Original Run: April 4, 2020 - June 20, 2020 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Drama, Historical Based on the Series Created By: Kei Ookubo
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Arte. Reader discretion is advised.***
Our story is set in 16th-century Florance, and the Italian Renaissance is alive and well.
Coming from a noble family, Arte Spalletti (voiced by Mikako Komatsu) has always loved art and loses all sense of time whenever she draws. Unfortunately, the life of an artist is no place for a well-respected lady. Or, at least, that is what society is always so quick to say.
Despite the many obstacles that face her, Arte is determined to become an artist. After searching the city, and after so many rejections, Arte finds a teacher at the workshop of master painter Leo (voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi).
Although many believe Arte has no hope of fulfilling her dream, she is more than happy to prove her critics wrong.
Arte wasn’t spectacular. However, it was well-made, well-told, and quite enjoyable. Of course, that is assuming you enjoy slower-paced, more character-driven stories that don’t have even the slightest hint of action or suspense.
Set in 16th-century Florence, Arte was a tale that just so happened to take place during the Italian Renaissance. Change some of the superficial details, such as the dates and locations, and this narrative could have happened anywhere. As I see it, that is why this show worked as well as it did; it was a familiar story.
Titular Arte had a passion for art; it was what gave her life meaning. She was what made this series such an interesting watch because you want to cheer her on. From the start, the only thing she ever asked for was a chance to prove herself. Thus, when that simple, not-at-all unreasonable request kept getting denied, it was easy to sympathize with Arte’s struggle.
What was even more enduring were the obstacles Arte had to overcome to achieve her dreams.
First, there was the obvious challenge of Arte being a woman trying to forge a career in a field dominated by men. Keep in mind, Arte wasn’t just one of a handful of female artisans. There was a genuine possibility that she was the only female artisan in all Florence, if not all Italy. The discrimination she faced due to her sex went much further than cat-calls and lack of respect. Art guilds were willing to humiliate, degrade, and potentially hurt Arte for even trying to take a step through their door.
Arte also needed to deal with characters (who genuinely believed they had Arte’s well-being in mind) who assumed that because she was a woman, there were things she couldn’t do. These taunts included, but were not limited to:
- Being offered unnecessary help,
- Being praised for performing the barebone tasks expected of an apprentice,
- And, of course, the utterly demeaning, “You’re pretty good at this, for a girl.”
There was this one character, Angelo Parker (voiced by Junya Enoki), who was a well-meaning guy. Unfortunately, he had no concept that most of his interactions with Arte were incredibly rude. Angelo was someone who believed that it is the sacred duty of a man to help all women in need. When introduced, he saw any girl struggling (even if with a minor inconvenience) and assumed they were in dire need of his assistance. The problem was, someone like Arte never asked for that kind of help. She was determined to go through the proper motions to earn her status as an artist just as any male apprentice would have done.
It took someone like Angelo a long time to realize there is a difference between genuine help and belittlement disguised as kindness.
The second obstacle that Arte faced was the status of her birth. Coming from a noble family, Arte had much readier access to better education and connections. Therefore, artisan workshops were not only turned off by the idea of a woman joining their ranks, how dare someone higher than they mock their livelihood. As many of the artists and apprentices saw it, nobles only created art because it was a hobby to them, instead of a source of income.
Arte had to prove that her passion for art was more than an afterthought. To her, drawing and creating was how she wanted to earn her living. She relied on her skills and talents to make a name for herself and would rise or fall on her merits.
That said, Arte was uniquely situated to produce a kind of art that only a person of noble birth could have created. Since many clients were nobles, Arte understood precisely what such a customer wanted from a commissioned piece. Her talents were not a byproduct of her upbringing, but her style sure as hell was, and that’s not a bad thing.
Like her comfortable childhood influenced her art, Arte’s struggles and accomplishments shaped how she inspired the people around her. For the lack of a better phrase: In her society, Arte was the weird one who broke the model of how a “proper” lady should behave.
As a result, seeing Arte’s skills as an artist grow, and witnessing her finding a place in a community that wanted nothing to do with her, turned this series into something surprisingly substantial.
If there was one thing that worked against this series, it was the amount of anime it had. Let me explain.
Arte was a good story. It had a strong main character, and it had plenty that could have made it a stand-out animated series. Instead, this show would do things that reminded you it was an anime first and foremost. Whenever these moments happened, it broke the entire atmosphere.
When I say this series had a lot of anime in it, I mean that it employed qualities that are synonymous with the genre. For example:
- Over the top facial reactions
- Visible onomatopoeia
- Highly animated limb movements
Essentially, many of the qualities you might find in a slapstick anime comedy were also found here. These incidents were never welcomed, they never landed, and they just felt wrong for this show.
Since this is an anime review, it would be silly of me to say that these elements are inherently wrong. They aren’t, but they do have a time and place, and Arte was neither.
Now, was this a hard as steel story that took itself super serious with no room for humor? Not at all. Arte could be charming and silly, but in ways that made sense for what was happening. Nevertheless, there were simply a lot of times when this series kicked me out of the immersion that it had so brilliantly created.
This series was delightful in so many ways.
On top of having a relatable story that was fun and fascinating to follow, we were given an outstanding lead character who led us on a hard-to-put-down journey of growth. There was charm, drama, and everything you should expect out of a well-told narrative. There was also a ton of weirdly placed silliness, but on the whole, this was great.
Arte has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Arte? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.