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Love in the time of anime harems

I’m going to be 30 years old in a few years. I can no longer call myself young, except with the words ‘at heart.’

I still like anime.

Back when I was half my age, anime was the way I coped with the stresses of high school. I made a few friends by shamelessly bringing series to class, and sharing it with friends. Outside of my studies and anime, however, I was a horrible person. I thought I was really intelligent, and thus had the right to be an asshole to everyone else.

As I grew older, however, my tastes changed, but it was in college when I finally discovered the type of series that I really liked. I enjoyed mecha series, and I occasionally enjoyed shounens, but what I really liked were josei romances.

GAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!

megumi

When I was seventeen, I didn’t really care about women. Coming from a family that’s situated in the lower-middle class, I had to work to maintain my scholarship. Then I discovered Honey and Clover. Even though I watched it ten years ago, I’ll still gush about the series as fervently because it taught me the complexities of being in relationships with people without actually being in one.

I admired Takemoto, who was upright despite all the pitfalls life had in store for him, and tried to be as much as a gentleman as he was (although I failed, because Takemoto is that awesome). But Honey and Clover was the gateway series for me because it paved the way to building up my empathy towards others.

I still have a small amount when compared to most people, but having that seed was a start in order to become a better person. I thought that my fondness for mature romance would end with H&C.

I was wrong. In 2010, Tatami Galaxy was shown, and it remains to be the best series that I have ever seen. Why? Because Watashi was me. I was an asshole to men and an asshole to women, but I never accepted that I was the root cause of the bullshit that happened to my life. I never had the passion for medicine because I didn’t really want to be a medical doctor. Having seen that series, however, made me realize that I have to own up to my past and live in the present in order for me to progress in my life. I’m still far from what I want to be, but at least nowadays I’m earning and helping in the family finances.

I stayed away from anime in the years immediately succeeding that because I had to be licensed as a medical doctor. Two series that I watched this year has inspired me to write a reflection of my life and anime, however. The first was Oregairu, which had reminded me again to be true to myself. (There was also a lot of self-insertion in Hachiman: I was aloof, I didn’t care about society, but I wanted and want sincerity in the few people I consider as friends.)

I think Yukino will probably end up with Hachiman. Because I realized that it’s not just about the female protagonist. There must be cohesion between the two.

It actually surprised me how far in terms of maturity romance/harem anime have arrived. Back when I was younger, there was Love Hina, Chobits, and DearS. They were great anime series for wish-fulfillment. Outside of Chobits, however, they merely pandered to their viewers (who were usually social outcasts and reveled in the idea of being surrounded by attractive women).

Anime has clearly evolved, because even the oft-maligned harem genre has manifested impressive signs of maturity. I’ve already mentioned Oregairu, but I wrote this post because of Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata.

This series actually features a hardcore otaku as the protagonist. He is unabashed and unashamed of his hobbies, leading people to recognize him as the three pillars of their school. (He reminded me of my high school self.)

In subversion to the common tropes in harem series where the girl he ends up with is the girl who has been his enduring childhood friend or the girl with the BIG everything, his heart is with a quiet and unassuming lady who is always there for him.

I admire this direction of harem series, because I believe love is not a competition between the biggest chests. It does not award the sluttiest woman, and clearly some friendships just stay as friendships. Love is cohesion. It is being attuned to the other person’s needs and wants, and them responding to your needs and wants as well, persistently, consistently, and for the rest of both of your lives as well. Both people have to work hard for it to work. Being physically attractive definitely helps, but it is not the be-all or end-all of love. So when I see Utaha or Eriri being shot down occasionally (more of this happens in the LNs), I feel contented because even a harem series has more accurately approximated love in the anime medium. Love is not a one-night stand. It is a constant grind, and from what I can see, only Megumi really put in the work. I’m happy that Tomoya’s slowly seeing that.

And I’m happy that,just like harem anime, I’ve also grown a little bit more mature to see what these protagonists see, too.

Rants from a Moribund Man: the Powerpoint pen

Yesterday, I had so much to say about different things. I guess after running on a day and a half without sleep, what I had to say condensed itself a bit. Perhaps these may simply be rants, but I hope it makes sense to someone who’s reading it.

I developed a recent hobby after saving for and purchasing a rare Casio console roughly three years ago. After receiving the item I bought on eBay, I was exposed to its beauty and madness. I honestly still wish to purchase certain items, although I’m still sane enough that I can hold myself back from emptying my savings on an obsolete video game system.

I think my last chance was with someone who sells these systems with a fair price. That’s extremely rare, but it is possible when the magic of video game collection fades to become mere embers dovetails with the pragmatism of saving space and breaking even. I found someone like that who had sold a rare cartridge of a rare system for a fair, even cheap price, but sadly he hasn’t replied recently and I really don’t have much time to wait anymore.

I could try and return to pining for tees but then again a lot of the good ones still end up very expensive, and I get outbid most of the time. One tee that I kept on my watch list ended up selling for 50 dollars. That’s as expensive as brand new original Adidas shirts. I tried looking for alternatives. I’m just searching for stuff to bid for to transform boredom into pining.

And I found it in ballpens.

I had initially sought to purchase a Parker Jotter in violet, as that’s my favorite color, but then the curious part of me managed to end up interested in a Papermate Powerpoint. Currently, that’s what I’m bidding for. I never said it was sane, but people in such tiring and stressful situations such as I need something to run to aside from their friends and family. I have my chess and my video game collections. Seeing that both have slowly been taken away from me because of a lack of free time shared with friends, I decided to go with the name that was eponymous to an office program that has so many uses for a medical student. I’m hoping that I could win the bidding so I’ll probably increase my bid a bit more, but if I lose I will simply stop and look for other alternatives. Here’s hoping get to bid for a cheaper one.

I was interested in the pen because of its ability to write in any position, but I was interested primarily because of its amusing videos despite the pen’s age. Here’s one among them:

At the end of it all at least I’m no longer spending thousands on extremely obsolete video game systems. It saves me a lot more money, so I have to find even cheaper alternatives.

(Yes, it’s obvious that I didn’t even have energy to edit my sentences properly. Forgive me.)

Lupin III: The Woman Named Mine Fujiko – 02

I probably won’t be able to write tomorrow seeing that I return to duty, but I like the new Lupin series. I didn’t even know Takashi Koike was involved, but I was impressed with the first episode, so I decided to keep watching. The second episode didn’t really let up in terms of quality, either. I hope the series keeps up the grit I’ve been seeing the past two episodes, because it is something one rarely sees in a Lupin III series.

I watched some Lupin III episodes back when I was younger, and I wasn’t impressed with the bungling misadventures of Lupin and his friends. However, in stark contrast to that, Lupin was a competent and intelligent thief in the very first episode of this Mine Fujiko series: his verbal fencing with Mine Fujiko and their maneuverings throughout the episode were fun to watch. The series seems to retain the insouciance of Lupin without making him seem like a joke character, which was what the original manga was all about anyway.

The second episode didn’t have less of that grit. Although it dealt with Jigen this time around, the story was actually quite captivating: it wasn’t until the end where Cicciolina’s motivations were cleared up, and it turned out to be no less than a tragedy.

I often feel empathetic toward stories that have one character seek their inexorable damnation through the people they love the most. I think I love the duality between love and sacrifice that evince itself through these situations: that’s probably the reason why I like the Cowboy Bebop movie quite a bit, because Vincent Volaju was a bit like Cicciolina.

This season has been quite a pleasant surprise.

Sakamichi no Apollon – 01: two words – WATCH IT.

There’s always something in a first episode that insinuates greatness in an anime. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s akin to a sliver of pain and happiness that touches the heart. I felt that from the very first minute I tuned in to Sakamichi no Apollon. Perhaps it’s because it’s been years since I heard YUKI in an anime series; perhaps because it’s been years since I’ve seen Shinichiro Watanabe direct an anime, or perhaps it is because of a multitude of factors combined.

I had been touting Sakamichi no Apollon as probably going to be the year’s best even before I saw one episode of it because of its staff, and after the first episode, it seems that I’m not wrong. Although quite unlike Watanabe’s previous two series in that it’s not rooted in action and violence, the characters and the dialogue remain to be sparkling yet minimalistic at the same time, approximating Hemingway’s works. It’s beautiful, in every sense of the word, from its fluid ‘action’ scenes to its character build-up.

It’s so good that to even attempt to summarize it would be to do it a disservice as words cannot, at least for me, express how beautiful it coalesced the characters and the plot together. But if one were to watch only one series this year, I suggest one watch this. I doubt that Watanabe would let up with his excellence, as he had never done so with his two previous masterpieces.

Final words on Ano Natsu: sorry for the delay

I actually finished Ano Natsu de Matteru weeks ago. Sadly, however, I haven’t been able to log on for quite some time due to issues with my connection. It ended very well, save for the Men in Black hijinks, but it was a nevertheless very well done series. The video of the friends spending their summer together despite their separation with Ichika was honestly tearjerking, and the uncertainty and sadness with Ichika being spirited away from Kai was quite overwhelming.

This was my feeling when I finished Ano Natsu. 🙂

I was happy with how it ended, though, and how it subtly showed Ichika’s return. I had no expectations whatsoever with the series, but it was honestly one of the best Winter 2012 had to offer. I honestly doubt it would end up as one of the best of the year, however, especially with the strength of the Spring season. It was a series one could say little about, but it was a great series simply because it did everything in its ability exceptionally well. It was great with its handling of its characters; it was great with evocation and although the plot was barebones the rest were enough to carry the series beautifully.

And yes, it was better than Ano Hana. Any dissenting opinions? 🙂

The beauty of simplicity: Ano Natsu de Matteru

I guess I was raised to value the complexity of intelligence and the intelligence of complexity that it reflects in my passions and wishes in life. I have been quite vocal regarding undeserved praise towards pedestrian novels such as the Twilight saga, and I admit that my favorite novels are those that are either ignored or willfully unread by the hoi polloi. I know that what I read are classics, although they are currently rather ignored. Among my most favorite novels is William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, which jarringly shifts through time and person to tell a story that coalesces upon itself at its end. In the same vein is the symbolist masterpiece, Petersburg, by Andrei Bely.

I think the same could be said with regard to my choice in movies. I don’t seek to be idiosyncratic, but I prefer The Killing to any other movies by Stanley Kubrick, and sincerely wished that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy replaced an undeserving Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the recent Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. I love watching films that so beautifully invoke the tip-of-the iceberg image by Freud: there is an elephantine mass gurgling and burbling beneath the surface that is up to the viewer to decipher, enjoy, and decode for himself, with so little to see on the surface itself. I was never fond of the easy way out in the things I loved.

Because this show is that awesome

I think that I have been consistent, even in relatively lesser media such as anime. The Tatami Galaxy was a masterpiece of prognostication, multiple viewpoints and intertwining realities, but it took rather astute observers to appreciate its nuances. Steins;Gate was also masterful because of its ability to connect and twist the story to become esemplastic, and it was reminiscent, at least for me, of The Sound and the Fury.

While I prefer the complex and intellectual examples in my favorite media, there are exceptions to all of them, and the most recent one is the series Ano Natsu de Matteru.

The series is not complex: it does not require multiple re-watches to understand the story, but like the simple and yet beautiful Mice and Men novella by Steinbeck, it simply and incandescently gets the job done. It is a bildungsroman of a certain Kaito, who, like most of us back when we were in high school, sought his own identity in the context of his society. While the story is essentially a rehash, the characters that interact with one another make it one of the better, if not the best examples of anime, because it has characters that are essentially human but also essentially good.

While most people would probably be unimpressed with the flow of the plot, I simply found the empathetic characters to be among the best-written among the series I’ve watched. We all have to admit that it was Lennie and George who made Of Mice and Men, after all. Anything can have a barebones plot, and as long as the characters that pepper that story are rife with life and color, it would be at the very least good. I think Ano Natsu approximates that.

Picturesque realism in summer’s waiting

Among the recently-aired anime, I’ve really only kept up with Ano Natsu de Matteru. To be quite honest, I did it because I really liked its art; however, I’ve been following it lately because I love how the plot is unfolding. Frankly, I think it’s even better than Ano Hana as of the fifth episode: while extraordinary existences are relied upon to drive the story forward, I like the fact that Ichika isn’t Menma. She doesn’t cry all the time, and is a well-adjusted, human-like alien.

Cutest thing ever

More than that, however, I like the fact that the people in Ano Natsu are more adjusted than the people in Ano Hana. Just because the people in Ano Natsu are more decent does not make them any less realistic is my contention: a lot of people all over the world are decent individuals who, although unremarkable, aren’t excluded from society although they may not be towering examples of humanity. As an observer, one may think that Kaito was slow to pick up on Kanna’s emotions for him, but this is where I think the realism of the series lies: it never really is quite easy, especially when friendship blurs whatever probable hints at romance the lady sends out. First, Kaito is not privy to Kanna’s excursions as we are, and second, it really is difficult to tell whether your lady friend is really interested in you or just treats you as a friend. I myself couldn’t differentiate which was which in the past.

I find it a breath of fresh air that despite their shortcomings and interests in each other there’s really no vitriol towards the other characters. Although Kanna exploded with frustration during the recent episode, she really didn’t hate on Ichika, but on her comfortable and budding relationship with Kai. She then caught herself when she realized she went out of line, and then regretted her actions, striving once more to maintain her friendly relations with both Kai and Ichika.

Do I blame Kai for being indirect with Ichika? On the contrary, while I can’t say I praise him, he’s not being a coward: he’s only protecting himself, just as what Kanna did in the closing minutes of the fifth episode. It’s better to maintain a relationship rather than destroy one altogether by his confession: at least, when the relationship is there, a chance will always be present in contrast to when a confession is made and a rejection is the reply.

Admittedly, Ichika is also out of his league: she’s beautiful, kind, intelligent – and older. I don’t wonder why he doesn’t even try to voice out his feelings, and it will be all the more difficult after the fact that he knew that she would leave later on. Thus, I don’t find his actions contemptible: I find them realistic, and I find his character to be a great example of a human being. Lesser human beings would take advantage of having an extremely attractive lady stay in the same home, but all he does is look at her breasts and ogle.

I can truly put myself in his shoes, because that’s what I would do myself. I’ve grown up to respect women, even the ones with the seductive bodies, and not sully them, even in my mind. It’s not something most men would do, and this idiosyncrasy would sometimes result to people calling me gay because of it, but I find it necessary to respect the women I know not only when they see me, but also when they don’t. I do fail sometimes, however.

The lack of bathos in the series is truly quite pleasing. There aren’t any crybaby ghosts, but only people who are struggling with their emotions toward the people who don’t love them back. I’ve had my share of unrequited love, and to live with such decency as they have is something to truly emulate. I do think that Tetsuro’s brazen honesty at the end of the episode was borne out of his love for Kanna, because had she kept on doing what she did to Kaito, she would inevitably just keep getting hurt, without getting any closure except a dull hope that Kaito will look at her someday. Of course, admixed with this genuine concern is also his hope that she would, in turn, see his feelings for her that have been present for a long time.

Yes, while I do think there will be shed tears as the series comes to a close I also feel that it wouldn’t be as melodramatic as Ano Hana. I really liked Onegai Teacher, and I think this may even be better. Maybe at the end of all this, comparing the series to Ano Hana will be doing it injustice.

I hope this beautiful run continues, because this series is an early candidate for being among the year’s best, and I hope I won’t be wrong.

Three-second flights and my rehab in anime

I changed boarding houses and now have an even more difficult schedule to handle, as in addition to academic responsibilities I now have duty to attend to. That has contributed to the dearth in my commentary; in addition, because my new boarding house does not yet have Internet, I have difficulty obtaining the newest series and updating my site.

I have, however, finally made strides with regard to the anime series I didn’t watch. I’m now halfway through Denpa Onna to Seishuun Otoko, a fourth through Madoka, and have enjoyed the newly-released Ano Natsu de Matteru. Among these three, however, I’d like to talk about Denpa Onna.

Its third episode was one of the best episodes of anime I’ve seen recently, even though I wasn’t quick to warm to the series. Although the plot waned in quality for the succeeding episodes, I appreciate what Niwa did during that episode, sacrificing himself in its climax that she may be enlightened. I still don’t know the reason: perhaps it was because she was his cousin; perhaps it was because she was beautiful; perhaps it was both and he loved her, but he managed to grab her back toward reality, and it was great to watch.

It was a noble thing to do, after all. He looked beyond what reality and others saw Erio as, and recognized that she had problems to deal with and resolved to help her as much as he could. From that point on, I saw him as a great guy. Not many people would risk their lives just to bring their cousins back to reality, but he did it and he did it in such a picturesque way that there’s little I could really offer on that episode but praise.

I love sacrifices made for the sake of love, and despite my shortcomings in it, I love watching love bloom between two good people. That’s probably why I love watching Ano Natsu de Matteru: they’re perfectly decent people who have goodness towards each other. I’m sure I could do better than merely confiding my impressions, but give me time and I’ll do the analyses that I loved to do back when I had a lot more time. 🙂

1Q84 and season’s greetings!

As one of my close friends told me, I make too many excuses. So I won’t make one right now (although in the future, I just might). I didn’t watch any anime, or much television, for that matter, because I spent the first few days of my vacation here in Davao to read 1Q84 intently and conscientiously. I finished it four days ago. I wish Murakami wins the Nobel Prize next year, because I really think he deserves it. 1Q84 may not be as good as Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but he sure proved his worth as a raconteur, telling stories of two different people that gradually converge through the course of the novel. I find that while there were some overwritten parts, the ending was probably one of the best ones I’ve read from him. I also like the novel because it seemed like a continuation, if not a fulfillment, of his short story ‘On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.’ The book is filled with colorful and quirky characters only Murakami can paint, but one of the differences between this most recent novel of his and his other works is the hopefulness of the ending in contrast to the rather bittersweet (with emphasis on the bitter) endings his past major novels had.

I highly recommend the novel, not only for Murakami fans, but for all fans of good literature. For the Murakami speculator, however, I suggest that one starts with either Norwegian Wood or Hard Boiled Wonderland, seeing that those are shorter works that also pack a lot of punch. I frankly have no regrets: I will most likely be unable to read any novel after March next year for a whole year, so I made sure by finishing the most recent novel by one of my favorite authors.

I admixed sauntering with purchasing gifts after those four days, leaving me with little time to simply sit down and enjoy anime. Currently, I’m trying to finish Naked Lunch before the necessity of studying for our upcoming exams this January 2. I didn’t lose my love for anime, but I think it would be infinitely easier to enjoy than reading pithy literature, especially during class days. I’ve been there before, after all. With that said, I’m sorry for my belated greetings, although I do wish everyone who reads this blog despite its intermittent updates a very happy Christmas and a joyful New Year. At least I made sure to fulfill one of my New Year’s Resolutions: I made a promise to myself to read 1Q84 prior to my clerkship, and I’m glad I’ve done so even before the New Year arrived! Like 1Q84, I may only offer questions sometimes, but I pray that these questions and positions are interesting to the reader. I also hope that I can keep positing those questions to the readers who have been continually loyal to my site despite everything.

(And yes, I will watch Madoka.)

Ano Hana’s end: flirting with bathos?

I’ve been more productive as regards my blogging lately because we had a short, two-week break from class. In that span of time, I read four books, watched some Korean drama series, and watched Steins;Gate, in addition to some episodes of American serials. I think I have been quite productive. I am behind my anime, however, that I still hadn’t finished Ano Hana until today. I realized that I truly preferred [C] to the drama in Ano Hana despite the fact that Ano Hana is the better anime in terms of its technical aspects and tightly-wound story. That’s probably because I’ve been accustomed and conditioned to the plots found in Korean dramas, and the best among them (like My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox) more seamlessly integrate the supernatural to mundane problems such as love and romance. I’m not saying that Ano Hana is terrible or bad: I’m just saying that I find [C] to be a more original series despite Ano Hana’s excellence.

Forgive me for thinking this scene funny.

I think what made me jaded with regard to Ano Hana’s last episodes were the fact that the most well-rated Korean dramas were just a lot more evocative, and these were what I was watching for the past few weeks that when I saw the last episode, I was laughing instead of being in tears when they confided in one another that they had their own selfish reasons for wishing that Menma would go to heaven. In addition to the emotional dramas I’ve seen, I was also finishing up on Saturnalia, which is a collection of excerpts from classic perverse masterpieces. Perhaps that was the reason why I wasn’t affected as I should have been: after reading excerpts featuring the coprolalia of Sade and the perversions of Li Yu, Swinburne and von Sacher-Masoch, romance probably tends to be funny instead of affective.

But in all honesty, the ending just didn’t affect me as much as I wanted. Despite being disappointed with the ending of [C], it attempted to make sense out of its limited time and budget, and did it valiantly despite a multitude of flaws. Ano Hana’s ending wasn’t really flawed: it was just beyond the melodrama that I expected, although I still wouldn’t classify it as bathetic. I’m glad Menma was finally able to go to heaven, don’t get me wrong, but the ending was indeed a wake-up call: I recall that Honey and Clover‘s ending had Takemoto confess to Hagu after he had found himself through touring Japan in a bicycle. I didn’t think that was melodramatic: in fact, the way he confessed to her seemed so natural to me. It was what he simply wanted to say after realizing that he liked her, after all. This was in stark contrast with the saturnalia of tears and crying in the final episode of Ano Hana: I thought that it was a bit overdone.

The series was still a decent show, however, but I stand corrected in even comparing it to Honey and Clover. What did you guys think of Ano Hana?