What’s it about? Himeno and her father move to Tajima City, Gifu prefecture, to start a new business and a new life. Himeno soon learns that her new home is famous for its pottery—and that her mother was a renowned ceramic artist when she was alive. Inspired by her new classmates and eager to get in touch with the art form her mother loved, Himeno resolves to join the school pottery club and learn the secrets of clay.
Let’s Make a Mug Too is a slightly odd duck: the animated portion of the “episode” only goes for about 15 minutes, but the short is accompanied by a live-action travel show segment that brings the runtime to a traditional anime length. The series is a tourism tie-in for Gifu, and both the fictional and non-fictional halves of the show take care to paint the locale in the most lovely, calming, historically-intriguing light possible.
Do I want to explore tree-lined old streets looking at antiques now? Maybe. Mostly, though, I want to talk about the unexpected emotional undercurrents that I think will really elevate this cute little hobby show.
Tajima is the hometown of Himeno’s mother, a woman Himeno herself barely remembers. She’s surprised to hear—from the pottery nerds that take her under their wing on the first day of school—that the colorful mugs that fill the family café are, in fact, coveted art pieces by a respected professional. Himeno has never really thought of mug-making as art, and has never had any inkling that her mother was famous. Her memory jogs when she enters the art room and smells clay, though, conjuring up a long-lost echo of her mother happily working at the pottery wheel.
If this had simply been a straightforward show about girls crafting ceramics, learning about pottery history, and exploring Tajima City’s beautiful scenery, that would have been fine. I came into this seeking the usual soothing energy (and, with luck, a bit of edutainment) that hobby shows provide. But I came away with a glow in my chest. Giving Himeno a personal connection to the show’s central hobby and central tourist tie-in setting adds a layer of emotional depth and character development to the story that, honestly, has me hooked.
Making pottery part of a quest to reconnect with her deceased mother places emotional weight and personal stakes into Himeno’s club activities. Her father is initially reticent to support her—clearly still carrying some baggage and still grieving—but the episode ends with him brewing her some sakura tea to symbolize new growth and a new journey. Himeno’s not just trying to get better at making clay bowls, she’s trying to patch an intergenerational wound and bring a sense of closure for the family, with the help of a pottery wheel and (I can only presume) the magic of friendship.
I can’t say if Lets Make a Mug Too will be a deep exploration of grief and art. What I can say is that it’s sweet so far: the visuals are lovely and vibrant, the character designs are fun, and there’s no fan service to speak of (though maybe there’s some yuri-teasing in the form of Himeno’s bubbly, clingy pottery club co-member). With the main cast all being girls, and Himeno’s reconnection with her mother so important to the emotional stakes, this is set to be a show about relationships between women past and present. I’m keen to watch Himeno grow, learn more about Gifu’s pottery scene, and maybe get a bit weepy along the way.