This is the first in a series of aggregate episode reviews to make up for not having blogged regularly for such a long time…first up is True Tears, the show that more and more is becoming what Myself; Yourself should have been. It’s got the emotional drama and the character conflict, and manages to have sharp plot turns without quite making it seem as groan-worthy.
Joe Sargent, of course, continues to be proven right as Aiko becomes a full blown rival to the other two girls, Hiromi and Noe. Were it a lesser show, this would be the jump-the-shark moment, as it was for School Days, the point where the love triangle becomes the harem. But this time, with the occasional flashback reminding us how it could end up this way, the turning of Aiko’s heart feels justified and (more) believable. I still carry some skepticism about just how much a patently older girl, a restaurant owner to boot, would find a younger kid attractive. They have spent a lot of time together, of course, so it isn’t just out of the blue…but still.
Watching the deterioation of her relationship with Nobuse is painful to watch, too–not only was it startlingly believable, especially with the facial expressions, this is one of those standard trainwreck scenarios where the moral of the story is invariably: “don’t set up your best friend with someone you know.” The one-sidedness of that relationship grew more and more obvious and those are always the worst situations to be in if you’re the one holding the short end of the stick. But he took it well, very well for a guy of his age–with dignity and with the hope that “it’s all right if it’s with you.” This almost never, ever works out in real life without some damage, and maybe we’ll be seeing that unfold in later episodes.
I hope Nobuse ends up with someone; he’s not worthy of being screwed over.
Neither is Hiromi, either, though her emotional repression/dishonesty is starting to get rather stretched out by this point. In the context of this story, finding out strange things about her parentage feels just a tad too soap operatic, even though this is more or less a soap opera. However, the answer Hiromi gave–that she was told that she might be his half-sister–is almost certainly not the whole story. I think she still has a chance.
Hiromi has been the recipient of some of the most telling and nuanced expressions in this series, and despite the frustration with her on the blogosphere, I find her the most fascinating character overall. We’ve seen her more fun-loving side as well as her depths of frustration, confusion, and struggle. As Noe–a very good reader of faces–says, she holds many secrets. Unfortunately for her, she also seems to be the type who, unsure of herself, might get used and knocked up by the end of this increasingly painful drama. By guys like Jun, especially, who while a caring brother definitely seems to be less than straightforward, to say the least–especially since he regards his relationship with her as nothing more than a “bargain.” That makes him creepy in my book.
And what of Shinichiro, the hapless lead? I suppose one way you can tell whether someone is the main character is how much of the action revolves around him. He continues to be acted upon rather than acting, with the least amount of meaningful development–other than his basic conflict between loving Hiromi and now considering Noe. (There is absolutely no hint he has any feelings for Aiko other than as the Bartender Character–the person who he turns to for advice and comfort.) His terrible, terrible penchant for trying to set his friends up, whether it be Nobuse or Hiromi, is clearly going to get him in loads of trouble. Like many harem leads (and myself), he is a people-pleaser. He wants everyone he knows to be happy, even though he is clueless at reading pretty much everyone’s emotional states. As such, I don’t really buy his otherwise adorable “confession” at the end of episode 7, where he writes it out with stones and mittens. We have seen where people pleasers like the protagonist of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien eventually end up, though. Let’s just hope it’s not that kind of trainwreck.
Finally, a point about my initial thesis: that this is Myself; Yourself done right (whereas H20 is pretty much M;Y with all its flaws included). A lot of similar elements show up: potential sibling incest, complicated love affairs, dark secrets from the past….your usual soap opera ingredients. True Tears excels not only visually, to the point where facial expressions and animation do as much work as the dialogue–as it it should in a visual medium–but the character interactions and writing is of several higher grades. The occasional monologues and metaphors are reminiscent of Honey and Clover at its best. All the characters have meaningful motives and goals, though Shinichiro comes dangerously close to being a blank slate at times. The writers take time to build up to the drama we are seeing now, rather than plunging us into it without warning and jerking around from one mood to another. The problem I had with M;Y was that its main story was strong while the rest felt tacked on, and were all poorly directed at crucial moments. True Tears if anything is consistent. The mood is consistently quiet and restrained with outbursts of emotion at the right time (OK, I admit, the catfight felt a little forced). It excels in showing how little lies and excuses build up and slowly complicate matters. Nobody acts “out of character” without a justification; I thought Noe’s fear and admission that she was in love, for instance, was a necessary and even moving transition to her far more lovestruck and affectionate mood afterwards.
Plus, the music is outstanding. At last, a show worthy of its soundtrack!
This looks like one of the season’s winners so far. I am happy to be writing about it again!
I am indebted to JRoxa’s extremely helpful chart and facial expression analysis post in the writing of this entry. Thanks.