「吠えて、狂って、絶叫して」 (Hoete, Kurutte, Zekkyoushite)
“Howling, Maddening, Screaming”
Before I get into the meat of this post, isn’t it remarkable that an anime would spend fully half an episode with its cute high school girl main characters all seasick and barfing? To great effect, too, because it was hilarious! And true to life, not to mention how it fed into the episode’s theme. It’s still remarkable to reflect on how dynamic and multi-faceted these characters are, and how they’re allowed to reflect real humanity (which includes gross stuff like barfing). They’re a far cry from the kawaii girls headlining a goofy slice-of-life that this show so easily could have been. They’re not put on a pedestal at all—something that anime is surprisingly good at, because even though Japanese society remains pretty darn sexist (that’s not an opinion, it’s in the bottom half of almost all metrics in the Global Gender Gap Report), anime features so many stories that consist largely or exclusively of female characters that, by desire or by accident, we get a pretty good number who feel like real, lived-in people. It’s great! Not the track record can’t be improved, but I takes my victories wheres I can gets ’em. This is the kind of show where no one’s going to pretend these girls don’t fart. Good! Girls do fart, and they barf too. Deal with it.
The first part of the episode, with its rushing about their work (I hope Shirase gets better at this eventually, haha!), helping out, and training would seem to be pure slice-of-life, if not for how it ties into the episode’s theme. It was necessary to show how impressive the rest of the expedition is, in order to bring the girls low later on. (Showing that while also showing us what life is like on the boat makes for a nice bonus.) Which led to perhaps my favorite thematic moment of the series so far, and that’s saying a lot.
As much as I love anime, there are themes I’m not fond of. One is how so many characters are fatalistic. “It can’t be helped.” “We don’t have a choice.” Probably this is a Japanese cultural artefact, but I’ve opined enough on Japanese society for today, so I’ll simply say that I’ve never been fond of it, due to my own cultural upbringing as much as anything else. It always leaves me thinking: Of course you have a choice! There’s always a choice. All the options but one might be bad (or all the options, period), but there’s always a choice.
“We just have to do our best, right? We don’t have any other choice.”
That was Shirase’s framing of their plight, and while it’s true that they can’t get off the boat—that they’re going to Antarctica regardless—there are still choices available to them. It was also so well done that Shirase said the exact line twice, because it raised it from a one-off statement to a theme ready to be explored. Then Kimari interjected, and I sat up.
“That’s not true. We always had a choice. But we chose to be here. We chose this ourselves!”
My heart sang! Finally, finally there’s an anime character I agree with on this! Usually “We don’t have a choice” is said without reflection, like the knee-jerk recitation of “I/we just have to work hard(er)”, when sometimes working smarter or doing something else would be better. It never gets examined, but here, Kimari does exactly that. And she gets it right—of course they have a choice. They chose this! Kimari rejects Shirase’s paradigm, and regains her agency in the process. They’re not victims. They chose this! Their bodies might be betraying them at the moment, but once they admit it’s something that’s come about because of their own choices, they can fight it. It’s not misfortune to be weathered. It’s a fight to be won. Gin said as much herself when they entered the big waves.
“Though I like this kind of thing … the feeling, like I’m fighting.”
Once they regained their will to fight, they decided to go outside. Probably this was stupid and unsafe, but they were rewarded with something grand, a moment they’ll remember forever. They got to see the pitch black ocean they were crossing, to get to an unforgiving continent of ice protected by storms and raging waves. Once again, it was Kimari who put the feeling best into words.
“When I get home I can tell them … expedition ships are amazing.”
“Yeah, I’ll tell them it was really fun!”
“You must be joking!”
“I’m not! I’m sure that when this trip is over, that’s how we’ll feel!”
She’s right. Though it’s a struggle now, though their stomachs are rebelling, when they look back on this later on it will seem a positive experience. Not because it was fun then, but because it was worth doing, and will be fun to have done. That’s true of so many things in life, the important ones at least.
I loved the attention to detail. I loved how the insert music started up when Kimari gave her initial refutation, only for it to cut off when Hinata signaled she had to barf. Not everything was perfect. Kimari’s final narration might have been served better by a spare soundtrack (she was talking about silence at the time), and the noises the girls made as they looked at each other were over-acted. But the reason I spend so much time gushing about this show is that it sets me on fire. This anime is a call to action. Sure, none of it’s real. But the purpose of stories is to teach us how to be human. I hope Yorimoi leads to a lot of real humans taking on Kimari, Shirase, Hinata, and Yuzuki as their spirit animals. Be like them, barfing and all!
- “But as of now, we are no longer high school students who can never take a step forward. We are not 17-year-olds and 16-year-olds who try but accomplish nothing. That’s enough!” It reminds me of publishing my first book. Everything might not be perfect afterwards—and I’ve spent the last year and a half working day jobs too much to write the next one—but once I had published that first one, it was an accomplishment no one could take away from me. In that moment I was no longer someone who tried but accomplished nothing, and it’s a sweet feeling indeed. Like I said, this anime is a call to action. The world would be better off the more of us who answer it.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: Book 3 Progress Report.