Summer Days Cannot Come Any Sooner with Coo

28 Jan

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available now on Shout! Factory or Amazon

Winter’s grasp may well still be upon us in certain parts of the world, but thankfully, spending (or rather, watching) Summer Days with Coo (河童のクゥと夏休み) is an option.

This anime not only gives us a heartwarming comedy drama between Kōichi Uehara, a young boy having an awkward time in school, but also looks at the life of a kappa, nicknamed Coo, who is a stranger in a strange land. Unlike those prankster frog-like spirits of lore, these creatures are very friendly towards humans. They don’t hate them unless threatened. The cute character designs in this anime suggest they are simple country folk.

Sadly, the newt lost his father to a cruel samurai; an act of nature saves him from extermination. Flash forward to the present, the creature discovers much has changed since his prolonged sleep.

This anime originally released in 2007 in Japan and won several regional awards. It later toured a few international film festivals and after a long hibernation, a subtitled home video release is available. No bonus extras come with this release.

The comedy is hilarious. Kōichi’s little sister steals a few scenes and to see Coo deal with this her is not without a lot of chuckles. My guess is that she’s jealous of all the attention the little turtle is getting. When the media gets wind that there’s a living kappa (they’ve been delegated to legend), everyone wants to meet Coo. All this attention emphasizes an underlying theme of when mankind overextends its reach.

It’s hard to tell if Kōichi’s coming of age tale is just as important in this movie. He has his own story about dealing with life in school (namely with being teased a lot) and trying to make friends with the resident ‘goth-girl.’

With this anime, we learn not to take our friendships or the supernatural for granted. The Uehara family is acting more civilized than those who want to put their lives out on the tabloid. It’s suggested that the supernatural and the natural world cannot be at peace, no matter how hard they try. When the opening act showed the samurai looking at the kappa with fear, his response was to act with a sword.

This exposition is almost similar to Studio Ghibli’s Pom Poko. Humans rarely respect the natural world. To find harmony with it is tough. The contrast between Kōichi and Coo is that they are from different worlds. This trope is nothing new in animation. Plenty of variations exist in science fiction (E.T. the Extraterrestrial) or fantasy (How to Train Your Dragon). To have a tale drawn from Japanese folklore is perfect. As funny as it is to see Coo walk around naked–a concept of wearing clothes completely foreign to him–the young kappa has a lot to learn about the modern world and its strange idiosyncrasies. As for watching how he adapts, that’s something you’ll have to see. When both discover  their inner strength, the beauty is with how the two have bright futures for themselves.

Perhaps the reason for the late home video release to gauge international interest if a sequel can be made. This work by Keiichi Hara (Crayon Shin Chan) leaves room for expansion, and I certainly would love to see Coo return.

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