Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Every episode of Fune wo Amu equals to about two and half handkerchiefs. Episode 7 in particular found me in a cafeteria, drinking a hot cup of coffee, and having a huge smile on my face for the duration of the episode. I still had to wipe a few tears away.
Japanese Title: 信頼
— ゼクシズ公式 (@zexcs_animation) November 24, 2016
The true power of Fune wo Amu lies not in its breathtaking plot; you won’t find any of the usual shonen manga elements here. It lies in its storytelling prowess that manages to keep the elements of the general plot together while delivering a specific theme based on a dictionary word that goes full circle, from introducing the theme in the first scene to bringing resolution in the last. This time the theme was ‘trust.’
‘Trust’, as in the trust Nishioka doesn’t have in his relationship with Miyoshi. She is his haven, the place where he returns every night and with whom he shares a bed, a hug, and a sense of mutual understanding, and yet he can’t bring himself to break the limits of their small apartment. When Miyoshi suggests a fish restaurant known for its squid, Nishioka is fast to address the issue of being seen together. She doesn’t even keep an accepted distance between them when they walk ‘together.’ Miyoshi’s patience is indicative of her love for Nishioka’s, a love that is by all means mutual. Every scene that includes the both them, both directly and indirectly is a small tribute to the power of love, but not of the stormy love you can find in rom-coms and romance book, but of the love that comes from reliance, respect, and a bit of cuteness on the side. You know, real love.
‘Trust’, as in the trust that Nishioka and Majime have in the dictionary. A trust that begun as a stream of respect from each other and manifested as a belief in the project itself. A trust that is evident when he talks with Majime about the word ‘Saigyou’ and the revision they ultimately come with as one.
You respect each other’s strengths and complement each other. It’s a wonderful trust you have.
Matsumoto-sensei is the first that bears witness to that trust and he makes sure that he makes his thoughts public. Nishioka and Majime trust each other, respect each other, and that’s why they complement each other. His transfer to the PR department is for Nishioka necessary, but so damn unfair. On the roof he makes sure to cement that trust to a doubtful Majime by saying:
Even when you’re by yourself, you’re not alone…
‘Trust’, as in the trust that Nishioka eventually shows to himself in his confrontation with Professor Oda. Oda is a selfish prick of an academic. He doesn’t care about anything but his own pride, but this is not a pride as in believing in one’s self but in believing in one’s delusion. He rejects any changes made to his manuscript. He doesn’t care if they are right or wrong; improvement of the material is not going to feed his overflowed ego unless the improvement comes from himself. Nishioka, being the man he is, eventually has to play on the same level to get both his approval and his continued co-operation. He feeds that ego by praising his contributions. But his approach backfires when Oda asks Nishioka to kneel and apologize. In an amazing scene, Nishioka breaks a barrier he has never thought of trying even to badge a little: he rebels. It’s his turn to feed from something, and it’s the pride of his team, the confidence he has in Majime, and the trust he has in the completion of the dictionary. What a wonderful thing, to have a purpose in life that gives you strength. He directly attacks the professor by bringing to his attention that he know that the old man has a student of his for a mistress, something that Nishioka cleverly deducted from the obentou on his office. Did you think that Nishioka threat was unmanly? I personally felt that it was the only way to protect his ‘family’. He fought fire with fire as a last resort that could keep the dictionary alive. Is that wrong? Maybe it is.
‘Trust’, as in the trust that Nishioka finally shows to the most important thing in our life, family. It’s that trust that makes him first call Majime and then find the courage to do something he has never done before, thus giving the episode the resolution it deserved: he calls Miyoshi and tells her to go have that squid. Who cares if they are seen? Who cares…indeed.
A Sea of Words: Not the best scene of the episode, but certainly one of the most beautiful. NIshioka makes a promise to Majime to never abandon the dictionary, all while they are surrounded by the sea of words that the boat they are building is going to sail on. If Nishioka doesn’t eventually stay in the department, I will be hugely disappointed.
Word of the Week: しんらい （信頼）
Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone
E.g. they trusted and supported each other.
— アニメ『舟を編む』放送中！ (@funewoamu_anime) November 24, 2016
Fingerprints: When Majime has trouble turning the pages, Nishioka asks him if he has already lost his fingerprints. I don’t even know if that’s possible and a quick internet search wasn’t able to answer my questions, so if you know anything about this, please let me know in the comments below.
Dictionary Rules: Not so much rules, as style guidelines that are unique to each dictionary. When Nishioka and Majime are brainstorming on the definition of a word, we can see a few of those ‘rules’: The Great Passage will try to avoid definitive words like ‘every person’, and also avoid personal opinions like favoritism of a certain theory over another. The definition must be accurate, and true to the general direction of the dictionary. Objectiveness is unavoidable, but too much objectiveness can destroy a dictionary’s personality.
I wish I knew Japanese so I could read the book the anime was based on. I wish I knew Japanese so I could relate to the words and their meaning. Fune wo Amu is a movie broken into twelve episodes. A movie about a small team of passionate people that do something that matters to them. I wonder how many team like them are out there, fighting for what they believe in, even if it’s something as trivial to some as a dictionary. Every episode has delivered a small victory and I am very curious to see how the cour is going to end.
How could I have chosen another word to end this review? Trust. Such an important theme, and yet, something that we seem to lose every day that we spent in bigotry, hate, and despair. If only every single human being had a noble purpose to pursue, we would be living on a very different planet. And now, I secretly hope for the success of a fictional dictionary.
Did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check the rest of our episodic reviews!
NEXT TIME: Compile (編む)
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