Kare Kano 9-11
These three episodes drift away from Miyazawa and Arima’s relationship for a moment to present some musings on a couple of themes — the value of friendship, and the pain and pettiness of jealousy.
Ep9 features Miyazawa confronting the consequences of abandoning her carefully cultivated “perfect student” persona and acting more like her true self. Although the girls in the class generally like Miyazawa and appreciate her advice on homework and things like that, they get a bit suspicious about her being so chummy with Arima and Hideaki, two of the most popular boys in the school. A girl in Miyazawa’s class, Maho Izawa, fans the flames of these suspicions. “What makes you think Miyazawa is such a great person?” Maho asks. “Maybe she’s tricking you.” Later we find out that Maho leads the attack on Miyazawa based on her intense jealousy of Miyazawa’s abilities, combined with the sudden realization of the limits of her own abilities, but for now I’ll just address the general sense of jealousy in this episode.
It is a weird thing to be jealous of someone, at least for me. When I am jealous, I at once realize that there is this ugly feeling inside of me, and yet at the same time there is also this part of me that attempts to justify the ugliness of those feelings. Say someone wins an award I believe I should have won. I can recognize that this person is deserving of whatever accolades he or she receives, but in the back of my mind, I cannot help but think, “I wrote a better essay” or “I researched my points better” or whatever else is involved with it. This is often never much more than a little twinge; however, it is there, nonetheless, and I recognize it. That recognition is what makes jealousy so interesting to me. The feeling is there, and I know it is there, and yet I cannot do anything about feeling that way. (Although, of course, I can certainly stop myself from acting on it.)
In that way, jealousy is a lot like love, except it is turned sour a bit. There can often be a sense of betrayal that accompanies it. That is definitely what the girls in this episode feel toward Miyazawa. They feel tricked, used. Did Miyazawa just use them as stepping stones to get closer to Arima and Hideaki? (It becomes ironic later when the girls realize they were manipulated by Maho as part of her vendetta against Miyazawa.) Their jealousy springs from a simple source — Miyazawa has something they want (the friendship of Arima and Hideaki) but cannot have (because neither guy opens up easily to people), and the black thoughts about the possibility of being betrayed by Miyazawa provides an outlet for that jealousy and frustration. This has not come about because the girls are inadequate; rather, it is because Miyazawa befriended them under false pretenses! It is kind of sad — but truthful — how easily Maho is able to snag onto these feelings and quickly turn everyone against Miyazawa.
These feelings of jealousy are paired with the loneliness Miyazawa feels after realizing she does not have any actual friends, aside from Arima and Hideaki. She can reason this out easily enough: It is because she spent so much time showing off instead of making genuine connections with people. (I can relate to this. Never was much of a show-off, but I spent a bit too much time with my nose in the books, and not enough time getting to know people.) Miyazawa recognizes the jealousy her peers feel due to the subtle shift in her personality and her “high class” friendships. But she makes a choice that is strong and inspiring — she decides to just ride it out, be herself and hope for the best. Whether it is fair to her or not, Miyazawa reasons that they feel the way they do because of the way she acted, and so she must bear the responsibility for it. Even when other people try to step in and help Miyazawa resolve her issues, she will not have any of it.
But, damn, is it ever tough for Miyazawa to deal with this all at once! This is where she really discovers that, with people, you never just deal with their good sides. When Miyazawa schmoozed with people on a superficial level, she was exposed only to whatever traits she found admirable in others (i.e. how much they loved and admired her). But when she breaks through that mask and has to confront people as they actually are, she sees a lot of bad mixed in with the good. The same peers who can greet her with a kind word and can politely ask her for help with math homework are also capable of making her feel some of the most intense loneliness she has ever felt, without much thought. What makes the best of high school shows work so well, I think, is that high school students still have not realized how absolutely massive the world is and are consumed with their own little world on campus and in town. Plus, a lot of ‘em just wear their hearts on their sleeves because they are still developing and dealing with the complexity of growing up. What the girls do to Miyazawa is incredibly petty, but there is also an emotional rawness behind the act that you would not find anywhere else (well, not without being accused of acting like a child, anyway, haha).
To confuse matters even more, a childhood friend of Arima’s, Tsubasa Shibahime, shows up in this episode, and boy does she have a hell of a vindictive streak against Miyazawa! Similar to the girls, Tsubasa’s jealousy manifests itself because she believes Miyazawa has something she can never have — the true love of Arima. Except Tsubasa also believes she has already staked a claim on Arima since she has known him for so long. This leads to some hilarious attempts by Tsubasa to discredit Miyazawa in the eyes of Arima, although this all backfires because Arima knows Miyazawa would never be as hurtful as Tsubasa depicts her to be. (Too bad the poor dope is too clueless to realize Tsubasa has an intense crush on him. I cannot be too hard on him, though, since my high school self was certainly as romantically retarded as he is.)
Ep10 keeps all these intersecting storylines chugging along with a reflection by Maho to begin the show. She knows Miyazawa well — Maho was a Miyazawa figure, herself, before going to high school and being completely surpassed by Miyazawa. Maho’s is a jealousy borne from an intense sense of inadequacy and a sudden loss of the love she enjoyed until high school. People want to feel special. They want to feel loved. They want to feel that they offer something others do not. Maho is no different, and maybe that is why I cannot completely dislike her, even when she is acting like a royal bitch.
When someone is young and really good at something, what are the chances that he or she will be/act modest about it? Not too high, I think, unless one is deliberate about it like Miyazawa, or one has had it pounded into his or her head from birth. In most cases, young’uns are damn proud of being good at something and not afraid to show it. For me, writing has always been my “special” talent. I don’t think I am a great writer, by any means, and I often dangle dangerously close to falling off the ledge of “good” writing, but I am not being arrogant when I say that I could write better than most of my peers. But that was true only for so long. So it is with Maho.
Kids start out in a tiny, shallow puddle. Then they swim to a pond. From there, a lake. College is the shore of the ocean, and the world itself is the Pacific/Atlantic/whatever, big and wide, seemingly endless and full of huge ass fish that are just as good (and often better) than those scared kids who suddenly realize how tiny they are. Miyazawa’s appearance is that, “Oh shit!” moment for Maho. In middle school, Maho is something; in high school, she is nothing. Again, I can sort of relate, since I knew someone like Miyazawa from elementary school through high school — she was someone who seemed effortlessly good at everything (although, like Miyazawa, she probably busted her ass behind the scenes), and although I worked like maniac to make sure my writing still shined, I definitely was never as polished as she was. I could never be too angry at or jealous of her, though, because she was too good and genuine a person for me to feel that way toward her.
But despite that, I can sympathize with Maho here, to an extent. It’s a scary thing to realize one’s limitations. It is so easy for one blessed with talent to coast through life and believe your natural ability will be enough to carry you through. However, it happens to everyone, eventually — he or she will meet someone who is just flat out amazing. That feeling is truly humbling. Once you get there, you have a few choices: Push yourself to meet the challenge, be content with what you have or shrink back and worry that what you have is not enough. Maho has done the latter, and the reality of that choice pisses her off. It’s a cosmic joke. This random person comes out of nowhere and steals everything she has, and she is powerless to do anything about it. So she takes the only change for vengeance she has and tries to destroy Miyazawa’s reputation and make her miserable.
Petty? Yes. Understandable? I think so. But that does not make it right, of course. To Maho, though, there does not seem to be any other choice. She cannot beat Miyazawa at her own game, no matter how hard she tries. So she is left to lash out at Miyazawa any way that she can, in the hopes that she will land a strike that will wound Miyazawa as Maho has been wounded. Eventually, though, she goes too far. Again, people can be real pricks, but they have good in them as well. When Maho continually prods and slanders Miyazawa, the girls get to wondering about the aggressive nature of Maho’s accusations. Their curiosity is further piqued when Miyazawa befriends three girls from another class — Aya Sawada, Rika Sena and Sakura Tsubaki — who are also friends with Tsubasa.
“Why would people be friends with a fake — especially a fake who is no longer faking?” the girls ask themselves. And they wonder about the logic of announcing one’s act as a fake when they act was supposedly used to grab Arima and Hideaki. Maho’s manipulations fall apart, and she and Miyazawa switch places once again, with Miyazawa as the golden girl and Maho all alone, abandoned by her peers. A big part of what keeps me from hating Maho after this is that she is so accepting of her fate. She knows all along that she cannot keep her charade going forever, and that Miyazawa will eventually win. (That line is a really sad one, for me. Even when she is trying to ruin Miyazawa, that fear of Miyazawa’s abilities is still alive and buzzing in the back of Maho’s mind.) It hurts her that she cannot make Miyazawa feel her pain, but she realizes now that going on that path is just . . . dumb and useless. That jealousy carries her to places where she knows she cannot stay. Maho certainly doesn’t approve of her situation, but the defeat tells her that is probably better to move forward than to constantly worry about what other people have and you do not.
And she does befriend Miyazawa later in the episode, so that’s a plus!
Meanwhile, Miyazawa is pretty damn content. She feels a hell of a lot better after giving Maho the business, and before that she gains her first real friends, to boot. (Plus, she has Pringles.) Just talking with Aya, Rika and Tsubaki just removes this enormous load from Miyazawa’s shoulders. These are people who like Miyazawa for who she is. “I used to think you were so intimidating and unapproachable,” Rika says. “But after talking to you, you aren’t at all. It’s a relief.” I’m sure Miyazawa feels the same way — it’s a relief for her to not just act like her true self on and off campus, but to also befriend people as her true self. It’s that sense of simple acceptance people want. Miyazawa has someone who loves her, but now she has people who like her and have her back just because she is Miyazawa, and not some contrived idea of who Miyazawa should be.
Miyazawa is always a cheerful person, but she seems to be particularly light on her feet after making friends. She is basically living her own version of “Here Comes the Sun” after Maho gets off her back and she has people who will go to bat for her. All that is left is for her to take care of her issues with Tsubasa . . . and true to her fights with Tsubasa so far, their issues get handled in a truly gonzo way, haha. Tsubasa makes the mistake of trying to eradicate a physical reminder of Miyazawa and Arima’s connection (a picture of Miyazawa in Arima’s wallet). That sets Miyazawa off like a bomb. In another hilarious sequence, Miyazawa tracks down Tsubasa like a hungry velociraptor chasing a tasty treat in Jurassic Park.
This leads to Tsubasa spilling everything that had built up in her regarding Arima. Tsubasa’s jealousy is similar to Maho’s, even though it springs from a different source. Tsubasa is intensely frustrated that she cannot express her feelings to Arima. She tries countless times to let him know she loves him, and yet the stars never align for her. But Miyazawa waltzes in and captures Arima’s heart almost without effort. Tsubasa’s fight is over even before she has an opportunity to get out of the hospital. The little runt acts out in such a crazy way, but it’s tough to not feel for her in this situation. She likes Arima a lot, and he recognizes it to an extent, but not in the way she wants him to. It is difficult to open one’s heart to someone you care for a hell of a lot, but Miyazawa does it, and Tsubasa is left to stand around and wonder, “What the hell happened?”
But where Maho’s jealousy needed to be beaten out of her — in a way — Tsubasa just needs some grand release to air out her feelings. Ultimately, I think she knows Arima loves Miyazawa, and Miyazawa loves Arima in return. It is obvious just from being around them. But Tsubasa cannot rest without letting off all that steam that had built in her from the moment she met Arima. She can’t beat Miyazawa, so she might as well tell someone, anyone, about the depths of her love for Arima. It’s a love that cannot work, but it is also a love Tsubasa believes needs to be expressed, no matter what. Isn’t that how love is when you’re a dumb teen? It’s your first time, so the feelings are particularly intense because you have no idea what they are or how to deal with them. They build and build and build and eventually need some sort of release, whether they lead to something or not. When they are out there in the open, the feelings are that much easier to deal with, because they’re free. The calm way Tsubasa moves on afterward shows she is able to leave her love for Arima behind, even if she cannot completely forget it.
Ep11 is mostly a fun episode. It throws out some things that will be addressed later — Arima and Miyazawa will be apart for the first time since they started going out, because the kendo team is going to Nationals. Without her friends, this would probably be pretty damn difficult for Miyazawa, but with them, all she needs is a warm embrace from Arima to remember him by while he is away. (Yet another sweet moment that always makes me grin.) Then it’s a ladies day out with Miyazawa and her pals, including new recruit Maho. I just love the pure sense of enjoyment from this short slice of life. Karaoke, keeping Aya off cigarettes, feeding Tsubasa, playing tricks on Tsubasa and so on and so forth. They all feel like natural friends even though they have just got to know each other very recently. Then there is Tsubasa’s decision to run away from home and room with Miyazawa, but I think I’ll leave that for the next post, since the meat of that is coming up.
Instead, I want to end on how interesting it is to view the whole “special ability” thing from Miyazawa’s angle at the end of this episode. The people who are jealous of Miyazawa believe she possesses abilities they do not, which ensures her successes they will never reach. But when Miyazawa sees that her friends have all found their paths in life, a sense of inadequacy builds in her, and it reinforces her decision to act as her true self rather than the fake personality she had put forth. Grades and praise were the only things she lived for. But where is the life after that? Everything she held dear was just empty. I like that switch after all the drama viewing Miyazawa as this golden standard, when she is just as worried about her future as anyone else. Even for someone as together as Miyazawa, the future does not always present itself on this golden path to happiness. She also needs to find her way. What separates Miyazawa from the others is that she is happy her friends have found their paths in life, and her only feeling in regards to herself is hope that she will also discover what she wants to do.