Let's Make a Mug Too - season 1
Moving in from Tokyo, Toyokawa Himeno and her father settles into a shopping street in Tajimi. There, she discovers the pottery club -- and also that her late mother was a bit of a prodigy when it came to earthenware. Her interest piqued, she joins more or less as quickly as she can.
It feels kind of interesting that pottery -- or rather, cheramics in general -- can have such a diverse selection of shapes and colors when you consider that Let's Make a Mug Too is also a slice-of-life. Shows like this has been around for so long now that you can get them in many unique flavors, be that ones where our characters have a set goal, or just ones that are more into presenting its (often real-life, or based on as such) surroundings. There are also some that just want you to relax while you watch them, or even find new ways to play.
Let's Make a Mug Too is mostly a bit of a travelogue about Tajimi and its main source of fame; pottery. While the show certainly is more than a bit proud to show off its history and traditions, that's not to say that it doesn't allow its cast to get creative if the situation calls for it. This is both its greatest asset and biggest hurdle, because topically, you most likely have to be on board for that sort of thing. Which is not to say you won't find Tajimi an interesting place even if you aren't into pottery speficially, as the town itself is an interesting splash of color and shine, a lot of it simply made "in-house", so to speak. Let's Make a Mug Too might be a little on-the-nose with it, as Himeno serves the role of the outsider at first, asking all the "dumb" questions that makes her classmates give her "that look". But this is the exact thing that makes people go on anime pilgrimates -- or at least one of the reasons.
The cast of Let's Make a Mug Too miiiight even make the show palatable for fans not really into pottery. The show has chosen a rather idealistic representation of humanity in general; everyone is friendly here, and any friction between characters are kept at a level where it's easily forgiven and swept under the carpet. (Even Aria had more petty and unfriendly behavior among its characters than that.) Which is not to say Himeno doesn't get down about her failures -- her first downer was surprisingly moody, which I didn't expect -- but by and large, the show is very big on happy emotions. Both Himeno and her father seems to be very well-adjusted and happy, despite them both losing their mother and wife respectively, and even when you get the occasional glimpse that her absence is still felt. Himeno's classmates strike that good balance of being supportive while also being pretty hands-off with how Himeno approaches the things she wants to do, only offering advice when she approaches them about it. Touko and Mika might be a bit stereotypically serious and hyper-genki (again, respectively) as people go, but they aren't hard to like despite this.
The same goes for Himeno's father and grandmother, as well as the adults that appear in the show. Aside from the aforementioned scene where Himeno's father is taken a bit off guard about his daughter's desire to join the pottery club -- which in itself is an excellent representation of how you might have come to terms with someone's death in general, there are still moments that will catch you off guard -- he has his own challenge in coming up with a curry recipe that will bring customers to the cafe they're residing in. Of course, Himeno has the added challenge of having to live up to her mother, but even here, the show and its cast doesn't bog her down by this enormous shadow. Rather, it focuses on what you want to accomplish with the things you do, and Himeno impresses a bit by paying attention to the people in her life, even when that ends up making her sad.
Let's Make a Mug Too has a nice and colorful art style to match its content as well. More eagle-eyed animation enthusiasts might be more able to notice animation hiccups than I am, but by and large, the show does a pretty good job of portraying not only the lovely scenery, but also the ins and outs of working with clay. Admittedly, there are moments when you see characters talking that feels kind of stiff and low budget-y, as if the characters wasn't able to talk and move their heads at the same time, and that does take a little bit away from being able to completely immerse yourself into this show. That being said, this is still some pretty good work, when you also consider the fact that Let's Make a Mug Too was made during the covid pandemic, which has certainly had an effect on the industry as a whole. To really punctuate the lessons in the hands and crafts, each episode of Let's Make a Mug Too is followed by a short live-action segment where the voice actors of our four leads visit the real-life Tajimi and try out some of the things they do there, but also sample some of the local specialities.
Much like Laid-Back Camp, Let's Make a Mug Too is split up into minor arcs that stretches over a couple of episodes, providing a nice mix of starter tips for pottery, some historical lessons and a look at how many different things you can make with clay. Himeno undertakes two big projects during her stay here, and the show does an impressive job at not only going into the many little things that goes with pottery or cheramics in general, but also couples them up really well with the things her clubmates are doing. Himeno is very much in the early stages, caught up between the very methodical and cautious Touko and the energetic, seemingly flighty Mika, showing how much of the dilemma and work in the field of art is simply trying to think of something you want to do. Her two projects also diverge a lot; her first being an attempt at more traditional pottery while her second is an entirely original project. In a nice mirror to that, the girls' voice actors also get to try their hands at various creations. And even though the VA's attempt are also kind of steeped in more traditional work, they still get to play around with it a bit.
The one fly in the ointment for some people might be how low-stakes the show feels. The second arc has Himeno enter her project into a regional competition, and the conclusion goes as one would probably expect. That being said, I think it's admirable that the show basically focuses on and encourages creativity and playfulness in the world of art, and if the interest is there, to try everything you can within the hobby or work itself. I also appreciated how the judges in the competition during the last bit paid attention to the work itself first, before moving on to seeing who made it, because it basically negates having Himeno's work to have to live up to her mother's. Even if you could argue that a professional judge would take that into account in the first place and know how to angle that to its best effect.
As a slice-of-life, Let's Make a Mug Too is in the odd position that it has a lot of strong competition, even just in this season. Unlike the other show I'm currently in the process of watching, Let's Make a Mug Too has, as I've mentioned, chosen a more lighthearted tone. That said, it has the character depth to make for an interesting watch, and the technical know-how to make it an interesting time. By and large, I had a very nice time with Let's Make a Mug Too, and if you've enjoyed other, gentler slice-of-life shows like Laid-Back Camp or the underappreciated Tamayura, I can't really see anyone not enjoying this.
A gentle, creative and fun show. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There is no violence in this show, nor is there any particular fanservice to speak of, unless you somehow count every single scene where anyone is sitting in a bath or is wearing a swimsuit.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream courtesy of Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Let's Make a Mug Too - season 1 © 2021 Nippon Animation.
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