Just what makes Sawako and Kazehaya tick, anyway? Why are they so damned good?
Here’s what sets Kazehaya apart, at least. Most anime male leads are, at best, “nice”: they’re inoffensive (except with those accidental fan servicey collisions of course). They are reasonably polite and aren’t mean. Mostly, though, they are passive and diffident. Many shoujo male leads are, by contrast, modeled after Austen’s Mr. Darcy–cold and even kind of mean at first but unexpectedly tender and sensitive as the story goes on.
Kazehaya is neither of these. If he were simply a “nice guy” he would be bland as wallpaper. He is most decidedly not a jerk, even as an outward defense mechanism. He is actually a good person. He is who he says he is (so far). He is actively gracious and helpful, and not just to Sawako (though especially so–but that’s because he’s in love with her!). He goes out of his way to give people the benefit of the doubt, and thus avoid potential conflicts due to misunderstanding. So far his good is almost entirely unalloyed, which is why some don’t like him–it’s hard to believe there are people who are so saintly or so uncomplicated.
One problem is that we have seen little to nothing of his inner life; Sawako is the protagonist, not him, and it is through her rose-colored, flowery, sparkly perspective that the story is filtered. I’m not sure whether the show is going to continue past 12 episodes, so whether they still have a lot of room left as of episode 9 to explore that a bit further is in question. (Kare Kano explored the minds of both the guy and the girl exquisitely.) A character like him, though, always raises certain questions in my mind: what motivates him to be the way he is? What’s his secret, if he has one? What makes him hurt? What’s he hiding? He must be hiding something.
Perhaps that is what the character of Kurumi is supposed to introduce: the element of tension and jealousy that, most likely, will become the main obstacle to him and Sawako getting together. Kurumi, who is played by Hirano Aya in a voice reminiscent of her work as Polka in Eternal Sonata, has so far worn a perfect mask in front of Sawako and Kazehaya. The level of dramatic irony here is very high, since we know from the start that she is not who she appears to be. The damage she could potentially inflict is severe, precisely because both Sawako and Kazehaya are painfully sincere people who usually take others at their word. Combined with the fact that Sawako is still in the stage where making any new friends is an earthshaking experience, I fear for her; it’s almost reminiscent of the situation in Stephen King’s novel Carrie, though I suspect she isn’t going to go on a telekinetic rampage, at least.
That’s the heart of the appeal of characters like Kazehaya and Sawako: their guilelessness. So far at least, the story really wants the audience to believe that these people are who they say they are, that they really are as pure as they seem. That it does so without moralizing is a feat. For this viewer at least, it makes them powerfully likable characters, and part of the attraction is because everyone knows that few, if any, people in reality are like that. And I admit, my picture of what a good or profound story is still demands that at some point, some more depths need to be explored, or else the suspension of disbelief will simply break. Still–at the very least, one begins to see why the two of them belong together. One may be socially skilled and athletic and the other retiring and awkward, but they fundamentally approach life and others in a similar way: with gratitude, kindness, and service. They recognize that in each other.
And that, much more than good looks or mutual animal magnetism, is a real foundation for a lasting relationship. Getting there, though–well, we’ll see.