「正しい国」 (Tadashī Kuni)
“A Proper Country”
It’s always nice to see a romance get to the point where it’s obvious to the couple that their feelings are evolving, but not many stories manage to pull it off as naturally as Soreseka does. In fact, the magic probably lies in the fact that those feelings actually evolve. Livi and Nike did not fall in love when they first met, nor did they do so in the early days of their engagement. They got along and then became fond of one another, but they were still getting to know each other. It isn’t until now when Nike initiated the first kiss between them, that she’s beginning to see Livi as her husband rather than the boy she initially had motherly/sisterly feelings for. Livi has always seen Nike as his wife, but he nevertheless begins to act awkwardly and shyly toward Nike’s blossoming feelings. The relationship is becoming less arranged and more willing, but unfortunately Nike’s family doesn’t wish to see this.
To Nike’s grandmother, Livi is a dangerous element in more than one way. Not only does she see him as unworthy of Nike on a personal level, but she also believes that Livi would abuse Nike’s powers for his own tyrannical gain. Even if he proved trustworthy, it is true that any descendants of theirs may posses Nike’s powers and thus further endanger the world, at least in Tohara’s eyes. But most of all, I think Tohara simply does not wish to give her granddaughter up. Having raised Nike, Tohara must feel like Nike is her own daughter, more so than Nike’s sisters, who were presumably raised by their proper mother. She feels loathe to part with Nike, and much less to hand her over to a boy who may not be able to make her happy.
Her methods, however, are selfish though she may not see it this way. She refuses to listen to Nike’s feelings about the matter, nor does she care to really see what Livi is like. She assumes he is not right for her granddaughter and that Nike’s place is in the Rain Duchy no matter what. She throws Nike in prison with help from her besotted cousin Kitora and tests Livi with the intent of proving his lack of affection for Nike. Instead, Tohara ends up highlighting what makes this series great; Nike and Livi’s chemistry. Even when not together, they care and fight for one another. Though they are still exploring their new feelings, they are not afraid to admit they love one another in their own way. Nike doesn’t sit in prison and wait, just as Livi doesn’t give up looking for the key even up until he begins to drown. They believe in one another but still want to protect the other. That is a bond formed by getting to know one another, by growing together and learning to love. In some ways, that’s more powerful than what you’d call love at first sight.
「通り過ぎる風」 (Tōrisugiru Kaze)
“The Passing Wind”
Yeah, I really don’t know at what point these two are supposed to be legally married anymore. They definitely use the words “husband,” “wife,” and “queen” liberally, but then it seems like the two or three “weddings” we’ve seen haven’t quite tied the knot for some reason. Nevertheless, I like to think of the two as married, and they certainly act like it. CPR aside.
In any case, having proved their devotion to a grudging and sulking Tohara, Nike’s family decides to accept the union and apologize for their behavior by throwing Livi and Nike a party/wedding/engagement. Nike’s sickly mother kidnaps Livi and gets him dressed up while Nike gets dolled up by her family, which leads to a truly pleasant scene of a wedding in the tradition of the Rain Duchy. Not only are the costumes pretty to look at, but the scene has a genuine family party feeling and helps give color to Nike’s family. Livi’s speech and stolen kiss are sweet and good fun, but more than anything it’s heartwarming for the couple to move into a more public and comfortable place in their relationship, even if Nike’s cousin and grandmother are unhappy about losing her.
I suppose in a way there’s a message about letting go and letting young people seek their own happiness, but Tohara’s determined isolation also feels wrong even if it was originally a plan to stay out of war. Staying cooped up denied the people of the Rain Duchy experiences to see more of the world and build strong ties to other countries. It seems almost like a rebellion that Nike’s father offered a daughter in marriage and allowed her a way out of Tohara’s strict control. Tohara as a matriarch isn’t that different from an overly strict parent too afraid of the outside world and potential consequences to allow any freedom to spread one’s wings. In Nike, however, she’s finally being forced to face the truth. even if she and Kitora are not ready to let go.
While Tohara is a different story, however, Livi sets things right with Kitora on his own terms. Nike doesn’t belong to anyone even if she’s marrying Livi, and her affections are hers to give; that being said, love from afar is not the same as acting upon it (properly and in a healthy manner, of course), and in that sense Livi makes Kitora see that he can’t patronize his cousin no matter how much he cares for her. That doesn’t mean the boy king doesn’t have some fun in doing so though.
I’m so happy to see a good ending in an anime; it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve seen one. Everything of importance gets wrapped up, we get good romance, and we get good nostalgia and happy fluffy feelings at seeing everyone for the last time.
The finale is obviously split into two halves: the emotional resolution to Tohara’s relationship with Nike and the romantic end for the married pair. The first half is really rather beautiful in its emotional sincerity. Tohara avoids Nike in her anger and grief, but not out of any deep seated hatred. She merely wants to keep her beloved granddaughter safe at her side, and she’s upset at seeing her grown up and making her own decisions against her grandmother’s will. Nike in turn loves Tohara deeply as her mother figure, and she hates disappointing her even though she refuses to leave Livi’s side. That hurts Tohara, but she’s too proud to face her granddaughter and her own feelings about the matter until the last possible second. Her beautiful sendoff is touching and hard to watch as Nike breaks down with the pain of leaving home and her grandmother behind. Personally, I loved this half, and I loved the stark emotions between the characters, whether it was between Nike and Tohara or in the gentle consoling hand Livi offered his partner as she cried.
The second half is good too, though in a different way. We get to see some old faces and some nice wrap up for the kingdom, and we get a good laugh at seeing Livi’s reaction to the way Bard kept things running in his absence (Note: You probably shouldn’t hold an extended orgy/harem while the King is out). Unfortunately for Nike, that means Livi has to go back to work, and she needs to return to a life of audiences and the court. As a result, Nike begins to yearn for her husband, and to come to terms with her newly developed feelings while in isolation. The lonelier she feels, the more she comes to love him, and the sadder she becomes.
It’s a really poignant thing, wanting to see a loved one who is far away, and the series perfectly catches that melancholy we all feel at some point in our love lives. The finale definitely plays with romance tropes, but it executes it so well that even Livi on his princely white horse feels like a wonderfully nice reunion at the end. And who would argue with such a lovely epilogue, kiss and all?
“You bring the world to me.” Wow. Just, wow.
As a female involved in the anime world, I’ve found it difficult to find a place in terms of the kinds of shows that are produced for me. Female-oriented shows are small in number, and those that make it tend to make it because they are pandering shows that appeal to the female sex drive (which it would seem, people only notice when all those girls go rabid for Free! and buy tons of merchandise, even though we’ve always had it). There’s precious little else made for us anymore, and little that explores the nuances of emotions and characters (*cough*cagegirl*cough*) to my taste. That doesn’t mean shows like Free! are bad, there’s just not a whole lot of variation in terms of material overall. So when I saw that one of my favorite shoujo manga was being adapted, I jumped at the chance to cover it.
Though flawed, I think Soreseka has been exactly what we’ve needed in the “shoujo” department. The demographic itself has a pretty negative connotation nowadays, but it’s really not all sappy unhealthy romances and pretty boys, just like the shounen demographic isn’t all big breasted women and battle tropes (though in both cases these things do exist). In fact, I hesitate to say that Soreseka is a pure shoujo, because it’s not. It’s really just a romance, which happens to be told well and through the eyes of the female lead. You get the occasional cliche, but there’s more frankness, more starkness and depth to the simple feelings between Livi and Nike as their relationship changes and grows. We understand Nike’s motherly instinct for Livi, and Livi’s need to seem older than he is. We watch them grow into friends and partners, and from there into lovers. Lovers on equal terms too, because for all of Livi’s original intentions, Nike is not the kind of person one can keep tied down.
There are downturns in the quality of the show, more than anything through rushing material and the romantic rival arcs, but overall there’s not a whole lot to complain about. The animation is nice, the music good (even the rain song grows on you if you weren’t originally a fan), direction well done, and the romance captivating. I know there are still people who feel it weird that Livi is younger than Nike, but again, three years is not much and marriages at those ages happened all the time in history (though it’s not often you find microphones and amps in a world that still uses wooden galley ships). It really does nothing to change the chemistry of the characters, and it even adds complexity to their relationship. The kiss at the end, though anime original, is the way you expect a series like this to end, but knowing that lessens nothing about the impact of it. The final lines, in which Nike explains how Livi affects her life, are a beautiful way to describe love. Love is what makes the world bright, what makes it still beautiful when things seem dark. It’s a simple message, a simple depiction, but profound nonetheless.
As you all know, I will be taking a hiatus during the summer season, but I will be returning in the Fall. I have been posting late because of personal circumstances within my family, and feel like I need to take a break to set those things in order and avoid ruining the blogging experience for all the wonderful readers at RC. It has been my pleasure to write for you this season, and I hope to bring you something more timely and fun to read in three month’s time. Happy summer everyone!
Note: Many thanks to Stilts-senpai for helping me out with caps this post; I know I drive you crazy with my crappy internet, gomen!