When Stories Leave Us Behind – Empathy and The Narratives of Adaptations (In OreGairu)

In case you’ve missed it, FLCL (pronounced ‘Fooly cooly’), which originally aired in 2000-2001 is getting a direct sequel, which will air in 2017. Most people’s response has been “Why?” I sought to calm these people down by reminding them that no matter how bad the FLCL continuation is, they’ll still have the original, untouched. But is that really true? One of the reasons Tolkien’s estate had been so reluctant to allow for movies to be made off of his work is the knowledge that the total mindscape of a franchise is indeed affected by all that it contains. Then again, look at Psycho-Pass’s 2nd season, or Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the argument is that the new people in charge of the franchise don’t really understand what made it good to begin with, and don’t understand its core messages. So we use this argument to do away with dissenting evidence. Then again, we also see this argument with reboots such as female Thor, or black Spiderman, etc.

OreGairu S2 episode 5 anime - Yukinoshita Yukino thought Hikigaya Hachiman would understand her

And this is what it really comes down to; just as we dismiss the latest creation as outside “canon”, for not getting the original, we fear that somehow, we’ll be the ones left behind, where the newest creation will reflect on what the original has said and ruin it for us – not just our memory of it, but what it even said to us. And this is one of the reasons fans of source material are so often unhappy with adaptations: There are as many narratives on what the material really says as there are people who consumed it. This is unsurprising, because we filter the material through our own understanding of the world, and our own media preferences, until the effect of the media on us, through us, is as unique as the experience of having consumed it (and might be different should we revisit the material later on).

(This post will have very light OreGairu (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU in English) seasons 1-2 spoilers, mostly of a meta-nature, discussing where the story went rather than its details.)

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Top Nine Anime Series of 2015

Another year has come to an end, and with it a bevvy of shows, of which I’ve sampled over 40, and finished about half of these. Not as good as past years, but there were a couple of pretty underwhelming seasons this year. You’ll note there are 9 shows in this post, not ten. I’ve decided to go back to my 2013’s list method, and have as many shows as I think deserve being on the list, be it 3 or 13. And this year has 9 such shows, for me. There’d be “Notable Absentees” and “Honourable Mentions” at the end of the post, so if you don’t see a show, keep on reading!

Only full series had been considered, no OVAs or movies of any sort. The names link to the show’s description and information on My Anime List (MAL).

9. Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium)

Hibike! Euphonium / Sound! Euphonium anime episode 11 - Kousaka Reina and Oumae Kumiko look into one another's eyes - Top anime shows of 2015

Euphonium is not a perfect show, which you can tell from its position on the list, but it’s still good enough to make the list. Ironically, even though it’s not a split-cour show, it feels more like half of a grander show than actual split-cour shows I’ve watched this past year. It tells a small and coherent dramatic story, while hinting at much more to come. Its characters, of which there are many, range between fully-realized to not fleshed out sufficiently yet, but they feel real, and they, and the show, carry the charm of the so-called “KyoAni Mastery of Small Moments.” The show had several highlights, and was consistently good after its first arc. Recommended, but I’d recommend waiting for the 2nd season, myself.

You can read my editorial on the show and its ensemble nature here.

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 13 (Finale) – A Selfish Sacrifice

Pre-Episode Spiel:

It’s been quite a season for OreGairu, hasn’t it? But here we are, 8 AM on a Saturday morning, all ready to watch the finale. I’ll leave talk of the season as a whole for the post-episode/season write-up, but man, this is the season where all the things left unsaid in the first season were said, and acted upon, and drama and the quest for maturity were embarked upon in earnest.

So what did we have last episode, that was filled with notable scenes? I’d say the most common refrain was Haruno’s jealousy of Yukino (because “I hate [x]” in this show is now code for “I’m jealous of them”), and how she kept meddling. That’s on the plot-level. Thematically, it was all about how we handle our self-image in the face of expectations, how we think others expect us to behave, and trying to navigate between our image for ourselves, and the image we think others have for us.

Yukino, Hachiman, and the rest, are all dealt a blow when they realize they’re “not being genuine,” by their own definitions. And it seems as if Yui is going to take matters into her own hands, one way or the other. She’s always been the one driving everyone forward. We’ll have to see how it shakes out, and at what cost. Everybody hurts, and that’s what relationships are like.

Post-Episode Thoughts:

OreGairu S2 episode 13 anime notes - Yuigahama Yui tried her best to no avail

Ok, we’re going to start with the post-episode write-up and then a short something about the season as a whole. Just so you’d know how this section is going to be organized.

This episode was relatively quiet, as many of this show’s second half has been, with one half being relatively light and quiet and “easy”, and the other half being more “impactful”, or “heavy”, if you wish. But while nothing much happened on the surface, the whole water park trip was fraught with constant allusions by the characters to themselves and one another, by way of the marine animals. This isn’t something that was just “happenstance,” not even merely the author using this angle to have the characters comment on things. No, it’s the characters trying to act as if everything’s “normal”, and as episode 3’s write-up spent a lot of time talking about, it’s a lie, and when everyone knows it’s a lie, then everyone is uncomfortable, and things leak out. There’s also the other side of it here, which is that the characters want to be understood (while also fearing it), so they keep dropping hints and waiting for someone else to make the first move for them.

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 12 – The Outwardly-Dictated Self (Doubt)

Pre-Episode Spiel:

I really enjoyed last episode, where the focus was on Hayama, with his own troubles, with his own humanity, and dignity, and trying to do the right thing where everyone, including himself, is happy. He knows there are no magic solutions, but he’ll try. He knows who he is, and he owns it. He’s more mature than most of the rest of the cast, but he’s still trying. Hayama is jealous of Hachiman, just as Hachiman is jealous of him. It’s much easier being jealous of masks when you don’t see the situation from inside someone’s mind. We all have our crosses to bear. Heck, last episode was filled with moments of people carrying their own crosses, full of great scenes, with Miura’s confession of weakness and caring, to the Haruno scenes, to Iroha and Yukino.

But where are we now? Well, done with novel 10, so no more LN-reader spoilers/teasers/complaints. New material for everyone. So, what are we going to have? Hachiman is still growing up, he’s still using his Hachimanism to get things done, but he knows it is a tool, and a dangerous one at that. We have the group of friends living life together, and we still have Yukino’s home situation, looming around behind every scene, every moment where she’s shown for the last 3 episodes, and also in the background of much more content. Will we keep exploring Hayama’s “arc”? I suspect not, his thematic arc feels “done” for the moment, but we’ll still see its ramifications, because that’s life.

Post-Episode Thoughts:

OreGairu S2 episode 12 anime notes - Hikigaya Hachiman, Yukinoshita Yukino and Yuigahama Yui have been slain by Yukinoshita Haruno

Being understood, being labeled is scary. As scary as being misunderstood?

Before this episode was over I was going to comment on how this episode continues the trend of most episodes since episode 8, where one half is pretty light, but then there’s one half, or at least parts that are much more light-hearted. Well, it’s certainly true, and the Waifu Wars or Waifu Bowl had certainly had a go at it this episode, with Yui, Iroha, and Yukino all acting seemingly protective over Hikki, and Hikki showing some purported interest in Iroha and Yui, and of course Hayama and his followers, and the two “anime-ism jokes” thrown in for good measure (Ebina and Totsuka).

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 11 – Not Nobility; Maturity

Pre-Episode Spiel:

So, subtitles of unproven provenance, after I woke up 14 hours ago for an episode that did not arrive, and these subs went unnoticed by me for 3 hours. Welp. Anyway, last episode for the most part was a continuation of the episode that preceded it, with busy Hikki going on essentially 3 dates in one episode, and there being the long-awaited smackdown of Tamanwa, and Iroha finally taking charge of her Student Council, and although nice, the true focus of that scene was where Yukino and Hikki spoke to one another and of themselves, and Yukino did not let Hikki sacrifice himself once more while stepping back.

And then, fitting for Yukino’s little speech about how you can’t progress without speaking clearly and being willing to be hurt, we finished the episode in an extremely uncomfortable position, with Yukino and her mother not-speaking in front of everyone else, and no one knowing what to do about it.

Post Episode Thoughts:

OreGairu S2 episode 11 anime notes - Hayama Hayato speaks of choice

Hayama Hayato is a character I like. It’s how somber he is, how much you can see he’s hurting, and how hard he’s trying, trying to not hurt, trying to make sure everyone else is alright, trying to be the best person he can be, while hurting, and not knowing what the “right decisions” are. So what does he do? The only thing he can do, his level best.

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 10 – Growing Pains

Pre-Episode Spiel:

So, last episode was, rather than a return to normalcy, our cast taking their first step on their renewed path of togetherness, friendship, and willingness to be hurt, it also had a lot of fun and shipping-ammo moments. Yui told Hikki she wants to spend time with him, Yukino told him she was envious of him, and Iroha confessed to Hayama who turned her down. All the girls revealing of themselves and trying to bridge the gap. Now we still have a party for the elderly to organize, and the party and emotional repercussions of Iroha’s confession – let us see what Hachiman deprived Tobe and Ebina of in the 2nd episode.

Post Episode Thoughts:

OreGairu S2 episode 10 anime notes - Yukinoshita Yukino doesn't like fake things

The quest for genuine continues, and the maligning of everything else as fake.

The post-ED segment dovetails perfectly into what I wanted to open this discussion with. In my weekly round-up where I covered episodes 8-9 I pointed out that in most movies, series, and books, episode 8 would be either the final shot, or the one preceding it and the denouement, if it weren’t one that actually came up early. It’s the conclusion of a long journey Hachiman has been undergoing since before the series even started, from knowing he’s miserable to admitting it and then acting on it. But it’s also the start of a new journey, because as the final catalyst for the change and the episodes since have kept pointing out, it’s the actual effort you make that brings about change and is worthwhile. “Yay! I need to change!” is only the start.

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Spring 2015 Anime Overview – Weeks 8-9 (Anime Power Ranking)

Still busy with real life schoolwork, but here’s what I think of the past two weeks’ worth of anime episodes I’ve watched. Still need to catch up on Sidonia, but hey, we watch what we can! Some stuff was great, and some stuff was terrible, that’s how this season is.

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst).

1) OreGairu S2 Episodes 8-9 (SNAFU Too!):

OreGairu S2 episode 8 anime - Crying Hikigaya Hachiman wants something genuine

Episode 8 was the dramatic core of the entire show up to this point. This is the big conflict everything was building towards. Hachiman overcoming his biggest enemy, his fear, his own self, and comes right out and declares to his friends, to the world, and to himself, the truth he’s been hiding from – that he’s scared of being alone and not understanding others, and that it hurts. And his friends hurt because they suffer from the same issues (Yukino), or because their friends are hurt (Yui). We also had a chat from Sensei where the author took time to explain to us how relationships work, how hurt works, and that once you grow past something that seems all consuming, it doesn’t seem nearly that bad. The author also explained almost every character in that scene, from Tobe and Ebina, to Hayama, to… everyone.

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 9 – Taking the Plunge

Pre-Episode Spiel:

This whole show is about Hachiman coming to terms with his misery and growing up, and growing out of it. Episode 7 finally had Hachiman not just knowing this, but outright admitting it, that his actions don’t lead to desirable results, and that he’s maintaining a façade, rather than presenting his true face. Internal words are cheap though, so then we had episode 8, where Hikki had a long chat with Sensei, who explained to him how the world works, and how relationships work. Pain is a natural part of relationships, and people aren’t always rational agents, including Hikki and his friends.

And then we had the episode’s second half, which was less than clear for many people (see an explanation for various points here), where Hachiman and friends finally made the first step to a great friendship, where they’ve had a fight and told everyone how they feel, and what they want, and what they want is to have friends, and to be less afraidtogether. This isn’t “the end”, because as last episode told us, it’s all about constantly trying to overcome challenges together, about dealing with hurting your friends, and being hurt with them.

Let’s see how Yukino and Hachiman, far too used to “logic” and being resplendant in their loneliness, take to the new environment, but first, let us deal with Jazz Hands. I assume.

Post Episode Thoughts:

OreGairu S2 episode 9 anime notes - Hikigaya Hachiman is having an identity crisis

This episode was pretty light and enjoyable, especially in its first two-thirds. Everyone’s avoiding touching the real issues. Yes, it means we’re not really getting into it with jazz hands, but more importantly, the characters are dancing around what happened last episode. It’s still raw, and they need to find a new balancing point. It’s not “everything’s normal” as we’ve had it for most of the season, where everyone’s trying to act as if nothing has changed because if they fake it, they just might make it. No, here everything exists between them and they acknowledge it, but they’re too self-conscious to put it out there in words, lest it breaks apart, or they end up crying again. So they spend time together, not to hide away the past conflict, but to try and build up on it. It’s a fine difference that’s hard to put into words, but it’s meaningful. It’s genuine.

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 8 FAQ – Explaining “That Scene”

After fielding a whole bunch of questions on my blog, and seeing the same questions pop up on reddit, MAL, Crunchyroll, and even a Russian forum that linked to my blog, I thought I’d try to tackle some questions about the scene in the second half of OreGairu season 2 episode 8. I’m not trying to convince you it’s “good”, or that the characters are “right”, but just try and explain the what and the why.

I haven’t read the Light Novel, so this is all based on my read of the show on its own. You can read my massive notes for episode 8 here if you so desire, or check here for all my writings on the second season.

1) You think Hachiman is miserable? But he’s the batman, and he’s cool, and society is wrong, isn’t it?

OreGairu S2 episode 1 anime - Hikigaya Hachiman's inner thoughts

This question is more of a preamble into the mood of the entire FAQ. I’m not actually interested in giving value judgments on whether the characters are “right” or “wrong”. I’m trying to explain how they see the situation, and whythey are having problems with it. I mean, we sit here outside, some of us with years of experience more than the characters have. Whether I think Hachiman’s goal is right or wrong doesn’t mean much to answer the question, “Why does he try to change his methods?” And the answer is Hachiman is miserable, and was keeping this loner personality as an act to help him keep people, and his own emotions, at bay. He himself says he’s lonely and that his actions only isolated him further, while hurting those around him under the guise of it not mattering.

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 8 – The Ineffability of the Human Experience

I’ll once again open with the post-episode editorial, because this episode’s write-up is so very long, and you might just want to read the bottom line. Well, lines, I expect there’d be quite a few of those. I know myself, which is a large part of this show’s theme, appropriately enough.

(Note: Click here for the full episode notes, where I broke down almost every single utterance or statement as I watched the episode. It’s long.)

I often find it useful to start from the end, because a single journey can lead to more than one conclusion, and it is by the conclusion that you look back and retranslate everything’s meaning.

OreGairu S2 episode 8 anime - Hikigaya Hachiman knows some things can't be understood by being thought of

Speaking of translation and words, we have some pretty cool words for things that cannot be said, words such as “ineffable”, often said as “the ineffable”. Even the word “Sublime” often refers to an experience that transcends, not understanding, but words. Sublime works of art if they use words may use many of them to describe something, but that experience in the end is given to what is merely hinted at, pointed at, experienced.

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