Kuragehime – 03: the issues of withdrawal and the OP expounded

I watched the third episode of Kuragehime twice these past few days, and it has both that foreignness and familiarity that drags me closer to it: it has been consistently brilliant, as what can be expected from Takahiro Omori, and yet offers no easy answers to the problems of the main characters.

Before I explicate on the episode itself, let me place focus into the opening animation of the show. Like other great shows, it subtly offers a background of the conflict and some possible plot points of the series. What I initially thought to be mere references to enduring movies and movie franchises has actually something beneath it established through the archetypal characters referred to.

The most prominent allusion is to the Star Wars franchise. It’s only in light of the third episode that the reasons why Kuranosuke’s father and uncle are pegged as denizens of the dark side whereas the residents of Amamizu-kan are painted as the heroes (the show is, after all, from the perspective of Tsukimi). There will likely be friction due to the redevelopment project that Shu and his father are trying to implement, and the obnoxious aura from Amamizu-kan’s residents just strengthened that resolve of Shu’s.

Kuranosuke’s father is painted to be Darth Vader in their Star Wars skit, while his effeminate uncle is one of the counts. On the other side, Tsukimi is painted to be R2D2, and the landlady’s daughter, Chieko, was established to be Han Solo, one of the primary protagonists of the first trilogy of films. It’s also important to note that Kuranosuke is Luke Skywalker: he is the son of his father, but they represent antipodean ideals, as what was established by the episode. All Kuranosuke wants to do is enjoy fashion: the cross-dressing is his diffident way of going against the wishes of his father.

More of the antagonism is actually painted in the OP, with Mayaya going against the chauffeur of Kuranosuke’s father, in a battle of east and west: ‘Bruce Lee’ goes against James Bond. Shu’s fascination with Tsukimi (when she does not hide her beauty) is also lampshaded in the marriage skit while it obviously shows his disdain for Kuranosuke’s cross-dressing. Kuranosuke was also portrayed as the magical Mary Poppins: in the film, she was the problem-solver in a family full of problems, and he seems to be a breath of fresh air not only to Tsukimi, but also to the questionable lifestyle of the Amars. It is undeniable, however, that he has the most effect in Tsukimi.

* * *

It was frankly no surprise to anyone who paid attention to what the meaning of ‘Kuragehime’ was that Tsukimi was a very beautiful girl. The ‘Kuragehime’ portmanteau itself, however, as an aside, aptly and yet paradoxically describes Tsukimi’s person. She is beautiful and a princess in her own right, but she is also an avid appreciator (an otaku) of jellyfish. She is not merely a princess, or merely an otaku: her struggle in the third episode proves that she is both.

She really is beautiful.

A lot of beautiful women are accented by make-up. Some actually seem ordinary when they aren’t dolled up or on camera, and this is especially true of some actresses. Tsukimi, however, was already beautiful even without make-up. She may have professed loyalty to the Amars but it was quite obvious that she wasn’t as ugly (or egregious) as Banba, Chieko, and Mayaya. In fact, she dressed simply because she wanted her milieu to correspond with her lifestyle, which was solitary and withdrawn. This was no doubt because of the early passage of her mother, but one would have already noticed that her mother was a beauty with her short appearances in the first episode. The apple rarely falls far from the tree.

Because of Kuranosuke’s intervention, however, we were actually able to see the entelechy of her potential: she is very beautiful, and that was just with a few trims, snips, and cuts. One can never scrape a true diamond, after all, except with another diamond. To our surprise, however, she ran away and quickly removed what made her beautiful because she felt that she would be rejected by the sisterhood. I have no easy answer for this, but while I respect the fact that she cherishes her dormmates I can’t help but feel disdain for her idea that she would shun that which makes her shine because it will alienate her friends? Real friends don’t give a damn whether one is ugly or handsome. Friendship is made and tempered by more than physical beauty alone.

I think I understand, though. Kuragehime is a great series but I’ve little fondness for the rest of the Amars not merely because of their lifestyle but because of how they act. With that amount of weirdness what guy wouldn’t be turned off? If one couples that with the incongruity of their faces then it’s no question why most men stay away from them. I just think it’s a cop out to reject society just because one is not well-received in it. I’m among those in the fringes but I fight for what I believe in and not merely withdraw myself into some quasi-utopia where I can enjoy myself in solitude (especially with regard to anime, for example, and literature). I love solitude, however, but I can easily go into society and feel all right.

I frankly think they’re irritating. They may be caricatures but I think if I met those kinds of women in reality I would also be irritated. There’s one who’s ugly, likes trains and talks like a five-year old. There’s another one with a man-face who can’t stop talking about useless stuff and hyperventilates over every small thing. Chieko and Jiji are all right because they seem to act their ages even though they have unique tastes. Tsukimi should realize that she is also an individual apart from the sisterhood and enjoy her life, and Kuranosuke, while having no romance between them as yet, seems to be the Mary Poppins that would help her achieve that epiphany.

I find that I agree with most of the commentators over at AnimeSuki who say that Kuranosuke’s reasons to his cross-dressing are anything but abnormal. While cross-dressing is an abnormal act on its own, the reasons of Kuranosuke were rooted in his disdain for politics and his desire to show that disdain and disagreement. It’s been pretty successful so far.

Although it seems that Tsukimi and Kuranosuke are extremely different from one another, a common thread in their relationship is that they are running away. Just as Tsukimi is running away from society, Kuranosuke is running away from his responsibilities. Both are suffering but are slowly coming to become better persons because of each other. While that’s nothing novel, their relationship and how the whole series is portrayed is, and that is why I will keep on watching and have high hopes for the show.

P.S. Really sorry for the lack of organization. I’ve written two drafts on it and just decided to scratch it and write what came to my mind.

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4 Responses to “Kuragehime – 03: the issues of withdrawal and the OP expounded”

  1. Will of the Wisps Says:

    Fascinating analysis of the OP — I throughly enjoyed reading it. I look forward to reading more of your analysis on this serie!

  2. Michael Says:

    Thank you! I appreciate it.

  3. vendredi Says:

    Finally managed to catch up with Kuragehime; and glad to see you’re covering it – will be following your posts as I go along.

    I have to agree – ‘escapism’ seems the major theme in Kuragehime. The “Nuns” express it quite blatantly in their different obsessions, but Kuranosuke is, as this episode reveals, just as guilty of it.

    What is particularly striking about cross-dressing in the sampling of works that I’ve seen is that there isn’t a sense of desiring a female sexual identity, especially here in Kuragehime; Kuranosuke is still quite solidly a man, albeit a man who wears a wig, dresses, and makeup – he doesn’t particularly exhibit signs of wanting to be a woman – he just finds the whole activity a lot of fun. It’s just particularly interesting how crossdressing never quite seems to cross the line in a lot of Japanese animation into transvestitism or a discussion of gender identities. Dressing in women’s clothing just happens to be fun – it’s not meant to be a profound statement about gender.

  4. Michael Says:

    vendredi! 😀

    That’s amazing. Crossdressing is a deviance, but in the sample of anime I have seen as well it does not become anything other than just something unique to do with men. They’re quite well-adjusted guys, they just do it for fun.

    Yes, escapism is one of Kuragehime’s major themes. 🙂

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