As humans, each of us exists like an isolated island with our hearts and minds separated from others. However each of us has the ability to reach out to fellow humans, with ships known as words sailing the seas of distance, allowing us to connect with each other. An odd trait of people is that every language has developed words hardly used or that many may not know. Dictionaries allow us to reference and expand how to convey our thoughts.
Through many years, it's been the life's work of some located in a corner of a publishing company, to make a great dictionary. However as the staff has aged, it seems unlikely the book will reach completion. It needs a special kind of person to take up the mantle. Coincidently, an odd guy named Mitsuya might be the one to finally bring such a book to fruition.
I'm not sure why I picked this up. I suppose because of the unusual story premise? In that regard, The Great Passage is a decent anime and if you're looking for an anime very different from the usual crop made year after year, this one will hit the spot. Maybe. That certainly has its appeal, but it isn't a home run in most regards.
Personal aside. When I was a kid, my home always had a very old dictionary which I used from time to time. Around my college days I was in a book store and walked by the ultra cheap clearance pile, and in that pile was an unabridged dictionary. It was MASSIVE... and cheap! The summer when I brought it home, my mom was like "why do you need that? We have a dictionary." Yet years later she confessed she prefers using that one... because it has far more words. It's something I (and I suppose many others) have encountered over the years, where you look up a word but it's not in the dictionary. That doesn't mean the word doesn't exist, because dictionaries don't always have all the words. What words would you choose to put in there? You need the most common of course, but do you need to look those up? How many obscure words should be in there? And how obscure is too obscure? I recalled this when watching The Great Passage, so I think my curiosity on the topic hooked me in a way.
Initially it seemed a little abstract in the way it delved into people's relationship with words, but it doesn't do this often. Which is something to be grateful for, because the nuances of Japanese words will lose most everyone in a western audience very fast. Instead the anime is the story of how a dictionary came to be, and the people who worked on it. The key thing to understand is that this is not a character driven show, which holds it back in some respects. As much as I wanted to like someone / anyone, there wasn't much to latch on to.
The story doesn't really flow so much as it drifts in a general direction. In a very unusual approach, the anime takes place over many years (13). Mitsuya is a focal point, but there isn't much to like about the guy. He's fairly dull, and it doesn't even say much about his hobby: watching people take escalators (not making that up). In episode two a romantic interest is introduced, and I thought she could salvage the show, but it didn't work out as I expected. She adds flavor and helps keep it afloat but little more than that. In fact most characters introduced play out the same way: worthwhile additions, but not exactly memorable for something.
To be honest, I'm not sure there is much to say about the story, and I couldn't present it to you in a way to convince you to watch it. It's okay, heavily leaning on the concept to keep you on board. Adding to the overall flatness of The Great Passage, is the rather pedestrian art style which doesn't help.
I wouldn't call The Great Passage good or bad, instead it's a different flavor - tame as it is. Different for the sake of being different I think has its merits in the anime world, where everything seems so highly derivative. It's not a bad watch on those terms, but I wouldn't say the guts of show is worth picking it up otherwise.
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reviewed by archen in 2018