Chichikogusa is a lovely story about Torakichi, a medicine seller who travels the Japanese countryside in the late 1800s making seasonal deliveries to his customers. Spending most months of the year travelling, he feels disconnected from his wife and newborn son Shirou; these emotions intensify when his wife dies in an accident, leaving him the sole provider for his son. Unable to forgive himself for abandoning his wife, he leaves Shirou with his sister and delves fully into his work, only to realize years later that his current course of action is a repeat of his past mistakes. Torakichi returns home and takes the now four-year-old Shirou with him on his travels, learning the joys and struggles of fatherhood, grief, and what it means to truly be a family along the way.
The character growth in this story is its main driving force. Tora starts out as a deadbeat dad who struggles to understand his child’s desires but slowly and rewardingly evolves into a caring and resolute father figure. Shirou also has a great development, never falling into the trope of “annoying anime kid.” He acts like a real toddler and watching him learn and grow alongside his dad, whom he adores, is incredibly heartwarming. They aren’t the only well-written characters; Chichikogusa takes us through neighbors and families, friends, and lovers, each with their own story of love, pain, and understanding. The small tales are just as impactful as the overarching ones. For such a short story, only spanning eight volumes, Chichikogusa achieves impressive emotional highs.
Chichikogusa's conclusion reflects the entire series, heartwarming but bittersweet. It is satisfying to watch Shirou and Torakichi grow together and learn to live and love as a family. But, as in real life, time passes, children grow up, and nothing can stay the same forever. Watching this story conclude in the only way it could was equally as beautiful as it was devastating. Life brings people together just as often as it takes them away, and this manga teaches us to not take for granted the simple joys of life, because they are just as important as the tremendous ones.
I started reading this story years ago and only rediscovered it when I saw the final chapter was translated and released earlier this week. After sitting down and reading it from start to finish, I was compelled to write about this series because it does not get the recognition it deserves. It’s touching, impactful, passionate, and tells a variety of stories dealing with different kinds of love and loss. I was equally happy and heartbroken when the story was complete and wish more manga of this genre were adapted for television. Silver Spoon, Barakamon, and Chichikogusa would be an awesome Wholesome Holy Trinity of Anime. Please give this series a read. Or if one day, magically, it gets licensed in your language, pick it up. I know I will.