Grace. いただきます. Bismillah. Cultures across the world have developed means to express gratitude for what they consume. This is possibly borne out of an innate quality, as recent studies suggest, that rituals before a meal may alter our perception of its taste. The idea of gratitude being expressed serves another ancillary function: it staves off the guilt of consumption.
In this season’s The Eccentric Family (Uchōten Kazoku | 有頂天家族), we follow a family of shape-shifting Japanese raccoon dogs. Yasaburō, the narrator and main character who poses as a young human, spends his days avoiding and cavorting and playing with Benten, the powerful and dangerous psychic woman seen in the image above. The dialogue between the two is brisk and spry, with a back and forth that moves at a nice clip. But none of that is remarkable on its face to me, until we understand that she ate the young raccoon dog’s father in a year-end ritual meal and that it is common knowledge in their community.
Throughout our lives we are constantly reinventing ourselves. It’s human nature to evaluate what works and adjust accordingly. This is no easy task, and we are all fallible creatures, so we make mistakes. This is the story of Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, or HenNeko, and it is our story as well.
A ninja (Tenzo) wearing a hat and a red scarf is being hugged by a woman with blonde hair in a white shirt and blue pants. Steam is coming from his head and his scarf is standing straight out.
It’s likely I wasn’t the only one struck by the awkward inner monologue that Tenzo carried out when wandering around London with his lovely “Dame Scarred” in Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere episode six. The show had been building to this point piece by piece from her introduction as a mysterious cloaked figure way back in the first episode. As Tenzo Crossunite learns more about her, he slowly falls for her, leading to his desire to break the Testament starting with episode eight.
But let’s focus on the scene in the Tower of London. As “Dame” prattles on about the history of England and her place in it, Tenzo finds himself continually distracted by her body. The show, of course, gives a helping hand by ensuring that she gets in all manner of suggestive poses in the course of the interview (this is Horizon, after all). Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that this is typical pandering directed at the audience. But here, what’s more interesting is Tenzo’s reactions, because the show positions him in a way that we can blame this problem on how boys look at sex. Thanks to porn.
It is often observed that works of an episodic nature tend to fall into predictable patterns over time. Plot structures, character personalities and so forth tend to develop comfortable, consistent shapes, often called “formulas”. Many works, of course, use formula and repetition to a specific end—e.g. in service of a specific thematic goal. Yuasa leverages formula in The Tatami Galaxy to viscerally drive home the work’s thesis; untold volumes have been filled dissecting its use in Revolutionary Girl Utena. But what I mean to discuss here is the function that repetition serves more generally as a narrative, not thematic, device—we arrive at formulas because if something worked once, it’s likely to work again. Repetition, used carefully, can enhance a work as much as effective photography or musical score.
And just like that, in walked trouble. “Vuc, I need a favor.”
Day is not the type of dame one can refuse so easily. She’s more of a self-contained force of nature barreling down wherever she pleases. Knowing this, I set my rather significant textbook down and try to proceed as cautiously as possible. “I don’t know if I can help you, but I can sure listen to you.”
“Something’s happening. I can’t go into details, but I need you to tail someone for me.”
I didn’t like the sound of that at all.
“The thing is, I came across a tidbit and I need you to help me out. I had a few others on this, but honestly they weren’t able to make any sense out of it. You see this girl, Horizon? She’s in the middle of something big.”
Only these boys know what they're thinking...and even then...
It’s an odd world, the one that most of us carry inside of our own minds. We may build things up and tear them down in the next instant. As viewers, we are often privy to the thoughts that flicker through our protagonists’ minds, with the idea behind this being one of furthering our understanding of the lead character’s motivations. Why, exactly, are they doing what they are doing? More often than not, we are given this information freely, and don’t think on it too much. It’s a style of direction that’s tried and true, expected, and natural to a viewing audience.
So what happens if the director of a series suddenly decides to point this out?
In this world there's nothing I would rather do, 'cause I'm happy just to dance with you.
I quite honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from the anime adaptation of Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X), even though I had read the original manga. Just what do you get when you combine a studio that’s only produced shows about breasts, a director that’s only worked on kids’ shows (this season, he’s also helming Space Brothers), and a lead actress who’s only acted in live-action works, all working on a show about, of all things, tasting drool?
Fortunately, the answer is a show that surprisingly has a lot to say! So strap in, boys and girls, it’s time to get mysterious! (Episode spoilers after the break.)
“You don’t need your shy and introverted self anymore?“
“That’s not true. For me to truly be myself, I will need a bit of my shy and introverted self. That’s why I love my shy and introverted self.”
- a conversation between Tsubomi Hanasaki (Cure Blossom) and her alter ego, Heartcatch Precure, Episode 38
How much do you really know about yourself? Besides the basics: height, weight, the fact that you are addicted to coffee and irrationally afraid of tornadoes, it’s frightening to delve into your own mind. In spite of the fact that you, above all, are expected to know the motivations behind your own actions, you may find that the person you’ve come to know and understand the least is yourself.
Perhaps this is why we are endlessly presented with the idea that in order to grow, one must “know thyself.” This idea is expanded on, and exploited, by many mediums, anime being no exclusion. Most recently, the anime adaptation of Persona 4 touches on Jungian psychology; the idea that we project personas, or idealized versions of ourselves, when interacting socially, along with battling a shadow self, where all of our negative or social unacceptable thoughts are collected. Our true self is a meeting in the middle, or a combination of the two.
What Heartcatch Precure offers is Persona 4 lite, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful, or intelligent.