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Review: Myself; Yourself–An Beautiful, Incomplete Melody

And so I get to review it.
And so I get to review it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a show that has given me so many conflicted feelings. There were aspects of this series that were very good, verging on excellent; and then there were aspects that bordered on the incompetent. The final episodes are a microcosm of all these issues put together, in this fascinating, flawed take on the romance genre.

The reason revealed, at last. (Like we didn’t know.)

I still stand by my contention that the Hinako episodes, the Higurashi grandma, and possibly the incest subplot involving the twins, could be dropped to create a much stronger story. This series would have made an excellent six episode OVA. Because when you consider the Sana/Nanaka storyline by itself, the following things come to light:

I almost got the feeling that the writers began with Sana/Nanaka alone, finished that story, and discovered they needed to fill time. That’s definitely how the other plots felt, stuck on. When the core story is as strong as it is, and the others so much weaker, that’s my only conclusion or rationale.

‘Nuff said.

And it is strong indeed. I had bated breath as Sana was trying to find out where Nanaka had disappeared to, even though I knew the most likely answer. I felt horror as she watched her father declare that he would have aborted her if he had known the truth, and real pathos as Sana quietly told her that he had come back for the same reason that she had put the letters in the mailbox. (The mailbox is still a wonderful connecting motif.) The reason why he was suicidal was explained just a tad too quickly, though–and I should have taken it as a warning for what was to come. But at the moment the scene was ending, I was saying to myself: “dude, I think they pulled it off. There were parallels and emotional resolution. This is a GOOD ending!” I had the tremor in my heart that comes when I watch something emotionally fulfilling.

That’s all the Shuri you fanboys are gonna get!

But the epilogue of episode 13 undid so much of it, mostly through poor pacing and haste. It’s a shame, because I think they only needed maybe 5 extra minutes to bring a natural end to the entire series, but lacking that, they had to resort to cameos “ten years later.” Here’s Hinako with a much younger boy; here’s Aoi showing that the park had been saved by Asami no less; here’s a fleeting shot of Shuri holding hands with someone we can’t even see; and–most grievously for an ostensible romance–here’s a proposal scene that cuts cut off before the big moment! Instead they cut to Sana and the sensei afterwards, nonchalantly talking about how he was able to give her the diamond ring. It was as if the network were literally whipping the writer and saying “hurry along, now.” When Nanaka played her childhood composition, it had a chance to salvage something, but again the scene ended unnaturally, with just her announcing the title as the last word before credits. They didn’t bow to the usual convention of showing us the faces of all the main characters as they hear the piece. They just…stopped. It felt like it was almost over, but not quite. Then we see the fan service ending of Shuri begins.

It wouldn’t be such a huge letdown if the core elements of the story weren’t so darned good. I’m a sucker for circular endings. I love how they brought the real meaning of the title into the end. I love the central story of two lost young people with similar weaknesses being able to be there for each another; they helped restore each other to wholeness. But the epilogue is part and parcel of a whole series of storytelling sins: awkward pacing, inserting subplots in strange places and failing to resolve them (twins? Hinako?), and largely useless side characters as a result.

You know, it wouldn’t be surprising if it turned out that this was this director or writer’s first major outing. It has a lot of the problems one associates with ambitious first timers: many good ideas, and many good individual scenes (the Asami confession scene, by itself, is actually quite good, as is the goodbye scene with the twins). But it also bit off more than it could chew and has yet to acquire the effortless pacing that an experienced storyteller can summon.

What do you call a romance story that skips the proposal scene? Inept

This is such a mixed bag. There were great moments jumbled with not-so-great moments, and the result is a mess which almost righted itself by the end. It can’t be judged like other harem or romance series; it was definitely trying to head somewhere different, somewhere better even. I always try to honor genuine ambition and convention breaking whenever I see it, and there’s a lot of it here; just before the epilogue I was almost ready to agree with Owen about it being the ultimate “post-harem” show. At its best, it had good drama and a semblance of real emotion, which means that for this staff and writing team, there is hope: they are not necessarily destined for mediocrity, if they learn from their mistakes.

Perhaps somebody should do what some Star Wars fans did after the release of The Phantom Menace and produce a “Phantom Edit” version of Myself; Yourself, with only the Sana/Nanaka parts included and any necessary extra scenes that help it along. I would be very interested to see whether my theory that this would make it a lot stronger is true. The “Phantom Edit” may or may not have influenced George Lucas to decrease Jar Jar Binks’ roles in the future movies, and while it’s too late for this particular franchise to be fixed, maybe, just maybe, someone could show them they had a real diamond in the rough here. Or, like the title song–a beautiful, soaring melody, cut off before its time was up.

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