Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kimi ga nozomu eien: The eternity that you desire

(Originally 11 November 2006. Damn, that was a productive day)

I finished the series last week. It was something I was meaning to get around to, since it seems to have touched a raw nerve in many of the people who have written anything about it.

The first episode, I wasn't particularly impressed by. The drama was rather blunt and over the top. I like angst so long as it's even slightly believable. It's not so believable when you're hit over the head with it. Repeatedly. Case in point, when a girl asks the lead character to go out, and he turns her down, she runs away. First, pretty much every anime high school girl runs in the "girly" fashion, wherein they're carrying an imaginary handbag in both hands, for reasons I have yet to determine. That's half a strike, because I've resigned myself to just expecting it. But while this girl, Haruka, is running, she has her hair over her eyes. And her tears flow into the air like magical crystal specks.

This happens not once, but twice. I was disappointed, let's put it that way. This wasn't grounds for me to drop a series, but I haven't ever dropped one yet so w/e, but it did leave me rolling my eyes. There were other moments, like a "You don't understand!" then running away incident, but the above really stuck in my mind, because whoever produced the show put a lot of emphasis on the angsty running away girl.

Sanity returned in episode 2, and Haruka and Takayuki (the lead) begin to get along, if somewhat awkwardly. The love triangle also begins to form during this episode, which is capped off by Haruka getting hit by a car. Everyone should have known it was coming, it's the premise of the series and the first two episodes were just preludes. Just the way it was executed had a big impact, with the sudden cutting in of the ending song, used only for that episode.

Takayuki approaches the police tape, and hears an officer relaying the victim's name. When he says her given name (family name first, given name second), Takayuki's eyes widen, and then there is a cut to the series title against white background. This is followed by the credits, but these are overlaid on a dimly lit hospital corridor outside a surgery room, with Haruka's family in shock, and Takayuki just stricken, for various reasons.

Haruka winds up in a coma, which she wakes up from 3 years later, when everyone else is trying to move on with life as best they can. The series is completely driven by the interactions between characters as they try to come to terms with Haruka's awakening, as well as a host of unfortunate coincidences. The poorly timed walk-ins and run-ins are piled on so much so that it's hard to believe on one hand, and you begin to expect the worse on the other. People have their bad days, but it's troubling to have them conspire to send you to your own personal hell.

Life happens, and that's the series at its core. Characters get drunk, commit adultery at an immediate and also at an arguably metaphorical level, lose their focus, get into ruts, fight each other, etc. What do you do if the person you were going out with, if only for a short while, wakes up from a coma 3 years later when you've begun dating her best friend? If you're that best friend, and your boyfriend acts like he might want to turn back time, do you feel like you've just been a replacement? Was Takayuki indirectly being unfaithful to Haruka? There are tons of questions one might ask, depending on how deep one wants to get into the story and the characters.

I'm going to spoil the end. Just so you know, although how many of you are (if anyone does read this) are going to watch KimiNozo anyway?

In the end, Haruka returns to reality (the doctor initially kept her in the dark about how long she had been out to prevent time-shock), and learns everything, as must inevitably happen. For someone who hasn't had 3 years to increase her awareness of the world and mature, she is rather quick to accept reality and let Takayuki go. Perishthethought, source of analytic commentary on the Animesuki KimiNozo thread, figures that Haruka hasn't actually let Takayuki go, but the reality of the situation is she can't return to the way things were before.

The ending is a somewhat depressing, but ultimately honest look at love. I'm still a big proponent of idealized love, of soul-mates, even though I will likely never find any such thing (a girlfriend would be necessary before I can even talk about such things), but I digress. This series is about one person being in love with two people, and two people falling for the same person. They might have been different types of love, and here a huge argument will erupt over what type connotes true love or which type is more real than the other.

I do agree with Perish's opinion that Takayuki's love is really one of obligation. He's nice to everyone, and those on the receiving end probably misinterpret that as intimate affection when in fact he's just that nice to people in general. He goes to whoever who needs him most. In that sense, he himself probably doesn't feel anything approaching love to either Haruka, or Mitsuki, Haruka's best friend. He agreed to go out with Haruka in the first place partly out of obligation to Mitsuki, and partly because he hurt Haruka by initially rejecting her. I think his willingness to let someone go if he doesn't think they need him is fleshed out rather well in the series. In short, he sticks by someone if he thinks they need his help. One might argue that this is the commitment part of the triangle of love theory, but not only does he commit equally to both girls (well as much as can be demonstrated for a girl who soon ends up in a coma), notice that just having commitment is empty love. At best, his love with Mitsuki is fatuous, and with Haruka, it was mostly empty.

Well this is life. People fall in love for different reasons, and can fall in love with different people. I still hold on to my hopeless ideals, but I know I'm in a futile battle with reality. Kind of like Haruka.

I can't say much about Haruka, since you know, she doesn't change much. I think she's pretty courageous to make the decision she did. She probably could've kept Takayuki's conscience tormented despite his desire to return to Mitsuki, so props to her for her maturity, and her ability to even take action. Just saying nothing would have kept him under her thumb.

Since everyone seems to talk about Mitsuki…why not? I didn't get wound up nearly as much a lot of others. Maybe because I'm not willing or even incapable of passing judgement on the actions of characters, I let a lot of bad or controversial behaviour slide. I just can't really tolerate the utterance of stupid things because talk is cheap. Anyway, what a character does reflects on the character, or the skill of the story writer to develop a character. From that standpoint, it's hard for me to "hate" a character. I just look at a character and say, that's a well-done character, or, that's a rather boring character (even with annoying habits and such).

So! I thought Mitsuki's character was well done. She gets distracted, gets into a rut, gets kicked off the swim team for all intents and purposes. She might have quit, I can't quite remember if that was ever spelled out, but she had no reason to quit if she was doing so well, and she wasn't doing so well after Haruka's accident. She has bouts of self-doubt, gets excessively drunk, cheats on Takayuki, and goes slightly unstable afterwards. The parade of jaw dropping moments involving Mitsuki doesn't end until, well, the end. Probably the most controversial moment, though, was when she initially hooks up with Takayuki, by throwing herself at him when he's in the deepest state of depression. I think that action, although it might have been another one later on, has been immortalized as the Hayase [Mitsuki] Maneuver.

No matter how you slice it, Mitsuki took advantage of Takayuki. Would he have gone and killed himself if she didn't do what she did? Probably not, so long as Haruka wasn't dead. Did she steal away her best friend's guy? I say no, but this question is pretty divisive. Your girlfriend's in a coma. She might never wake up, or she might wake up in a week, or she might wake up tomorrow. What the hell do you do? At first Takayuki was willing to hold a torch for her, even if it was eating away at him inside. Mitsuki made her decision, she made the first move. Decision gets made, consequences have to be lived with no matter how unpleasant those might be, and in the case of the series, they're pretty unpleasant (but exacerbated by lots of other events). But that's life, and you don't get the eternity you desire by sitting on the sidelines.

Could she have gone about it differently? Sure. Do I hate her for what she did? Like I said, I view her as a character, with flaws, with redeeming qualities (although some think she has no redeeming qualities), and all-round as pretty believable. Ok, so if she were a real person, would I hate her? Well assuming that I knew all of this because she airs her dirty laundry as normal people are wont to do</sarcasm>, probably not. I seriously think that she could still be a good friend. She's not unstable most of the time; she worries a lot but that's par for the course. She drinks but only when she's in a rut and her colleague got her into the booze in the first place.

What else ought I to add? I've no complaints about the animation, character designs didn't annoy me but they weren't stand-out, even after Mitsuki cut her hair. The story carries the series, and does a solid job of it.