Archive for the 'q-z' Category



Whisper of the Heart: “If You Listen Closely…”

It has been a really, really long time since I watched a Studio Ghibli film, and I’ve also never watched a non-Miyazaki Ghibli film, nor have I embarked on the Ghibli pilgrimage. It might seem odd, considering my taste for the slow and sweet, but it’s been on my list of Things To Do for years now, along with trekking down Leiji Matsumoto Lane. Nevertheless, a couple weeks ago Whisper of the Heart came across the desk at work and I glanced at it and said “Okay I’m going to watch this now”; an impromptu decision which led to a quite enjoyable two-hour movie session. That is, once I managed to find the time to actually sit down and watch something for two hours, a far more difficult thing with me than it should be, even with something I know I’ll love.

Whistper of the Heart/耳をすませば/If You Listen Closely is a Yoshifumi Kondo film, and quite lived up to its Anglicized title. Plus, it’s a movie somewhat rooted in a library–I had a librarian chuckle at Shizuku’s father’s mention of his library’s transference to the barcode system, and my librarian heart melted at the circulation cards in the book being an integral element of the story.

Like many other of the romance stories that cause me to melt into a puddle of bliss–The Girl Who Leapt Through Time being perhaps the foremost anime example of this, with Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time-Traveler’s Wife also springing to mind–the story revolves around a pursuit, for love, for direction, for all these things simultaneously. Shizuku spends the first third or so of the movie pining after the mysterious Seiji Amasawa (not realizing that she also calls him a jerk for most of the first third) who always seems to read the books she reads before she does. She then spends the second third or so chasing after him again: as Seiji goes off to Italy to study violin-making to see about becoming a professional violin maker, Shizuku decides to put the fantasy story that’s been sitting inside her for a while into words–an effort that wrecks her performance in school at a critical juncture in her life and nearly ruins her relationship with her friends and family.

In the final third, alas, her story falls apart and she breaks down, unable to catch up to Seiji who is off pursuing his dreams. The point made earlier in the movie during the impromptu Take Me Home, Country Roads jam session–the notion that the best violin makers are frequently not the best violinists–comes home in a different way. Shizuku might be a very good reader, for instance, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that she will also be a very good writer. But, like the jam session, the point often isn’t that you are good at something, but that you had fun doing it. None of the musicians in that scene claimed to be very good (not that I could tell), but even amidst all the professions of “oh, I’m not that good”, that rendition of Take Me Home, Country Roads was perhaps the best and the most affecting version in the film.

Acceptance of imperfection is a long-standing Japanese aesthetic trait, of course, along with the notion that that which is here now will not be here later. And the painful lesson Shizuku learns, here, is that one should not devote oneself to a task to “catch up” with Seiji (or anyone else), but to devote oneself to a task one enjoys. Throughout the whole movie, everyone tells Shizuku that she’s a wonderful poet (her translations into Japanese of Take Me Home… were quite eloquent and poetic, as far as I can judge, anyway) yet she insists on writing a novel to catch up with Seiji’s grand chance to prove himself worthy of violin craftsmanship. And yet the process of writing and rejecting the novel still allowed her to uncover more of herself–by pushing herself to the limits, she found what she was and wasn’t capable of, a sentiment I can very much empathize with, given my own experiences with pushing myself to limits that were dangerously closer–or further away–than expected.

In the end, it’s all brought full-circle, as Shizuku learns from Seiji the truth of the namecards: he had noticed her name in front of the books he read and liked, so he started going around the library trying to guess which books Shizuku would read, in the hopes that she, too, would notice his name as he, hers. With it comes the notion that the two of them are different, with different goals and different aptitudes–and yet, at the same time, much the same. It’s that inversion that gives Whisper of the Heart an extra cathartic kick at the end–a kick that might not be strictly necesary, perhaps, but one which was quite welcome at the end of a very sastifying 111 minutes (plus a few days of sinking in).

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Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Four-Wheel-Drive of the Apocalypse

I can never drive a car without thinking about its throbbing, pulsing engine again.

I can never drive a car without thinking about its throbbing, pulsing engine again.

My third attempt at watching and understanding Revolutionary Girl Utena (round 1: K.O.; round 2: T.K.O.; round 3: ???) has completed. I’m struck, upon completing Utena for the third time (more or less around the stroke of midnight, oddly), by how strong the feeling was to go out and do something at the end of the series was. Granted, it being midnight, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do with that sudden urge at that moment, so instead I sat around and moped about how completely useless my 24 years of life have been (not very, but under pressure from Utena, even a self-actualized individual would wonder the same).

The trickiest part about Utena, for me, has been the allegorical story of the Rose Bride. Its potential meaning, even on my third trip through the series–a far more enlightening run than the first two–still eludes me in the vaguely undefinable way that only Utena can be. The idea behind the allegorical meta-story seems to be about Anthy sacrificing herself for her idealized prince–the loving, caring man who exists only in fairy tales–only to lock herself in an illusory world of her own creation while her brother Akio, the fabled prince, practices his own twisted love on her. It’s not a pleasant thought to consider–but, expanding the allegory to the entire series, would imply that Anthy has devoted her love to the mythical, idealized prince, a childish devotion which grants her nothing but pain as her non-existent ideal ravages her inside and out.

Even in the final duel, Utena cannot stand up to the ideal of Akio (Anthy literally backstabs her) and yet, even though Utena isn’t the paragon of perfection–far from it–she brings Anthy out of the coffin she’d been hiding in–much like Utena was, until her prince, a younger, wiser Akio, came, showed her Anthy, and gave her a purpose in life, even if that purpose was to chase a nonexistent ideal. Utena’s imperfections are necessary–vital–for Anthy’s awakening, for even the prince for whom she locked herself up for was imperfect. But the imperfect Akio does not love or even respect her, but the imperfect Utena does–the imperfect Utena who would shed a tear and bear her pain willingly, exactly as Anthy had borne the pain for her (im)perfect, (un)princely brother for years.

Utena has innuendo? Well I NEVER.

The message is clear: questing after perfection, after miracles, after eternity, after the power to revolutionize the world–these are all impossible things, things that no single person can ever hope to achieve in their lifetimes. And yet, paradoxically, their imperfect analogues are all easily attainable by simply abandoning the quest for perfection. Such a change comes from within–but such a change does not come in solitude, and nor does it come easy.

Demonstrating the difficulties of accepting the imperfection of relationships and of life is none other than our intrepid Student Council members, still shrouded in the egg they always talk about smashing, grappling with the method to attain proper adulthood. Akio, of course, presents them with the highly tempting option of a car, its engine pulsing with desire to speed down a dimly lit road towards the End of the World. Yes, the car is more or less sexual desire, a place where even Akio is trapped, endlessly, as much a victim of his own planetarium as the students of Ohtori Academy.

It looms ominously, as all things that loom must.

It looms ominously, as all things that loom must.

While the way of the car is certainly a path to adulthood–and a very easy and tempting one at that–as everyone from Saionji to Akio himself finds out, sexuality isn’t a recipe for adulthood. Like the other rites of passage from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, the rite itself is not the source but the result of maturity. And so Akio leads everyone down this path, showing them the illusion of reality that they’re living, and demonstrating the power of sexuality in shattering that illusion. Yet they all fail; their car swerves and crashes, less because Utena defeats them and more because they defeat themselves in their own premature lust for maturity.

Interestingly, Utena herself falls victim to Akio’s manly guile and engages in offscreen acts of a licentious nature. Although it’s true that she’s at her “worst” and most un-Utena during the last few episodes, the story would suffer more were she not to fall from grace in such a manner. Whereas Anthy cannot break free of Akio’s lust, Utena can and does, in a sense proving to Anthy (and the viewer) that, while ideals are tempting, pleasurable, yet ultimately destructive and defiling, they are not something that cannot be overcome.

I hope you know a good tailor, and you have a large supply of buttons.

But with all rites of passage, while their undertaking does not magically and instantaneously  confer maturity, it does provide a foundation for maturity to occur. The “rite of passage” is so titled not because the rite confers passage, but because the events surrounding the rite shape the individual in passing. Indeed, the failure of their final stab at maturity wrecks and ruins the Student Council members who undertook it–but, at the same time, effects a change in them, one that gently pushes them down the road. Anthy is not the only one affected by Utena, but certainly the most dramatically so. Those who encountered her change, even in small, imperceptible ways.

It’s a bleak message, to be sure–the crushing of hopes, dreams, childhood fantasies, and fairy tales in the face of cold, hard, brutal reality (a fact made more clear in the movie, which I still cannot seem to like, although that might be that it’s 39 episodes of weirdness in one and a half hours–but which I’m still going to watch, a third time, soon)–but Akio himself stands for perfection, and perfection is a concept that could be applied to anything–including maturity itself. Perhaps, rather than “dreams” and “ideals” being the shell that prevents one’s potential from being realized, it’s the concept of “perfection.”  Nothing is perfect–least of all that which seems perfect–and abandoning a quest to be “perfect”, to be “mature”, to be “eternal” has the potential to bring about exactly what you desired in the most oblique way possible.

And–as Utena found out, the rather hard way–in the end, you cannot change others; you can only change yourself and how you react to others. And yet changing her reactions brought about change in others, simply by sticking by what she believed.

The Disco Ball at the End of the World (who says that adulthood aint fun?)

The Disco Ball at the End of the World demonstrates exactly why you shouldn't stay in that coffin all the time. Who says that adulthood ain't fun?

And, now, a parting paraphrase taken out of context for humorous effect  from Kunihiko Ikuhara himself, to put it all in perspective:

Oh, it means nothing. I did it because I felt like it.

Sage words, I think. Very sage. Maybe even cilantro.

Toradora!: Christmas on Valentine’s

Tears of a Tiger

Tears of a Taiga

It seems so strangely appropriate to catch up with Toradora! on Valentine’s Day, despite the fact that the three episodes I caught up with revolve around Christmas Eve–yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is The Christmas Episode of Toradora!, but, keeping with the standard Toradora! tradition, it does The Christmas Episode correctly but backwards. In fact–although I am no expert on Christmas Episodes, this one might just be my favorite yet–that might be afterglow, though, or an utter lack of remembrance of the other excellent Christmas episodes in the heat of the moment of NOW, or, most likely of all, me making things up.

And yet I cannot help but be impressed by how perfect the sequence of episodes leading up to the Christmas Eve dance played out–if this weren’t Toradora!. The fight with the outgoing student council president practically put Taiga and Kitamura together into happy matrimony in one fell swoop–hardly a day has passed before people start talking about how perfect a couple they are, and start instinctively finding excuses for them to be together–even driving Kihara, the loveable-yet-woefully-underused Ai Nonaka character’s mad drive to set Ryuuji and Taiga up so that she can steal Kitamura for herself. (Have I said lately that I love Ai Nonaka? I love Ai Nonaka). Taiga, meanwhile, simultaneously plays the part of Santa Claus and Cupid, fulfilling her end of the long-forgotten bargain they made at the start. It takes time, and even some heartache for Taiga herself (that poor star ornament…), but she manages to pierce though Minorin’s shroud of gloom long enough to get her to meet Ryuuji at the dance.

Everything went perfectly, which meant that it went  (as the patient viewer understands almost immediately) horribly wrong. Taiga only realizes Ryuuji’s sheer dedication to her after she’s sent him packing to meet Minorin–who, in turn, seems to sacrifice her own as-yet-unspoken feelings for Ryuuji after inadvertently seeing Taiga’s breakdown. It’s possibly significant in some small, minor way that we never actually seem to know whether Minorin likes Ryuuji in that way or not–after all, her entire personality is couched in studied ambiguity and a self-defeatist attitude that causes her to place others before her, not because she’s selfless, but because she feels them more worthy than she feels herself. We explicitly know so little of Minorin, and yet the fact that we know so little explicitly tells us much implicitly; she reminds me more than a little, somewhat jarringly and unexpectedly, of me, except I have much more normal-colored hair and I don’t have a voice nearly as awesome as Yui Horie’s (did I menton I love silky heart? I love silky heart, and I want to dissect the OP sequences at the end of the series if only to listen to it and pre-parade over and over again), and I suck at pitching. But then again, Taiga, and Ryuuji, and Ami, and Kitamura all also remind me of  me, in large and small ways, either as I am now, as I was in the past, or as I might be in the future.

Does she have feelings for Ryuuji? Hard to tell, exactly, but it’s certain that if they Became an Item, there would be feelings involved in short notice. I leave the interpretation of “feelings” up to you, dear reader, but whether they exist or not, they’re tossed aside–casually, almost cruelly to both her and Ryuuji–simply to keep Taiga from the anguish that Minorin feels she deserves more than Taiga does. And, simply by that, the perfect Christmas Eve is ruined, dreams dashed and feelings laid bare, much like a certain Christmas tree ornament. It can be reassembled, and it really isn’t a bad thing–but it’s a team effort, and it’ll be different than before, maybe more beautiful, maybe less–but they do it, because it’s what they have to do.

Its like were in some kind of romantic comedy!

"It's like we're in some kind of romantic comedy!"

Now that I have a somewhat-grip on what will possibly happen in the next seven episodes, watch Toradora! take what I think is going to happen and upend it again. It seems to be quite fond of doing that lately; this is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite.

RideBack: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Ballet

I cannot stop watching the OP; MELL is amazing.

I’m not even kidding with the subtitle to this post: this is exactly what I’m thinking RideBack is (or is going to be). I only have vague memories of the actual Robert Pirsig book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance from reading it at age 14 (most of them being “I thought this book was going to be funny and it wasn’t, it was boring”; obviously I was not exactly the mental peer of my parents when they were that age), and reading over the linked Wiki entry I should probably revisit it, despite it having nothing whatsoever to actually do with RideBack other than providing a humorous subtitle to a blog post about it and this dull anecdote which I’m going to stop writing before you fall asleep.

It’s kind of hard to judge where RideBack is headed at this early stage; when I started it up I was kind of expecting Students for a Democratic Society-style protests, I thought the RideBack club was going to be some kind of Weather Underground outpost, and I still half-expect, at some point in time, a giant rock concert where everyone is a) naked b) drunk c) stoned d) all of the above. I can’t exactly say where the series is going (possibly due to Expectation Shattering), or how well it will do it, but I have had a small and minor epiphany, which follows.

It’s rather clear at this point that for Rin, after her fateful on-stage ankle-twisting that forces her to leave a life as a ballerina, that the RideBack (specifically KITT Fuego) is symbolic of her means to express herself, her freedom she had on stage regained. Some watching the series seem to dislike the quieter moments, the moments where there are cherry blossom petals blowing everywhere and vague yet pensive uncertainty (I posit that you have not properly been a twentysomething if you have never felt an extended period of vague yet pensive uncertainty; those older who have not yet experienced it will simply be repaid, with interest,  later), but it’s those moments that make the RideBack races (set to awesome electro-whatever) more than an Initial D race on a pseudo-sentient motorcycle with a “spread legs form.” For Rin and the rest of the RideBack enthusiast club, the RideBacks are a nifty, exciting, and thrilling new technology through which they will forge an identity for themselves.

Freedom is wearing a lot of protective gear on your fancypants motorbike so you don't die when it spirals out of control.

Of course, it’s been quite heavily insinuated that the RideBacks were developed not to give college students a thrilling chance to find themselves, as so many through the years have, through chrome, four-cylinder engines, and mufflers (this is the extent of my mechanical knowledge, by the way, and I had to look one of them up), but, rather, as a new weapon of war, to be used by the (presumably) heartless dictator of Greater East Asia (I think?). The same utility that gives Rin and her fellow classmates a liberating thrill is the same machine that’s being used to further a campaign to quench freedom, wherever it might lay in wait in hastily dug foxholes, armed with hand grenades and a machete.

This much is clear, but I don’t know how far they can take it in twelve episodes at this pace. Student protests are inevitable, I believe, and, perhaps, a rousing message that the very machine that crushes freedom gives rise to a movement that fights for it. Perhaps that is why I am a tad cautious at this point–not knowing where the series is going to go makes for difficult snap judgments of measured quality for me–but I certainly am developing a certain fondness for Rin, Fuego, and the rest of the gang. It’s too early too tell how far it’s going (or if they’re angling for a second season later, as many series these days are tending to), but I’ve a feeling I’ll like it, however inconclusive the ending might be. The only question is how much I like it–and that I cannot tell at the moment.

And I also quite like the art style; perhaps not the best art ever, but it’s quirky and enjoyable, and a not unwelcome change of visual pace. And Rin’s friend in a cheerleader outfit was great, but, then, I always have a weakness for cheerleader outfits and pom-poms. When the girl wearing them is, you know, actually cute.

Revolutionary Girl Utena: Upon This Black Rose, I Swear I Will Make Sense Of You!

That is, if it were remotely possible to make sense of Utena. The limit of understanding approaches sense the more times I watch it, but never quite gets there.

Hyperbolic descriptions of the insanity of Utena aside, revisiting the Black Rose arc of Utena in the past week or so has reminded me why I love it so: it effectively  integrates  the Utena brands of sanity and insanity into a highly enjoyable set of episodes. And no matter how blatantly symbolic the elevator interviews are, they are deliciously so, and I still get chills from Mikage’s standard lines in those scenes. And I  think that the also blatantly symbolic duels are at their best in this arc, together with the J.A. Seazer compositions that accompany them. For some reason–perhaps the desperation-fueled hatred the Black Rose Duelists generally exhibit during the duels–they feel slightly more tense than the duels from the other arcs.

As a character-driven viewer (I feel I might want to separate character-driven writing from character driven reading to further nuance my own self-description of what I like), I’ve always preferred the more concrete structure of the TV series to the obtusely meta-symbolic nature of the movie. I watch and more or less understand the movie in the context of my understanding of the series, and the movie is effective in that way–but I also find it chore to slog through, whereas the TV series is amazingly compulsive viewing. The compelling viewing draws from the characterization: I’ve always felt that although Utena revolved around a set of mostly unsympathetic characters, they were empathetically unsympathetic–the viewer is brought to know, feel, and understand the inner workings of the characters, but not necessarily like them as people.

Utena being the sort of series that it is, every time I’ve revisited the series I’ve drawn new conclusions out of the events. I’ve read around a bit the Utena discuss-o-verse (not to any significant depth) and the conclusion tends to be that Utena is a (what else?) coming-of-age story. Gnosticism gets tossed around a lot in the context, too, arguably because Gnostic concepts and 90s anime seem to be highly inseperable (I blame the economic crisis of Japan in the 90s–it’s the “illusory world” thing), and they do seem to have weight. But the meat of Utena, for me, as in most seriess, is the nature of the characters and their interactions.

If the first arc of Utena is thematically centered around grasping for the past and lost happiness, the second is about the desire to keep hold of the present. More importantly, perhaps, is the depth to which the desire to maintain the status quo resides in the various students twisted into Black Rose Duelists. Kozue doesn’t want Miki to pursue Anthy despite her refusal to acknowledge his existence, and tormenting him when she does; Tsuwabuki doesn’t want to pursue a girl who is quite obviously interested in him because of his devotion to Nanami; Wakaba refuses to give up the fiction of Saionji’s trust and like of her for someone who does love her from her childhood; Shiori can’t abandon her complicated relationship with Jury.

More interesting, perhaps, is the depth of hate at the bottom of their elevator heart–beyond every refusal to change lies the stubborn selfishness that things should stay the same, forever, and those who attempt to change them are despised. It’s almost the diametric opposite of Aria (which I wrote about two days ago) where change gently comes and is gently accepted; in Utena, change comes violently and is violently rejected. Even Wakaba–the seemingly happiest and most carefree of characters–has depths of desperation that her exterior serves to hide. Utena, in this arc,  showcases what happens when one refuses to change: hatred, general malaise, and self-inflicted anguish (the latter of which I am all too familiar with, sadly). My favorite moment demonstrating this was the Jomon sculptures holding the chocolate bars for Tsuwabuki’s duel. Jomon sculptures date back to Japanese prehistory, so you already have a primitive feeling grasping onto love, but when one of his swords splits one in half, there’s a smaller sculpture inside, now holding the sword amidst the fractured remains of the larger sculpture. Love is primitive but strong; hate, apparently, is just as primitive but far more dimunitive.

Life being what it is, no one can ever perfectly extricate themselves from what is the core of their being–their leaf in a display case–no matter how much they try, but even in the anguish and despair of the Black Rose arc, there’s a glimmer of hope. The characters never seem to change after their failed duels, but there is frequently a subtle difference, and–more importantly–whatever caused them anguish has been purged of their system, leaving them with a catharsis and, perhaps, the first step towards their ascent into maturity. We never find out if they accomplish this, but it seems to be integral to the arc’s theme that confronting one’s own self in anguish is painful and somewhat disturbing–but it usually leads to a deeper understanding of oneself.

Of course, the one person unaffected by this arc–Utena–hasn’t actually been through this yet. If memory serves correct, that is for the next arc. My mind is pre-melting in anticipation, I believe.

[meta-post: I figured out how to do captions! This has, for some reaosn, elated me beyond reasonable expectations!<insert joke about how I am slow on the uptake>!]

Toradora! [13]: Mr. and Ms. Oubashi High School

If there is a man, woman, or androgynous non-gendered person amongst you who was not moved in the slightest by Toradora! episode 13, let ye be cast out of Canann and turned into a pillar of salt and plagued by frogs and all that other Biblical stuff.

It’s vaguely kind of fitting that I topped off Christmas Day by watching 12 and 13 of Toradora!, considering that I spent Christmas Eve Day and the free moments of Christmas Day that were not consumed with Christmas Business and Family Togetherness channeling Takasu Ryuuji like nobody’s business and attacking the mess of my room that looked kind of like Taiga had passed through. I was only able to channel a small fraction of the God of Cleaning, Ryuuji, as I was unable to complete cleaning before breakfast, but I did, however, bake awesome cookies. Doubly fitting that the mid-series point is one of the most satisfying Toradora! moments thus far.

The main focus of the series, or at least of its viewers, myself included, has been the relationship between Ryuuji and Taiga, in all its more-than-friends-but-less-than-lovers glory, but integral to that seems to be dragging Taiga out of her aggressive Palmtop Tiger shell and giving her a desperately-needed self-confidence boost. If nothing else, what binds Ryuuji, Minorin, and Kitamura to Taiga seems to be a shared desire to bolster her confidence and tame the Taiga. Ami, too, plays the integral role of serving as Taiga’s foil (and Taiga as hers), forcing the two of them to drag out new shades of personality and development as the series goes on.

If anything, the events of 13 in particular serve to heighten contrasts: Ryuuji makes a dress for Taiga to compete in the Miss Macross Oubashi High School competition, causing the entire student body to suddenly remark at how cute the Palmtop Tiger is–and, even after her outburst after discovering that her father has failed to show–devoted more to work than he is to his daughter–through the efforts of Ryuuji and Minorin (who have, of course, Had Words) still manages to win the contest. Meanwhile, in order to win the Mister Oubashi High School contest (apparently a free-for-all race around the city) to show his support and devotion to Taiga in lieu of her father (reasoning that since it’s his fault for trusting her father to show), Ryuuji forsakes his usual easygoing, casual self for a determination that lives up to his genetically inherited eyes and a savagery quite atypical for him. Or, at least, a savagery more generally reserved for polishing tables and sewing clothes.

And yet, even after Words with Minorin, even after all the various disasters that befell our intrepid protagonists, things work out as they find it impossible to actually care properly for the more-fragile-than-she-seems Taiga without actually working together. I noted with some poignancy that Ryuuji found Minorin outpacing him towards the finish line, figuring that the conclusion to this episode would involve a resolution to the Words via Ryuuji outpacing Minorin to the finish line, proving to Minorin that he was better able to care for Taiga–and to himself that Taiga was more important than the elusive goal of Minorin. And then he gets pulled down, and then she gets pulled down, and then she gets back up with a baseball and clobbers the leaders in the race, and then she bowls over the people trying to overtake Ryuuji.

And then Ryuuji, ever Ryuuji, acknowledges her assistance, gets up, heads back to her, takes her hand, and off they go to the finish line to crown Taiga, for a more poignant moment than the one I envisioned. It’s strange that a moment in which Taiga is most happy is when the seeming romantic point of the series–the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji–seems to give way to the respective stated goals of both, Ryuuji with Minorin and Taiga with Kawamura. It’s perhaps a sign that the relationship between the four is much more complicated than it might seem on the outside, and made even more complicated by the presence of Ami. No matter how the relationship cards fall, it’s evident that the only way they will all truly be happy is if they stick together. Or if Minorin’s lesbian joke is actually not a joke at all. But I don’t think she’s that weird. Yet.

Xam’d: Lost Memories: YES.

It is hard to say how many simultaneous fanboy moments I had here, or if the word “fanboy” is inappropriate for the pure, visceral satisfaction provided here. And the series isn’t even done yet!

As Xam’d winds its way towards the sadly imminent conclusion (I, for one, will be experiencing severe Haru withdrawal, and, I suspect, many others will be sharing in my predicament), events start to coalesce: Akiyuki and Haru have their triumphant reunion (more than a little evocative of similar moments in Eureka Seven, no doubt intentional), Nakiami deals with her sinisterly megalomaniac sister, and all the minor characters wend towards whatever fate is in store for them. It’s thrillingly satisfying in many ways, as the careful, slow development of the characters begins to reach its apex.

The pacing of Xam’d is perhaps one of its strongest assets: the deliberate pacing and careful attention to detail belie the careful planning that went into the series. The concept of Xam’d as being a series held in the hands of the staff, who doles out a card seemingly at random that raises more questions than it answers, is still very much true, with a catch: the cards don’t seem to be so random anymore. Perhaps it’s just the gradual coalescence of the world over time, but cards are never played until (or, sometimes, after) they are needed to understand, and it’s not always accompanied by a dramatic gesture akin to Sakura crossed with Hikaru. You aren’t spoonfed details, you must seek them out on your own.

It’s almost sadly poetic the circumstances that led to The Scene in episode 19–as Haru came into terms with herself, Akiyuki lost his sense of self. Haru came to understand herself through Tojiro’s nasty methods of trying to make her a prime fighting machine, while Akiyuki found himself sheltered and protected by a mysteriously ill yet kind and genial woman named Sumako. And it’s interesting, too, that Sumako is Tojiro’s mother, and doubly so that Akiyuki, in his lost sense of self, reminds Sumako of Tojiro. Sumako earnestly tries to help, or at least support, Akiyuki through his crisis, while Haru finds herself restricted by her son. Both Akiyuki and Haru are able to find and grasp their own understanding of self (Akiyuki, in particular, seems to have grasped much more than that, but full synchronization with the Xam’d) through the assistance of mother and son, but in opposite ways. They both leave an thank-you note for Tojiro and Sumako, respectively, but while Haru’s note for Tojiro is intended to be sarcastic and nearly mocking, and summarily angrily kicked aside in a furious rejection by Tojiro upon discovering it, Akiyuki leaves behind a sincere, earnest, and heartfelt thank you that will no doubt be received with love and warmth. Tojiro rejects what he cannot acheive

There’s a lot that could be said about this particular snippet of Xam’d that my brain is having a difficult time processing it and trying to turn it into some kind of legible, if messy, prose. What does it mean, for instance, that Tojiro restricts Haru from Akiyuki, when his own mother thinks Akiyuki resembles him? For that matter, if Akiyuki resembles Tojiro, which one of them is true and which is false? Is Tojiro’s bitter and cold disregard for Haru’s fixation on Akiyuki a sort of post facto jealousy? And let’s not forget that Tojiro was supposed to have died in the war, but that Akiyuki’s own father helped save his life. It’s a massive web of complexity that doesn’t even seem to have a center or even a focus, just tangled strands that intersect at odd points.

Such is life, I suppose. And yet we cannot seem to live without having connections to other people, for even when those connections cause us pain, they seem to be essential to survival.

(No, I have not forgotten about Nakiami, and, in fact, I keep feeling bad for not discussing her, for what’s going on with her now is just as interesting, but I think the fact that I sync up on some kind of deep level with Haru and Akiyuki keeps overshadowing poor Nakiami. Then again, I watched most of Eureka Seven more interested in Renton and Eureka, and then 48 hit, and Dominic and Anemone’s reunion was, and remains, the most memorable moment of Eureka Seven to me, so, perhaps, there is still hope. Maybe. Or maybe that will be a rewatch job…)


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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