OP: 「星のオーケストラ」 (Hoshi no Orchestra) by (saji)
「桜舞い散る木の下で」 (Sakura Maichiru Ki no Shita de)
“Beneath the Cherry Tree, in a Rain of Petals”
Here are some things you most definitely won’t find in the hallways of the notorious Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts: pungent smells, deep voices, hairy bodies and testosterone. For ‘graduated’ member of girl-idol band JPX48, Narata Ai (Hanamori Yumiri), this might as well be Heaven on Earth, a place away from the abominable evil that lurks in society—males.
TO WEAR OUR TRAUMAS
Complicated might be an euphemism when describing Ai’s relationship with her mother. Try as she might, her stoic facade doesn’t stop us from catching a glimpse of her inner turmoil. We see her typing, deleting and retyping an email, words supposed to deliver a positive event are loaded with passive-aggressiveness. Her personal achievement suddenly just doesn’t feel good anymore. Ai’s relationship with her mother seems to play a big part in how she has chosen to build her identity and I’m sure we’ll see more of it in future episodes. Despite the fact that Kageki Shoujo!! appears to be centered around a group of young teenage girls pursuing their theatrical dreams, at the heart of the story the plot moves through interpersonal relationships–social dynamics, struggles, psychological pain, trauma and personal development–as opposed to the character’s motivations. Not to say that their motivations and passions are not part of the plot (they are!), it only means they take a secondary role on the main stage. I’m only mentioning this because I find that to be one of the biggest key points that differentiate the demographics in anime/manga.
If her upbringing wasn’t enough, Narata was also traumatized due to her idol career. Her early ‘graduation’, a result from an unsavory encounter with a fan. Being on the receiving end of media backlash has certainly left a bitter taste in Ai’s mouth. So much so that her brain software created a new program that continuously runs in her brain, “I’m not safe because men are disgusting and will take advantage of me.” Has that happened before? Yes, probably on several separate occasions. Are all men disgusting and out there to take advantage of her? No. But Ai’s brain made the decision to group these traumatic events across time so that she might automatically react and avoid facing similar traumatic situations in the future. While I wasn’t particularly taken with her character I found her story to be a realistic commentary on human behavior. Her experiences of happiness and joy are marred by these traumas she’s grown attached to, she can’t fully enjoy them. So much so that she’s thoroughly annoyed by Sarasa’s character.
Watanabe Sarasa (Senbongi Sayaka) has stars in her eyes, a spring to her step and is tall as Hell. With little to no self-awareness, this unlikely candidate has a pretty straightforward goal: she wants to play Oscar-sama. To play the main character in Versailles no Bara means to be the top star of the Kouka Theater Troupe. Unbeknownst to her, by making her audacious intentions public, our starry-eyed girl has just declared war with basically every single classmate of hers.
Sarasa has main-character qualities that serve as a catalyst for change wherever she goes. She will play the role of the one who stimulates and challenges her classmates to go beyond what they think it’s possible, towards a place where they can reach full potential and major character development–at least that’s what I’m assuming. This influence won’t always be direct nor conscious. And I’m curious to see how the author chooses to portray this specific fearless character. So far we’ve only seen snippets of who she is through Ai’s lenses and the four chapters I’ve read only covered this first episode, so we’ll be figuring these out together. I’m particularly interested in hearing more about her connection with Kabuki theater! And it also seems like we have a stalker?
THESE SMALL THINGS
I found myself skeptical with the whole sexual harassment comment Sarasa made. My Japanese is quite elementary but I understood Military Baldy used informal speech when addressing Sarasa’s height, yet I can’t see how that would be an actual case of sexual harassment. A little rude due to his speech choice? I could roll with that, but yeah. I didn’t get that one. And my last bit of critique goes to the male characters in the series (Andou-sensei and Ai’s uncle Taichi), I found them slightly pathetic as if their whole purpose was to simply serve as commentary and background noise. Just because this is a show oriented towards a female audience doesn’t mean it’s male characters should only serve as tropes. Perhaps they will develop further on, I guess we’ll see!
Full-length images: 36.
I didn’t mind Ai having androphobia be a major incentive for her to not want to encounter male fans or incentive for her to be pleased with not having to encounter boys at the all-girls academy. It also helps make it easier to be wary of some of the sketchier guys in this show since Ai’s experience in the entertainment industry would only have her be familiarized with the deceitful or perverse dudes of the world. Where it’s hard to be mad at Ai for perceiving men this way when the dudes she came across were likely bad enough to warrant Ai to be distrustful of men, especially men who know she’s an idol.
However, Sarasa hadn’t done anything horrible to warrant Ai having a personal vendetta against her to the point where she grows arrogant and questions why she’d even be talented enough to be there. It was really irrational and mean, especially when any other on-screen appearance of Sarasa was her being excited about the chance to have the chance to train to be an actress. It’s an odd complaint because I can find mean-spiritedness amusing, but it was upsetting to see Ai kick the puppy by laying into Sarasa when she’s just happy to be there.
I guess you could say that Ai’s initial distrust in Sarasa is a hurdle she has to come across to re-gain her trust in anyone who presents themselves as a possible friend to her. Where Sarasa would be able to help her overcome her disassociation from those around her by offering a more earnest friendship than she thought she’d get after she was rushed into graduation.
Hey Choya! Glad to see you here!
What I meant about Ai’s experiences being marred was not her encounters with men, but rather that the result of her collection of different traumas (her relationship with her mother, the media/backlash and men) are so ‘heavy’ that they affect how she experiences events that would otherwise bring her joy/happiness, such as attending her first day at the academy. One similarity I could find amongst her reaction to these traumas is the complete communication shut off. For example: when she tried to set a boundary with a creepy fan, she faced backlash. Whatever happened with her mother, they clearly face communication issues, neither can she share some positive news nor can she honestly communicate what she feels.
Somehow speaking up for herself seems to not have resulted in good things for Ai, so she shuts off. That seems to me like what would explain why Sarasa triggered her so much, because this exactly what Sarasa does: she is fearlessly and unapologetically herself, she doesn’t “have” to deal with any kind of consequences like Ai did.
Her suspicion around men is far from being unfounded, you are right on the money, it has often been portrayed in Japanese media how unpleasant, inconvenient and obsessive male idol fans can be. Yet instead of being taken over by fear and panicking, in the future we might see her stand up for her boundaries. My guess is that a lot of Ai’s character growth will revolve around communication.
At least our puppy Starry-eyed golden retriever doesn’t take things personally! I can also see the trust thing coming into play as well, since Ai was part of an idol band, it makes you wonder how did the other girls treat her.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Sarasa said it was a sekuhara because the captain said “sugoi dekai”, which means really big but without any context, Sarasa kind of made a little joke about sekuhara that the captain was probably referring to her chest, but the captain really meant Sarasa’s height.
Aaaaah. That makes a lot more sense! Got it, thanks for explaining! I actually found it funny now ha ha ha.
For the sexual harassment bit, it actually made loads of sense to me. Commenting on body form, whether it be width, shape, or height can all constitute as sexual harassment even if the captain himself has no intentions at poking fun at or belittling Sarasa’s height in this instance. It is unfortunately still common for women in Japan to have to deal with a lot of slack about their height. Either you’re too short and considered childish for that or you’re too tall and mocked for being masculine or bigger than a lot of guys (largely in part by men who have inferiority complexes about their shorter height). There’s no end to it and there’s never a zone where one is free from such judgment.
Looking back at the scene and considering Sarasa’s tone when she made that comment, I agree with danes256 take on it.
By definition sexual harassment is a behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.
So the vague use of the word ‘big’–which he meant her height, but could just as easily have meant her boobs–would fit more into her jab rather than actually the case of female height discrimination. Yet your point is also a valid observation of how backwards this whole height thing still is in Japan.