「五人の守護者」 (Gonin no Shugosha)
“The Five Guardians”
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we’ve arrived at the “branch point”.
It took three weeks, but all five members of Tamaki’s reverse harem have finally gathered, and they couldn’t look better. Baby-faced Inukai Shinji (Shimowada Hiroki) is no doubt the “shota” of the group and according to Mahiro, girls just can’t get enough of that shota charm. And who can blame them? Shinji seems to be well-mannered and kind and adorable – traits that not only make him the prime bait for girls, but also help to balance out his sharp-tongued older companions. Mitsuru apparently couldn’t resist those charms either because according to Mahiro, she and Shinji were in a relationship before the latter’s departure to grow stronger. I, like Tamaki, did suspect there was something between them, but I certainly did not expect it to be a romantic entanglement! I fell right for all the red herrings it seems. Just because they look alike, doesn’t mean there’s some shady birth secrets involved.
Shinji’s arrival sparked some misplaced bitterness as well, and I’m glad to see some heroes that don’t just blindly accept their role as protector. While the other guardians are happy to have him back, Shinji seems to have represented some kind of unattainable hope for them. He’s the only one that left the town and managed to stay off the radar until he suddenly came back. It would seem that he and the other guardians have been raised specifically to fulfill their roles, and have been training to hone their skills and powers. This effectively robs them of their freedom and they likely never got the chance to enjoy their lives. Shinji ultimately returned however, to fulfill his role – while he seems content about it, it’s crushing for the others because he threw away a chance they would have loved to have.
These guys aren’t angsty per se, but they’re not exactly happy with where they are, and they portray it in a way that isn’t too in-your-face or too subtle. It’s no secret Takuma is bitter with his position as the Tamayori Princess’ guardian and so is Mahiro… but who wouldn’t be? It’s a tragic aspect of the characters I never really thought I would get to see, and I’m glad it’s an issue that’s being constantly brought up because it’s just a wonderful goldmine for potential character development and conflict. We have five men who never really got to live out their lives the way they want, and four of them are teenagers. Shinji seems content with his role, and there is just too little of Suguru so far to tell. But Yuichi, Mahiro and Takuma? How would they have wanted to live out their lives? How do their attitudes towards their roles affect their relationship with Tamaki? They might come to love her, but what of what she represents? She represents the chain that ties them to their destiny. I don’t know if Studio DEEN will ever dig that deep into the issue, but I would personally love to see the guys angst over that issue.
With what they have so far though, Hiiro no Kakera manages to create depth for each of its characters so that they break out of their standard molds. A tsundere (Takuma) is not just a simple “tsundere” that goes hot and cold on the heroine. He’s certainly surly and gruff, and there are definitely signs of his tsundere-ness, but he’s not tsun just for the sake of “tsun”. What I’m saying is: none of it feels contrived and thank goodness – there’s nothing I hate more than contrived characterization.
Speaking of Takuma… I might be dreaming, but could Studio DEEN possibly be pushing for a Takuma ending? There are some heavy-handed hints in the OP, and in this episode, when they drew straws he was the one that got to escort Tamaki first. Now I consider this pretty important because that straw-drawing? First “branch point”. It’s the anime’s version of that very first time the player makes a choice and the route starts to branch off (at least that’s the simplified/theoretical version of things). And here, it seems Takuma has a head start in the race for Tamaki’s heart. I can’t say I’m complaining since I’ve been rooting for him from the start, but really, with a show planned for 2 cours there’s plenty of time for Studio DEEN to pull several red herrings and then some. I’d be happy to see Tamaki with any of the guys though.
Hiiro no Kakera definitely has me sold on its characters, but a show can’t operate on them alone. Plot also kicked into gear this week, with the official introduction of Ein, Zwei (Kawahara Yoshihisa), Drei and Vier. No formal introduction of their leader yet, but I can’t imagine it being too far off. Like I said in my series introduction post, plot is Hiiro no Kakera‘s wildcard; the series has proven it can handle good characterization and the tonal shifts that carry the show from comic moments to serious moments. But the storyline itself? Oh there is one, but it’s not the factor that drew me in and I doubt it was the deciding factor for many of the viewers/players. It’s there but it’s there as a device to get from Point A to Point B, to give necessary exposition when the situation requires it. This week’s “Exposition of the Episode” happens to be that the villains work for the “holy Monado” and they’re trying to break the seal. They also mention “demons” and “incarnation” in respect to the guardians, so they worked in some foreshadowing to keep the viewers wondering. I have to give them credit where it’s due though, because the show actually did a commendable job of weaving that information in so that it’s actually part of the dialogue and situation-appropriate, not just some throw-away information that got tossed in there for the sake of explaining something.
With the plot moving along and the guardians assembled, the pieces are all in place. This raises the question: where will Hiiro no Kakera go next? I don’t know, but with Yuichi breaking the fourth wall to tell me he’ll be happy to see me again, I know where I’ll be next Sunday!
… Studio DEEN, you know your audience and how to bait them.