Archive for the 'kimikiss' Category

Kimikiss~pure rouge: A Tripartite Case Study

I think this sums up my mood at the moment.

It seems rather unfair to treat Kimikiss as anything other than a complete 24-episode unit–the dizzying roller-coaster whirl nature of the series rarely makes any outcome inevitable. At the same time, it’s also hard not to deal with the series in three  discrete units, one for each of the main characters (Kouichi, Kazumi, and Mao); even if two of them are essentially part of the same arc, reducing the series to two intertwined story arcs still seems to do a disservice to the stories of each.

All three of Kimikiss’s main arcs deal directly with a love triangle; polygonic though the series might frequently be, the triangular nature of the relationships remains when considered on a character-by-character basis. The points of the triangle remain the same, but merely shifted: the central character supported by a long-standing friend who cheers them on (to their detriment) and pursuing the promise of love. I was struck by the realization upon completion that Kimikiss was eerily like Toradora! in structure: the friends, each supporting the romantic pursuits of the other, while remaining blissfully unaware of what exists between the two of them in the first place. Whereas Toradora! seems to have mutually exclusive outcomes (barring a final episode that ends in a five-person orgy–which, let’s face it, would be the best outcome for all involved, character and viewer alike, in Toradora!), Kimikiss, by its bifurcated nature, can exhibit both possible denouements, and the inevitable heartbreak that accompanies both resolutions.

In addition, Kimikiss’s other strength is the high level of “show, don’t tell” execution. Even in the end, we never got an explicit reveal of the pasts of the characters, at least, not more than was necessary to aid in the understanding of the present, and always implicit rather than explicit. The implicit nature of the characterization and motives means that the viewer of Kimikiss cannot exactly be a passive viewer, it would seem; the viewer is forced to interact with Kimikiss, mentally and/or textually, in order to understand if not necessarily agree with the decisions made by the characters.

As such, I feel it necessary to split the discussion of the three main characters into three parts; there will obviously be crossing-over of paths for at least two of them, but it still doesn’t feel right to stick them both in the same post, being from different perspectives and having different ramifications. I’m going to play with paginated posts for this one, if only because a) three posts is ridiculously excessive and b) feature experimentation is fun.

This might be what you want to do to me after this post.

This might be what you want to do to me after this post.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Front Page: 1
Case A: Kazuki, Sakino, and Futami: 2
Case B: Mao/Kai Side: 3

Case B: Souichi/Yuumi Side: 4
Final Thoughts: 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

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.

Moenetics: The Rise of the Sophisticated Moe Series

Post to be broken up with ridiculously huge images, as is my tradition for longer essays, because otherwise there’s a huge wall of text and no one likes walls of text, least of all me, so you can either stay for the text or just stare at pretty pictures for a few minutes. Either way, you’ll hopefully have fun!

It’s occurred to me in the past couple of days, basking in the warm afterglow of finishing true tears (which, by the way, I think blogging it really helped me appreciate it much more than I would have without such, as doing the entries gave me the opportunity to properly think about each character’s motivations and emotions, even if most of those posts revolved around Noe), that anime in general and moe in particular is kind of undergoing a sort of sea change. We’ve seen, in the past six months, the airing of four very, from a historical perspective, odd galge/eroge conversion series: Kimikiss, ef – a tale of memories, Clannad, and true tears. They’re odd not in the sense that they’re quirky, but odd in the sense that they break from tradition

Three of them were handed to major creative directors–Kimikiss to Kasai Ken’ichi of Honey & Clover and Nodame Cantabile fame; ef to Shinbo Akiyuki’s very capable supervision hands, with Oonuma Shin providing a very strong initial showing; and true tears to Nishimura Junji, who directed Simoun, as well as a portion of that little-known series Ranma 1/2; Clannad to Kyoto Animation’s extremely competent Ishihara Tatsuya, responsible for Haruhi and Kanon. In addition to these four series, I’d like to throw in, partially because I’m very fond of it, and partially because it works very well with the concept, Nishimori Akira’s Hitohira (Nishimori also directed the extremely pleasant Petopeto-san, which I was probably one of the few people who genuinely liked it). I’ll probably talk more about true tears, ef, Clannad, and Hitohira, as I’ve seen them, and I haven’t had the chance to see Kimikiss yet, but all signs point to that series being excellent as well, so I look forward to it.

Whew.

What that all builds up to, then, is a discovery of what moe actually is. As a term. it has a flexible definition, and one way I’ve always looked at it is as a sort of bridging the gap between the male audience and the female audience, at least when accomplished properly. The concept of “cute girls” preys upon the male’s need for eye candy, and the frequently deep emotions and development of the “cute girl” into a more complex character is strongly reminiscent of shoujo characterization. Put another way, moe offers character-driven (or primarily character-driven) series featuring cute female characters and officially targeted at a male audience. It’s a kind of transference of shoujo sensibilities into seinen anime and manga–again, when accomplished properly.

The deep character focus of the five mentioned series (in Kimikiss’s case, it is assumed, but I don’t think I’m wrong) demonstrate moe in this sense effectively. Consider Hitohira, for starters: it’s an entirely character-driven series, as the plot exists only to further Mugi’s development as a character. She is a quite cute character, with somewhat exaggerated traits, but it’s clear to anyone who’s seen the series that she changes over the course of the series. In true shoujo form, we get a glimpse inside the person of Mugi, and then we get the joy of cheering her on as she slowly comes out of her shell. It’s the total opposite of what you’d think a guy would enjoy, but there’s certainly a small (yet devoted) male fanbase for the series.

The extreme example of this shift in narrative focus from “plot” to “character”, from characters existing solely as flat personalities (such as you’d see in a Da Capo series) with a quirky trait to characters existing as a complex whole, is of course true tears. As I’ve mentioned in my posts about the series, the six main characters are incredibly complex, and developed so well that I find it difficult to grasp how so many people have enjoyed the series seemingly without getting underneath the characters’ skin and trying to decipher how they work. (Then again, maybe all these sorts of people just read my blog, where I attempted to do that for them, to varying degrees of success depending on the person) This kind of depth of character is something you only see in shoujo and josei in anime, and is even what you get in women’s fiction here in America, such as The Time-Traveler’s Wife. It’s what females seem to thrive on, this depth of character, and true tears gives it in a package that both males and females can share, if they try hard enough.

On the Clannad front, you’ve got, at its heart, not a complex “love heptagon” plot, but rather the simple story of two people, Tomoya and Nagisa, who gradually fall in love as they help those around them. I haven’t quite seen the second half of this series yet, unfortunately, but I’m led to understand that the conclusion is decidedly Tomoya x Nagisa. The important thing about Clannad is that, while it may lack some of the character depth found in true tears, it makes up for it by telling a simple, honest story of a romance between two people. It’s almost like girl fanservice to see the little tantalizing bits of relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa, such as hands brushing against one another while walking. Again, here the package of sweet, almost girly romance is tied up with a wrapping of a number of cute girls designed to appeal to the male aesthetic.

ef is somewhat more complicated, but, like Clannad, it’s at its heart a tale of pure romance. Fans of love triangles got their fill with the Kei/Miyako arc, and fans of a tale of true love crossing all boundaries and impediments got their fill with Chihro and Renji. Again, the characters are drawn to the bishoujo style, but also, there’s depth of emotion here. The characters may be somewhat on the flat side, but ef truly shines at bringing out their raw emotions and showing to the viewer exactly what it is they’re feeling, which is a difficult act to accomplish. Part of that is due to the clever direction, of course, but there’s enough of it in the writing that it’s not wholly directorial.

On the whole, I think that this trend towards a more characterized moe (rather than an arbitrary character trait moe) is fast becoming the new wave of the future. We saw its beginnings back in 2006 with Toki o Kakeru Shoujo, I think, and there’s certainly proto-series of this type floating around that I’ve forgotten about from even earlier time periods. I’ve also noticed that as we’ve been getting more and more of these sorts of series, we get far less in the way of series along the lines of Rosario + Vampire, which offer little character depth but plenty of superficial and visceral enjoyment for males (and, it should be noted, females of a rather odd persuasion). I think that the enduring popularity of these series with the American and Japanese audience will only go to encourage the producers of anime to create more in the vein of the five series mentioned here.

Maybe someday I can write a post titled “Moe: The Rise from the Ashes” and everyone who hated moe will suddenly comprehend the concept and appreciate it for what it is supposed to be. Or maybe I’m just delusional, or overly hopeful, or both. Surely there’s some middle ground, right?


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

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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