Aoi Hana – 6
I love that Aoi Hana can deftly avoid obvious plot points while still remaining wonderfully emotional.
Case in point: The above screenshot comes from a familiar scenario. Sugimoto loved her drama teacher in the past but claims the past is where those feelings are buried. Yet when she receives a rare compliment from the teacher, Sugimoto’s emotion overwhelms her, tears pour from her eyes and an intense blush creeps across her face. And, of course, Fumi walks in at just that moment. But her reaction to it is more sincere than overblown. Instead of running away and crying, Fumi sits with Sugimoto and talks it out, airing her fears that Sugimoto loves someone other than Fumi. This is where Sugimoto assures Fumi that, while she did indeed once love her teacher intensely, that love is far away in the past where it belongs.
It is a nice moment of togetherness for the two, although one I am nevertheless wary about. Sugimoto has been a tough character for me to figure out, but now I believe it is because I have been approaching her the wrong way. My main trouble is that I have been viewing Sugimoto through the lens of “willfulness” — as in, all her actions are purposeful in some way. But Acchan’s comment about Sugimoto — about how dangerous she is — has me thinking a different way now. Could Sugimoto really be unaware about the effect she has on other people? Or, at least, how deep that effect is? Even Acchan, a girl who says she is not attracted to other women, cannot help but feel something when she massages Sugimoto’s scalp backstage. (And it’s true, too — you can feel the charge running through that scene the entire time. There is something there.) Ikumi is still recovering from her crush on Sugimoto. And Fumi wants to fall in love with Sugimoto, but there is something within her blocking that from happening.
Fumi is correct to be somewhat wary, I believe. However, I do not believe Sugimoto is willfully stringing Fumi along, or anything of the sort. It is just that . . . in her way, Sugimoto is still recovering from her severed crush, as well. That she is still an actor is symbolic of this. She keeps up the acting game as a sort of tribute to the drama teacher, but also, as an actor, Sugimoto is experienced at wearing the mask that convinces people that she is of an entirely different character. Her one throwaway line to Acchan shows this: “You may not be able to see it, but I’m nervous.” Sugimoto always has that cool mask on, calm, detached, just going along with things. This personality construction, I think, is what cuts her off from being somewhat unaware of the effect she has on people. Sugimoto tries to be the master of her emotions by blocking off that part of the past she has not completely come to terms with yet. But little bits and pieces of it occasionally peek through the mask.
Sugimoto crying because of the compliment paid to her by the drama teacher is an extreme example, but I believe (although it is not quite substantiated by the series — yet) that Sugimoto’s conversation with Ikumi provides a more subtle example of this. Psgels makes an interesting point when he writes that Sugimoto and Ikumi’s different views of Wuthering Heights‘ Catherine “signifie[s] the distance between the two of them, since Kyouko [Ikumi] does not know what happened in Yasuko’s [Sugimoto] past with her teacher.” Although Ikumi’s admiration of Catherine’s will is interesting (and probably a signifier of why she fell in love with Sugimoto), it is Sugimoto’s perception and condemnation of Catherine’s selfishness that has me most fascinated.
It is probably a bit presumptuous of me to write this, because I obviously do not know the entire backstory between Sugimoto and the drama teacher, but in a way, I believe Sugimoto sees herself as a Heathcliff type (the scorned, angry lover) and the drama teacher as Catherine (turned her down, and yet is trying to make amends). Could there have been — or still be — someone in the teacher’s life, or did he just turn Sugimoto down because he knows a relationship with her would be wrong? If it is the latter, he is sending some pretty mixed signals (even if the flowers are probably for the play’s participants as a whole rather than Sugimoto herself). Regardless, it is that perceived selfishness that Sugimoto dislikes. Is it a piece of that past floating to the surface, almost against Sugimoto’s will? The entire way she presents herself undergoes a massive shift just for that one sentence. Instead of the cool, calm Sugimoto that Ikumi is used to, she bears witness to an intense, perhaps slightly bitter, Sugimoto for the briefest of moments.
If Sugimoto truly does want to be with Fumi, then those feelings are something she is going to have to work out, because I don’t believe she can really love Fumi unless she comes to complete peace with her past.
As usual, the look and feel of this series is stunning. The simple use of color and motion is just gorgeous. I love it. I’ve used this comparison before, but Aoi Hana really is like a post-impressionist painting come to life.