I have no idea how this anime flew under my radar for so long. I could not stop watching it. It checks all of the boxes I have for a great anime. In fact, that’s exactly how I found it; I went onto AniList, started filtering by my favorite criteria, and it floated right to the top (well, top 10 at least). Once again, anime surprises me by taking seemingly boring subject matter and turning into something wonderful. Let’s discuss The Great Passage.
There is a dream to create a Japanese dictionary for a new generation. It’s meant to stand as unique and special, incorporating a staggering 240,000 words. It’s a passion project by a small group of individuals at the Genbu Shobō publishing company; I say passion project because the Japanese government does not sponsor or fund an official dictionary. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s an enormous and arduous undertaking; by nature, that means it’s also expensive. They have to get it right the first time or risk all future dictionary publication opportunities. Conservative projections estimate it will take more than ten years to complete.
The vast ocean of words. Without a means to cross the ocean, we can only stand and watch, keeping the words inside we desperately want to express.Majime, Mitsuya – The Great Passage
This dedicated group of individuals recognize the importance of words to our everyday lives; they see it as an art form in need of the greatest respect they can pay: their time. People often take for granted this seemingly mundane means of communication. But words are key to understanding both yourself and those around you. Without words, it’s impossible to know another person at an intimate level. In order to express our thoughts and feelings properly and precisely, we must have command of these essential building blocks to what we know as speech.
Passion is truly the focus of this anime. While the end goal may be large, hitting it requires incredible talent. Patience, meticulousness, commitment, zeal. All of these are essential traits for those who wish to succeed. The work is all-consuming. No opportunity is wasted when it comes to learning new words and their meaning. This is what it means to create a new generation of Japanese dictionary, a dictionary meant to be the ship you use to sail on the ocean of words.
As the audience, we’re treated to a front row seat of this enthusiasm in motion. In just eleven episodes, we see these many years of development pass. Personal growth happens in the form of new relationships, new life, and even death. Throughout all of life’s changes, that spark of inspiration is shaped – fueled even – into something completely new.
There is one particular moment that stuck out to me. It has now been over ten years since our story began, and a few members of the original team are reminiscing about the early days of the project. A moment of clarity strikes protagonist Majime, and he suddenly sees his mentor Matsumoto in a new light. In a flash, Matsumoto grows from a simple mentor into a giant; before him sat a man who’s entire life and passion was dedicated to dictionary editing, long before Majime could fathom the idea. It’s a bittersweet perception, as Majime had long since been entrusted to see the new dictionary to completion. The torch had been passed, and he was beginning to comprehend the enormous responsibility that came with it. In that moment, fear of disappointment and failure renew his vigor to finish the marathon they began together so many years before.
It’s hard not to feel inspired when you experience characters like this. There wasn’t a single wasted character in this anime; each and every one exuded their unique form of passion, perfectly complimenting and elevating each others abilities. It’s easy to get swept up in that kind of excitement. They had each found a place to belong, and because of that, they excelled.
The Great Passage is an earnest example of the phrase “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.” That doesn’t mean it will be easy; the things worth doing in life are rarely convenient. I think a better way to say it is “Do what you love and nothing will be wasted.” There is a satisfaction that comes with knowing you have given your all to a worthy task. You’re able to look back on your life with pride and contentment. If you ask me, that is one of life’s invaluable treasures.