

Altogether, Mitsuboshi Colours is a solid series, and in a curious turn of events, the original manga was created by Katsuwo, who also wrote Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu. Both series portray children and youth in a plausible manner, placing them in situations that evokes a sense of pathos and pulls on the heart strings, while at the same time, presenting the characters as people worth rooting for. The end result is that every episode of Mitsuboshi Colours is worth watching, similarly to how Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu was similarly compelling. However, whereas Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu was focused on Bocchi’s efforts to make friends, Mitsuboshi Colours is more about how the size and variety in Ueno district gives Yui, Kotoha and Saki no shortage of places to explore, and no shortage of ideas to pursue. The local park contains the trees to be destroyed for creating hay fever, but those same trees become a potential landmark when the girls decide to put a time capsule together to remember their friendship. When their panda-coloured cat decides to go for a stroll, the girls follow him, thinking his destination to be cool beyond words. Their tour leads them back to their clubhouse. In this way, Mitsuboshi Colours suggests to viewers that even in a familiar setting, there’s enough going on so that every day is different, and consequently, there is something new to look forwards to all the time, even when the scenery and sights appear to, on first glance, be unchanging. While people are constantly looking to change things up, there is also a certain comfort in familiar sights; I’ve long held that one isn’t really ready for adventure until they’ve come to fully appreciate everything their home as to offer, and as Mitsuboshi Colours indicates, more often than not, home can be full of pleasant, unexpected surprises just waiting to be discovered.

4 responses to “Mitsuboshi Colours: Whole-series Review and Reflection

  1. Alan September 21, 2021 at 17:58

    Fun fact: Colors and Bocchi are in the same universe, at least in terms of the manga. In one chapter of the Colors manga they go to the local shrine, and the messages on the little plaques people write wishes on are from the girls in Bocchi. And in one of the final-ish chapters of the Colors manga Aru from Bocchi shows up at the fruit stand that Sacchan’s mom runs.

    I’d be super happy if either of those manga got an official English release. I enjoyed both Colors and Bocchi as anime, but their respective manga are even better.

    Like

    • infinitezenith September 25, 2021 at 18:05

      Manga writers often include clever references to their other works in a given work, so this isn’t too surprising. I think we’re probably going to be out of luck at least for a little while: Hitori Bocchi and Mitsuboshi Colours are a bit obscure over here in North America (a search at my local bookstore finds exactly zero results for both), and considering that even GochiUsa lacks a proper English release, I imagine that many of manga serialised to Manga Time Kirara’s won’t likely get English versions, at least for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, this changes!

      Like

  2. David Birr September 30, 2021 at 10:35

    Hey! Those little terrorists genuinely tried to shoot a man with what they thought was a deadly weapon!

    I give props to Saki for a marvelous catch of the “grenade” when Saitō shot it at them. But oy veh, the sympathy pain from where it hit when she threw it back…. I was chortling and groaning at the same time.

    Like

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