Mizuiro Jidai is probably the best shoujo series that I’ve ever seen, and the best shoujo series that you will never see. Go ahead. Try to even find raws for this show, much less subs. At first, I thought that we were missing some episodes, because I also saw some episodes in the folder called “Mizuiro OVA” and went looking for them but came up empty. That, by the way, turned out to be some terrible eroge OVA that I forgot about instantly after watching it.
The whole time that you watch Mizuiro Jidai, you’ll find yourself saying 「ああ、青春。」 Er, well not “seishun” exactly. The “mizuiro” in the title implies that we’re not quite up to “youth” just yet because this time of life is only “light blue” rather than the full blue/green of “youth”. Additionally, as you can probably tell this show is pretty high up there on the mono no aware scale if you define mono no aware like I do, as “the ‘ah-ness’ of things.” I had to have said to myself “Ah, youth…” a couple times an episode.
Why is it so good? It’s really freaking wholesome and heartwarming. It’s got a definite “healing” vibe to it, but I think it’s not exactly the same kind of “healing” as in iyashi-kei. Here, there are problems or conflicts, but they’re all handled with a deft touch that says “Don’t worry. Everything will be OK. It’ll all work out.” Did that wholesome boy that you really like not understand your pure maidenly heart? Don’t worry. You’ve got sympathetic shoulders to cry on and oh, what’s this? The phone’s for you—and it’s him, apologizing for not considering how important that was to you and reassuring you that there’s nobody for him but you.
Those kinds of scenes happen from time to time because these are well, the awkward years. The series starts out with entering middle school and ends with entering high school. Obviously, everyone’s starting to change both emotionally and physically, and these two two always happen in sync. A good example of this is a few episodes covering summer vacation during I believe the start of 7th grade. Boys are starting to like boobies but without the maturity to how to handle this. The girls want to get new bathing suits for the beach, but not everyone’s developing at the same rate. Cue body issues hangups! But in turn, also cue everyone understanding that your body is going through all sorts of craziness and it’s all going to be OK.
So while this show is really, really good because of its honesty, it’s well, a little bit too honest compared to what tweens in America get. Yes, I said “tweens”. This series was serialized in Ciao, so the target audience is probably around grades 4-7. Or to put it another way, it’s not like High School Musical is made for 17 year olds. The show has a frankness about puberty and sex where if someone in America proposed a show with the same level of honesty, that would be yet another reason why the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers. I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.
One of the first episodes revolves around Yuuko getting her first period. It’s all handled very gently with those sort of elements I described above: Yuuko feels embarrassed (first by having it in the first place, then from passing out in gym, and then for getting blood on the sheets in nurse’s office) her best friend Takako has advice, her mom has understanding, and childhood friend Hiroshi provides first denseness and then caring. But can you even imagine seeing something like that on an episode of I dunno, iCarly or something?
And as you probably noticed earlier, I seed “puberty and sex”. Yes, that’s right. Sex. In one of the last episodes of the show, we’re up to the Valentine’s Day that’s literally days before they’ll graduate from middle school and go off to different high schools to start 10th grade. Yuuko has been childhood friends with Hiroshi forever and started going out with him formally in 7th grade, so now she is wondering if now is the time. Also, note that I said “now is the time”, rather than say, “give him her virginity”. No icky virginity fetishization here! And yes, she even asks him the question point blank after finding out that no, actually he turned down that handmade sweater from the cute manager of the soccer team (Maaya Sakamoto in her first role). The only times I can think off of the top of my head that I’ve seen an American show deal with it like that was on Friday Night Lights (on an episode obviously titled “I Think We Should Have Sex”), and that’s a show targeted towards rich grownups, not kids in elementary and middle school.
Finally, the last good thing about this show is that it never lags for a second. I really don’t want to call it “slice of life”, because I think “coming of age” is far more appropriate. Coming of age has a narrative arc to it. Yes, they’re going about their daily lives, but the key difference is that the events that happen in their “daily lives” change them and make them grow as individuals. That’s the key here that makes all the difference between this show and one that’s “full of filler” where “nothing ever happens”.
Would I watch it even if I weren’t forced? I never would have thought to, nor would I have been able to find it had I wanted to.