Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi is one of my favorite new anime characters. I love her sheer intensity and deep-seated fondness towards snack foods, to the extent that she might end up being my favorite character of the year. For this post, I want to talk about one fascinating aspect of Hotaru’s character in particular, her identity as a “dagashi heiress,” and how it adds an interesting wrinkle to a common trope of anime.
Dagashi Kashi is a comedic anime and manga that celebrates dagashi, traditional inexpensive Japanese snacks that are meant to be affordable enough for young children. The series revolves around Shikada Kokonotsu, the reluctant but talented son of a dagashi shop owner, and Shidare Hotaru, the daughter of the owner of a major dagashi company. Each story, Kokonotsu and Hotaru “talk shop” about Japanese candy while matching their wits against each other and bringing everyone around them into the crazed world of dagashi fandom.
Whenever there is a rich girl in an anime, she will often end up something for the first time that normal teenagers would take for granted and ends up loving it. The fabulously wealthy Ogasawara Sachiko in Maria-sama ga Miteru eats a fast food hamburger and her life is changed. In the first episode of Dagashi Kashi after a grand introduction and matching of wits with Kokonotsu, Hotaru reveals that she’s never been to a coffee shop before. Later on, she mentions never having been to a Japanese festival. One of the more stereotypical examples of exposure to the world of the commoner is actually dagashi. Kotobuki Tsumugi in K-On!, for example, eats the most exquisite cakes and drinks the most expensive tea, but her discovery of dagashi becomes one of her most cherished memories.
Now consider the wealth Hotaru possesses as a result of dagashi. Rather than dagashi being beneath her stratified position, Hotaru is intimately familiar with it (and as the series isn’t afraid to show, has an almost sensual connection to dagashi). From different varieties to different makers, she is a walking encyclopedia of dagashi knowledge. Most importantly, not only does she know dagashi like the back of her hand, but she’s also passionate about the subject. The love of her life, the man who stole her heart, is not Kokonotsu but the chubby mascot for a fried potato snack in an ultimate display of 2-D Complex.Shidare Hotaru should not know anything about dagashi, and yet she lives and breathes Japanese candies. Rather than dagashi being what exposes her to the vast world of the ordinary person, it is in fact the cause of her sheltered existence. Dagashi is what allows Hotaru to connect with the main character Kokonotsu on a much deeper level that lets them speak almost as if they were Newtypes in Gundam. Hotaru’s many eccentricities are what draw me to her, and that it all derives from her contradictory nature of her position as a dagashi heiress makes me like her all the more.