Ah, people with good taste, not least of all in headgear
Hello, my name is Hana and I’m an animaniac…
Hello there, fellow animaniacs. I’m a new blogger called Hana and, firstly, I’d like to say thanks for the very warm welcome so far on T.H.A.T. I’m a London-based female, dessert eating, baker boy hat wearing, eye make-up loving, acoustic guitar playing young teacher with a soft spot for 90s Brit-pop and contemporary indie-rock bands with spiky hair (their hair, not mine). I also love reading and writing, as well as anime of course. So, based on the last three at least, I guess you could say my decision to answer T.H.A.T.’s noble call of duty to new writers was a no-brainer.
A long-time reader but first-time blogger, I was driven to answer the noble call by an obsessive love of all things shoujo, josei, slice-of-life, comedy and mystery anime and manga related. A love which was born the moment I started watching my first anime series, ‘Fruits Basket’, and is continued with (amongst others) each ‘Skip Beat!’ manga update. I usually keep this love bottled up and placed high out of reach from my adorable but traditional Asian parents and straight-laced teacher colleagues (in an area in East London which shall for now remain shrouded in a gothic romance manga-esque black-feathered cloud of mystery). However, in the spirit of answering noble calls of duty, I’d like to share my love on T.H.A.T., including its development and its rose-tinted views on current series and related topics that have caught my big sparkly shoujo-loving eye.
If I had access to Otaku stuff when I was a kid in this boring country, I’d probably have turned out even worse than Renge
As I’m sure is the case with many fellow animaniacs on T.H.A.T., my obsessive love steers me to my laptop for a couple of hours each evening to check for updates of current anime and manga series I’m following, and for related blog- and fanfic-posts. On a good day: I’ll fan-girl squeal at a newly subbed episode of ‘Kaichou wa Maid-sama’, ‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’ (both recommended for rom-com lovers) or ‘Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan’ (er, recommended for bishie-flavoured eye-candy at least); or maybe a new scanlation of ‘Skip Beat!’, ‘Vampire Knight’, or ‘Until Death Do Us Part’; or perhaps also a new post on T.H.A.T., Anime News Network or FanFiction. On a bad day: I’ll find none of the above and will instead be forced to grade a never-ending pile of sub-standard essays by students who think going on Facebook counts as independent research; plus I’ll get moaned at by my lovely but traditional mummy to tidy my room and to learn how to cook (presumably at the same time).
By the way, speaking of subs and scanlations, I also love fansubbers. You are just too gorgeous for words.
Fansubbers, especially the fast ones with weird English, I heart you.
But back to the noble call. In addition to shoujo et. al., I love anything with yummy artwork and interesting characters with interesting voices who get up to interesting things. (And preferably bishies. Lots of bishies.) If they were alive, they’d be the kinda people you’d want to both stare at and have a conversation with. And marry (*sigh*).
Clearly a contender for the ultimate bishie
But I digress. As I said, I’d like to go into more detail about recent stuff that has caught my sparkly eye. So, attempting to be a good girl and strictly limiting myself in number, here be my thoughts on two series from the Spring 2010 anime season so far: ‘Kaichou wa Maid-sama’ and ‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’. However, rather than just summarising and highlighting things to daw over, I’ll also try and put my growing-increasingly-irrelevant-by-each-day degrees and day job skills to use by offering some hard-hitting analysis of the key themes and the significance of these shows in light of our current socio-political and economic climate. Well, ‘try’ being the operative word. Oh and just in case, I guess I should add, ‘WARNING: may contain spoilers’.
Kaichou wa Maid-sama
Ah, Ayazawa Misaki-san. If I were a guy (or a batter for the other team), I would totally fancy you. You are a girl who knows what she wants and will not allow little things like paternal abandonment, crippling debt and loathing for half of the world’s population to stand in the way of getting it. Except perhaps the ‘flu. But that’s where odd but hunky, blonde-haired and green eyed bishies and their scarves come in – not exactly to save the day (I would never dream of insulting you and in such a way as to say that you’d ever need saving by a man), but – to make such days brighter.
Yes, Misaki (if I may be so bold as to call you), how do I admire thee? Let me count the ways: a lady whose work ethic rivals that of legendary Emperor’s-heart-conquering and first-girl-to-ace-the-Government-Official-exams Shuurei; a woman whose wrath is as formidable as the demons of Kyouko; a lass whose desire to be number one is as strong as that of Hikari; and who is as strong as Rahzel; a girl whose appearance in a maid outfit is as spellbinding to her customers as Haruhi in a boy’s uniform is to hers; and a girl who looks hot in pretty much anything her Otaku-manager can think of dressing her up in. Clearly, she ain’t called ‘Kaichou’ for nothing.
So, rather than just another drippy, clumsy, gluttonous, stupid, lovesick, dull, pathetic excuse for a shoujo heroine, the awesome Misaki is one of the few flowers in a garden full of weeds that bloom before our screens once in an anime season or so. Whose development we assist in via the water and sunshine of our shared sorrows and joys. Who we watch with pride as she enchants and alarms all who are blessed enough to be graced by her heavenly presence.
However, I also acknowledge that all work and no play makes shoujo a dull genre. And having Usui Takumi around certainly adds fuel to the fire of Misa-chan’s brilliance. As we see from the rare but charming blushes she only lets slip in his kindly but cheeky presence, and in the sizzling kiss she receives following his confession in Episode 6. Also, like all good male love interests, Usui is not one to steal our beloved heroine’s limelight, but is interesting in his own right, yet willing to support her and sit back and allow his own mysterious past to be teasingly drip-fed over the coming weeks. And he looks hot topless. And gripping the bars of an iron cage with the intro of a catchy J-Rock number throbbing in the background also helps. Ahem. Yes, Usui you quirky but kindly and cheeky chappie, we salute you in your commendable efforts to support our heroine as she strives to achieve the happiness that she truly deserves in both her professional and personal life. Fighto!
Overview of themes
Hmm, having said little of the actual plot or the rest of the cast, I will not step on Impz’s toes as I know he is already blogging this series. However, here are some further observations based on the episodes aired so far:
Misa-chan has worked hard to turn her former all-boys school with a dodgy rep into a shining co-ed worth applying to by all with such a formidable Student Council Prez at its helm. However, the side-effects of such formidableness include often breaking out in a particularly virulent case of dictatoritis, rendering her initially very unwilling to bend her girl-friendly biased rules towards the sloppy boys. Of course, the Usui-factor is one of the ways in which Misaki learns to lighten up (plus habitual hints from her family, friends and co-workers), though I can’t help but wonder if she’s missing out on something during her precious time as a high-schooler. FUN, being the operative something. However, her track record so far proves that the Misaki method certainly has its merits. Thus, the improved rep of her school and her own shining academic record (consistently scoring in the top two in her year for all of her exams), clearly proves that she’s doing something right.
Ah, Maid Latte. Well, it’s certainly different to the part-time job I had working in my local WHSmith while I was at uni. My uniform was a fairly conservative light blue and navy number plus name tag, with me usually choosing the trousers option rather than the skirt option (yes it’s cold in London), but I assume both were equally scratchy. Either way, it seemed a fair deal if it meant I got a discount on my uni books. In contrast, Maid Latte’s apparel is a far more dazzling affair. And with its Otaku of a manager holding the controls, the possibilities are endless.
Twin-tales one day? Sure! imouto outfits? No probs! Power Rangers? Bunny ears? Glasses? Butlers? – The fetish-tapping possibilities are endless. Though rather than easily milking the whole thing for unashamed fan-service, Misaki’s lack of any feeling towards her work garb (other than potential horror at anyone from school seeing her in it) is another indicator of the admirable earnestness with which she tackles everything, as opposed to the deplorable triviality often displayed by those sloppy boys. To her it is just a uniform thank you very much, and an embarrassingly abhorrent one at that. And yet the uniform emphasizes how much she’s willing to suffer for her fatherless and debt-ridden family in order to help secure a better future for them all. And yes, she looks hot in it. Innit.
Being one of the few shining beacons of hope in a school still pretty much full of Y chromosome carrying fools, Misaki must of course shoulder most of the responsibilities. (Hmm, if she had a motto, I wonder if it would be ‘If you want something done properly, do it yourself’? Or ‘In this world the only person you can rely on is yourself’? Hmm…) However, this doesn’t mean that she shuns the support of friends and romantic interests. Well, not completely. Indeed there are times when the two categories seem by some trick of the light (and perverted imagination) to deliciously blur, such as in the imouto-episode where one moment her cute friends are unsuspectingly eating lunch, and the next they are in severe danger of being seduced by a potent cloud of Misa-mones.
But clearly the most potential for romance lies in the apparently nonchalant Usui, who has already displayed his worthiness for Misaki’s hand with nothing short of a death-defying leap from the top of the school roof in order to save both her photo and her straight-laced (no corset-puns intended) rep. Ah, but I used the ‘s’ word again. Well, clearly the show wouldn’t be shoujo if it didn’t have at least one version of the knight in a shining hairstyle trying to save the damsel in a maid dress (and might I point out that she had the situation fully in control when he tried to save her from those stalkers a couple of weeks back while he ended up breaking the windows for no reason instead, so there!). I will concede, though, that Misaki could benefit from being a bit more trusting in her friends’ and future hubby’s capabilities. And yes, she could also do with being less slow on the uptake when it comes to recognising the obvious romantic interest shown in her by hot bishies.
So, in a time of global recession, increased tuition fees and high unemployment and job insecurity, are we to admire and learn from the example of Misaki’s penny-pinching, her demonic study regime and a willingness to work any friggin job she can get? Or should we vehemently condemn the suggestion that no family is truly complete or happy without a father figure, or no woman without a future husband to jump off rooftops for her?
Or perhaps we should look more closely at the quirky-but-seemingly-harmless cosplay elements. Is Maid Latte simply a temporary haven for those who can’t afford cute serving staff, but will be satisfied with their working class lot if they can have a habitual portion of moemoe omurice served with a smile amid lashings of black and white lace? Or does the growing popularity of such establishments betray a deeper and increasing frustration with said working class lot, which one is nonetheless stuck with , thus rendering such portions as satisfying in the long term as, say, a fix to an addict?
So. Are we talking catharsis? (‘You think you’ve got it tough – look at the state of her house!’) Or damning social critique? (‘Who needs men and money anyway? Oh crap, maybe we do!’) Or simple fairytale fun? (Another hardworking Cinders who probably gets her Prince in the end and all we gotta do is fan-girl/ -boy squeal and kyaa kyaa and daw during the ride). Hmm. Clearly this analysis isn’t as in-depth, well-researched or indeed as hard-hitting as I might have preferred. Then again this is a potential blog post and not a Masters dissertation. So, despite more questions than answers being thrown up, perhaps it’s best to leave others who are more qualified than me to contemplate such issues while the rest of just sit back and enjoy the shoujo.
Well, as a shoujo series, the anime ticks most of the boxes I’d look for amongst the better ones. As others have observed elsewhere, the pace might become an issue though (but I doubt it’ll ever get as glacial as something like ‘Kimi ni todoke’, though that’s one of my faves from the Winter ‘09/’10 season). However, seeing as this would spoil the dramatic irony resulting from Misaki’s romantic myopia and thus the overall FUN of it all, it’s probably no biggie. So, though it may not be perfect (e.g.: a bit more detail and a broader palette for the backgrounds wouldn’t go amiss folks), it’s certainly an entertaining series with a strong female lead, a satisfying bishified male counterpart, a decent supporting cast, and lots of romance and comedy to justify a rom-com tag. Thus, I look forward to seeing how these characters and their relationships develop in the coming weeks. And the Misa-chan-service.