New Year’s over and Valentine Season again??? Give me a break. This world, 3D, is surely built for riajuu. Well, I have no choice but be anti-Valentine preemptively, so I won’t be gullible to chocolate companies conspiracy, this capitalism custom. So, here’s Kimo-ota No Hikigatari Part 3. Part 2 was “At Least Be My Okazu,” an ode to Inaban in Kokoro Connect. Yes, how awesome 2D girls are, they will sexually objectify me, even making me their okazu!
Here are the lyrics:
Kimo-ota No Hikigatari: Part 3
that I really want to say she is hot
that I need to avoid
Those girls are crazy
they ask me to become their sexual fantasy
which is okazu, the okazu
I’m happy to become
That I really want to claim they are mine
We dudes would fool around
These guys are crazy
They want them to appear in their wet dreams
They are otakus, repulsive ones
That I’m associated with
The worst of all among otakus
That’s what perorists do
The best of all among okazus
That’s what onanists do
I want to be Seigneur, earning Droit Du Seigneur, or the Right of Master. Yes, meijin (Master), like Hikaru-no-Go, Chihayafuru, Master of Go, Master of Karuta, Master of Shougi, Master of video game like Takahashi Meijin in BTOOOM! For craftmanship like costume-making, meister (master). And for music composer or conductor, maestro (master). Yes, I want to be the Master. But only genius with perseverance gifted by the intelligent designer can be the Master. Unfortunately, I don’t have none. So, I go to maid cafe to be goshujin-sama (master). But that’s yet to be realized since there aren’t any maid cafe until another con comes up. So, my only choice left now is to be an onani master by ogling 2D girls. Master of onanism! Yes, like Onani Master Kurosawa!
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
As part of a series on getting by with little money, Business Insiderran an article detailing how a Manhattan twenty-something uses dating website Match.com to get free dinners and booze. Jessica Sporty’s progression from merely being frugal to using sex appeal to obtain material goods unleashed an utterly predictable storm of reactions from all corners of the political spectrum.
Really, though, this isn’t anything new. Putting aside invocations of “the oldest profession,” the more moderate phenomenon of compensated dating has been around for quite some time. Called “enko” in Japan, or “enjo kosai,” it involves paying for a woman’s company more than her body, though depending on where the buyer and seller fall on the spectrum of sexual permissiveness, sex is not out of the question. Naturally, a “reverse” version exists as well: in The Great Happiness Space, a male host at an Osaka club describes the emotional toll of having sex with several paying women each week.
Perhaps the telling part is that unlike in Japan, most of the US seems to labor under the illusion that such practices are a thing of the past. “What woman does this sort of thing?” America hadcompensated dating in the 1920s, along with flappers and financially liberated women, but it just as surely had attempts to legislate these out of sight and out of existence. According to an ABC News survey, 30% of single men above the age of 30 have paid for sex.
And yet this sort of thing is distasteful to us now. Tokyopop cut the entire enjo kosai subplot, a valuable cultural nuance, from Initial D‘s American localization.
The original author at Business Insider has since complained that people were overly sensitive about Sporty callously playing with peoples’ feelings for fun and profit. She rebuked readers for making value judgments about a woman who just wants to live the good life at the expense of others.
Sporty kept things simple—no more than five dates with the same guy.
Perhaps the largest difference is that in Japan, there is necessarily a certain tension: whether drinking with a man at a host club, or going to karaoke with a high school girl, the client knows they are paying for the illusion of good times with the opposite gender. In Jessica Sporty’s outings, only one side is aware that it’s all a show.
Yes, today, otra vez, April 14th is Black Day… The day of darkness. The day as dark as black. We otaku are colonized by the darkness called 3-D. The colonized man is an envious man. We envy people who can spend a content life in 3-D, i.e., riajū(リア充). We envy people who can enjoy Valentine’s Day (Feb 14th) and White Day (Mar 14th), their life must be sweet like chocolate, dulce como chocolate. So, we’re jealous. The colonized man is also a jealous man. Therefore, let us eat jajanmyeong! Let us celebrate Black Day! Down with bitterness and absurdity of 3-D life!
…because a new, Valentine’s Day appropriate, episode has just landed on your virtual shores to invade your ears. It looks like we’ll probably be sticking to a monthly release schedule for this main podcast for the time being, though of course you’ve probably noticed how much more active our podcast feed has been as of late with audio columns, videos, and even songs. We want to keep giving you only the good stuff and showing you all our love!
In this episode, we tackle some juicy, loving news items, including the Evangelion live-action project and its refusal to die, making your own clone, and of course, flying flocks of female underwear courtesy of Sora no Otoshimono–made real! There’s a mailbag section, at last, and to top it off, a roundtable section about what lonely male otakus can do on Singles Awareness Day.
Finally, we would like to again remind everyone that Pam of Makenai’s dog Hachiko needs money for life-saving surgery. Please see this link for more information, and click here to donate.
Technical note: there were some audio issues here and there, namely the lack of my good microphone and some increased fuzziness from time to time. Don’t worry, it’s still very listenable–well I think so, anyway. Complaints will be put on file–the circular file!
(05:12) News 1: Live Action Evangelion Project Still Alive, Somehow
(13:50) News 2: A Robot Clone of Your Very Own
(22:32) News 3: Panty Flocks, Flying in the Air
(44:40) Roundtable: Tips for Lonely Otaku on Valentine’s Day
OP: “Perfect-area complete!” by Natsuko Aso.
ED: “Baka Go Home (バカ・ゴー・ホーム)” by milktub
The story about the live action Evangelion project’s continuation was at Anime News Network [http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-02-04/producer/live-action-evangelion-project-still-active].
The story about the robot clones is at Weird Asia News [http://www.weirdasianews.com/2010/01/13/japanese-store-offers-robot-double-deal/]. An article about Roxxxy, an adult entertainment robot girlfriend, can be found with pictures at HuffPo [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/10/roxxxy-sex-robot-photo-wo_n_417976.html].
The flying panties story was originally reported on by Canned Dogs [http://zepy.momotato.com/2010/01/30/flying-panties-to-go-on-sale/], which includes a picture of one of the flying contraptions.
The date sends chills down the spines of many a single person, and mental images of high numbers through the brains of chocolate & confectionary companies. It’s hardly any surprise that so many of us fall sucker to the week-plus wait for our opportunities to proclaim admiration for our hopefully mutual adored. It’s practically wetwired into our consciousnesses soon after grade school. It sometimes even haunts our dreams during those crucial high school years, where often awkwardness ensues. All those expectations, it’s easy to be swept away by the bland uniformity of it all.
And what of the “lowly” otaku/fanboy/girl/outcast? What of them? As human as anyone else, those on alternate social scales experience most to all of the same desires, so why shouldn’t they be allowed the same experiences? This is why sometimes, it seems only natural to lean more toward others with similar interests and tastes. We all know that one friend, acquaintance, or classmate that captures your imagination, makes your day, and perhaps even seems to understand you. The time may eventually come to speak up.
In this; what will hopefully function as a continuing series, I’ll attempt to seek out some sweet, simple ways otaple courtship can actually work.