Nippon Animation‘s Let’s Make a Mug Too was something of a sleeper hit for those who, like me, are devout fans of the “cute girls doing cute things” slice-of-life sub-genre. It’s Spring 2021 show that came and went without making too much of a splash. However, Let’s Make a Mug Too was my ride or die show on a weekly basis, providing fourteen minutes of pleasant animation coupled with nine minutes of live-action segments centering around the adventures of what I’ve dubbed the Pottery Quartet.
Let’s Make a Mug Too is two things, primarily: a peek into real-life Tajimi City, which is located in Gifu Prefecture within the Chubu region of Japan. There’s not a lot of shows that I can think of that star the Chubu region, which adds a special appeal to Let’s Make a Mug Too. Better yet, the series is not just about mugs: it’s about Mino ware pottery, which is a very old style (I’m talking like… at least over a thousand years old) of pottery craftware famous in Gifu Prefecture. Yet I’d be selling this series short if I called it an ad for Tajimi City because Let’s Make a Mug Too is so much more than a tourism anime, even if it did leave me wanting to visit Tajimi City in the near future.
On the surface, Let’s Make a Mug Too‘s storytelling ambitions seem simple: it’s cute girls throwing clay, paired with live-action segments of their voice actors… also throwing clay and savoring many snacks. So. many. Snacks. Split into fourteen minutes of animation and nine minutes of voice actor antics, it’d be easy to dismiss the series as just another Spring 2021 show that maybe, you’ll dip your toes into when your backlog clears at some nebulous time in the future. Yet I think that modest foundation works well in Let’s Make a Mug Too‘s favor, making it the perfect platform for a quietly joyful series.
In fact, the sheer amount of joy that permeates every aspect of Let’s Make a Mug Too is why I found myself drawn to it, even in its weakest moments. That’s in part due to the very likeable cast, which offers a good balance of personalities. Standout characters are the protagonist Himeno and senior student Touka. Nao, the fourth member of the Pottery Quartet, is the least developed overall, and feels the most absent from the series. I should also mention Mika, who, while likable, undercuts a lot of moments with not-always-funny segments despite her eclectic personality. Personally, I found her to be the most grating character, but I blame that on the source material, and not the show itself.
Speaking of weakest moments, there are definitely some pacing issues in the back half, starting from episode 8, which stands out as the sole episode to have elements of magical realism. In any other show, this might be okay, but in a show that’s as steeped in reality as Let’s Make a Mug Too – going so far as to include live-action segments to enhance that apeeal – it stands out as… weird, throwing off the tone of this peaceful crafting series. Unfortunately, by the end of the cour, things are still on somewhat shaky legs: the penultimate scenes of the series, while foreshadowed, get stretched over three episodes that kind of reduce Himeno back to the same girl she was in episodes 2 and 3. It feels a bit lacking, and definitely feels a touch rushed while also being some of the most sluggish episodes of the series yet. Thankfully, we do end on a high note, which is more than enough to make up for three short episodes of kind of meh storytelling. It’s also enough to hook me for another season of Let’s Make a Mug Too, which is announced to be airing in Fall 2021.
It’s both surprising and expected that Let’s Make a Mug Too is getting a second season. Anime-only viewers may not know this, but the series has been running since 2012 with a total of thirty-three digital volumes published. That’s right, Let’s Make a Mug Too is nearly a decade old! It’s got plenty of fodder for a second season, and there might even be enough for them to spin out a third, depending on how things go. We’re already getting Let’s Make a Mug Too: Second Kiln. We might as well get a Third Kiln too! Just make sure you bring back the live action sequences: half the time, I spent my watch of the anime eagerly awaiting the antics of the voice actresses, which span from making curry plates to visiting museums to sampling some local cuisine. It’s all very enjoyable, which makes Let’s Make a Mug Too an easy recommendation.
In the end, I suppose that’s the power of the slice-of-life genre, as well as the appeal of simple, but enjoyable anime. Let’s Make a Mug Too isn’t particularly beautiful: there were a few moments that made me gasp, but for the most part, it has pretty average animation and art, though it’s all done really well, if you catch my drift. I’ll also say that honestly, Let’s Make a Mug Too has fairly generic background music, though the OP and ED go hard, and definitely make you want to go throw clay. I still frequently catch myself humming Tobira o Aketara (Open the Door), which is sung by the Pottery Quartet, because it’s such an earworm of a do-it-yourself song.
Yet all of those critiques aren’t necessarily dings against Let’s Make a Mug Too because honestly? Anime series don’t always have to be a perfect package to be good. They don’t always need to have big, astronomically huge budgets, or even complex sub-plots. Heck, they don’t even need to be doing anything new to “remix” their genre or concepts. Sometimes, an anime about four girls developing a love for crafting in rural Japan and becoming friends is exactly what the doctor ordered, and Let’s Make a Mug Too was definitely just what I needed in a time where crafting with others in a shared space is effectively impossible.
All in all, Let’s Make a Mug Too is a pretty charming watch, executing its simple plot well enough to be a perfectly bingeable series, should you have a Saturday and time to spare. Come for the crafting, stay for the good pottery vibes: and make sure you don’t miss out on those live action segments!