By Thankyou-Tatsuo / Special to The Yomiuri ShimbunTV anime “Love Kome” (Love Rice) is not about a person who really likes rice, as the title suggests — the characters themselves are rice.
The lead character is Hinohikari, who goes to a school called Inaho Gakuen (“inaho” means rice stalks). He forms a boy band with his friends Akitakomachi, Nikomaru, Hitomebore and Sasanishiki, with all five names coming from well-established brands of the Japanese staple.
The boys set a goal of appearing in the Harvest Show, a kind of festival with stage performances by various types of grains.
You could say personification is now part of anime and manga culture — train stations, samurai swords and ships are just some of the many things that have been made into popular characters. I will say that “Love Kome” is the silliest and funniest of all the works featuring such characters.
However, personification in this work is not just about creating pretty male characters, because it has been employed on solid footing.
For example, Sasanishiki used to dominate the share of the crop in Japan along with Koshihikari. But it is also prone to rice blast disease — and, worse still, was replaced by the Hitomebore brand in most of its cultivation areas after a bout of cold weather in 1993. Fittingly, Sasanishiki in this anime is repeating a school year because his health deteriorated due to cold weather, despite his extremely high potential.
Hinohikari enters the school out of respect for Gokokumai, a group whose name actually refers to a mixture of rice and four other main grains. He is highly motivated and expects school life to be like ginshari, meaning “silver rice” (a term often used to describe cooked white rice, which has a glossy appearance).
However, Hinohikari finds out that the school is on the verge of closure because it has been receiving smaller donations since Gokokumai graduated. This prompts him to try to reinvigorate the school by performing in the Harvest Show.
The anime has plenty of rice-related jokes, and it also parodies other popular animes, such as “Love Live!” — about girls who become pop idols to save their school. Sasanishiki, who is physically weak yet gifted with special abilities, uses his powers to stop a Shinkansen bullet train and save a puppy from getting run over in a parody of a scene from “Kinnikuman” (Muscleman).
In another scene, the school principal tells him not to appear in the Harvest Show because it would harm his health. Sasanishiki’s reply of, “Principal, I want to do ... the Harvest Show ...” is a parody of a famous scene in “Slam Dunk” in which a former high school basketball player asks to return to his old club.
The humorous takes on famous scenes from past works make “Love Kome” more than just an anime about witty, personified characters. But even if you don’t know what it is parodying, you can still enjoy this cheerful anime.
The anime is even collaborating with Cookpad, a popular recipe-sharing website. The anime’s end theme song comes with a video clip showing how to cook a different rice dish each episode.
The first volume of “Love Kome” is available on DVD now. The anime will be repeated from 12:50 a.m. on BS Fuji from July 17.