Literary Girls Are…Something: The Daily Lives of High School Boys and Romanticism

“A world could be made in five pages, and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiled prince could be framed within half a page, a moonlit dash through sleepy villages was one rhythmically emphatic sentence, falling in love could be achieved in a single word–a glance. The pages of a recently finished story seemed to vibrate in her hand with all the life they contained.”

-a narration regarding Briony Tallis, Atonement, Ian McEwan

Imagine you’re at a café. It’s a warm atmosphere; the feeling that one has when walking inside after being cold for quite some time. You wipe off your shoes, freshly damp from a snow squall, onto a damp, salt-stained mat that has obviously seen better days. Steam rises and screams from an espresso machine. It’s almost too warm, but a pleasant feeling nonetheless. As you walk in, your ears are immediately filled with chatter from a myriad of conversations. In fact, the entire café seems to thrum happily with its cacophony of white noise from its various inhabitants. You breathe deeply, inhaling the scent of coffee that seems to seep out of every wall and quietly, but happily, wait for your turn to order.

Suddenly, someone brushes up against you accidentally on their way to gather more paper napkins, procure a new straw seeing as theirs broke, or something of the like.

“Excuse me,” they say, cheeks reddening a bit.

You can’t help but notice that they are quite attractive; however, before you can open your mouth to say anything, they cheerily smile at you and walk back to their table. Another scream from the espresso machine swallows your late attempt to speak, or perhaps you didn’t say anything at all, only imagined it.

Your heart is beating a bit faster than it was before. Slowly, but covertly, as to not be seen as suspicious, you turn sideways and notice out of the corner of your eye that they’re sitting alone with their computer. Your mind can’t help but reiterate that they are, again, very attractive, and your heart begins to beat even faster. You begin to ask yourself all sorts of questions.

“Are they looking at me?”

“I should look at this…ah…painting on the wall…pretend to look deep in thought.”

“Would they even like art? No, maybe…well, either way, it will look like I’m intelligent.”

“Oh! I should probably check to make sure I look alright!”

As you lean forward to brush your bangs from your eyes while squinting to see yourself in the reflection of the glass-covered dessert case, your thoughts are brought to a screeching halt by the loud, seemingly antagonistic, voice from the person in line behind you.

“Hey! Are you going to order something or not?”

So ends your attempt to woo an attractive passerby in a café, and our little exercise. Unfortunately for you, and for most, it ends in tragedy. The heartbeat that becomes just a bit quicker, the over-analysis of what, in actuality, is a common and innocuous occurrence, these are just a few things that are part and parcel of being a dreamy romantic.

"So basically, this girl wanted to turn her fantasy into a reality, and chose me as the protagonist, so she sat near me."

Literary Girl in Daily Lives of High School Boys is an interesting, and hilarious, addition to what is already a funny little series. She self-centeredly haunts the same riverbank, imagining herself as the tragic heroine, Catherine (Wuthering Heights), when in reality she is Isabella, unfortunately naive and easy to tease or be taken advantage of. Hyper-aware of her situation, and waiting for her romantic hero, she reminds one of a multitude of similar characters: Briony Tallis in the opening scenes of the novel Atonement, who dreamily walks through life, adding her own romantic tension; Megumi in the opening scenes of Shiki, who dresses up to the nines in her sleepy farming village in the hopes that her crush will happen upon her and see her as the sophisticated lady that she is; and countless others. The crux of the dramatic tension, with comedic results, of literary girl is the play of her own astronomically high expectations pitted against the achingly dull-by-comparison reality of her everyday life.

In contrast, Daily Lives of High School Boys, presents a few different perspectives to Literary Girl, the first being the reaction of the high school boy who tries to impress her. This is especially evident in his romanticized response; instead of blowing her off or ignoring her, like one would expect, he wholeheartedly throws himself into her game in order to get her reaction. By attempting to meet her romantic expectations he is also able to momentarily escape his own reality. The comedic part comes in when a third party enters the equation with a more rational or realistic mindset (in the scene above, it’s another character yelling about potato chips being on sale at a convenience store).

"Damn! I didn't get to be the hero!"

Multiple other perspectives are presented from other high school boys in the series, especially the student council. All of these ideas hinge on the stereotypical male role of being a dramatic hero or protector. In the scene above, Tadakuni’s sister had gotten herself into a bit of trouble and the boys, in spite of telling her that they wouldn’t interfere, had hidden nearby, presumably to protect her should the situation escalate. It’s all very sweet as the camera pans down the line of boys who were waiting in the wings to protect her until they get to the end of the line where the young man above laments the fact that nothing happened, so he couldn’t play the part of the hero for Tadakuni’s sister. This, presumably, is the high school boy’s romanticism. Much like Literary Girl’s, it comes with ridiculous expectations of what will happen.

This *really* isn't what it looks like.

In another situation similar to the Literary Girl setups, the boys’ student council team is asking Ringo, the student council president of a nearby girls’ school, to borrow some equipment. Their unfortunate choice of setting for this confrontation is in a dark alley at night, resulting in a passerby, who also appears to be a high school boy, misunderstanding the situation and asking the guys to let Ringo go. Instead of rationally explaining what is actually happening, the three guys immediately identify with the passerby, choosing to act the part and pretending to attack Ringo in order to help him save face. Hilarity ensues when Ringo doesn’t understand and ends up pretending to attack the passerby as well.

Whether it’s Literary Girl, the student council, or the main characters, The Daily Lives of High School Boys has some humorous and interesting thoughts on romanticism, with all perspectives being inherently selfish: “I want to be the hero,” or, “I want this person to fit into my ideal romantic setting.” And why not? Anyone who has ever been a high school boy, or girl, can affirm that they are, indeed, the most selfish creatures of all.

Recommended Reading: Schneider wrote this charming Valentine’s Day post! I suggest everyone give it a look!

27 Comments

Filed under Daily Lives of High School Boys, Editorials

27 responses to “Literary Girls Are…Something: The Daily Lives of High School Boys and Romanticism

  1. Hon_no-Mono

    tl;dr just watch the goddamn show & DON’T THINK!

    • Ahaha, I absolutely love watching this show. It has me laughing throughout.

      Unfortunately, asking me not to think about *why* I like something, is impossible for me personally to do. The odd thing is, while I watch this series, I actually don’t think about it too much. I simply let it wash over me, laugh, and enjoy it.

      This post began when something in the series (Literary Girl) reminded me of a book I had read. While writing, I began to think about why I liked the comedy in this series so much and came up with this. That’s all. ^ ^

  2. krizzlybear

    Emily, that beginning exercise in visualisation was quite the Earl Gray tea to my dreary winter morning. The pacing is absolutely perfect, the descriptions hit all of the five senses, the inner-dialogue is spot-on realistic, and the single beat is impeccably placed. And it’s all wrapped up by a single twist at the end that just brings everything down and hits too close to home for my personal comfort, which is the whole point of evocative writing in the first place!

    I can see that you’ve definitely incorporated some of my feedback for a previous work, and I can’t possibly be happier about it.

    I’m sorry that I can’t really comment on the analysis and analogy afterward, since I’m not too well-versed in classic literature, but with regards to the opening exercise, I definitely “know that feel.”

    • Thank you! (I was not-so-secretly wondering if you would catch the beat, hehe.)

      Honestly, it hits very close to home for me. I was always a dreamy kid who has now grown into being a dreamy adult. Believe me when I say that I was easily able to draw from personal experience while writing this.

      Although, it seems I’ve failed a bit regarding the rest of the post, as I didn’t mean to scare people off by relating it to literature. Instead, I wanted to point out the style of some of the series’s comedic moments and perhaps why they hit so well.

      Ah well, there’s always next time. Until then! ^ ^

  3. That seemed like it was pretty well written. The parts that reference the show work well. However, the beginning just seemed like nothing that would ever happen in real life. Keep up the good work though.

    • That’s because it *wouldn’t* happen in real life. Only it also would. I’m sorry I cannot relate this to anything but another scene (this time, from a book) but here goes. I apologize in advance for the confusion.

      In To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, there’s an amazing little scene in the beginning between a child an his father. The child, James, is sitting on the floor, doing a project, looking forward to a sailboat trip later on that day. His father interjects, saying that the weather probably won’t allow it. We, as the reader, peer into James’s head and startlingly see murderous intent in the young boy for a few short minutes.

      This is, of course, a dramatization; however, it has always stuck with me as an example of how one tends to *feel* things very dramatically in one’s head, while the reality is actually completely different. James doesn’t like his father for a number of reasons, but he’d never actually stab him with scissors like he imagines, just as you would never give a “love tap” to the car who cut you off before a red light, punch the annoying person on the phone in the train seat next to you…etc.

      So what is my point? (I promise, I have one.) The point is that there are a multitude of things that happen in every day life that we completely blow out of proportion by fantasizing about or imagining alternate scenarios for. All that really happened in that scene above, to someone looking at it, would be about 30 seconds of one person spacing out while in line and accidentally bumping into someone. That’s it. This is the dramatic mechanism behind Literary Girl and the student council; at points in time throughout the series, they imagine themselves a situation that isn’t there.

      It probably doesn’t happen to you, because that’s not something you tend to think about while waiting in line for coffee, or groceries, or what have you (and that’s not a bad thing). I was simply drawing from my own personal experience.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. You really capture what it is about this show that makes me laugh so hard. In a way, this also reminds me of Nichijou, since they both take something comical or dreamy and treat it with the utmost seriousness.

    I very much enjoyed your opening narrative as well, since that’s a scene I have experienced time and time again. More often than not, I’m the one with the awkward desire to glance at someone I find attractive–romantic at heart?

    • As I mentioned to Kriz above, this was written by drawing on personal experience, so perhaps we’re both dreamy romantics! ^ ^

      Nichijou was another series that I absolutely adored. It took this principle and ran with it (and kept running to the point of absurdity).

      Best of luck on your future coffee shop (or dreamy place of choice) endeavors!

  5. There is definitely something deconstructive about Daily Lives of High School Boys—not just in the way it punctures the romanticized thought lives you mention here, but the perception of girls in anime altogether and the conventions of anime comedy (the school festival, the student council, etc). This is the engine of its comedy, I think. It’s funny precisely because it’s sending up all of them for reality check. Though I find the show hit or miss sometimes it is performing a vital service for contemporary anime. Perhaps we are on the cusp of another shift in taste, similar to what happened after Haruhi Suzumiya came out in 2006?

    In either case, I’ll echo all the praise for the evocative passage in the article’s first half. All that sensory imagery! I was never all that great at it in my own fiction. It’d be awesome if there were more melding of aniblogging and literary sensibilities out there…almost like a This American Life approach. 2DTeleidoscope’s sadly short-lived podcast was I think a really fine direction we could have gone in…perhaps you will help carry the torch? :)

    • The perception of girls in this series is really interesting to me, and I love that you brought it up. I had actually intended on going elsewhere with this post initially (having been inspired by something that tied into a scene from Atonement), however, the post grew in a different direction and that section was left on the cutting room floor.

      You’re absolutely right in that it’s playing with the characters’ and the audience’s expectations of what high school girls are “supposed to be” as opposed to what they actually are. That being said, some of the portrayals are mean and a bit dark, perhaps in an attempt to interpret how terrified high school boys (the main perspective in this series) are of high school girls. It’s certainly been interesting to watch, especially in the “High School Girls are Funky” segments.

      Thank you so much for the complement. I couldn’t even imagine myself close to the level that 2DT achieved in his prose while writing posts, never mind what he accomplished in podcasts, or what I presume he is able to accomplish in fiction. That’s a meaningful compliment to me, so thank you.

  6. The first Literature Girl segment was probably what sold me on the show. Both in terms of the internal monologue that plagues our “hero” about the expectations of what she wants and what he unexpectedly delivers to keep that dream alive. The third-wheel deliberately killing the mood was a great ending. The entire sequence sent to an almost sorrowful romantic tune was the cherry on top.

  7. Nice job on the starting parts really good! -high five-

    Ohhh man I died laughing with the very first Literature girl skit, so damn funny! And of course listening to Tomokazu Sugita aka Hidenori do his own mental narration was so freaking hilarious…he even yells at himself? He really is the best! Then again Tomokazu Sugita basically plays the same type of character in Gintama, but he can make me laugh no matter what character he plays…he was even the S and M guy from Inu Boku SS.

    Just like Nichijou the side characters are the best! Ringo, the boy’s student council, all the sisters and the trio of girls from the daily lives of high school girls! All of them add to the random fun <3

    • I have yet to see Gintama; however, now having watched this series, it really makes me want to give it a shot.

      Ringo is definitely my favorite side character. She’s crazy, but the exact right amount of crazy to be the perfect addition to the boys’ student council group. The look on her face when she, too, threatened that random boy in front of the dark alley…so good. ^ ^

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  9. Well done. I wrote a similar post in my blog, but you wrote far more incisively on the subject of romanticism. The Ringo-and-the-savior skit wasn’t clear to me initially, but I realized how the boys were enabling a complete stranger to be cool and all. That’s when I cracked up.

    I also find it funny that the OP is romantic as well, with its emotive alternative song that doesn’t quite match the light mood of the show.

    • Ah…apology time. I had read that post and meant to link to it at the end of mine. This oversight has been corrected but please accept my apology.

      Honestly, that skit didn’t hit for me immediately either. I fortunately was watching it with someone who got it immediately and shouted, “Ahaha, they’re being his wingmen!” before the characters in the series said anything. ^ ^

      I always thought that the opening was a parody of the stereotypical Shounen Jump, “Let’s GO!” alternative J-pop song. The romanticism of teenage boys at work again. ^ ^ Thanks for the comment.

  10. Lit. Girl sketch #1 is also one of my favourite sketches out of what I’ve seen of the show so far. I also very much enjoy the scenes with that older female co-worker at the pizza place that one of the boys works at part-time (sorry, can’t remember the names, lol), whose deadpan manner and blunt observations seem the polar opposite of Lit. Girl’s purple prose tinted inner monologue. Aside from the hit and miss manner of the show as a whole so far, there does seem to be a wider theme of appearance vs. reality (for want of a better phrase), and I like how you explore the conections by focussing on images to do with (romantic) heroes/ fantasies vs. reality. Finally, I also enjoyed your opening creative section and the connections with Modernist lit. – nicely done, Em! :)

    • Ah! I had completely forgotten about her actually. You’re exactly right, she’s a bit sardonic and abrupt, especially when communicating with the boys. There is; however, that one moment with a bowl or spoon, I think, that reflects an image of a slimmer version of herself. I couldn’t help but feel sad at that scene, as if, because her current real image is unsuitable (according to society or herself, thanks to low self-image or what have you) this is the thing that she internalizes and romanticizes (instead of wishing herself in a novel).

      Thanks for the compliment! That creative writing section was so much fun to write and I’ve been overwhelmed at the response.

  11. I really loved that scene of a boy beating all other boys who happen to look like stalking a girl. Ah, so nice these gentlemen, trying to let that boy have his moment. So funny. I was laughing rolling on the floor. I also love the scene of a bungaku-shojo, “the wind is getting noisy.” It’s so hilarious!

    • Every time one of my friends says something about the wind (I live in a windy state) I’m always tempted to follow it up with, “The wind is sparkling.” or something of that nature. ^ ^

      As an aside, there were a few more examples of romanticism in the latest episode (although that Ringo scene is my favorite because of the punchline of Ringo not getting it at all) with one of the boys ripping apart the other’s manga to purposely make him angry and get him fired up.

      Thanks for commenting!

  12. Lovely! It’s quite the connection you made here! DO think – meta- analysis always feeds the spirit :) Thanks for pointing out!

    • Well, as I said in the first comment response, it’s not a matter of purposefully thinking or not thinking, I just like to delve into *why* I personally resonate with certain things. I’m really glad that you liked it. Thanks so much for the comment!

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