「VOX IN BOX」
For the sake of simplicity, in this post I’m going to refer to the original Michiru as ‘Michiru’ and her guest personality as ‘Michiru Prime’.
To answer my own question from last week: is Grisaia rushed? Yes, it’s rushed. As of this week, the Michiru route is officially done. That was just 2 episodes, and technically less than 40 minutes because we only really started halfway through the first. It’s inevitable that the story is going to be condensed, but the question is what kind of data is going to be lost on compression. And perhaps then we can unpack exactly what went on in this story.
Suddenly Suicidal Michiru
Because we needed to explain a lot of character background in a hurry, a fair chunk of this episode were flashbacks. I usually have mixed feelings about flashbacks, but this time I actually felt we needed more of them. And they should probably have come first. It would have made Michiru’s suicide attempt at the beginning of the episode not feel like it came without warning from left wing. Most children learn to deal with a dead pet better than this. Having the flashbacks first—revealing the hints of child abuse, mental trauma involving a childhood friend, a psychiatric history involving boxcutters before Yumiko stole her schtick—would have made the opening sequences feel less jarring. Alternatively, if the shock factor is important and you want to justify it with Michiru’s insecurities later, at least don’t have Michiru waltz around half a minute later and having nobody bat an eye at what’s happened. Attempted suicide is serious business; you don’t let someone go off without at least a support session simply because they profess to be fine. I know Mihama is supposed to be a special school for special students, but this is an almost criminal amount of negligence. Don’t tell me there are no shrinks in anime—some fool prescribed Michiru etizolem (popular in Japan, I hear). Don’t listen to Principal Tachibana—you can definitely kill yourself with this stuff if you try.
Public service announcement: Please call a support line before you make a decision you can’t reverse, like taking your own life. They are usually available 24 hours a day; help does exist out there. Entirely serious here.
I would also have liked more flashbacks because I felt that Michiru Prime could also have used more development. In the visual novel, her’s was an equally, if not more, compelling story compared to Michiru’s. Focusing on Michiru over Michiru Prime’s loses the dichotomy of the two stories. Michiru’s Prime’s reunion with her mother was also one of the more moving scenes in the original VN, and was a significant resolution to Michiru and Michiru Prime’s relationship. In this episode it’s a cut down affair without a lot of character development to back it up, and felt more like an obligatory inclusion than an emotional climax.
No Plan B, no Plan A
After the continuing brouhaha over Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, I was slightly apprehensive about having to cover this episode of Le Fruit de la Grisaia. We’re worse. Way worse. I’m all for striving for new heights, but I didn’t think Grisaia needed to one up any other show in the ‘unfortunate implications’ department. Our brand of well-meaning but distasteful violence apparently carries a mild sexual assault flavour. Well, it wasn’t really; what it was, really, was Yuuji assaulting, drugging, and kidnapping a vulnerable classmate. Doesn’t that sound better? Don’t give me the, ‘oh, it was only Ramune candy,’ Yuuji; you literally doped her with muscle relaxants, stuffed her in a box, and buried her alive. That can’t be kosher before your first date.
Public service announcement: Don’t try Yuuji’s stunt at home, kids. Trying to paralyse someone with muscle relaxants will also paralyse their lungs, and they’ll die an agonising death.
The entire coffin thing always felt like insane troll logic on Yuuji’s part, but more offensive, for me, is that it actually works. And it only works because the plot says it does. At best, it’s a strawman argument: let’s subject Michiru to a horrific experience to literally put the fear of death in her. Death is attractive because it’s supposed to be a release from pain and suffering—Yuuji himself thought it’d be like going to sleep and not waking again. Burying someone alive (even if not very deeply) under drug induced paralysis is the opposite of that–it’s primitive torture. Finding the courage to live out of that experience is less a personal triumph and more being broken by the deluded psychopath. At least in the VN we had a, ‘think of the ones you leave behind,’ angle, and a parallel to Michiru Prime’s circumstances. In the anime, it’s suddenly! Epiphany! I don’t feel suicidally depressed anymore! And the power of love, or something. I don’t need to be a psychiatrist to have a diagnosis for Michiru: it’s Stockholm syndrome.
Peeking outside the garden – looking forward
This episode, and the Michiru’s route as a whole, isn’t really as bad as all that. It’s got some interesting scenes and some pretty shots, and many individual moments were rather powerful. However, I feel that these parts could have been put together better. And we could have used more time for all those parts, too. For example, about an episode worth the flashbacks and reveals for the Michirus. Two episodes is too little; three would have been Goldilocks.
It seems we’re going to be sticking with the two episode per route thing, with the next probably being Yumiko, from the looks of it. It also seems that we’re going down the Path of Kings, with Michiru being the second addition to the harem, if you count Amane as the first. So that clears up those two structural questions. I was hoping we’d have a second cour, but that doesn’t seem likely with the current organisation. Two episodes per route just doesn’t seem enough, though I suppose different routes will turn out differently, simply depending on how they manage the content. The only route I absolutely feel needs the extra effort to be adapted perfectly is Amane’s, anyway. For next week, Yumiko’s story is a relatively straight forward affair compared to Michiru’s, so the pacing issues should probably ease up a bit there.
ED2: 「Skip」 by 茶太