OP: 「Memories」 by Comic Girls
「今日から学校でした」 (Kyou kara Gakkou Deshita)
“Back to School”
The first episode’s post began with a quote from Rohan Kishibe: “To write something interesting, you have to write what you’ve seen, what you’ve done, what you’ve experienced!” This might’ve been in reference to Rohan getting prepared to lick a crushed bug for research, but it rings true with the mangaka of Comic Girls’, who find that school might just be what they need to be able to get a better feel for the stories they write and the characters they create. Koyume, Tsubasa, Rukki have that idea down to a T as they take the initiative to use their school-life as a means of researching how people their age look and behave. While Koyume is able to make friends quickly who are eager to tell her about their love lives with boyfriends and exes, Tsubasa and Rukki are experienced in studying fellow students to use as a frame of reference on how their characters should act and look.
Although fiction is often routed in fantasy, the idea of characters and plot elements being down to earth, easy to relate to, and a part of a writer’s collective experience of the world around them is a criticism that is held over an author’s head. If your characters behave unrealistically or make the reader feel like they’re reading the work of an author who knows nothing about how people interact or relate with others, you’re bound to receive criticism for not creating a world that is in-touch with the human experience. It can be an unfair expectation on an author, especially since there’s only so much of the writer’s personal experience that can go into stories with mythological creatures or intergalactic exploration, but at the same time, an unbelievable character who is either inconsistent or too perfect can potentially cause a problem among your readership. Being compared to Twilight is hard to swallow, but it would be a comment that is hard to avoid if you don’t have enough background on how people act and function to write convincing characters or depict actions that fit with both the fictional narrative and reality.
This is the crux of Kaosu’s conflict as her characters getting slapped with the “unrealistic” label is due to her own inexperience with human interaction and crippling social anxiety. With a lack of knowledge towards how people would act, she only has herself and the anime she enjoys as the basis for her manga’s characters. It is a strange criticism for a 4koma comedy series since none of Kaosu’s characters need to be realistic, but if they are inconsistent, it can be owed to the idea that Kaosu’s anxiety is the wall that’s preventing her from being able to have clearly definable cast. The irony can be felt with Kaosu’s own inconsistencies as she can switch between being horrified at everything around her and getting excited about Rukki drawing ecchi manga, but it’s all on-par with how people act, and it is understandable how Kaosu’s behavior teetering between panicked and enthused is reflected into characters that are deemed “unrealistic”. After all, if a writer had a dime for every time they’ve heard a character they based on a real person being called “unrealistic” or a Mary Sue, they’d be rolling in that James Patterson money.
The show’s perspective on social anxiety is interesting though because even though Kaosu makes enough cute faces that it comes off like a comical trait, it hinders much of how she interacts with the world around her and is a personal issue she grapples with during these past two episodes. Her dislike of crowds and catastrophizing of uncomfortable scenarios comes up when the girls are shopping for drawing equipment, but it’s genuinely sad when it actively affects her during her first day of school. Rukki and Tsubasa’s motivation help her truck through the class introduction, but as soon as she captures the curiosity of most of the girls in class who want to know more about her, she outright passes out and needs to be taken to the nurse’s office. What hammers the seriousness of what Kaosu is going through is how she reacts when she realizes that Koyume had such an easy time being able to fit in with a friend group right away, and that the possibility of Kaosu making friends with anyone other than her mangaka dorm-mates or neighborhood cats really cuts to her core. For all of the cute and elaborate expressions Kaosu makes, her anxiety takes enough of a toll on her that it isn’t played off like a joke other than in relatable scenarios like being afraid of crowds or awkward situations.
Other than the deeper aspects of Kaosu’s soul-searching and ultimate realization to calm herself down by visualizing her time in high school as a research project, it was a light and pleasant episode that looked into the inner-workings of how the other girls come up with the art and stylings that match their respective genres. Tsubasa’s giddiness about being in the stationary shop was great to watch as she gathered up the filters, pens, and tools she would need to craft shounen manga to her liking. Additionally, it lends itself to how versatile materials can be used by different authors with Koyume and Rukki looking at a floral pattern filter as a way to capture either a summery dress or cute lingerie. Some of the more fun aspects of Comic Girls is seeing how they look at the same object and see it in a different light based on the niche their manga’s are tailored towards. As the girls become fond of each other, they start to see both the discrepancies between using a violent ink splash in shounen and shoujo manga, but also how similar their use of other tools and research strategies can be. There are also many moments that are extremely cute such as Koyume putting a bow on the teacher they single out as being adorable, and Rukki doting on Kaosu after being awestruck by the motivation she has to start trying to see school as research to improve her craft. At the moment, Comic Girls most valuable asset is being able to blend the introspection of its characters with the cute, comedic slice-of-life attributes within its own genre.
ED: 「涙はみせない」 (Namida wa Misenai / Can’t Show You My Tears) by Comic Girls