「薫の夏」 (Kaoru no Natsu)
A CHARACTER STUDY
What is it that fuels your pursuit of dreams? In Kaoru’s case, it wasn’t so much her familial expectations pushing her towards their legacy, but rather her own personal ambition. If anything, Kaoru’s sweet grandmother, known as “Spring’s Lovely Snow White,” only wishes for her granddaughter’s happiness, independent of Kouka. So while her Obaasama might’ve been the window who exposed her to that magical world from an early age, the weight Kaoru carries comes solely from herself. The dreams of becoming a top otokoyako–mustache included, belong to her.
As the narrative walks us through Kaoru’s summer pre-Kouka, we notice that although she’s dedicating a lot of her time, youth and habits that grant her many a whisper behind her back (such as walking with an umbrella every day), she never comes across as someone who’s forcing herself to do anything. There’s no apparent suffering in the ‘sacrifices’ she makes. In this character study we see her dealing with frustration due to not being exceptionally talented at all necessary areas to make it into Kouka, but we don’t see anything being done resentfully.
A SUMMER ROMANCE
There were many ways in which her character could’ve been explored, but a bittersweet summer romance was not what I expected and I was all in for it. In a small coastal town in Japan, Kaoru catches the eye of a high school baseball player who lives under the shadow of his very successful older brother. These two apparent kindred souls begin to develop a relationship. Tsuji’s situation brought back memories from my school years. God forbid I wasn’t in any sports team (I was a very dedicated High Priestess in Ragnarok, thank you very much), but my two older brothers were notoriously handsome, intelligent and one of them was a big troublemaker. So I had to deal with my fair share of “oh my god, are you x and z’s sister?! Your brothers are like, so cool!” as well as a few annoying letter deliveries that I was way too agreeable to say no to. So I felt for him. It’s certainly infuriating, especially if you don’t live up to the expectations (in my case I had anger management issues, acne, was too busy writing fanfiction to pay attention to class and was also the weird kid who liked Japanese screaming cartoons).
But roads that seemed parallel to one another turn out to be crossroads. Tsuji opens up about his doubts and insecurities during the fireworks festival, he’s unsure as to why he’s even trying so hard when he’s not even that good at baseball, something he’s always done with his brother and people just expected him to be good at it. Then he goes on to project his feelings into Kaoru and she’s heart broken, because that’s not it. He doesn’t understand her at all, they’re not the same. Kaoru’s not trying hard because of her legacy and she’s not pushing herself because of what’s expected of her. Kaoru wants to become an otokoyako because that’s her dream.
So she leaves him. And it’s running through the evening beach, while singing the Kouka anthem with fireworks in the background that Kaoru’s summer love comes to an end. Or does it? Thanks to Tsuji’s bus stop letter, the story leaves enough space for these two souls to meet in the future, perhaps more mature and wiser, and that would possibly be the most wholesome love story in Kageki Shoujo!! IMO.
Full-length images: 36.