Kimikiss~pure rouge: Or, Romancing the Ensemble Romance

My love affair is only just beginning--with Kimikiss, not Yuumi. (but her too)

First: I picked up Kimikiss, uh, last night. I’m now on episode 7 24 hours later, which isn’t bad progress at all (for me, anyway), and I’m highly surprised that I’m that far already. This is a good thing, as, although I was expecting Kimikiss to be good, I don’t think I was quite prepared for what Kimikiss was, nor how well it pulled it off.

By “ensemble romance” I more mean the large cast of male and female characters, where none of the relationships exist in a vacuum to each other; ef – a tale of memories, for instance, sort of pulls this off, but ultimately Chihiro and Kei’s stories didn’t seem to have much effect upon each other during the course of action (aside from text messages and shared histories). Kimikiss, however, has the main cast–the three childhood friends Kouichi, Kazuki, and Mao–pursue separate but interlocked stories. Kouichi’s is the most straightforward, apparently, as Yuumi seems to be the only one interested in him, but no doubt that will change over the course of the series. The other two seem to be embroiled in complex love polygons (I’m not even sure of the full extent of the shape of the loveagon), and none of the stories exist outside the context of the others.

That, of course, makes for compelling watching, as you can almost touch some of the more wrenching developments, even this early on–a step forward for one pair is a setback for some of the others, sometimes without their even knowing it. I think that, too, is where the strength of Kimikiss lies: the ability to address character flaws and interpersonal mishaps without ever really saying them explicitly in expository dialogue. I’m hesitant to use the word “subtle” here because the direction from Honey & Clover veteran Kasai Kenichi doesn’t really seem to be downplaying things in that way, but yet it’s not exactly stated explicitly. It’s the old “show, don’t tell” authorial gimmick, and I never cease to be amazed when someone pulls it off–most of all when you innately don’t expect it to be pulled off, even if you know better.

Consider, for instance, Mao: after transferring, within a day she has the cell phone numbers of twenty students–her “friends”–in her class without even owning a cell phone herself, and doesn’t seem to be very close to anyone other than Kouichi and Kazuki, and even there it still feels a little flighty at times. It’s an incredibly obvious case of living vicariously through other people because you’re empty inside–staying up late to play games, not caring about passing entrance exams, etc.–but it’s all revealed implicitly instead of explicitly–we’re never told this is what’s up with her, but it’s obvious from her actions (and a bit of expository history) how she got that way. Her own tendency to keep relationships shallow (all the better for a disseminated identity, in this case) comes back to bite her when Kai, who’s very obviously falling in love with her simply from the fact that she shows friendly interest in him when no one else has, declares his love not with words but with a rather forceful kiss, driving her away from him in shock.

Right before that moment at the end of 7, you’re dropped hints that Mao, although friendly, cheerful, and willing to be there for Kai’s sake, still isn’t fully there–she’s checking her cell phone messages, in the jazz bar physically but out with the Movie Research Club mentally. She doesn’t seem to exist outside a context of other people, whereas Kai doesn’t seem to exist inside that context. Kazuki has a similar problem–so smitten is he with the first girl who showed him a direct sign of interest by kissing him unexpectedly (despite the fact that Futami did it entirely out of a desire to investigate the origins of love) that he doesn’t even realize that Asuka, the soccer-playing fanatic, has very obvious feelings for him.

"If I surgically removed your heart, would it be possible to separate the feelings of 'love' from the muscle?"

The only pair who doesn’t seem to have any problems–yet–is Kouichi and Yuumi (the latter of which is after my own heart with her love for horribly traumatic and depressing romance stories), and that might just be because someone has to be the control in the show. Although, then again, it took Mao’s intervention to get them together to begin with, since they’re both so painfully adorably shy, so who knows what’s going on with that. And maybe Yuumi is one of those people who’ve read so many tragic stories of unrequited love that she becomes convinced that her and Kouichi have to end badly so that they both can be properly cathartic.

The next-episode preview for episode 8 had Futami making what was probably an in-character episode preview joke, but it did pose the wonderful question: does a relationship begin with a kiss, or is a kiss merely a finalization of the relationship that pre-exists? Thus far, we have the examples of: a relationship that began with a kiss (Kazuki and Futami), one that might end with a kiss (Mao and Kai), and one that is very clearly a relationship in its burgeoning phase that has involved no direct physical contact at all yet (Kouichi and Yuumi).

I think I pegged it best 24 hours ago after watching episode two: Kimikiss is probably going to end in tears (for some characters, no doubt, and potentially me), and I, for one, welcome the onslaught of salty outpourings of emotion, for I am an Aristotlean when it comes to that.

5 Responses to “Kimikiss~pure rouge: Or, Romancing the Ensemble Romance”

  1. 1 issa-sa 16 January 2009 at 4:03 am

    Ultimately with Kimikiss I found, though the relationships and how they got formed and bent this way and that throughout the series is something I’ll give the series credit for, the characters themselves could only endear themselves to me halfway (and only half of them, half the time. Yea, that hardly makes half sense). But this didn’t seem to be the case to many fans of the show and the way this post went, highly doubt it’ll be the case for you ;P

  2. 2 OGT 16 January 2009 at 3:13 pm

    @issa-sa: This is true; despite some of their obvious problems, the whole main cast is entirely likable for me. Their little quirks do nothing but good for me, providing a charming veneer underneath which the series operates.
    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the larger question that sprung to mind after reading your comment this morning: why don’t I find characters annoying? It’s in how I tend to watch series holistically rather than discretely, I think–but that would need far more room that I want to devote to a comment to discuss, I think.

  3. 3 ETERNAL 17 January 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Now that you mention it, this series really is a great example of “show, don’t tell”. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but there are a lot of implications hidden in the dialogue and events but, at least in the beginning, very few actions.

    Either way, it’s a great series if you ask me, and it’s one that I’d probably like to watch back some day. Make sure you keep watching :P

  4. 4 whichlexi 19 January 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I usually find myself agreeing with you, wholeheartedly, on just about everything… And you’re the only other person I’ve seen who shares my sheer level of adoration for Haru as a character. So, allow me to say that Kimikiss did not end for me in tears, but in absolute rage. I had pretty high hopes for it in the beginning, and (although it is difficult to remember from this far back) I do believe that I felt about this way at episode seven. I’ll be very interested to see what you think about it when it’s all said and done!

    • 5 OGT 19 January 2009 at 10:28 pm

      @whichlexi: The notion that someone “usually” agrees (especially with the qualifier of “wholeheartedly”) with me both flatters and frightens me, probably because I tend to feel as if I’ve actually gotten things horribly wrong and no one has the heart to tell me otherwise. Still, I cannot discount Haru love, even if I am horribly behind on Xam’d at the moment.

      I have actually managed to make it to episode 18 of Kimikiss by now; the inevitable soul-crushing ending that you prophecy is more or less obvious (even with Kimikiss’s excellent writing in general), especially given how the student film’s working out. I don’t know if it will leave me in rage, however–I made it through true tears pulling for and most interested in the losing party of that series, and the fact that Noe didn’t actually win made the series stronger, due to how events played out. That said, as long as the series doesn’t abruptly lose the writing skills that define its strength, I’ll probably fare just fine–and, besides, considering I like nearly all the cast members (even the two main hopelessly oblivious males), unless they betray their personalities as established up till now, I feel I can withstand even the BAD ENDest of BAD ENDs. And even if I can’t, I’ll work through my rage in the crazy complicated summary/analysis/useless blather posts for the three main sets of love polygons. If I remember to. Which I have been known to do.

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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January 2009

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