You could’ve had it all!
When you place a majority of the main characters in one room, shenanigans and some serious development is bound to happen. Every character received ample time on the screen– though more so than others–all without making the episode feel too packed and rushed. I give some serious props to the staff for executing this episode with style. Now, to address the many points brought up this episode…
Dealing with Haru
I know a whole lot of you are going to give so much crap about Haru and his psycho violent ways, and that’s absolutely okay. I remember that someone expressed the idea, “It’s fun and all to watch them from a distance, but to actually be in that situation would be hell.” I find myself agreeing with that after initial hesitation after this episode, since I would probably tell off Haru constantly–even more than Natsume–for being such a friggen idiot! I know why you’re an idiot Haru, but jeez, I want to shake you so hard and get the message through that thick skull of yours! He’s a clingy character that has overly protective and paranoid tendencies–obviously terribly qualities for boyfriend material. Haru may view Shizuku as a precious person who he needs to protect, but that protection ultimately stems from jealousy and an unhealthy selfishness. Rather than protect Mitty for protecting her as a person, he instead shields her from any and all competitors so that he can keep her, mainly because “I found her first” (a terrible line to say, EVER).
That protection even extends to threatening serious violence against Yamaken, well beyond the stages of a manly brawl or a few punches. However, this is where we have to start exercising empathy–this is not a black and white issue. Haru has had a terrible past, one filled with bullying, being ostracized, and above all else, a lack of friends. Yamaken was part of said past, but from what we know, he wasn’t exactly a positive force in Haru’s life either. Growing up in this environment, it becomes understandable that Haru has some warped perceptions about the world, such as developing an aura of distrust and paranoia.
Thus, when Shizuku, the first friend that Haru has EVER made outside of his family, is explicitly being “taken away” by Yamaken, a carry-over from his dark past, it is obvious that Haru does not want said past to take away his current happiness. The distrust causes him to trust neither Yamaken or Mitty, and the protectiveness triggers our “scary” Haru which, at this point, would do anything to keep his source of happiness safe. Obviously this isn’t a healthy way to go about things, but it is entirely understandable. Once Haru realizes the blindness of his actions, that he has to drop ALL his walls around Mitty, then our current conflict can be resolved. I predict in the next few episodes, the interactions with Yamaken will reveal a significant amount about Yamaken and Haru’s past, allowing Mitty to adjust from “Stop being such a clingy bastard!” to “Don’t let the past affect you: trust me.”
Haru may be acting like terrible boyfriend material, and you guys who have a serious dislike for him are justified. However, that’s what defines this show: daring flaws that aren’t afraid to show themselves.
Everyone’s Got Problems, but No One Is the Bad Guy
Haru’s a nutcase. Mitty’s too distant. Natsume is too interfering. Yuuzan is an asshole. Yamaken is an opportunist. Ooshima’s too conforming to normality. Sasayan needs to dare. Mii-chan is oblivious.
Everyone on this show has their problems, but it makes the ride so much more realistic in an unrealistic setting. Obviously many of these characters represent caricatures that don’t exist commonly in real life, but they do reflect an organic interaction that’s reminiscent of how real life functions. I’m going to cheat a little and borrow something I said in the comments an episode or two ago. What I love about this show is how the author is not ashamed or afraid to make her characters have truly unlikable traits. Now, I’m not talking about “flaws” which in reality are moe points (prime examples: clumsiness, Yamaken’s tsundere), but serious flaws that can impact the perception of a character heavily. It’s a huge risk, A HUGE ONE as seen by the reactions of various people, but in my honest opinion, it’s a risk paying off well.
With the numerous flaws amongst the many characters, there lies a new level of story that can be explored, one that the romantic comedy genre needs to explore more often. Relationships aren’t easy, far from it. Anyone who’s ever been in a serious relationship can more often attest to this than not. It’s all fun and games during the first phase of a relationship, where all the wonderful qualities are fresh and all the silly mistakes are forgivable, but when actual problems arise…that is where the strong survive and the shallow relationships crumble. Mitty and Haru are full of the flaws that make relationships hard, making it easier to illustrate the “real” struggle to make a relationship work. The show isn’t making it easy for them to find peace–they actually have to work towards that stability, despite their flaws, which is hard work that I appreciate fully. It’s been a journey seeing how the characters have evolved their perceptions, seeing how their good traits eventually trump their bad ones. Everyone here deserves to find their happiness and lover, because no one here is the “bad guy”–they’re just a bunch of kids who are trying to navigate the dramas of romance, making many mistakes and successes along the way.
Haru and Mitty are caring. Natsume sticks up for her friends. Yuuzan is smart. Yamaken is truthful when the time comes. Ooshima provides a level-headed perspective. Sasayan is calm. Mii-chan is naturally a cool guy.
Above all else though, all the characters, to varying degrees, have an active perception of another person’s actions.
Everyone Sees Something, Metaphors are Cool
One of the things that’s given me hope for Tonari’s characters despite their flawed nature is their ability to perceive the subtle. Sasayan is a prime example, though he shows his reactions most subtly of all the characters. He acknowledges Mi-chan’s suaveness, but keeps his cool and character–an oasis of stability amongst all the crazy and volatile characters! However, all the other characters, even Mi-chan and Haru, have exercised their perceptions to beneficial effect. Too often do romances create characters who require everything be spelled out for them for any reaction to occur. In reality, subtlety, whether intended or not, is picked up on, affecting our perceptions in some shape or form. Tonari relies heavily on the observant nature of the characters, as many of the developments of our cast rely on changing attitudes from these quick glances and realizations.
Once these observations have been made though, Tonari goes a little poetic and outside of reality, making interesting use of various metaphors to express various feelings. Whether it’s the koi in the pot, a seesaw, or more recently a string, the writing that’s made to express these metaphors is beautiful and provides some food for thought for us to ponder. For me, some of the metaphors still do not clearly make sense, but instead I attribute that to my own terrible interpretation of metaphors (and generating them no less). Instead of straightforwardly explaining the situation in a monologue, using metaphors gives our characters, especially Mitty and Haru, added depth and reflection to their thought processes, appealing more to our emotional interpretation of these objects rather than their physical properties. I’ve seen that many of you have noticed this as well, and it makes me glad to see an appreciation for said artistic devices.
Again, I’m sure there’s so many other things to talk about, but I leave it to you guys to comment and discuss this important and significant episode. Speak up, positive or negative, about what’s surely one of the more complex shows this season! Christmas is a time of giving, so it’s about time you give your opinion for everyone to read! ^_^
P.S. – Alt-text is back! Hover over the images galore!