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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.

Stephen Hero and the pitfalls of heartless brilliance

After seven pages of drafts from my notebook, I decided to scratch all those and just write. After all, this isn’t a literary publication or a research paper: it’s just a place to share my insights and reflections on different objects or people in my life.

James Joyce has been an intermittent topic in this blog. I was introduced to him during my first year of university, in my literature class. We were then tasked to read and analyze ‘The Boarding House.’ Truth be told, I wasn’t too impressed with the story: it was only later when I found out that he had authored two of the top five novels in the 20th century as ranked by critics and editors. It was during this time that my madness for Joyce began: what else could it be called, really? In today’s world, would any young adult willingly dare to read his later works without being a little mad himself?

I have no regrets whatsoever, because reading ALL of his major works gives me the privilege to lambast his works without any hypocrisy. I did read them, after all, so I’m free to hate on them. This is not to say that I think Joyce was talentless as a writer: in fact, I think he remains to be brilliant. Many critics regard Dubliners to be one of the greatest short story collections ever written, and I’m wont to agree with them: ‘The Dead’ alone can make up for the rest of the collection, but the other stories are no pushovers. ‘Araby’ is a great coming-of-age tale, and ‘The Boarding House’ wasn’t too shabby.

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man was also quite good. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it belongs to the category of books I have read more than once, so I have much respect for it. My respect for Joyce has increased after I finished re-reading Stephen Hero: before Portrait came to be, it had Stephen Hero as its predecessor. Instead of the stream-of-consciousness writing that Joyce started to apply in Portrait, Stephen Hero was written linearly, and more formally. Despite being an apocrypha, it does still remain part of his major prose works; in actuality, I prefer it to the rest. While SH is more languid than the leaner Portrait, it explicates upon the philosophy that encompassed Joyce’s life. Because Dublin could not accept him, he had to follow silence, exile, and unbelief. Instead of focusing on the characters, SH focused on the progression of ideas within the plot, and I liked that.

I liked that because it posited questions more directly, and a lot of these were quite thought-provoking. Why, indeed, would Christ be tempted to be the ruler in a kingdom of idiots? I’m just saddened at how his later works turned out, because I frankly believe Joyce could have been universally celebrated. Had he instead focused on writing intriguing and potent stories without relying on gimmickry and the invention of a new language only he could understand, he would be more respected. As it stands most contemporary critics mock his Finnegans Wake: yes, I think it’s utter shit, too.

I think works in general, after all, are only brilliant when they possess some heart in them. Tatami Galaxy was a kaleidoscope of ideas, but it was all about finding oneself despite being thrown into an unwelcoming world; Steins;Gate was, beyond all the science and physics, ultimately a series about filial piety and love. Had S;G been all about physics, I doubt it would have maintained the attention of its viewers until its final episode. It was more about sacrifice for the ones you love and care for.

What would the use of coalescing the languages of the world be if no one understood what you were writing? What would be the use of being so brilliant and yet ultimately soulless? Soullessness, after all, was Joyce’s fatal flaw. His stories had heart prior to Finnegans Wake, although they had become lesser and lesser as he got older. This is an example series should follow: it’s all right to be technically mediocre. Maison Ikkoku was indeed that. It’s a lot more important to tell a story that appeals to the soul of people: the rest will ultimately follow.

The best of anime: non-linear narratives in Steins;Gate and Tatami Galaxy

Before I start with the article proper, shout-out goes to Conor, Angelus, and Ryan A for sticking with me even though I haven’t been updating much lately. I really appreciate your reading my posts, Conor. I’m downloading Madoka next, Angelus.

One of my earliest introductions to classic literature was Poe’s ‘Casque of Amontillado.’ My father badgered me into reading it, and I obeyed in due time. I’m glad I obeyed, because I started reading good literature at an age significantly earlier than my contemporaries. I was about 10 during that time. When I was 11, I decided to read more of Poe’s works, because I liked the horror stories he wrote. To my surprise, however, I discovered that he also wrote detective stories and was arguably the first auteur of modern detective stories. I had heard of Sherlock Holmes, but the detective that introduced me to the mystery story was clearly Auguste Dupin in The Murders of the Rue Morgue.

Although I moved away from mystery stories and focused on realistic classics, I have never stopped appreciating the sophistication and the apollonian artistry found in the detective story. In fact, through the years I find that the classics I end up liking the most have significant elements of a detective story: there is the initial confusion and obfuscation, followed by piecemeal plot development that culminates in the story fitting everything together beautifully in the end. I certainly think this can be said about Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and Bely’s Petersburg: while the stories are extremely jarring and disorientating early on, the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit into the big picture. When the big picture is finally seen, the scenery is explosive, moving, and cathartic.

They're so destined for one another, the space between their kiss forms a heart.

I think it’s not coincidental that the two works are also recognized to be challenging works of literature precisely because of the novels’ method of narration. Temporal shifts occur without warning, and the reader is left to figure things out with few guides. The non-linear technique further makes things difficult: much effort has to be expended to understand the flux of the plot, but there is also much reward when one figures it out, as behind the confusion lies a truly potent story.

This is where the beauty of Steins;Gate lies in, as well. I’m actually reminded of one of my most favorite series, Tatami Galaxy. And yes, while eyes of some readers are rolling, one can’t help but admit of the similarities with its methods of narration: both tell the story non-linearly, with highly intelligent and kind female deuteragonists, and initially conceited but ultimately endearing protagonists. There is the Groundhog Day rewinds found in both series, as well. Although there wasn’t a physical establishment of a time machine in Tatami Galaxy, both series tackled the immutable and tragic alternate realities suffered through by its protagonists while seeking for a solution to their pressing problems. Tatami Galaxy was simply more of a series of internal catharsis than Steins;Gate: it focused on self-transcendence and self-realization more than it did on the concept of transcendent filial and romantic love in S;G.

Steins;Gate, given that it had more time for explication, was more patient and deliberate than Tatami Galaxy. It was afforded more time in the development of its world than Tatami Galaxy: I simply prefer the primacy and immediacy of Tatami Galaxy, however; but I do admit that the execution and finesse of Steins;Gate is at the apex of anime series.

The central reason why I think quite highly of both these series, however, lies in the fact that these two execute their stories with such intelligence and sophistication without pandering to its viewers. Tatami Galaxy is the more brusque, artistic entity, whereas Steins;Gate is the more refined, aristocratic one. I prefer the rawness of Tatami Galaxy particularly because its roughness allows more interpretation within established limits: it’s more secretive and mystical than the polished, structured glamor found within Steins;Gate. It simply takes a certain kind of prescience and artistry to properly map out a series so beautifully and so accurately that everything coalesces at the end of it all. It takes even more to execute this beautifully, and both series have done so majestically without foregoing of the emotional drive that is pivotal to any series’s success.

The Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) Special – 01

I’ve had this for the past few days (thanks again go to J-pwq), but I never had time to watch it due to pending examinations. It’s roughly a third of the length of a regular Tatami Galaxy episode, and is essentially just an extra. The special nevertheless still remains true to its roots, with the characters essentially the same from the series: Jougasaki drops everything upon seeing Kaori and Akashi remains to be the quintessential cool and helpful girl.

Kaori can now hold his hand back.

Kaori can now hold his hand back.

For all the indolence that Higuchi exudes and enacts, he has painted in his imaginative story an accurate portrait of the personalities of the series’s central characters. It’s only seven minutes, anyway. Watch it!

Diving with elephants?

Diving with elephants?

Kaiba vs. Tatami Galaxy: why Tatami Galaxy is better

After the end of Tatami Galaxy, I thought it was high time to re-watch Kaiba, because people could posit that I only like it as a series because it just ended. Re-watching Kaiba would address both of that, as it won’t be the most recent series I watched, and it’s also a work by Masaaki Yuasa so the two are open to interpretation, comparison, and contrast.

kaiba-anime

Whether before or after the re-watch, however, my heart remains the same: I think Tatami Galaxy is better than Kaiba. I’ll accede to the fact that Kaiba is more brilliant thematically, but that is all I will give Kaiba. For the most part, Tatami Galaxy is equal to or better than Kaiba from my perception. Read the rest of this entry »

Questions and answers from the Tatami Galaxy [Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei]

[This will constantly be edited with questions addressed in the commentary section of this post. I will utilize other blogs, research, and Quarkboy as references, in addition to my observations with regard to the series.]

1. From Vendredi: What is the importance of cats in the series?

When he asked the question, I was actually pondering the answer myself. This is merely a hypothesis, and may not be satisfactory to many, but even as early as the first episode the viewer is exposed to cat symbolism and cat imagery, most notably here.

UN_ttg1.1 Read the rest of this entry »

A synthesis post on Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei)

I was actually vacillating between posting this today or not, but I decided that as it was quite seated in time to just post it.

Yesterday was quite a polarizing day for me: I was both on a high and low during the exact same day. For the lows, I contracted sore throat; I also didn’t do well on our test. It didn’t help that I experienced a good part of the afternoon in sweltering heat because the city I am currently residing is prone to blackouts due to the El Niño phenomenon. There was barely any ventilation in our classroom if the air conditioners were turned off, so we were like sardines in a can being heated at the back of an oven. What made things worse for me was that we couldn’t go home until five in the afternoon.

It wasn’t exactly a memorable experience for a healthy person; it was virtually torture for me. Read the rest of this entry »

Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei): Watashi as the fifth Mochiguma and some other things of note

I have this simple hypothesis on Watashi being the final Mochiguma that Akashi lost. Aside from that fact that he wore the white suit during the seventh episode when he rescued Akashi, I noticed that she didn’t have the white Mochiguma with her when they went to visit Ozu. It may just be an error in animation, but I’d like to think that Watashi’s existence and not the white Mochiguma completed Akashi.

If you looked closely, there are only four Mochiguma with Akashi, and yet she still feels very comfortable.

If you looked closely, there are only four Mochiguma with Akashi, and yet she still feels very comfortable.

It feels good to think about it that way, at least.

EDIT: I tried a re-watch with J-pwq’s version, and I think I can surmise how the fortune teller specifically picked Watashi out to help.

It can be guessed that she actually saw Watashi at that moment he fell in love with Akashi.

It can be guessed that she actually saw Watashi at that moment he fell in love with Akashi.

EDIT2: It was just the angles:

There are five Mochiguman now.

There are five Mochiguman now.

The Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 11: the best anime of 2010

I woke up at three in the morning in the hope of finding a subbed translation of the final episode. I was actually weighing for and against procurement of its raw: while I would know how it would end grossly, I wouldn’t understand what would occur in the first place and the element of surprise would no longer be present when I would finally be watching it with translations. I actually relented a little bit, but stopped when I saw how beautifully they transformed the ED into the OP. I had to be watching while understanding it, because by that point (when I realized that the ED was just that important) my body just felt electric. This show deserved to be watched with full understanding and concentration, and I wasn’t going to disrespect that.

How they probably looked as freshmen

How they probably looked as freshmen

Read the rest of this entry »

[Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei] Escaping the Tatami Galaxy: a fearless forecast

Over a meaningful discussion of The Tatami Galaxy in 4chan, ahr re-introduced the cover image of the Tatami Galaxy’s novel to me. I was just thinking how fecund of meaning the picture was, and I think it suggests the reason why Watashi has to grasp the opportunity in front of him (which is to turn off the light by grabbing the Mochiguman).

ttgnovelpicture

In a blueprint, the opening of the door is denoted by a quarter-circle. It can be seen in the image that this opening (the escape from the tatami galaxy) is actually signified by the moths and Ozu. I remember in the tenth episode that the moths themselves come and go as they please from room to room: I think it will be Watashi’s method of escape in the final episode.

Watashi himself notes in the tenth episode, before it ends:

Anyway, it seems like these fellows can cross through the parallel worlds and gather in them one after another.

If he turned off the light, the moths will actually go somewhere else, and one of them will be a path to his escape.