Kimi ni Todoke 31 – This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Apologies for this post being slightly later than usual. Been a bit busy the past couple of days.
Anyway, I read Roger Ebert’s Your Movie Sucks about a month ago. In his review of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Ebert writes something that succinctly separates the difference between good fictional romance and bad: “The easiest thing at the movies is to sympathize with two people who are falling in love. The hardest thing is to sympathize with two people who are denying their feelings, misleading each other, and causing pain to a trusting heart.”
Bingo. I can’t speak for most people, but I like seeing two people who deserve each other fall in love. I’m a sap like that. What I don’t like, though, is when love is denied through contrived, artificial means. When two people who clearly like each other are kept apart by cheap drama and idiotic misunderstandings. That’s not compelling; that’s bad writing.
The best parts of Kimi ni Todoke are when Sawako is given an opportunity to grow and flourish among others. It’s not Pulitzer-level stuff, but it’s nice to watch. The worst parts of Kimi ni Todoke are when Sawako is put through cruel, needless, repetitive emotional torture like what is happening right now. Kazehaya comes out and says he likes Sawako; however, due to a carefully constructed web of idiocy, Sawako misinterprets Kazehaya’s declaration, and Kazehaya misinterprets Sawako’s reaction to his confession. Now they’re both miserable, and the audience with them, because this could all be easily resolved with but a few words, except then there would not be a show, would there? (And, thankfully, Chizuru and Ayane are there to provide them, though a bit too late.)
Yes, I suppose there is the argument that without the teasing of romance, there would be no series. To this person, I say: Fuck you. You’re the reason why so much shitty, eye-stabbingly awful romance exists in this world. I hope your life is plagued by a series of near-misses and contrivances that keep you and the love of your life apart and perpetually depressed. I bet it would be fantastic entertainment! And, hey, maybe it would be worth slogging through all that shit in the end to get a chance for dating at the end of the series!
Do you know why anime — and many other mediums — focus so much on the chase, and not the aftermath? Because many writers are competent enough to tease the audience, to frustrate the audience with near misses and to prolong the inevitable as long as humanly possible. Very few, however, are good enough to make the audience fall in love. Attraction is easy to convey; true, fascinating love endlessly difficult. Writers can carry the audience to the threshold but will inevitably ditch them at the altar.
You know what it says to me when the chase is given a hyperfocus, and the aftermath is ignored? Either the author, the producers — or both — do not have enough confidence in the author’s ability to provide the audience with a compelling relationship that would hold their interest. Common logic dictates that audiences do not have the attention span to stay interested in a couple after they get together following a prolonged chase. They get bored quickly and move on to the next thing. And that is probably true for a fair amount of people. But I believe that reasoning alone insults the audience far too much.
Above all, audiences want characters who keep their eyes glued to the screen or the page or whatever. The chase gives writers an easy avenue to create such characters; they can work off the spark of initial attraction and witty flirting. But that is ultimately smoke and mirrors, and becomes more apparent the longer the chase drags on. Can the chase be done well? Of course, and has been done so many times. But every chase must end eventually. What happens afterward? Apparently we are supposed to believe characters hop into their pristine white carriages and live happily ever after with nothing of interest to be seen afterward.
Love is a wonderful thing, but also a frightening prospect because to love is to open oneself to another person (or persons, if that is one’s desire). Part of love is allowing someone else to see you for who you really are. Many people can get behind the initial thrill of romance, the discovery of someone you like and who likes you in return. But as we gradually reveal ourselves, sometimes (or perhaps many times, depending on how cynical one is) it’s not as fun anymore. We reveal who we are, and who we are does not click with the other person, and it’s kind of painful.
Perhaps most stories just do not want to feel that pain; they are afraid of audiences seeing them for who they really are. All I know is that Kare Kano was brave enough to share that relationship with viewers, as was Nodame Cantabile. I wish more fiction could be that brave.