Random Curiosity

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Seiren – 03

「常木耀 第3章 オトコユ」 (Tsuneki Yō dai 3-shō otokoyu)
“Tsuneki Hikari Chapter 3 – In the Men’s Bath”

Finally, it’s time for the conflict—though what that conflict is isn’t clear yet.

Before anything else, there was a comment on the episode two post that you need to read. Deano’s comment on the classic seven-beat structure in developing a romance is a great rundown on how romance stories develop. Borrowing from that, we can see where in that structure this episode takes place: mostly in #4, the False Happiness, though at the end is dips into #5, the Last Obstacle. Or does it?

That’s what I found odd about this episode, in both a good and bad way. There were several times during the night pool scene where I thought “Here it is, the drama is coming!”—only it didn’t. “Do all girls lie through their teeth?” didn’t do it. Hikari suddenly having reason to suspect that Shouichi ratted her out didn’t do it—or not immediately, though I have a feeling that’s not the reason why she suddenly stopped talking to him. That would ignore the question of why she had a secret job in the first place, and that complex look she had upon seeing her friend dating Araki-sempai (though her friend seemingly lying to her would be enough—was she the one who ratted Hikari out, to remove a threat to her Araki-sempai pursuit?). I also think back to the day pool scene, when Shouichi was talking about her fitting in and it deliberately avoided showing her face. Maybe she doesn’t want to fit in? Or more likely, knows she won’t, since she’s an unwilling rumor/slander machine.

I said the episode was odd in good and bad ways, and the good is how they didn’t take the obvious routes, which makes Hikari less cookie-cutter and predictable. The bad is that I’m still not sure where they’re going with this, which made the cliffhanger lack impact—though maybe making us wonder without a ton of drama was the point, which would fit into Hikari’s character. In which case, mission accomplished, and the choice was more good than bad!

One thing needs to be noted now, and for anyone who’s going to whine about SJW/politically correct bullshit, you can skip down two paragraphs or kindly piss off, because I’m gonna say what I damn well please. Now, even though I feel like this shouldn’t need to be said—though I’m not so naive as to think that’s where we are—using homosexuality as a punchline like this, where the purportedly gay individual tries to creep out someone who is subsequently creeped out, is what’s called punching down [at a disadvantaged group] and therefore not cool. You might not see the problem, and it wouldn’t be a problem if this wasn’t how it’s almost always treated! It’s also lazy, when a “no thanks” or “that would be improper between a student and teacher”—or even just awkwardness due to the flagrant boner, which is always appropriate, because boners are weird—would have worked just as well or better. Some of you may be going “blah blah, don’t want to talk about this in my anime, lighten up,” and I can certainly let it go since I’m a heterosexual guy and all that, but I can see how this would be intensely annoying to someone who’s LGBTQ. They’re probably not watching Seiren though, so small mercy. Either way, I’m not asking y’all to get outraged or go on a crusade or anything. Just recognize how messed up it is that this is the go-to depiction of homosexuality in most comedies, frown, and then you can go back to enjoying cute anime girls.

(And if you’re going to whine or threaten to stop reading RandomC because I’m bringing this up? You’re free to leave. I’m not afraid to fire customers in my professional life, and I’m not afraid to do it here.)

Now that I’ve ensured some obnoxious backlash—an occasional hobby of mine—the most imperative issue to talk about is, of course, fetishes. For a seemingly milquetoast protagonist, ‘ol Shouichi spends a lot of time thinking about how depraved his fantasies are, from soles to bed wetting back to navels (this time with sweatpant marks) to definitely not smelling Hikari’s underwear (when did he even have the chance? Right then? Boy works fast). I kind of miss the laser-focused fetish scenes of Amagami SS, the back of the knees and the bellybutton and all that. It’d probably be passe to do all that over again, though, but—neeeee! I want it anyway. If you’re going to dangle these fetishes, at least have him kiss the soles of her feet or something, make it all deliciously awkward. That’s what legends are made of.

Also, porn. That’s what porn is made of. But that probably goes without saying.

What’s undeniable (to me) is that these last two episodes have done a good job of making me actually root for Shouichi x Hikari, even if that’s far more due to Hikari than it is Shouichi (though they’ve slid a little more characterization in for him too). It remains to be seen if Seiren will be able to match its predecessor, but it’s enjoyable in its own right, so let’s leave that for the final post. Which will not be the next one, ’cause I’m gonna pick this one up. Let the’s see how this arc ends, and what the two after that entail!

Random thoughts:

  • Two other odds things I forgot to mention. First: Why not show Hikari getting dizzy? It robbed the scene of any urgency, since from the sound she made could have just been her splashing around.
  • Second: the entire scene between Mako and sunglasses-sensei seemed out of place. It partially excuses the bath scene (with sensei lacking confidence overall), but unless his & Mako’s thread goes somewhere next week, it’ll seem like a waste of time.
  • Take up Moe-nee on her wingman offer, Shouichi! Who wouldn’t be extra receptive when they stand a chance of getting Moe-nee as a sister-in-law too? The answer is the people who will go for Moe-nee instead, but they’re just smart. Still, this would be fun to see.

My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for exclusive content. At stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: Starting a story with a bang—and when not to, If my mother was a politician, Why I never give characters temporary names, and Conflicted feelings on the Electoral College.

Full-length images: 11.

 

Preview

January 22, 2017 at 10:09 am
18 comments »
  • January 22, 2017 at 10:27 amgusto

    Hikari’s friend looks totally guilty. She deserves a punishment by Boner-kun.

    I hope the second cour won’t let us wait and comes in the summer.

  • January 22, 2017 at 12:56 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

    Unfortunately, the problem of “nothing very interesting about Shouichi” continues to persist and it’s only really Hikari carrying the entire arc and keeping me interested so far. That may not be bad in of itself, but when it comes to something involving some kind of relationship, it really needs important and meaningful input from both parties. I mean, they tried to do something with Shouichi, but throwing so many fetishes like that, unlike with Junichi, makes it more creepy than intended. They should have just used one, then used another for a different girl, and so on.

  • January 22, 2017 at 2:33 pmAex

    Well, at least we’re getting somewhere. This felt like it finally crossed the line from “why am I watching this?” to “oh, so she might be a little more interesting than Shouichi”. Cause before this, not so much, but I’m also a firm believer in that people can only see what you show them, so I didn’t like Hikari before the very end since she seemed like the type that wants other people to do all the work in the friendship/relationship. The idea that she was going on the mixer tour as a wingwoman isn’t half-bad, but did it have to take 3 episodes to learn something not horrendously vague about her?

    Now I’ll at least stick around to see what was with the whiplash toward Shoichi after the night at the pool and what she wanted her ex-boss’ help with.

  • January 22, 2017 at 2:34 pmVelvet Scarlantina

    All those fetishes… I feel the depravitybof it in my pants.

    Am I the only one here who prefers Juichi and Ikuo over Shoichi

    • January 23, 2017 at 7:04 amStilts

      I think you’re in the majority there.

  • January 22, 2017 at 2:46 pmewok40k

    I wonder what underlying problem has our heroine? She seemed to need help from her former emplyer, who looks decent man, so no problems at work. Maybe soem underlying family problems?

    • January 23, 2017 at 5:07 amAex

      Honestly, this is my problem with the show right now. 3 episodes into a (probably) 4 episode arc, we should really have more of an idea on who Hikari is than we have, not just a bunch of vague threads that could still go almost anywhere. We knows she doesn’t want to talk about herself (and Shoichi is too damn meek to call her sidestepping BS more than once), she really wanted to go on that mixer tour for “complicated” reasons that probably weren’t as sexual as she pretends(being a wingman for her friend?), and she likes to tease the MC but probably doesn’t like him/might be getting there. That’s it, everything else is vague guesswork.

      • January 23, 2017 at 7:06 amStilts

        Troof. That was fine through the first two episodes, but by the end of the third there should have been that WHAM moment where the crisis comes into view—and then cliffhanger. Without that, it feels listless.

        The good news is that we get to try a new arc in a few episodes, so even if this one has some wonkiness to it, there’s another (two) chance(s). Woo!

    • January 26, 2017 at 10:10 pmCitanLu

      I’m going to take a guess that she wants to be a cook, and is why she is working there and also why studying doesn’t matter to her. She actually is a hard worker, despite how she seems, it’s just directed towards the things she loves–cooking. I think that’s why she was kind of disappointed Shouichi doesn’t seem to have a real direction in his life. He doesn’t have any real passion. He isn’t studying for any real purpose other than to get into a good school.

  • January 23, 2017 at 2:25 amgusto

    You guys are making too big of a halo about these so called fetishes. Show me any straight guy who will not get a boner when a sexy girl lies on his bed in his own clothes and moves like that. When she’s doing provocative poses and shows her skin for most of the day. That’s natural, same with wet dreams.

    Junichi wasn’t made in one arc. He got 30+ episodes of exposition and he behaved pretty differently in each girl story.

    • January 23, 2017 at 7:08 amStilts

      True on Junichi. My original argument was that the framing of Junichi (through being stood up on an x-mas date) gave us an instant emotional hook to bring us to his side. Then the anime just benefited mightily from the strong Haruka arc going first. If it had been shit-tier Sae-chan instead? Woulda bee rockier.

      • January 23, 2017 at 7:30 amAex

        Hey hey! Don’t you go after poor Sae with your frustrations, she did nothing wrong! Being shy and ridiculously cute is not a crime!! XD

  • January 23, 2017 at 7:45 amzrnzle500

    http://randomc.net/image/Seiren/Seiren%20-%2003%20-%2008.jpg

    If only they applied a similar level of detail they gave to the navel here. Far from the only ones to do this sort of thing. The scene in the last episode and the one later in this one were better in that regard.

  • January 23, 2017 at 11:53 amYanDaMan

    That boner scene, lol

  • January 23, 2017 at 5:47 pmDeano

    I’m flattered Stilts referenced my posts from last time. Thank you, Stilts.

    I agree we probably ended at stage 5, last obstacle/third act conflict, but there’s always the possibility that Seiren isn’t quite sticking to the beat script. Amagami didn’t always- or at least, Amagami’s black moments were generally lacking in drama or delicious angst- so this current non-talking issue may be the ‘big issue’ that’s supposed to be the lead-in to the black moment. I hope not- a good black moment is miserable, to bring out the catharsis of resolution and confession- but it’s possible.

    I had mixed feelings about this episode as a whole. It definitely was a false happiness stage, and I think it generally did well in amping the tension between them. A little vanilla in the kind- I was hoping that Hikari passing out was because of embarassment at seeing his boner- but there was growing mutual tension. Hikari inviting him to her room, but then realizing she left her underwear up, was a good example of the difference between her deliberate teases and when she’s not in control. I saw that, and thought ‘I want more of that.’

    What I felt there was a lack of, though, was actual emotional drama. The conflict’s not a conflict if Shouichi doesn’t know what he did wrong, or even realize he did something wrong at all. The ‘he could have snitched on her’ could have been the fodder for a fight, character conflict, anything- but it seems to have been an overall non-issue. There’s relatively emotional drama, or investment, to overcome the rift between them because from at least one side (Shouichi’s) Hikari is a flirty friend, but not much more here. There’s precious little mutual tension, or inverse teasing. It’s increasingly clear why Hikari likes Shouichi (he’s fun to tease, but doesn’t gossip maliciously, and seems unaware of her reputation/stands by her), but less about what Shouichi likes about her beyond generics. She’s attractive- she’s nice- she’s unfairly slandered.

    Which is a shame, because I think Seiren is actually doing a good job with some other subtle things. The role of gossip and reputation is being handled well, with less ham-handedness and more subtle word-play and framing. In episode one, I thought it was odd that Hikari’s face was hidden from the viewer so often in the lunch conversation with Shouichi. Now I am convinced it was as deliberate as the wordplay, which is filled with double-meanings and allusions to the themes of gossip. Seiren does good at this- and does a legitimately good job at showing Shouichi go from indifferent stranger who doesn’t want to get involved, to friend and more Hikari has fun with. Some series would have given us a simple ‘see girls mock her behind her back while she pretends to ignore it’- ‘have hero publicly stand up for damsel’ – ‘heroine falls for gallant stranger who looks past her reputation.’ Seiren is better than that.

    But this level of drama, though…

    I have to remind myself that Amagami had similar levels to not feel disappointed. Episode 3 is a good place for a dramatic breakdown, but that was less often than not with Amagamai. Haruka’s ‘problem’ was that Jounichi was comfortably in the friend zone. Sae… was that she might be confidant enough to no longer need Sempai? Rhoko was a comfortable slide all the way to the end of Amagami SS. Ai worried about how much to spoil her little brother versus exect him to be mature, who was an analogy for Jounichi himself.

    Kaoru’s emotional breakdown over her mother was about the only real dramatic conflict I remember from Amagami S1, and even that wasn’t aimed at Jounichi so much as ‘my family doesn’t need a man to be complete.’ I might have liked it more, but heated emotion isn’t the only way to have a character conflict.

    Concluding rambling- it’s not that I feel the episode was bad, just a little let down by the lack of tension in a series I shouldn’t have expected real tension from. Especially not with my normal standards of tension, which aren’t really plausible for 4-episode arcs.

    Still interested in how it ends, and how they approach the rest, but tempering my expectations from being unfoundedly exagerated by nostalgia.

    • January 24, 2017 at 8:24 amStilts

      Nostalgia is a cruel mistress. I’ve been wanting to rewatch Amagami SS to see how well it holds up—and ’cause I have a hopeless romantic friend I want to torture with it, haha. If I get the chance, I’ll report back on how well Seiren holds up to a more recent Amagami viewing.

  • January 23, 2017 at 11:13 pmIncest Emblem

    Second: the entire scene between Mako and sunglasses-sensei seemed out of place. It partially excuses the bath scene (with sensei lacking confidence overall), but unless his & Mako’s thread goes somewhere next week, it’ll seem like a waste of time.
    I believe it was just a bit of amusing trivia to close off a bit of detail from episode 2. Specifically, when Mako was first introduced, Ikuo and Shouichi were complaining about the teacher and making fun of the weird mismatch between his role, clothes, wooden sword, and sunglasses. Mako was rather uncomfortable when they mentioned his fashion sense, and she told them that he might be nicer than he appears.

    And now we know why: He appears to be somewhat of a pushover pretending to be tough, wearing accessories that Mako brought him. I do not think this thread was meant to go anywhere, just to show that the side characters have their own little relations going on.

  • January 24, 2017 at 9:14 amtheirs

    I think we can all agree that there is a very high chance that her friend ratted her out. Sure, all is fair in love and war. But doing that to your friend seems rather low. Especially when there is a chance she maybe her best wing woman.

    At first I thought maybe Hikari’s relationship with her friends aren’t that deep, but then I remembered that scene in the first episode. Yukie was shocked to see Hikari rank higher than her on the tests. So, perhaps the prospect of losing out to her in the romance department was too much for her pride to handle. From her phone conversation alone we can see that she really sees that as a high probability. Losing out in beauty and brains, I think that has something to do with her motivations.

    Would really like to see if Shouichi has a hand in resolving this conflict. How it ends will also be intriguing. Hikari herself is quite competitive and definitely doesn’t follow the standard. So it could go any way. But doing all that in just one episode? Hmm…..