Tonari no Kabutsu-kun – 01: Comedy of Miscues

Bad start, I prefer by violence to be more visceral…

Well the fall season has started and already we have some meaty discussion about a shoujo show. It’s odd in a way shoujo doesn’t get a whole lot of exposure in comparison to other genres so it is rather unfortunate that the most buzz this show gets is from a rape joke and things boiling over. On the face of it Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun appears to be your standard shoujo comedy, you have your shoujo heroine and her destined love interest, who is a jerk with a heart of gold (shocking, yes?). Shizuku leads a life of quite study until one day she accepts a job to bring local misunderstood malcontent, Haru his homework. Haru likes to beat up bullies, but unfortunately this isn’t Gundam and might doesn’t make right. As a result he was unceremoniously suspended, his propensity for violence aside he is social inept but somehow he can communicate with something other than grunts and snarls. His parents are noticeably absent so it is up to Shizuka to reform this unrefined bishie into something that is not a menace to southern Japan while pouring his soda over his love interest.

As comedies go it will be hit or miss, for me there were more misses than hits. I think the main problem is that aside from Haru everyone else seems to be playing a straight shoujo game while Haru is the only absurd one. I guess there was no avoiding it, enjoyment will likely hinge on how you perceive Haru’s repeated disregard for consent and if you can make jokes about rape. I would like to believe that this is going to be pure satire, but the absurdity level and the cutting remarks simply aren’t here yet. If you find Haru to be less than endearing, then things only get worse. Haru is bishie and means well, but because he’s a numbskull he screws things up and caused plenty of collateral damage when he goes on his rampages. If you want an explanation to Haru’s crude nature, it will have to wait or might never be explained. It’s one thing to be socially inept, but another to have “rape” as part of your casual lexicon and have the notion that grabbing girls and pinning them down is a good idea… I don’t want to spoil what enjoyment fans of the franchise will get out of this show. However I would like to point out that the current controversy does have merit. Tonari no Kabutsu-kun happened to show the worst liberties that shoujo takes in the shortest span of time in recent memory. Whatever other merits the show does have are easily be lost in what is perceived to be a horrid attitude about rape, and how women ought to behave. In short I when I apply DreamKatari’s ugly test, e.g. if Haru was an ugly dude everyone and their mother would sure as hell be screaming RAPE!

It’s no secret that some shoujo series have been weaving an unsettling picture of what romance is or rather isn’t. Day, AJ, 8C,and E Minor have covered that the rape comment is there and why it has irked them so. I think it is a discussion that needs to be take place (among many others). The one thing I would like to add is that while arguments have been made about Haru’s intent, the point stands that his intentions are irrelevant and that would matter more fair or not, is how his actions will be perceived. From a legal point of view, and in the court of public opinion, for the most part, intent is not sufficient defense when something goes wrong. To take a rather extreme example no drunk driver has ever intended to kill anyone, but people are killed all the time by drunk drivers. There is little sympathy for them as gross negligence is no excuse. Whether those drunks intended to kill anyone is irrelevant what matters is that someone died. In the US there are special laws that apply to them, namely vehicular manslaughter in most states that allow harsher penalties than would normally be possible. Just goes to show if you do something wrong the law and society at large will tell you to take you r good intentions and shove it.

In Haru’s case since he has no medical condition that we are aware of, his comments at best made light of rape and at worst was a tangible threat. Social ineptitude might explain why his choice of diction was so awful, but that is a mere excuse and not sufficient justification. Reading over some of the comments that have also flown around while emotions have run high is that murder somehow trumps rape and that there would be no fracas had Haru simply substituted rape for kill. Murder is wrong, but fundamentally since the dawn of civilization and codified laws capital punishment has been used, killing in self-defense is largely justifiable, execution is usually the penalty for treachery against the state (though there are many other crimes that earn that punishment), and killing in war is accepted as tragic and inevitable. Murder is acceptable or inevitable in certain situations, and in some places in the world the death penalty is still used, right or wrong that’s how some societies roll. There is, however, never a justification for rape, societies in general are more apt to liquidate an individual rather than rape them. The more you look at it the difference becomes more apparent when you realize people die from accidents and that most laws do draw that distinction. There is however no provision for accidental rape, in fact I would wager that there is no way one can accidentally rape someone. Assuming consent doesn’t make it excusable nor would be accidental. It would be willfully ignoring the lack of consent and taking advantage of the inability of the victim to give consent. The threat was bad enough but as events rolled on the lack of consent becomes much harder to gloss over and I can see why people are angry. It has happened before to be sure but to have it all show up in less than 30 minutes is rather off putting.

Back to perception though, as much as it would be nice and dandy if we could all read each other’s intentions, we are imperfect creatures and thus have to make sense of events. On my part intent is probably the most irrelevant thing when a problem occurs because no one really intends to fail or cause trouble. What the person’s intent matters little once trouble occurs, and no matter his or her intent there will likely be consequences depending on the severity of the breakdown. On that note it is hard to perceive Haru’s cavalier attitude about consent as something positive. I am all for guys saying hello, or repeatedly making romantic gestures, however Haru crossed plenty of lines when he gets physical. Shoujo does have a tendency to see rape as crimes of passion instead of power as they really are. Shoujo treats the invasion of personal space is a game escalating titillation and often overly romanticizes it, but the surrender of power message is still there. Part of it has to do with heroines having a need to be seen as chaste and pure. To have sexual desires would make the character in question a “slut” hence why shoujo characters generally don’t ask for intimacy, more over they aren’t allowed to express sexuality or even sensuality in some cases. This has been true of other works of fiction outside of shoujo manga, but the message is there nonetheless.

If nothing else this whole discussion has revealed that there are still many out there who have a flawed notion of rape. It’s a crime of power, and yes men can be raped too. The key is consent, you have to have it before you go bumping and grinding or to use your hands creatively. It will be a mood killer but remember if your partner is drunk they can argue that they were unable to give consent and criminal charges will soon follow. No literally means no, one should never assume playing hard to get. Believe it or not men can be raped, again it is a crime of power and it’s not unheard of men to rape other men. No this doesn’t mean the gays are out to get you but rather some dude really hates your guts and he wants to humiliate you, what better way is there that to take away your manhood by making you his bitch? It can happen outside of prison and it has happened often enough that it has become part of the curriculum for safe work place training.

While I hesitate to throw victims under the bus, I believe that there has to be some accountability. While non-lethal Personal Defense Weapons provide a measure of security, the best defense is in numbers and in situational awareness. Also if you are going the pepper spray route understand that it doesn’t cause true temporary blindness it just makes keeping the eyes open hard but impossible (I got sprayed for Law Enforcement and Crowd Control training, it was not fun, it burned for days, water made it worse, and I kept 5 copies of the training certificate). Hence, your target is still a threat and the best course of action is to retreat. Also if you are going to use a PDW, train with it, and make sure you maintain it. There is nothing more embarrassing than mis-firing your snazzy new stun gun on yourself when you are drawing it… Rape victims should not be blamed for getting raped, however that matters little once the crime is completed. Moreover the people who would commit such an act have a much more formidable arsenal at their disposal (GHB and the like), the element of surprise, and then there is the issue of the alcohol factor so doesn’t get complacent just because you have enough firepower to disable a person the power of Thor. At the end of the day the best defense if having a reliable friend that will have your back.

If you get nothing out of this post please understand one sad reality about life, perception is everything. Regardless of one’s intentions how your actions are translated by others will have far more weighty consequences than your well-meaning intentions.

He had it coming…

Its not about what the intent was, but what a jury will believe…

Sadly kid you aren’t Hosaka, and even Hosaka never jumped a girl…

Somewhere out there the Teacher’s Union is cringing…

I guess all the teachers do here is give out standardized tests…this a step down from Tari Tari…

Get that on tape and she’ll sue you. Also you’d be tossed in jail with a new entry into the Megan’s Law database.

Yeah you could do better by just playing MGS4 again…

I take this as saying that boys are dogs that shit and piss all over the house and are in desperate need of being house broken…

Sorry kid playing dumb wouldn’t fly anywhere, save the sparkles for another day.

Bird crap is an AWESOME look.

Yeah maybe he can get a GED instead…

You should sign with LA Dodgers, I hear they not only have money to burn but AWESOME beer and chicken parties.

Sure…

And so the public indecency continues…

Just the latest symptom of the pitfalls of shoujo…

Haru meant to beat up some kidnappers, and knocked the snot out of Shizuku instead, but we cool right? Good job, good effort, good intentions…

Apparently two wrongs do make a right…

We have three penalties on the play. False Start, Haru of the boys team. Roughing the love interest, Haru of the boys team. Illegal Motion, Haru of the boys team. Automatic Friendzone, redo first episode.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I thought it was somewhat funny, but I don’t think I’m going to keep with it. It threw at least a third of the story in with just the first episode. There’s going to be rival dude (has to be), but then Haru will improve and be the man for the heroine. At this pacing they could do it in three episodes. I think they also blew their comedy load this episode, too – there’s not really anywhere more they can go with this – and as that was my main interest…DROPPED.

    • Crusader
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Granted they tried really hard to make Haru seem like he more going for him, but we already had a dog for a main love interest and a better one at that…Inuyasha. Mileage will vary depending on how much you like Haru.

  2. venom_aa
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Talking about blowing up of proportion the rape part. I actually found it funny cause it showed how lacking Haru social skills are. And somehow i thin it might have something to do with him being alienated by his classmates either by his intellect or his violent ways to resolve things. Im betting on that somehow him being so smart got him alienated and his violence is only a way to hide his insecurity.

    If we were serious about every shoujo character out there I dont think we could moraly defend any of them, from the murderous desires of Tsuraga in Skip Beat to Irie total lack of respect for women in Itazura na Kiss.

    But most of the times shoujo use this kind of characters to show than even with their flaws theres is still someone that can love them.

    • Crusader
      Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Depends on who you are dealing with, rape does occur and if it hits closer to home I can see why it’s not funny. You just can’t joke about some things within good taste. It’s not like every one is making jokes about the Syrian conflict. Even if you would like to joke about a miscarriage it shouldn’t come as a surprise not everyone would be laughing.

      Flaws or no exaggerated violence doesn’t seem to carry as much controversy. You can have a hyper violent 1980s action flick but you really head towards dangerous waters when you deal with rape as a means of affection. I remember in reading about the Watchmen production how the guy portraying the rapist broke down sobbing because he felt horrible about the whole scene.

      Just because you are okay with it doesn’t mean you are the majority. I am willing to overlook flaws in the genre but they are flaws nonetheless.

      • venom_aa
        Posted October 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        Just can’t see it your way, maybe its the culture and that’s why I can understand why its something to laugh at.
        I’m Mexican and we do lots of jokes about misfortunes, violent stuff and other things. Not like you would say it to someone who was a victim of it, but we often do that kind of jokes to our friends.
        Some mexican women even joke about rape by saying: Is it rape if I enjoy it?
        I have even said the same line that Haru said when i was young when trying to flirt. The girl laughed at me, cause she knew it was just a bad attempt at flirting.
        I think Haru was project a manly (macho) attitude to hide his insecurity, but never intending to commit rape, same as we mexicans do with our jokes.
        Said that i do not condemn degradation of women, but I can understand how something like rape could be used in a bad joke.

  3. 0leefy
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    actually, the 1st episode covered about chapters 1-2 of the manga. i don’t think the characters are portrayed very well. i find the tone of the anime somewhat shallow, for some reason. I will blame haru’s VA. lol. On a side note, the main couple is not really the main focus of the story, it’s more about the friend group, which hasn’t really been introduced yet. but blegh, i don’t even care… i just hope zetsuen no tempest turns out well……X_X

    • Crusader
      Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      Can’t fault you for not biting at best it seems to be another standard rom-com. Unless you find Haru special it’s not worth it if it doesn’t pique your interest.

  4. MarigoldRan
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Apparently not your cup of tea. Then how about blogging about post-apocalyptic villages with hints of grim-dark lurking in the background?

    You should post more. Even when I don’t agree with you, you’re better than 99.9% of the writers on the Internet.

    • Crusader
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      Trying to post more but one more month of maintenance duty until I can start cruising as a lab tech. Going to start with Girls und Panzer for now.

  5. Dein
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Definitely agree with you. I find Haru more annoying than amusing, and without him the equation, there isn’t much left to see.

    Also, it seems like rape is becoming a more common theme, with both this show and kokoro connect touching on it. Not entirely sure if this is some sort of new experiemtn on the creators part or just clumsy writing, but even if it wasn’t in a moral grey area, it doesn’t really add anything to the context.

    P.S. If you haven’t already, you should check out Suki-tte. I personally found it to be of overall higher quality with much more interesting characters.

    • Crusader
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      Will do.

      Haru is difficult and problematic to say the least.

  6. Kit-A-Ron-Ron-Kat
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    The rape joke made me flinch a little, mostly because I really didn’t see that one coming. Reading the various reactions about it got me thinking: could there be more truth in that little scene than one might think at first glance ?

    The Japanese pornographic industry is known to be flourishing. Their products are obviously not supposed to end in minors’ hands, but it is probably a fact of life that most (male ?) teenagers will end up exposed to some sort of pornography before their majority. That was already true before the Internet and P2P came in, just imagine how frighteningly easy it is nowadays… Anyway, looking at Hentai mangas shows that ‘rape’ is a very common theme in them. Suffice to say the actual contents can range from mildly horrifying to high-octane nightmare fuel and way beyond.

    I won’t go into the sociological comment one could draw from their existence about the ‘objectification’ of women – other much keener minds already did with far better eloquence than I can ever hope to have. Instead, the idea that came to me is, maybe the average japanese teenager is more desensitized to rape than his western counterpart would be ? Is it possible that using ‘rape’ as a casual threat is actually common ? Common enough that the author of a shojo manga thought nothing of using it in what otherwise should have been a comedic context ?

  7. marisabell34
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Jesus! I really hate love interests like this! Oh sure he wants to make friends and loves dogs, but threatening to rape some one you claim to like is never funny or okay. Haru has his funny moments where it shows he’s really just a big idiot, but I can’t sympathize with characters like him at all. At least Shizuku seems like a sharp young lady. Hopefully she won’t continue to put up with Haru’s crap.

    I know I’m saying what everyone’s already said, but the more people who speak out against douchey anime boyfriends, the better.

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