The Diary of Ochibi: a stroll through the seasons

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Ah, how the seasons are changing from one to another. What a better way to avoid all of the flip-flopping between ice-snow-rain-slush by reading manga? I recently started <em>The Diary of Ochibi</em> and I&rsquo;ve learned to roll with the seasons a bit more.&nbsp;</p>

The Diary of Ochibi is a comic by Moyoco Anno ­­­­— who has created many more hit series — and a few of them have been translated into English. The titles she’s created include In Clothes Called Fat, Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen, Buffalo 5 Girls and Flowers & Bees

Sugar Sugar Rune, her series aimed at young girls, won the 29th Kodansha Manga Award in 2005,  and she has had several anime adaptations of her work (Hataraki Man, Insufficient Direction), as well as a live-action movie (Sakuran). Anno is currently working on Pilot V Corn and I really enjoy her josei titles, so Ochibi is a bit of a departure for me. If you attended the Toronto Comic Arts Festival last year, she was one of the three Japanese featured guests — along with another favourite creator of mine, est em — that were there for a Q-and-A panel and signings. 

I was a bit surprised that Ochibi was such a fast read. It’s in a comic strip-like format where there are relatively few panels or complex backgrounds. The series is about Ochibi-san, a curious little boy in a red-and-white striped outfit, and his life in a small town. There are other characters that appear as well;  the two main ones are  upright dogs, Nazeni and Pankui.

The comic is coloured with vivid watercolours and it has a very nostalgic feel. The sense of wonderment is conveyed through Ochibi; it’s a bit like going back to childhood, where ordinary things were all part of a larger adventure to be discovered. 

The storyboarding is handled very well, and I never feel the need to hurry through; it’s more like a leisurely stroll through the seasons with the characters. 

The short stories are framed by times, seasons or important dates. There are sections titled “In case you were wondering…”, where Japanese holidays, terms or items are explained in a short paragraph and it’s a great way to learn more about the seasons in an easily digestible format. The comic itself reads from left to right, and fortunately, because the comic is mainly in watercolour, it escapes the horrible moiré that appears a lot in the manga on the Crunchyroll online reader. 

I’ve really enjoyed the series so far, and Moyoco Anno really can change up her style well. The comics I’ve read by her are all heavy, but humorous tales of women, and Ochibi is different in a delightful way. There has been a successful Indiegogo campaign held that fundraised enough to make an animated short film of Ochibi, which will be one of 25 other projects that will feature young directors that will be launched online at a later date. 

I’m looking forward to seeing it, as the director Masashi Kawamura is planning on using “objects that remind you of a certain season” — the trailer features Ochibi in spring, animated in a realistic bento box. The Diary of Ochibi comes recommended as a light read for when you’re stuck inside. Moyoco Anno is also on Instagram at moyoco_anno, check it out if you’re interested in seeing more of her everyday sketches. 

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