OP2: 「春が来てぼくら」 (Haru ga Kite Bokura) by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN
“Chapter 68 Black Mist / Chapter 69 Light”
A Teacher’s Perspective
On the one hand, it’s difficult to feel sympathy for Hina’s teacher. We saw firsthand exactly how she let evil escape unpunished, and the despair that Hina and Chiho subsequently experienced for it. However, Umino Chica attempts to convey an alternative predicament, even if it doesn’t justify every consequence resulting from inaction. A teacher can have all the passion for passing down knowledge to the next generation. But if they lack the charisma to rule over a classroom of kids, then their suitability to the position can be called into question. Hina’s teacher demonstrated a considerable weakness of will, and commits a cardinal sin of the teaching profession – losing faith in her students and ignoring repeated cries for help.
This enables bullying to spiral out of control, bringing untold misery upon countless innocents. Hina’s teacher ultimately pays the price though, when the matter escalates into a nervous breakdown, marking the end of her career. The signs were always there, indicating that Hina’s teacher suffered from severe anxiety, and lived dangerously close to a breaking point. But when when Hina finally takes an affirmative stand against Takagi’s bullying, the process is further accelerated. Confrontation comes swiftly and the teacher’s composure irrevocably frays – her guilt for ignored victims and resentment towards unaccounted perpetrators rise to the forefront. Following a frenetic display of unconstrained emotions, she collapses on the spot in front of her class, and is never to be seen again.
Perhaps this capitulation didn’t come soon enough to save Chiho, but I have no qualms recognising that the teacher herself was also a victim within this flawed system. Even if she is not fit to be a teacher, there exists a general stigma against mental health issues, which probably prevented her for getting the help and emotional support she needed anytime sooner.
Takagi is a difficult name for me. I simultaneously hold affection and hatred for it, with the one from 3-gatsu drawing my ire for her smug attitude and lack of remorse. But as the proverb goes – bad apples don’t fall far from the tree. Once we get a glimpse of Takagi’s mother, everything clicks together and you can guess where the bully got her nasty streak from. The disrespectful and condescending way Takagi’s mother treated Akari made me furious. Unreasonable demands for ‘proof’ were made, and Akari was being horribly bullied. That made it all the more satisfying, when the headmaster verbally smacked down Takagi’s mother. He was an absolute boss, refusing to be cowed by her ridiculous antics, and even turned the tables of proof onto her. What’s more, he behaved like a complete gentleman towards Akari, consistently reassuring she had done no wrong. So why can’t more teachers be like him?
While the headmaster might set the standards for how a teacher should respond to bullying, what he does isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s easy to claim a moral high ground and pass judgement. But how can people know with such certainty that they would better handle a similar problem themselves? A particular tenacity is required to remain composed and professional when dealing with difficult parents, especially ones who find every excuse under the sun to defend and enable their children’s horrible behaviour. Most people don’t have it in them to continuously stand for what’s right, and even those who do wouldn’t necessarily seek a career in education, meaning these kinds of teachers become a limited and finite resource.
Shaft deserve praise for their cinematography, where they used darkness to metaphorically engulf characters who had lost hope, and bring back light to signify its restoration. As you can see, this was particularly prominent where Akari featured in this episode. It was heartbreaking how she tried her best, only to be left feeling like she had let everybody down. When you find out she promised at her mother’s deathbed to look after Hina and Momo, it hurts even more. But considering Akari cheered up Hina by treating her to nice food, and was present at a time of need when Someji couldn’t go, I’d say she did what she could. Factor in Akari’s youth, and I would be hard pressed to fault her for buckling in the overbearing presence of Takagi’s mother. She surely deserves credit for raising such a compassionate sibling, who can proactively distinguish between right and wrong.
But the real star of the show was Hina, who displayed the unyielding spirit of a champion fighter. She refused to fall for Takagi’s baits, while standing firmly by her convictions. Her oath to never give up really resonated with me, because she’s right – you should never let the bullies win. The greatest revenge is to survive, then graduate, and live the best life you possibly can. With that sort of unwavering determination, a brighter future certainly awaits her, and I’m optimistic for next week’s closure, where the headmaster might finally put this situation to rest.
ED2: 「I AM STANDING」by RUANN
That really was something. I wasn’t expecting any of this. I was definitely feeling like it would be so much easier to give up and let the bully win even after seeing everything she’s done and I kind of hated myself for it. This show is just too good that way.
During primary school, I took the bait set by my bullies and paid dearly for it. That’s why I was so proud of Hina when she didn’t give in to Takagi’s goading, and chose to stand defiantly over her. I wish I had that kind of self-restraint too! Even to this day, I’m an impulsive individual who does as they wish.
Anyhow, the way she stood up for her sister at the end was so heartwarming. In my opinion, the Kawamoto sisters have some of the best sibling interactions that anime has to offer.
Hina-chan is such a badass! Her face saying she would endure it and win, so proud of her! Love the new op and ed visuals, but the new ed song is my favourite.
When Hina stood up for Akari, my heart melted away. She is too good for this world. She might have had it rough, but she came out of this a better person, and stronger than ever. Indeed, she’s a badass alright.
While my favourite ED theme would be Kafune, the recent one by Brian the Sun, I do think the latest ED theme has the best visuals compared to the rest! Such a gorgeous transition from grayscale to a vibrant colour palette. If I’m going to be honest, the new OP theme might be my least favourite yet, though I might need some time for it to grow on me.
As much as I’d like to be happy about the headmaster appearing as one of Hina’s knight in shining armors, I just have to wonder where he was when Chiho was still around. 🙁 I’m not sure if it’s culturally improper in this setting for another teacher to meddle with another teacher’s homeroom class, but it would have been a lot better and easier to get this mess under control if he did lend a hand at that point in time seeing that the homeroom teacher had anxieties of her own to deal with. Hina was, in a way, a witness to the bullying and did raise her voice. But she got pretty much ignored by her classmates and by whoever was handling the case. When there’s bullying in a class, having just even one person stand up for you is a big thing. And that should have been “proof” enough that there indeed was bullying directed towards Chiho, even if it’s not “proof” enough to point towards who did it.
Besides my nitpick, still one of the best shows I’ve seen handle this topic. Most especially because it features multiple perspectives. Well, except for the bully and their family. I’m not sure if 3GNL will be focusing on that.
And lastly, I can replay that ED all day :O The animation is just stunning.
From my experiences of the UK educational system, where the rules are more relaxed compared to Japan, there’s something of an unspoken rule where teachers won’t encroach on matters designated to another teacher’s sphere of influence. There’s a lot of pride on the line, where an uncalled intervention would demonstrate a lack of faith, in addition to being an indirect way of saying ‘You aren’t doing a good job, let me step in’. Such a thing would be highly unprofessional, and could potentially further aggravate the situation. Also, school care about appearance and results – to the extent where they would try and sweep troubling issues under the rug if it might look to jeopardise these two things. These incidents took place just before the high school entrance exams, and it would be natural for the entrance exam to be on everybody’s mind. Anyway, you’d be amazed at the number of people who would happily take up the role of a passive bystander (authorities included), thus leaving the victim to dry.
Finally, we will be getting the perspective from the bully – you can hear her having a private conversation with the headmaster in the next episode preview.
That’s interesting to learn about. My guess, to fill in the gaps and in addition to what you said, would be that the headmaster hadn’t known about the severity of the case until Chiho had to drop out and transfer schools. Thus, he didn’t even have the chance to get involved (although it was frowned upon) because everyone ignored what was happening, preventing any type of escalation to the higher authorities who could have been able to do something about it. Like you said, they just swept it under the rug every time it happened, preventing any kind of noise (Hina’s voice of reason) from reaching those who were capable of helping. Well, that’s just me trying to fill in what happened behind the scenes 😛
And this is exactly what’s depressing. This happens frequently in my place and it easily degrades any form of trust or hope placed in the authorities. If the authorities are of no help, people would rather form their own groups where they can get the support they need. But that in itself doesn’t solve the issue.
The black mist touched upon by the first half of the episode is exactly how it feels when you’re in the same kind of situation. Not just for the victims, but even for everyone who decides to be passive bystanders (that includes the viewer ironically). Suffocating and oppressive. Props to Shaft for portraying it so well. Even as the viewer, it felt so nauseating while the whole class stayed silent and the homeroom teacher went on with her tirade.
Nice! Looking forward to the next episode. Nothing’s been resolved yet, but at least we see some light at the end of it. Nice having you back Zaiden 🙂
Zaiden you haven’t blogged for soo long I thought you quit… anyways good to have you back. Are there any new shows this winter you would be writing about?
Hey XiV, sorry if I caused any concerns. New Year’s happened, and many shows went on a one week break. Good for me, because I had a lot of legal coursework to do either ways. In fact, I still have one more assignment left to go. But rest assured, I’ll be churning out intros once my deadlines have passed. While I will be doing less intro posts compared to previous seasons, I can assure you that I’m here to stay. Did you think I’d be gone so easily? I say nay! Unfortunately, you guys will be stuck with me for a long time… mwahahaha!!
This episode was intense. The atmosphere felt really heavy during the conflicts between Akari and Takagi’s mother, and to see Akari pushed down it’s just heartbreaking. :/
So good to see the headmaster counter that ‘proof’ argument. The way headmaster talked reminded me of Gotoh (I kinda feel that they’re related) in the way he said everything outright when he’s talking to Takagi’s mother. It’s about time for someone to fix this.
Kind and gentle characters like Akari are my favourite, because they have a strength of forgiveness that I absolutely lack. Plus they think about others before themselves, though I wonder if that’s symptomatic of low self-esteem. These come together in a way that allows for them to be easily bullied – i.e. Shouko Nishimiya from Koe no Katachi.
I was glad when the headmaster dispelled the sophistry regarding proof. He speaks his mind similarly to Gotoh, but doesn’t seem as rough around the edges – perhaps due to age + experience? He looks to be the best chance at resolving everything, so fingers crossed.
Very nice and detailed post Zaiden! I like the smaller headlines you added to the paragraph’s for each part. I just noticed you used that format for the previous episode too and it is indeed more comfortable to read so I appreciate the change a lot!
After that new opening which is wonderful and stunning by the way – lot’s of Kawamoto sisters and pretty visuals with cherry blossoms everywhere – I was really surprised beeing thrown right back into that heavy thematic of bullying and that endless fight Hina has to go through.
It’s not that I completely forgot about it – however, the school trip where Rei went to see Hina, the Shogi Tournament, Pigeon-side-story, and the upcoming match with the Meijin just made me so excited that I expected the story to wait a little more until the great climax. However, it’s quite refreshing to see the focus back on Hina and Akari as well and this episode really reminded me of all the awful things that happened, yet also made it clear it’s probably finally going to end soon and (hopefully) everything goes well for Hina here.
She really gave me a hard time understading her and I just couldn’t get a clue and started blaming her for what’s happening in class, I really thought she was just really acting indifferent and not caring about her students at all. When in reality she has some serious mental health problems – for probably a long time now since she seemed to do this Job quite a few years.
However, The fact that this isn’t the first time that her students are getting bullied and she kinda got used to it makes it worse though, she should have known better that it will probably happen again and try to do some precaution for the third years. She should have gotten help much more sooner and not wait until she collapses. And if you think about it how many people overwork themselves in Japan it’s really no surprising that this happened. I can just feel sorry for her.
A+ for perfect portraying of such a dislikable character, it doesn’t happen often in this show.
I remember when Akari already knew that she would be called to the School for a meeting with Tagaki’s parents in a previous episode. I wish Granpa could have gone with them too he most certainly would have find the right words in this situation. But with Akari alone it felt quite heavy that She couldn’t really respond to most of the false allegations Ms. Takagi made. She is that kind of Parent you A) don’t want to have and B) never want to mess with because it get’s ugly and more complicated the more you try to discuss things proberly.
How Hina handled the situation, took care of her Sister instead of the other way around reminded me again how strong she is again – body and mind – I like her so much as a character who is able to defend herself and take care of the people around her.
As for the Headmaster he is someone who speaks the harsh truth and it seems this happened several times in his career as a teacher as well so he might already have an idea how to solve this and the fact that he openly supports Akari and Hina in this matter makes me hope for the best.
Happy new (late again) Year Zaiden. Thank you for continuing covering this show!
Hey Kana-chan. Thanks for the new year wishes, and I wish you a belated happy new year as well!
After enrolling at RandomC for about half a year, I was finally given the privileges to open up any post that has ever been published on the site, for the purposes of helping out on the seasonal previews. This became massively useful for me, and I went back dissecting previous posts by other writers in order to figure out how I could improve my formatting. My personal favourite was the cinematic roll utilised by Oreimo posts, which I would like to use in the distant future.
While I was researching on how I could write the Umaru S2 finale, I took inspiration from Samu’s first episode post for S1.
I thought it was great how the series didn’t give us time to catch our breaths. Like you said, thoughts of a resolution are pushed towards the back of our minds with everything else that is going on. However, real life won’t wait for you to regain your breath, so the Kawamoto sisters have to plunge back in.
I don’t feel very sorry for the teacher, and as you put it, she should have known better. However, my opinion changed a lot when reading this scene in the manga, because I previously despised the guts out of her. Mental health is a rising concern, and it’s good to see increased awareness over the past few years. But the societal stigmas are very much alive, and it would be great if there could be greater sympathy and understanding.
Perhaps I’m a tad harsh, but I would rate this character portrayal a B- by 3-gatsu standards, because it lacks the sensitivity and nuance we’ve previously seen. For me, an A+ would be Kyouko Kouda, an A- would be Junkei Yamazaki, an B+ would be Gotoh and Hina’s teacher. However, I think that Takagi and her mother are used as effective tools in highlight the issues of bullying, so rather than being comprehensive characters, they are catalytic instruments in exploring central themes.
I think there’s nothing new that I could bring to the table here. SHAFT did a great job for this episode and you pointed out things that I really appreciate in this episode. Thanks, Zaiden.
The only thing that I’m curious with right now is whether the role of Rei will be sewn inside this mess once more or not — and how. He already did a great job on supporting Hina (the end result is glorious), but if he somehow could make this arc even better that would be perfect, especially since this arc already outperformed itself several times already.
P.S My thought on OP-ED is similar with you. OP so far seems to be the weakest one musically, but ED is marvelous — especially on animation. The song itself is also great, but I’m still trying to digest that reff which had quite an unusual progression.
Haha, that was rather modest of you, zeroyuki.
Proceeds to bring something new to the table:
Kiriyama will certainly be back in the picture soon. We shouldn’t be getting a repeat of S1, where I felt that they interfered with the pacing to ensure that we could have this entire arc in all of its fully deserved glory – at the expense of the Kawamoto sisters. But consider this arc as repayment!
P.S. I would even suggest that the newest OP is also the weakest animation-wise. The ED song does have a rather unusual progression, but I would like to draw attention to the singer, RUANN. She’s only 14, and has a bright future ahead of her!
I think this is just a great series, I fell in love with her at first sight