“I Want To Get Closer”
Sorry for the delay–it’s always hard to write posts like these, especially when it’s been a good series such as this.
A few weeks ago, a sensationalist article from Slate with the title, “Against YA (Young Adult Literature): Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.” (I refuse to link the actual story and give them pageviews, but here is just one of many rebuttals to that article.) Apart from being an obvious sensationalist and controversy-hungry topic, the piece gave off a prescriptive air, a ‘mother knows best’ mentality that talked down to those who dare derive enjoyment from coming-of-age and innocent-love tales.
Ritsu faced that same situation here in Kawaisou’s final episode. She was right to stand up and not take that guy’s crap. It’s a bell that rings closer to home than we first perceive, as an attitude that pervades not just books, but any sort of hobby, including anime. I’m sure all of us have been guilty in one way or another of adopting this attitude towards certain other anime lovers. I can half-guiltily say that I’ve used the term ‘narutard’ on more than one occasion, but looking back on this episode, that’s not really a fair thing to say.
Aside from the important take-away message, this particular scene in Kawaisou does a number of things effectively in one fell swoop. First, it cements Ritsu’s dedication to her principles–she’s quiet alright, yet that doesn’t prevent her from from speaking the truth. It’s the white elephant that has to be said, even if that happens to be a brutally hard fact to face. Second, it affirms that Ritsu views Usa’s efforts with honesty, recognizing that despite his mixed intentions, he’s a good guy with an honest desire. Although we didn’t get a kiss, a hug, or an accidental announcement of one’s feelings, we still got several well-crafted scenes that affirm the connection these two characters have. The most beautiful forms of affection are the ones embedded in the smallest of actions.
Sure then, I’m a little bummed out that these two still have a long ways to grow closer. It sucks when romantic comedies tend to end this way. However, seeing the two of them find joy in small honest actions makes the entire conclusion worth it. Like I’ve said in previous weeks, Kawaisou is a series that champions self-awareness, where a good action rarely goes unnoticed, where bad ones rarely go unpunished. You piss off a character, they will bring down the hammer. You do something brave for them, they take note of it and thank you properly. Now, Kawaisou may be guilty of using the ‘one step forward two steps back’ approach to erase any progress the characters make in a specific episode. It happened more than a few times and eventually got irritating. Even so, those moments did not outweigh the bare times when either Ritsu or Usa had to face their insecurities head-on (and did so).
Therefore, it’ll be especially saddening to say goodbye to this series. The show did take a serious dip towards the middle of the season, but towards the beginning and end, it got an important thing right–perception, honesty, and laughter are just some of the great traits to form authentic bonds with people. For Usa, it was admitting his faults while being genuinely interested in Ritsu as a person that won me over his creepier traits. The dude knows how to be clingy for adolescent reasons, but the mature ability to change makes him an all-too-real character. For Ritsu, it was being able to come out of her introverted shell to defend her lifestyle and Usa that made me appreciate her character. From thanking Usa for all her hard work to distancing herself from those who mistake her quietness as something to be cured, Ritsu is a stronger character than she looks, yet at the same time has just as many flaws as Usa does. The balanced nature of these two characters, surrounded with a more capable yet just as flawed supportive cast, made Kawaisou a real winner this season.
I could go on about this, but eventually I have to push this post out! Thank you dear reader for following this series up until now, and here’s to finding another good romantic comedy to follow in the upcoming seasons!
There are a few specific points I want to address here, since they don’t necessarily fit with the general picture. For starters…
Hanazawa Kana’s Voice
It’s really such a shame that HanaKana gets typecasted into high-pitched roles so often, since she honestly has such a great range of tone at her command. I really admired her lower register performance as Kuroneko during Oreimo, but sadly she hasn’t done too many roles involving her lower range too much since then. To hear her in a more mature and softer role as Ritsu was refreshing and surprisingly cute–I couldn’t imagine a better suited voice. She played the part remarkably well too–even though Ritsu is a reserved character, the moments that she lets her emotions run wild are skillfully portrayed by HanaKana, to the point where the show would be almost as enjoyable if it were a drama CD.
Kawaisou’s Dance Around Personal Space
Kawaisou can be a thoroughly realistic portrayal of high school life through the hopeless and reserved, so much so that it could almost be too realistic. The series definitely isn’t afraid to put in themes of molestation, stalking, unwanted touching, clinginess, drunk ethics, and the such–all scenarios of a dark underbelly of Japanese society that we often avert our eyes from as a general population. Perhaps it’s a case of cultural differences and not being used to shoujo, but I can count several times that I got chills of disgust whenever Ritsu was the victim of unwanted touching. It sure doesn’t help when she’s the quiet unprotected type too that gets funnelled into these kinds of nasty scenarios in other places. Although inappropriate touching is a cornerstone (whether we like it or not) of many anime romances, when it crossed the line from unintentional clumsiness to intentional shadiness, that’s when things got hard to watch. It’s both a burden to watch these kinds of issues being explored, but at the same time it helps cement the human aspects of Kawaisou, albeit the darker ones.
Although sometimes a hit and miss sort of fiasco, one thing to take note of in the art of Kawaisou (besides the beautiful color palette) is the creative use of transitional scenes. Though unnecessary for the story, these scenes really gave the visuals a nice pop and were refreshing to see. Some were useful transitions to help illustrate the passage of time. A great example of this is during the sped-up scenes that illustrate the day-night cycle, either to help a few days pass or to transition from day to evening. Other transitions were more for visuals, such as the shrinking picture technique or the use of rolling heads. Aside from transitions, a liberal use of text was used, oftentimes to express an inner characters thoughts or the reality of the situation. Some people really dislike this sort of text usage, but I personally have a penchant for it. It reminds me of a moving comic brought to life and often makes sure that something is moving on the screen, making the show seem more…full. Overall, I approve of the visual direction taken for Kawaisou–if not for that terrible dip, it would’ve been one of the best animated shows this season.