Jane Austen is a beloved author in English literature who is remembered for the many strong minded female characters that she has created. Her stories has been retold and adapted into multiple formats and media. Probably an example that would date me, but would be perhaps familiar to readers who remember the mid-1990s with the movie Clueless (1995). The movie is on Cher’s matchmaking. Going back to the original story though it is the heroine, Emma Woodhouse who wants to play matchmaker for her friends. Because of her meddling, she learns about her own nativity and oblivious desires. In a conclusion that is prototype for the happily ever after romance story endings, Emma still ends up finding true love herself.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous, a reclamation of the virtues of josei storytelling for the Noitamina block, goes beyond standard love triangle cliches to closely examine just how people move on—as opposed to get over—their grief. The emotional gravity of the show lies there rather than in the romance that sets it off.
I: A True Story
I was in the 4th grade, and she was a bony-armed, skinny girl with a bob in her hair and big teeth. Even when we were hiding under the cafeteria table for an earthquake drill—believe it or not, Memphis, Tennessee does actually lie along a fault line—and wondering out loud whether we were going to die, we were smiling and laughing. Of course we weren’t, we knew; no one could remember, kids or adults, when Memphis last had an earthquake that damaged any property, let alone killed anyone. Killer earthquakes were for California.
We huddled together because we had always hung out with each other since the second grade. There was a dim awareness that others might notice this. However, we were most assuredly not boyfriend and girlfriend. No, no. “You’re ugly,” she told me casually when the thought crossed our minds. “You’re ugly too,” I replied. We exchanged this repartee for a few more minutes, but we couldn’t help ourselves; we knew how silly and childish it was even though we were children.
Not long after that, I had to move away because my father found new work in a different city. When it came time for us to part, I said, “I’ll miss you.” She said, “I’ll miss you too.” I held her hand. We didn’t hug or kiss. Boyfriends and girlfriends did that, and that was what we were not.
My last memory of her was in that lunchroom, saying those words, on my next-to-last day of class or thereabouts. We never met again, and for some reason, I only remember her first name. But if I wanted to, I could go back home 3000 miles away and find my 22 year old yearbook, still sitting high on a bookshelf in my parents’ basement. I would be able to turn the pages to the third grade class, and I would still be able find her because I still remember her face. Faces aren’t as easy to forget as names.
II: The Loneliness of the Long-Suffering Friend
I was first introduced to the idea of the “childhood friend” character in the anime version of Love Hina. The very first scene of the series showed a little boy and girl playing together, and the little girl kisses Keitaro on the cheek. It is immediately followed by a scene where, because the girl has to move, they are sadly parted. “I’ll see you at Todai!” they promise each other.
That scene engraved itself onto my consciousness right away, in the first year of my anime fandom. Immediately, I thought of my friend in elementary school, and how we parted, never to see each other again. Maybe there are many otaku with memories like mine, and I wonder whether this is why the childhood friend trope keeps coming up again and again. But in anime, unlike real life sometimes, there is always a reunion. The reunion either begins or catalyzes the plot.
Of course, for those who know anime, the childhood friend trope usually comes attached with another feature: she is destined not to be with the boy at the end of the story. This is not universally true, but it’s true in the majority of cases. The boy usually goes for the girl who is new and different: the alien (Onegai Teacher, Ano Natsu, To LOVE-Ru, Shuffle), the quirky (Haruhi Suzumiya), the highborn or even divine (Ah My Goddess, Brighter Than the Dawning Blue).
The childhood friend is, by contrast, is a reminder of the past. She is ordinary. She is kind, constant, and longsuffering. She usually can’t admit her feelings too honestly at first. She must smile through her tears and, putting the happiness of her beloved first, cheer on the new relationship from the sidelines.
She is, in short, everyone who’s been left behind in the race of love. The emotional power of so much romance anime is fueled by her exquisite pain.
III: The Pain is the Point; or, why Ano Natsu is sometimes better than Onegai Teacher
I’ve noticed something: my favorite romance/relationship-drama anime series and movies tend to be the ones that express that exquisite pain the most eloquently and convincingly. What I remember is often less the main couple but the angst-ridden moments of the girl—it is almost always a girl—who has been jilted.
This struck me hard as I rewatched Onegai Teacher in the light of my current anime favorite, Ano Natsu de Matteru. The moments I remembered most from Oneti (as it’s been abbreviated) were not so much of Kei and Mizuho, but of Herikawa, Kanna’s analogue and Kei’s destined-not-to-be. I remember she sat on a hill with Kei once, talking about their feelings. I remember her crying more than the crybaby Mizuho.
But as I rewatched the first half of the series, looking for parallels to Ano Natsu, I discovered that whatever similarities they might have in character types and scenes, they are fundamentally different stories. Oneti is much more focused on Kei and Mizuho as a couple, trying to work out how their mismatched marriage of convenience can survive and turn into love. Their friends are second-string characters who only occasionally get great moments, and we see far less from their perspectives than we do in Ano Natsu. It feels much less organic than the natural ensemble interaction of Ano Natsu, and Kuroda relies more heavily on fanservice in order to keep the sexual tension flowing between Kei and Mizuho. It was, in short, a more conventional series, and I had forgotten just how conventional it was. Only in the second half did the tone begin to resemble what I had associated with screenwriter/creator “Yousuke Kuroda” and why I still had such fond memories of the show. But it was still a show with a limited perspective by comparison.
Ano Natsu, frankly, is the better series. I credit director Tatsuyuki Nagai, whose skill at handling large casts—from Honey and Clover II to Toradora and last year’s Ano Hana—was the key ingredient missing from Kuroda’s earlier works. All of the friends in the group get emotional coverage, and often without words: a gaze, a look of longing, a gentle tug on the sleeve, can show much more than long interior monologues.
When the words do come, they are simple, heartfelt, and believable, like in the deeply affecting scene between Kanna and Tetsuro at the bus shelter in the fifth episode. There was no scene in Oneti that matched its atmosphere of quiet, simultaneous despair and dignity. The timing and pacing were much smoother, the music subtler. The pain—the pain, overtly in Kanna’s words, and subtly in Tetsuro’s gaze: two people in unrequited love who feel they can only soldier on and wish the luckier ones the best. It’s a familiar feeling, no doubt, to many.
“Why can’t you just be honest with your feelings?” many people ask, the characters included. Beneath her mischief, Remon is clearly trying to induce emotional honesty in all the characters, as she tells Ichika straightforwardly in episode 6. Tetsuro advises Kanna to do the same. Her reply, of course, is the reply of every shy boy and girl who’s been in the place of a jilted childhood friend: if I do that, it will ruin the friendship, and I can’t be with him anymore. In many cases, it’s a longstanding friendship. Those who have had long-term friendships, with either sex, will know just how precious those are. We have few of them. Time and distance easily break them. From Kanna’s perspective, and from the perspective of so many people left holding the bag, the price of rejection is too high if that is what’s at stake.
And yet, there is something sweet about that “not really lovers but very close friends” zone. It is full of sehnsucht, a big word for the primal, elemental longing that is satisfied with nothing less than the eternal. Or, to use the Brazilian word for sweet melancholy so beloved by our M. LaMoe, it is a state full of saudade. There is longing, and light, in the liminal.
So the childhood friend, at least until the end of the series, holds back. She wants to say what is on her mind, but is always waiting for a better moment to do it. It never seems to come. There are films to be filmed, beaches to visit and play in, fireworks to watch and aimless moments sitting together to enjoy. The moment of emotional suppression is always the most poignant of all for me. That kind, determined smile Kanna gives at the end of the scene was the one that nearly induced a tear.
At the risk of stereotyping my own race, I wonder if there is something East Asian about that, in both why scenes of emotional repression like this happen in anime all the time (5 Centimeters Per Second, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, just to name a few) and even in Japanese cinema. I’m reminded of a scene near the end of Yasujiro Ozu’s movie Tokyo Story, where polite, pleasant family members finally begin to speak what is on their minds after being nice to each other for 3/4 of the film. At the end of the sharp, emotional exchanges, one character finally turns to another and says, “Isn’t life disappointing?”
“Yes,” the main female protagonist says, smiling, nodding slowly. “Yes, it is.”
IV: Reunion—Another True Story
I did have a reunion, once. There was another girl I grew up with in Memphis, though we weren’t very close. We played with a group of other kids at the houses of our parents’ friends. My main memory of her was that she once lambasted me, in a rather shrill, frustrated voice, “You are such a goody two-shoes and you’re so annoying! Why don’t you have any fun?” I wonder if the same charge could be laid against me today.
Almost ten years later, after my family and I had moved away from Memphis and when I was 16, my parents told me that we were going to meet her again in downtown Washington DC. She was coming to DC to pick up, yes, a Presidential honor for being such an excellent student in high school. (The sort of thing that makes Asian Tiger Parents proud.) I remember waiting for her with my folks in a swank hotel lobby. By then, I barely remembered her, so I had no idea what she would look like.
Lo and behold, when she came out with her mother, she had become very pretty: long straight hair, unblemished face, a kind smile. She was very happy to see me, from that smile and how eagerly she spoke to me. For the two hours we were together, at the restaurant and walking down the streets of DC, trailing our parents, it was like 9 years had melted away. There was little awkwardness. She even exclaimed, and giggled, that she remembered how cute I was when I was little (hard to square with my one memory of her then, but bygones are bygones when she has become that lovely). I pointed to the copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead she happened to carry, which I also happened to be reading at the time, and we talked about its ideas. I tried hard to look at her in the eyes when I spoke, something I had trouble doing back then. She almost never stopped smiling.
We parted not long after that with a hug. But I forgot to get her email or her number, and I still don’t remember her last name either. Last I heard, she had become a doctor.
One does not care to acknowledge the mistakes of youth —Char Aznable
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.
Just when I can forget about high school, I started to read this manga series.. and reading it makes me think about an idyllic youthful period. If that is what you want to think about, you can definitely pick up this book to read.
Haruna is a tomboy who made a goal to get a boyfriend, so this is a series on her journey of embarking in a teen romance at high school with Yoh, a really cute boy. She faces challenges in ex-girl friend’s, Yoh’s sister, and the rest of the world trying to get either Yoh’s or her’s attention. Also there are the issues of what makes dating an issue over just being regular friends.
I am reading through this series at a pretty much a snails pace, but man if I am in the mood for some high school romance.. then sit down and read through 13 volumes of this romantic comedy from Shojo Beat.
What can make you want to pick up this book?
- Feel apathy for some characters.
- First time I ever see a male lead depicted all the times with lines under his eyes, indicating long hours, and no sleep.
- Want to probably learn about what makes a young girl click.
- If you want to see what a girl’s response to learning about love, by reading manga… there is a parody on manga within a manga, like what they mention in Otomen, Junjou Romantica etc.
- Other manga read alike probably to this book… Absolute Boyfriend, Otomen, Gals, Love.com or any other teen teen romances.. like Glee or High School Musical…. (Monkey High is another possible title, since they are both Shojo Beat releases, but not really.. since High School Debut, it is the awkward girl chasing after the cool “perfect” guy.. instead of the the other way. >_< )
What can make you not want to pick up this book?
- What another shojo title… and you reeaalllly got something else to do.
- Repetitiveness of themes. I was really not impressed with how much cliche or beauty tips there is.
- This is a verrrry girly book.
Reality is such a bad game. -Keima Katsuragi Continue reading God Only Knows! First look.
Though some resist this destiny, I will not run, scream, or fight. I have always been of the opinion that the most important decisions are those you make in an instant and stick with for a lifetime.
Many people look upon those who express love for characters as having “given up” or “retreated from reality.” While it’s true that they have turned their backs on their fellow flesh-and-blood humans, it is woefully inaccurate to suggest they have “given up” on romance and love.
I’ve always wanted to see a “Taiga Uppercut”. Now I have it!
So I guess my secret is out – I really like Kugimiya Rie’s voice as tsundere – nothing else, not at all, just tsudere. As it is the end of the year and we’re dry on fresh ideas or simply not feeling that any reviews should be written for the Fall 09 season, I present to you – The Taiga Profile.
(I always love MAD videos – they give me proper seisures!)
Taiga Aisaka or Aisaka Taiga is a better tsundere character because she has much deeper character depth and she has a background story that’s rooted deep in a the story of lot of wealthy families from ancient times to today. But it is speciallty a Japanese phenomenon taken to the extreme – hard working parents that are never home, not even on Christmas or New Year’s. That said, what props Taiga up is her lovable but fierce, no-nonsense (except when in love) personalty and daringness to experss her unhappiness in front of people. Maybe it’s childish to us, but to a Japanese viewer, that’s phenomenoal, shocking and releasing. Anyway, more clips.
(Emotional breakdowns are genuine as this in anime is hard to find)
But Taiga isn’t just a all-out fighting and toughing it out character. She longs for love and she wants it hard. Always wearing that protective shell and yet hating it but can’t really give it up makes her realizes that she needs Ryuji more than ever, especially around the “most wonder time of the year”. To me, the period from Christmas to New Year’s is the “most depressing time of the year”. Less talking, more clips.
(Just go. Don’t stay too long or you’ll regret…)
She just needs someone who can tolerate, accept and even come to love all her faults. We all need someone like that. As tough as she is outside, she wears all the feminine accessories during special occassions to show people what she really wishes she could show all the time. But only with Ryuji she doesn’t have to show a mask or show a special feminine side. Both are her and both are equally presented in front of him.
(is it scary to be vulernable? Is it scary to jump off Taipei 101 even with protective gear? That depends on the person)
There isn’t much more to say and I just ended this article with the above youtube video. Have a good night and take care of your loved ones, friends, family, lovers and all.
Just what makes Sawako and Kazehaya tick, anyway? Why are they so damned good?
Well, episode 6 really wasn’t anything special. Not bad, just more of the same. The cast rounds out a bit more with the introduction of Kotone and Akari Kirishima, the twin daughters of the local (somewhat lecherous yet kindly) monk. Typical twin story elements occur (mistaking one for the other and etc.) as Kotone is attracted to Junpei because of his misfortune (maybe she’s a reverse vampire?) and Akari beating him up thinking he is a pervert.
Additionally the story from episode 5 continues with Mizuno trying to figure out if Junpei really feels the way Nagi told her he does, and what exactly his relationships with all these other woman truly are. That said.. nothing really develops on that front that wasn’t already established last episode aside from two new characters (the twins) to be confused by. Sadly, Nagi and Kanako have little screen time this episode as well. I say sadly because they are by far the most interesting characters in Nyan Koi (along with Junpei). They deserve more screen time.
Animation this time around is still great, though some might be upset because of the blatantly censored out pantsu shots. I wonder what they will do for episode 7 which looks to be the hot springs episode every comedic anime is required to have at least one of.
Episode 6 Grade – B
This would have been a review of Episodes 5 and 6, however I wasn’t able to view Episode 6 in time. My apologies.
If you recall from my last article, I really enjoyed episodes 3 and 4. I’m happy to report episode 5 is also quite good. This episode really gets the romantic comedy juices flowing as we now have three girls vying for poor cursed Junpei’s attention, while there is only one of them whose attention he really longs for. Classic (Clichéd?) harem anime plot device I know, but still fun and it really works here because all three girls are drastically different.
The problem with harem anime is that rarely by the end of the series is there a clear victory. Sure there is always a obvious leader in the race for the boy’s heart, but most of the time the anime ends with the more than one girl still clinging to him in hopes he will choose them over his destined love (Tenchi, Girls Bravo, etc). I’m sure most studios do this to spare the viewers from watching a character they love getting their heart broken, but still by the end of the series I want resolution dammit!
Junpei however doesn’t have this problem, which is a welcome surprise. While he is too shy to actually spit out his words and tell Mizuno that is likes her, he has no qualms about being blunt and telling this fact to Nagi while apologizing and saying he is flattered to her own feelings about him.
Another good episode, I don’t want to spoil much about it. I’ll just say this episode does wonders in expanding the relationship between Mizuno and Junpei. And of course it ends on a cliffhanger… D’oh!
Also no cat requests in this episode, but it is a two-parter, so maybe they are in episode 6.
Grade – B+