M;Y Writer 1: The anime bloggers are getting bored of all the conventional tearjerking drama. We’ve got lots of plotlines to resolve in just three more episodes. We just concluded the Higurashi rip off story, too, which was all we had left up our sleeve. Plus, the Hinako fans are getting impatient. What do we do?
M;Y Writer 2: Oh, I know how to spice things up. Let’s add vengeful bi drama! And twincest! And teary eyed, sudden farewells that gratuitously echo scenes from episode 1 because that’ll bring ’em to tears! Watch out ef! You’re going down!!!! [pants with excitement] What do you think?
M;Y Writer 1: Uh…well, that is…surprising, to say the least. You sure they’re gonna buy that though?
M;Y Writer 2: Hey, it worked for School Days. They ate that one up!
M;Y Writer 1: Mmmmm….nice boats. [rubs hands enviously] Yeah, let’s do it.
More seriously: If this is the way the show is also going to end, I don’t think I can give this show a good review. Let’s start from the top.
Asami, the Nice Girl, turns out to be a vengeful, at-least-bisexual, bitter girl who has both a crush and a grudge against Shuri. Her confession of this is a classic example of poor exposition: it’s all talk, interspersed with flashbacks, though admittedly some of the voice acting had some emotional nuance. I will also give it credit for at least some emotional realism in the dynamics of revenge, emotional repression, and hatred; I especially liked how she talked about the sense of detachment she felt as she sent the letter. But on the whole it felt like one of those bad movie scenarios where the villain explains everything just as the hero is about to be sawed in half.
But the real problem is that we are given so, so few hints that this was the case, aside from a few strange looks in the past few episodes. Springing dramatic surprises like this is a very risky kind of plot move; when done masterfully, like in The Sixth Sense, it’s memorable and satisfying. Had the writers done it right, we would have been simultaneously shocked and felt that what she did was also “in character” at the same time, or at least plausible. When done poorly, as it is done here, my first reaction was to gasp–and then laugh. The move speaks of desperation more than anything else, an attempt to find drama where none existed. Some bloggers have claimed to find those hints, but I maintain they were still not clear enough for me. It need not have been terribly obvious; it just needed to be smoothly and gradually built up to at least create some kind of unsettling feeling that there’s something more than meets the eye.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Because what Asami did is even more implausible: she managed to successfully raise doubts in the minds of adult authority figures–the parents included–that the twins might actually be committing incest. Think about that for a moment. There’s a reason why brother/sister incest is rare in real life for siblings who grow up together, as Shuri and Shuusuke did–it’s called the Westermarck Effect, or, in layman’s terms, “familiarity breeds contempt”–and one would think any halfway intelligent adult wouldn’t just believe an anonymous letter without any further proof, as the school authorities do here. The chances of it being true are low enough to warrant suspicion on the letter, not the siblings. And to have a politician father–if he’s in politics, he should be used to cranks making baseless charges–actually exile his own daughter from the whole country as a result of one anonymous letter.
I realize this is anime, and I realize this particular anime has already done an awful lot of fairly strange twists. But…this is too much. This shatters whatever suspension of disbelief that the show had begun to build up within me. The kind of emotional reaction we are supposed to have–profound pity, sadness, and shock–rests first and foremost on believability. And this whole scenario is simply not believable in the way it is presented. (Unless–can someone confirm that in Japan school principals are much more credulous of anonymous letters than they might be elsewhere?)
My guess is that the writers wanted to do something–anything–to lead up to the final scenes of episode 11. I admit that the final goodbye scenes as Sana races on his bike, shouting to the departing train to Shuri and Shuusuke, was effective in spite of itself. It’s unearned, but I’m actually a sucker for parallel scenes like that, though the really swelling music made it sound like Sana was going to try to prevent them from committing double suicide or something. It also seemed like a way to basically force the twins off the stage to focus on Sana and Nanaka for the show’s remainder; perhaps the writers wrote themselves into a corner and realized that the dramas of the twins threatened to steal thunder from that storyline? There’s got to be a better way to get them offstage.
Well, at least that arc is over and we can focus on the one story I care most about, Sana x Nanaka. I said before that as long as they get that right, I might leave reasonably happy. The Shuri x Shuusuke left a bad taste in my mouth, though, and I’m not sure I can say I will leave reasonably happy. But somehow uncles who kill parents for power and suicidal boys seems a lot more plausible now than this impossible plotline.