re: ghostlightning (in other words, notes on Dobashi)

Future otou-san ghost had much to say about the paucity of testosterone in our much loved Hatsukoi Limited.

1. subjects and objects

Ghost writes that “[a] single alpha male would absolutely unbalance the force of haremette attraction at work here,” due to the structural influence of the genre at hand. But what piqued my interest were his thoughts on Dobashi. He writes:

In episode 7 Dobashi the tennis varsity player gets her moment in the sun, which should have been quite entertaining for me. Like the other alpha females, she is pursued by an omega male. Through her work and attention he gets stronger at tennis and gets a shot at going out with her. (my emphasis)

The significant part is the clause “she is pursued…” Ghost indicates (as does the anime) that Dobashi is the object of omega-kun’s (what was his name again?) pursuance.

Moreover, Dobashi is not the subject of the episode. The subject/object dichotomy (S/O) is very important here due to two reasons: (1) HatsukoiLTD’s narrative structure – as opposed to the internal narratives of each character – is decentralized, fragmented, it’s an “ensemble” show (I forget who said that) and; (2) shipping and love polygons are the focus of the show. To note, the “narrator” is, generally, the one who has soliloquies.

The S/O, then, is crucial because (1) a fragmented narrative structure is oriented towards weaving together the storylines of individual characters, and this emphasis on the trajectories of characters necessitates their subjectification or objectification because; (2) love requires a subject and object, a lover and a loved. While you could argue that love is about an egalitarian relationship and not a subject/object relationship, shipping, unrequited love and fantasy love are all about one-sided affairs, unequal relationships/feelings and clearly marked subjects and objects of love and lust.

2. polygons

Dobashi has an interesting role, she has the “different” one in relation to the other girls. This is based on the assumption that the anime is focused on girls (if publicity art says anything), and that girls are the subjects of love, not necessarily objects. When interpreting the “role” of the character, the criteria contains two values: (1) who is the narrator? And (2) who is the subject?

For instance, Enomoto is disproportionately the narrator, though her relationship with Kusuda is, so to speak, explicitly implicit. But I’m sure we can guess how it will end. The Enomoto/Kusuda relationship is largely mutually exclusive, meaning that they or their story doesn’t really overlap into others (i.e. I’ll talk about Yamamoto below). If you take a look at the final remark of each episode, where we hear an internal line or two of a character, usually such internal line is used to identify the narrator of the episode. However, during the Enomoto/Kusuda Christmas episode, there is no internal remark at the end. Instead, it ends on the verbal, coquettish exchange “old woman face,” “kappa face.”

Yamamoto is disproportionately the narrator but more of the object of love than a subject.

Koyoi is disproportionately the narrator and the subject of love towards her brother.

When Ayumi is the subject of love towards Mamoru she is the narrator. However, she is frequently the object of Misao’s narration and love.

When Bessho Yoshihiko is the object of Koyoi’s love, he is not the narrator. However, he is frequently the narrator when Yamamoto is the object of his love. But this relationship was upset in ep. 8 when Yamamoto was the narrator and subject of her love towards Arihara, thus moving Yoshihiko into more of an object position.

3. Dobashi

Dobashi and omega-kun have, thus far, a mutually exclusive relationship similar to Enomoto/Kusuda’s. The difference is that Dobashi isn’t the narrator and is omega-kun’s object of love. While each episode has a final internal remark that indicates the narrator, Dobashi is the one to deliver this internal line. This conflicts with her objectivity. I’d guess that her reticence – she’s not a full-blown silent girl archetype – is the other critical factor which thus forges a complex intersection between narrator, subject/object, and archetype. In other words, Dobashi’s position as a girl (which is absolutely central in HatsukoiLTD) and archetypal role as The Reticent One mitigate her objectivity of omega-kun’s narrated love. The innate structures of HatsukoiLTD allow Dobashi to be an object that is narrated upon inasmuch as her complementing features of reticent main female cast member mitigate that very objectivity. Dobashi, as a member of the main cast, must be central to the anime via the intersection we have discussed, lest her role end up contradicting the anime’s stylistic focus on girls.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted June 8, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Good job with the narrator bit. I think it’s a bit of a device to set up how the relationships tilt and bring tension since all the feelings and emotion are piled up on one side of the see-saw, so to speak. When the other side responds that brings the release or climax or coitus or whatever.

    What makes Dobashi interesting is that she doesn’t sit in the full-blown silent girl archetype. Well, ignoring the fact that I don’t know for sure what you mean by said archetype, the more-action, less-word thing just means that she can’t be the one piling up characterization in a short period since that’d require a lot of action in a short period. So we have Terai fill in the blank, set up the flow and mood, and highlight the unpredictable way of thinking (or very predictable?) behind Dobashi. She is definitely the one who’s pulling the strings in the relationship and that’s how she communicates.

  2. Posted June 8, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I love how you turn (in my view) a relatively simple one-dimensional-character-based first love anime show into a complex study on character archetypes and narrative points of view and whatnot. I’m completely lost even if I read your post twice. Makes me wonder if we’re watching the same show. I am merely enjoying the run while you guys (omo, gl included) analyze like crazy!

  3. Posted June 8, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Pretty heady exploration of the narrative structure. I myself haven’t really looked into it. When I mentioned structure I probably should have mentioned category or genre, though both terms aren’t satisfying.

    Terai (omega-kun) is interesting in that there is growth in power levels within his omega tier. It is interesting also that Dobashi isn’t merely a passive source (inspiration); she has an active hand in the transformation. It is notable also that Terai becomes a source of inspiration due to his effort.

    “I too must give it my all.” when Dobashi goes for the kissu while Terai is merely attempting to hold her hand (a clear marking of the borders of omega level).

    The notable thing is that Terai can only go that far. He’s the object — a Holly Golightly to Dobashi’s Prof. Higgins. This may upset the narrative structure of HL as you’ve described it.

  4. lelangir
    Posted June 8, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    @gl: yeah, this model I described doesn’t at all count for character development, so I’m glad you brought that into the larger picture.

  5. lelangir
    Posted June 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    @bluemist: seemingly mundane things are often, in actuality, quite complex.

  6. Posted June 8, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    tj han commented something sensible and relevant here [->]

    The gist is that I may have misrepresented Terai and most of the males in the cast as omega males implying lowest social order and/or lowest ability (or weakest personality), while they are for the most part average in the aforementioned areas. They’re probably more omocron than omega.

    This should alter my thesis significantly.

  7. Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Fuck, I wanted to write a post saying exactly that. But again, congratulations for highlighting so well the structure of the show.

  8. ShyShy
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Wow this is very intersting indeed X3
    I never heard of this anime til now since I already read this blog and it sounds really awesome XD
    It sounds really awesome with your explanations about some characters and their prblems. ^w^ I look forward to finding photos and watching videos of this anime.

    Bai!

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  • [...] to hell with that. I’m going to recommend it to people anyways, because there’s still something masterful in this relatively straightforward story. Posted by omo in Hatsukoi Limited, Modern Visual Culture [...]

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