Archive for the 'true tears' Category

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?

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true tears: The Growth of Noe

Okay, so first off, I have to fanboy it up here: Noe ;_______________________________________________________________;

Good, now that’s off my chest. All those underscores certainly make me feel better!

Although, as a Noe fan, it is extremely tragic to witness the scene in the bus stop, I can’t help but feel that that was the plan all along. Taken one way, true tears is the story of Shin’ichiro’s quest to be with Hiromi. Alternatively, or perhaps concurrently, true tears is about a radical sea change in the personality of Noe. At the beginning of the series, if I remember correctly (it was thirteen weeks ago) Noe was treated as an eccentric oddball at school. No one was really friends with her, no one spent time with her, and there were rumors circulating that those when got involved with her were cursed. Not exactly very pleasant things to say about someone.

She latches on to Shin’ichiro at the very beginning, and that would be where the series starts and the drama begins. Shin’ichiro obviously cares for Noe in a way that is more than friends yet less than lovers (he made that clear enough when he cried as she left), and she latches onto this, for solace from her grief (which I talked about last time) fades away, since Shin’ichiro is actually taking time out of his life to be with her. An attachment forms, and she falls in love, opening a new depth of emotion that she hasn’t felt since her grandmother died.

By the time that we reach the end of the series, it’s clear that Noe is no longer the Noe of the start of the series. She is instead a much stronger, much more independent Noe. As she faces the loss of another loved one in her life (Shin’ichiro) she leaps off the tree, unable to live with the grief. And yet, when she comes to, it’s almost as if she’s had a revelation while knocked unconscious. Maybe there was some head trauma in the fall, but it’s much more likely that, symbolically at least, the fall from the tree signified Noe’s departure from her previous self-generated bindings. She no longer feels obligated to Shin’ichiro. She’s perfectly willing to accept that he loves Hiromi more than he does her.

Yet still, the final scene (the one with Reflectia playing) shows us another part of her growth: in abandoning the very bindings which she imposed upon herself upon the loss of her grandmother and the imminent loss of Shin’ichiro, she’s regained back something much more valuable: her tears. Or, rather, her emotions, which have slowly been returning to her over the course of the series. No longer is she  artificially trying to distance herself from the situation at hand. Instead, she feels sorrow, pain, joy, and other, much more complex emotions. She is now much more of a person than she was. And that, I think, is where Noe fans, such as myself, should take solace in. She may have “lost” to Hiromi, yet, to her, it no longer matters whether or not she has Shin’ichiro. She is now a perfectly capable, perfectly independent human now, able to make friends. It is this growth, I think, that is much more integral to the series than whether or not <your favorite girl> will end up with Shin’ichiro. The series is even named “true tears”, and, as tears are important to Noe, she is the second protagonist (after Shin’ichiro, who only wants to wipe away Hiromi’s tears).

So, therefore, don’t be sad for Noe “losing”. Instead, be happy for her growth as a human. She may have cried at the end, but that is not, in this case, a bad thing. It is, in fact, a very moe thing. And we all know that Noe is very moe indeed.

true tears: THUD.

I certainly didn’t see THIS coming. Time to play Armchair Therapist again!

First, a list of Bad Things that have happened to Noe:

* Shin’ichiro apparently abandoned her for Hiromi
* Her brother, Jun, confessed romantic love for her (This one came from completely out of left field in one sense, and totally expected in another)
* Hiromi has told her to stay away from her and Shin’ichiro

Short list, yes, but at the moment, the fragile world Noe had constructed for herself has come crumbling down. The world was constructed for the sole purpose of evading the what I can only imagine as unbearable grief for the loss of her grandmother. I don’t think she’s really gotten over that, hence the concept of “I gave my tears away” and subsequent lack of emotion that implies. Now, however, this supposedly emotionless Now is feeling pretty much like she wants to cry, yet she can’t. What’s probably happened here is that the sequence of events listed above have piled on top of the buried grief of her grandmother’s death, bringing it back to the surface, mixing it with all the other tangle of emotions, and resulting in THUD.

I have literally no idea if the last episode will be a heartbreaking and/or bittersweet tale of young love gone horribly awry, or whether it will finish off on a somewhat lighter note (although the note it finishes on will certainly not result in the final scene text overlay being “And then they lived happily ever after…”) The unpredictability of the series is certainly its major selling point. It’s also been written extremely well, although I don’t know how much of that is Okada Mari’s fault (series composition) or whether it’s Nishimura Junji’s fault (director). The world may never know, however, one thing is certain: Okada Mari certainly proves herself to be a much better writer than that stray Kodomo no Jikan series composition credit would seem to imply, but she also worked on Aria the NATURAL and Simoun and Red Garden, so we all knew that she was capable of Good Things. (N.B.: That isn’t a slam on Kodomo no Jikan so much as it is noting that writing of the sort found in true tears is not exactly the sort of writing that you’d see in Kodomo no Jikan, so it’s one of two things: her prowess as a versatile writer, or a case of “well, someone had to write it”. I haven’t seen it beyond the too hot for TV OVA episode, so I can’t be the judge of that)

Next week: We bid farewell to true tears, or, more realistically, sit on it for a month and then watch it again and try to mine the depths of the character’s personalities again. I’m sure there’s a subtext I’m missing somewhere.

true tears: The Rising Tide of Sorrow

Isn’t that post title cool? I don’t know what it has to do with anything, but it’s cool!

It struck me, or, rather, struck me for the eleventh time, while watching this episode that true tears is an incredibly complex show. The characters are all extremely complex, as I’ve mentioned before, and sometimes I think Nishimura leaves the viewer to infer certain key plot elements and specific character motivations. I think it’s a great example of why true tears is the best anime for the winter season, and may even be a better series than Simoun in the long run. Simoun was a brilliant series, and I love it to pieces, but it had the small problem of a lacklustre start and finish. Perhaps its the shorter length of true tears, but I genuinely think Nishimura learned from Simoun, and that, as a whole, has made true tears a much better series. Even if I don’t pick up on the tiny details all the time (I think I need a second or third watching to properly appreciate this series), I’m deeply impressed with the storytelling and direction of this series.

It’s extremely telling of Shin’ichiro that, when he’s finally got what he thought he wanted (a relationship with Hiromi, and sealed with a kiss, no less!) he finds  himself thinking not of Hirom, but instead of Noe. He’s changed over the course of the series in a subtle way, from someone who held a simple crush on Hiromi to someone who is deeply in love with Noe. He’s progressed, then, from a childish view of love, to a more mature perspective on the subject. It is clear, also, that the “ending” to his picture book is a good representation of his own inner turmoil, between his developing intimacy with Hiromi and the widening chasm between him and Noe. The next episode, the penultimate for the series, will no doubt be drama to its very core, and I don’t think there’s even the slightest doubt in my head it’s going to be screwed up, although, usually, if I’ve been enjoying a series throughout its run, I’m almost never let down by the finale, so it’s not really something I preoccupy myself with while watching a series.

And on minor characters: Miyokichi and Aiko are back together again, somewhat. Miyokichi is a great character who’s been getting some surprising depth over the past couple episodes. The whole process of dealing with the truth behind Aiko’s feelings must have been a torturous one, but he didn’t show it at all–he stood up for Shin’ichiro, despite Aiko’s affection for him, he even wanted to numb himself from the pain, but, in the end, his forgiving nature won over him, and he’s back in the saddle, so to speak. It’s a small subplot, but it’s a touching one.

Next episode: feathers. And possibly tears. I think it’ll be the climax, saving the last episode for denouement. But, hey, I could be wrong.

As long as Noe doesn’t jump, we’ll be all right.

true tears: The Twisted Path Towards Resolution

In a surprising twist of events, Miyokichi is given more depth than in the entire series to date! I think that was the part of the episode that surprised me the most (in an episode full of suprises) for some reason. For someone who I’ve always seen as a kind of extra character who isn’t going to be major in any way, I think the fact that they gave him a short moment in the spotlight a showcase of the technical merit of this series. No one character is without some kind of depth to them. Even Jun has some personality to him, especially after this episode.

Probably the best part of the episode, though, was the scene–punctuated by a new song from eufonius, no less–of Shin’ichiro chasing after Hiromi on his bike. The episode was about disaster after disaster piling up on him, and he passively accepts all these events, not betraying any of his true feelings, until the pain of losing Hiromi is just too much. Shin’ichiro has always been about being stoic in the face of adversity, but the toll of the events the series documents is beginning to exact itself upon him. His world is crumbling around him–Aiko wants to move on from him, Noe is feeling somewhat betrayed by him, and Hiromi is moving out of his house–and, true to any human to whom this has happened, he decides not to take it sitting down.

The series is winding to a conclusion, one which will probably be painful and heartbreaking for some, or many, or all. I still don’t have a clue how they could end up the story, or even if they could, if we’ll be left with an open-ended ending. Not that I think an open-ended ending is bad per se, but it’s a possibility for the series. The previous ten episodes have astounded me in quality and sheer force of pathos, and there is no reason for me to doubt that the remaining three episodes will not do the same. I don’t want it to be over, though, but, alas, all good things must come to an end.

Maybe there’ll be a sequel: true tears 2: cry harder. Possibly with some vengeance.

true tears: The Episode of Untold Suffering

This was a quite bizarre episode for me to watch. So much of what actually happened in the episode was locked under subtext after subtext of inference. It’s a somewhat strange way for an anime episode to deliver needed information, let alone in the kind of series true tears is. This is just further proof that anime is TV, done seriously.

It’s clear that Noe is hugely jealous of Shin’ichiro’s affection for Hiromi, far, far more than before. I half-expected him to slap Hiromi, so it was quite surprising to find that he hugged her. I think that one moment spoke far more than words between the two: Hiromi now has clear, tangible proof that Shin’ichiro cares for her. Noe, of course, feels somewhat used and abandoned at this point. Shin’ichiro himself is caught between Scylla, Charybdis, AND the Sirens all at once. What fun it must be for him.

As a fan of lovable, quirky Noe, I feel it’s understandable that she feels betrayed, but she has no way of knowing the ordeal Shin’ichiro is going through. It’s clear that their brief, happy relationship is now over, or at least on indefinite hiatus. The missing “Noe ga suki da” rock sentence, and her anguished search for it is evidence that she knows it’s over, but she still doesn’t want to admit it to herself. I haven’t figured out the significance of her pressing hard on Shin’ichiro’s nose injury from the fight, which was probably one of the most perplexing moments of the whole episode–so much unspoken subtleties that it’s hard for me to grasp anything but vague statements of what happened. Maybe the wound-pressing is simply her inflicting a small portion of her own pain upon him. Symbolism.

Shin’ichiro’s mother, too, reveals a different side of herself, a side that is regretful for the pain she has caused Hiromi over the years, through her lies and mistreatment. I don’t know what it was about the running away and the accident that changed her mind, but she’s gone through a sudden sea change. With only 4 episodes left to go, I still have no idea how it’s going to end up, or even how I want it to end up. It’s going to be a downer of an ending, or else this series’ name isn’t true tears. Which it is. So, yeah. Bring Kleenex to episode 13.

Shin’ichiro’s Torment, Noe’s Happiness, Aiko’s Grief, Hiromi’s Lament, and Jun’s Utter Confusion

Aww, isn’t she just so happy that Shin’ichiro loves her?

Of course, Shin’ichiro is a somewhat tormented individual at the present time. It’s here that I think one of the strongest strengths of true tears lies: Shin’ichiro himself. He isn’t a spineless self-insertion stand-in lead male for the viewer, like a lesser anime with the same basic premise (of which there have been quite a few–Da Capo, I’m looking at you); he’s instead a character in his own right, with his own unique sets of motivations. He doesn’t necessarily want all the girls who are chasing after him in various fashions. He doesn’t want to have to go through the painful process of selecting one out of three, crushing the hopes of the other two. It’s a delicate game he’s playing, and he’s not playing it entirely well, depending on which of the three girls you’re rooting for. Personally, I’m pulling for Noe, but I don’t want to see Hiromi and Aiko’s hopes crushed either, which will probably happen. Or else all three of them will get crushed for ultimate BAD END.

Shin’ichiro’s predicament is sympathetic to pretty much anyone, even if we haven’t been in the not-so-wonderful position of having multiple women lusting after us. Despite what harem anime will make you think, being caught between any number of women, be it two or twenty, is not a pleasant situation rife with boob-grabbing and panties-seeing and sky-punching. true tears approaches this angle from a much more human perspecive: Shin’ichiro is just trying to do the best that he can for all three. The problem here, however, is his very own cheerful and friendly matchmaking: he set Aiko up with Miyokichi (despite the fact that she likes him), and he also set up Hiromi with Jun (despite the fact that she likes him as well). In trying to do the best for his friends, he ultimately ends up punishing himself, a situation which I can lamentably empathize with. It’s one thing to be nice; it’s entirely another to be nice and smart.

Shin’ichiro is kind-hearted but naive, which is exactly what I am, so, therefore, it’s yet another anime character which I can identify with. I think that’s why I like true tears so much–it’s not hard to identify with at least one of the characters in some fashion.

Either that, or I’m just moe for Noe.


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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