HomeAnimeANIME REVIEW | The Sweet & Simple Life of "Chibi Maruko-chan"

ANIME REVIEW | The Sweet & Simple Life of "Chibi Maruko-chan"

ANIME REVIEW | The Sweet & Simple Life of "Chibi Maruko-chan"

For over three decades, the anime series Chibi Maruko-chan has captivated audiences all across Japan. The creation of the late Momoko Sakura, the series focuses on a family living in 1970s Shizuma, which — today — is part of Shizuoka City. At the center is the titular character, who represents the author herself as she embarks on her day-to-day life. Now streaming on Crunchyroll, Chibi Maruko-chan gives Western audiences the chance to see an era of Japan through a unique lens.

But what is it about Chibi Maruko-chan that has made it a cultural phenomenon across the Pacific? To be frank, it’s a series that reminds us of a simpler time in life. Unlike The Simpsons, which keeps playing around with dates until it’s fully modernized, this anime stays in the 1970s. You don’t see people with smartphones, playing video games, or even using computers. Instead, we got them watching shows on antenna’d TVs, having discussions around the dinner table or kotatsu, or laughing & snacking near the riverside on a nice sunny day.

The anime paints a picture of what life was like in that time period, with Sakura’s own experiences being the backbone of its world. Although the author very rarely revealed anything about her private life, it’s obvious that much of what goes on in Chibi Maruko-chan is inspired by her own upbringing. Many of the characters in the show were even modeled from those in her life, be it friend or family member. And through the eyes of Maruko-chan, viewers can see the wonder and the beauty of the world she resides in.

Maruko-chan is not portrayed as a super brat or the smartest girl around; she’s a nine-year old who’s acting like a proper nine-year old. She’s got her likes, her dislikes, her understanding of certain rules, and even rebellious ways when something doesn’t seem to make sense. This aspect makes her a relatable character to young viewers, on top of adults that may have grown up in the same era as when the series takes place. (A lot of this is thanks to the performance of Maruko-chan's voice actress Tarako, who sadly passed away this month.)

Chibi Maruko-chan is a time capsule, one that captures the feel and the attitude of the long-gone Showa era. It never casts a light on the negative aspects of Japanese life from that time. Instead, it’s shown through the eyes of a third grader, one who aims to make the best of any situation that’s thrown her way. Whether it’s wearing a lucky face mask to pass tests or wanting to go on vacation with her grandpa, Maruko-chan takes on the day with the same can-do attitude any nine-year old would. There’s no malice or angst in her heart; only the wonderful possibilities that await upon the horizon.

Basically, this anime is comfort food. You won’t find any exciting shonen battles or silly rom-com shenanigans happening in Chibi Maruko-chan. Instead, it’s a girl, her sister, and her family taking things day-by-day with straightforwardness. Sure, it knows how to make viewers laugh, especially when these characters are presented with something they have no clue how to handle. However, its story beats make it a series that’s easy to digest, with the lessons and morals it showcases being understandable to any kid, parent, or grandparent watching.

I won’t try to persuade you into thinking Chibi Maruko-chan is the greatest long-running show in Japan. (There are quite a few other candidates for that title, that’s for certain!) With that being said, I understand why this show has gone on for nearly three decades. It delivers easy-to-digest stories of these simple-looking characters, with a meaning behind the situation that befalls them. As such, it has an appeal that’s akin to a Nick Jr. cartoon or a classic PBS series.

Even with its timeline stuck in the 1970s, viewers can still find plenty to relate to Maruko, her family, and her friends. It can be goofy, but it has a down-to-earth sensibility that makes it easy to compare these characters’ lives with our own. Chibi Maruko-chan is a sweet, honest, and often funny anime that allows young kids to relate to the  characters' problems, whilst adults watching it can reflect on when they were that age and believed in almost anything that they were told. And it’s through that child-like lens of Maruko-chan that allows us to laugh and think back to the days of old, as wild imaginations lead the way back to our comfy seat at the dinner table, with parents waiting to hear how our day went.


Chibi Maruko-chan can be viewed on Crunchyroll and YouTube, and has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1419-1426 were observed for review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)