bitmap: Hey all, it’s time for this week’s Mysterious Girlfriend X post! As for why my name’s in bold like that, well, this is a special post. As you can tell from the title, this week’s post is actually a colloquium, and thus, the amiable pair of ajthefourth and vucubcaquix will be joining me this week with a conversation on Mikoto and Akira’s relationship!
Before we get to all of that, though, a correction. Last week, I implied that the beach part was anime-original, which isn’t the case at all; to be quite honest, I had forgotten about the original chapter the latter half of episode 5 drew from. To prevent similar errors in the future, I’ve set up a small post where you can see what chapters feature in what episode. I think it should be interesting even if you’ve never read the original comic, and I plan to keep updating it with every new episode, so check it out!
Also, if you do keep up with the manga, you may have noticed something very interesting in the background of this week’s episode! But no more of that; it’s spoiler territory, after all…
bitmap: If you’ve consumed a fair bit of popular Japanese media, be it in the form of anime, manga, or even something like drama television, you’ve probably already heard this before: using given names are a big deal in Japan. That’s nothing new, or if it is, seeing Akira unable to call his own girlfriend as “Mikoto” to her face (unless she’s sleeping) brings the point home quite nicely.
Stepping back from the show itself for a moment, I’m fairly sure I’m one of the few people writing on the show who’s been referring to our main characters as Akira and Mikoto (bless you, lvlln); and I’m sure there’s even a smaller number who’s been calling Ayuko by her given name (not surprising, seeing as how this is the first episode where it’s been mentioned outside of the end credits). It’s a conscious decision on my part, and one that feels slightly vindicated after this episode.
And while we’re discussing names, let’s look at them in a bit more depth. Akira’s full name was covered in detail by animekritik back for episode 3, including the wonderful discovery that “Tsubaki” is a homophone in Japanese for “saliva.” Incidentally, Kōhei’s given name means “fairness,” a fitting enough name for a genial best friend, and Ayuko’s surname in Japanese, “Oka,” is the character for “hill,” perhaps an unsubtle reference to her well-endowed figure.
Which brings us to Mikoto Urabe: “Mikoto” here is actually written the same way as the name of a certain fictional “Railgun,” and suggests beauty and elegance; however, “Mikoto” is also a homophone for a now-archaic suffix used for gods and royalty (considered divine beings). “Urabe” is a mysterious enough surname by itself: as a family name, it can be traced back to ancient Japan. The Urabe clan was a high-ranking family responsible for religious rites such as divination (And, of course, the first character in “Urabe” also means divination). A remnant from Ueshiba’s original concept for the series? As a final note, Mikoto’s affinity for swimming seems natural when you consider that “Urabe” is a homophone for “shoreline.”
As for whether all of these connections mean anything beyond mere speculation, we have yet to see. But just like so much else about her, Mikoto Urabe’s name is indeed full of mystery.
ajthefourth: One thing that is lovely about the scene above (other than its composition, which beautifully adds weight to the emotions present) is the fact that tasting Mikoto’s spit continues to be a way for Akira to truly understand her feelings. Mysterious Girlfriend X rarely has the silly misunderstandings that other romances do because Akira is so easily able to access Mikoto’s innermost thoughts and desires and vice versa.
Allowing someone to literally feel what you feel goes well beyond the bond that most of us will achieve in a lifetime through our own relationships. Every time Mikoto shares her spit, she’s sharing herself with Akira in a way that is far more intimate than sexual intercourse because it’s her emotions, mysterious to most but not to Akira now that she’s opened herself up to him. It’s due to this very fact that I was a bit disappointed in Mikoto’s response. Simply, I had thought that Mikoto was made of stronger stuff. The implications of her allowing Akira, and to some extent Ayuko, to taste her spit is that she trusts them above all other people. It stung to see this chink in Mikoto’s armor; allowing her self-doubt to get the best of her in this instance.
vucubcaquix: The difficulty of men and women maintaining platonic relationships without tension is a sitcom staple, and a disingenuous one most of the time. But it’s not without a kernel of truth during a certain period in our lives.
During high school, we wrestle with a torrent of emotions and feelings that are new to us. Some cope better than others, but in addition to our studies we struggle with questions of identity, purpose, Self, Other, love. These are heady themes for the most brilliant philosophers, and sometimes nigh-unfathomable for the puberty-laced young person. Mikoto showing a momentary weakness does not negate the strength and clarity she’s shown so far, it shows how human she is.
The exactness and efficiency with which Mikoto can communicate feelings and ideas borders on the superhuman, which makes her an interesting, if distant, character to behold. Doubly so for the age she is, since given the new interpersonal protocols we’re set to learn, highschoolers have more difficulty setting and maintaining proper boundaries between each other. It’s the source of the majority of those dramatic stories we hear.
Urabe seeing her boyfriend speaking to his old crush on the bridge was a moment of humanity for her. It spoke to unrevealed insecurities and questions about her role in their relationship, and what even their relationship means. Despite her strength and agency, it would be more strange to not see a single moment where they falter, where they doubt.
The greatest moment of the episode came where, despite the broiling emotions under cool exteriors, jealousy and resentment were quashed completely and utterly through clear and cool communication. Through the overused tropes regarding the platonic relationships anchoring the conflict of this episode, questions were posited, tears were shed, and love was reaffirmed.
It was a great moment indeed.
ajthefourth: I’d argue that she’s been shown as human this entire time, albeit in a nuanced way. Earlier I made the argument that she puts her emotions, her being, on the line every time she shares her spit; it is an intimate act, but it is not efficient or superhuman. Her humanity lies in her inability to communicate with most. Akira and Ayuko are glaring exceptions in a world that Mikoto appears to be very distant from or borderline afraid of (see: the pair of scissors in her panties) and this is where her insecurities lie. The fact that this particular situation reflected on Mikoto having a negative perception of herself in Akira’s eyes (who is someone she trusts enough to literally swap spit) was what grated on me.
I will concede your last paragraph. The moment where they reaffirm their feelings for one another was lovely.
bitmap: Lovely indeed. With that, see you next week! I’m sure it’ll be a sick episode!
20 responses to “Colloquium: Mysterious Girlfriend X Episode 6”
This episode was awesome, but here’s the twist: I HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN IT YET!
GO WHALERS! But here’s the twist: I HAVEN’T SEEN A SINGLE GAME OF THEIRS!
(but go watch this episode, it’s good)
That’s how you know it’s good, really, when you’re so assured of an episode’s quality before you even watch it. Although, yeah, that might lead to confirmation bias when you actually watch it. But if it leads to a more enjoyable viewing experience, I’m all for it!
I think everyone already knows this since it’s being thrown around, but I’ll do it anyway.
Like bitmap said, keigo (or in the Japanese sense, “the polite way of speaking”) is an essential thing for Japanese conversation because of the way Japanese “categorize” the levels of respect for a person. Calling a person by their first name, especially without honorifics (-san, -dono, -chan, -sama) actually means you are very intimate with the person you’re addressing, which is something close to a family or lover relationship. That means that it’s disrespectful to do it haphazardly, and that you need permission from the person. I think Tsubaki (since I’m not really *that* intimate with the person) is just being cautious even though he’s anxious on calling Urabe by her first name.
Thank you, that’s a much more detailed look at it. I wonder if Akira and Mikoto will ever get to that level…
As I’ve been reading this post just now (I am really out of the line again… I didn’t know this anime existed until just last Sunday where I sat in my comfy couch and watched the entire anime series from dusk till dawn…)
I’ll put this about how or why Akira and Mikoto barely, if not, never call each other by their first names compared to Kouhei and Ayuko is just like every one of us… I don’t think most of us is comfortable with being called by our first names by people we barely know… There is a certain connection before we allow that certain person to call us by our names, and in my country, the Philippines, a certain extent before you can call someone by their nicknames and/or other titles… Also, I think Akira and Mikoto, thinking about how it would feel if they call each other by their first names is kinda cute but like how Akira thought about it (I think he came to or stumbled over this realization) It’s still too early for them to do that in their relationship as of the moment…
Yeah, it’s in many ways a pretty innocent take on relationships, despite a lot of early talk about very physical aspects of a sexual relationship!
Interesting bits about the characters’ names. The Tsubaki = saliva bit is news to me, and quite a humorous thing to throw in there, which I wish we non-Japanese speakers could’ve gotten from the start. The show already had Mikoto play with the real meaning of Tsubaki’s name with the flower cutouts, so I didn’t think it went further than that.
I choose to refer to them as Akira and Mikoto because I generally prefer to refer to characters by their first names – even ones who are more often referred to by their last names such as Hitagi Senjougahara or Ryouko Ookami – unless there are special circumstances. Ayuko Oka is actually one such case, because I feel that, for most readers, due to the circumstances you described, “Oka” will be more meaningful than “Ayuko.”
Well, I don’t think it’s a very common term for saliva, but nonetheless…
And yeah, it’s just a part of my own standards of writing, really: characters are referred to by their given names, authors and whatnot by surnames, etc. I think a post on how blog writers have little rules for their own writing (especially with regards to things specific to blogging material intersecting with the Japanese language so often, e.g. how they deal with extended vowels or foreign terms) would be interesting one day!
Hm, I wonder how interesting such a post would be… It’s just a collection of personal preferences, and I don’t see that much potential for discussion. I suppose it’d be interesting if a variety of writers from many different places each explained their own preferences. Like I’ll write “Ryouko” because “o” with a bar above it is a pain to write, and I’ll use first-last name order because that’s how names are ordered in English.
Well, I dunno, maybe it wouldn’t be that interesting after all (I, of course, would render it as Ryōko Ōkami, just because I like the way it looks and don’t mind taking a few extra minutes, and for the same reason you list for order).
I think I try to go with the most common usage in each anime when opting between surnames and first names, but my personal preference is to use surnames in Japanese. Purely a matter of preference, no real reason.
Six episodes in Urabe still has a lot of mysteries around her, but her core seems to be quite human (=normal) indeed. I guess it’s like fortune tellers, who can do all sorts of stuff but then go and have their meals etc.
Yeah, I can understand going either way on the names thing.
And wait, fortune tellers can afford meals? Who knew!
Fortune tellers are extremely wealthy in some places I’ve been :)
(this is -redux; i got a wordpress account!)
It’s always a delight reading your Colloqiuiums, and your thoughts on Nazo no Kanojo are as usual, excellent. I especially love your thoughts regarding the intimacy of the spit. I personally agree that while the show has Akira as the main character, the show is essentially about Urabe and her development toward Akira and sometimes others. The one thing I do love about Nazo no Kanojo is how it doesn’t try to make Urabe ‘normal’ in her progress of becoming Akira’s girlfriend. She’s still very bizarre on the surface and beneath it, but the show focuses more on those human, raw moments shared between her and Akira.
I’m really excited to see what next week brings, with the episode, and with your posts!
One thing I love about this series (and that gets me through the grossness of watching spit every week) is that Urabe’s development is shown through the more magical elements of the series like you mention (bitmap already wrote about this in a previous post when he spoke of magical realism). It’s because of this that I think we’ll never see a “normal” Urabe, because normal for her is magical to us, and that magic allows us to understand her character progression so much better.
Thanks for the comment!
Agree with the action of carrying out “cool communications” was the best part of the episode.
Even through the torrents of negative emotions and differences, there is room to talk things over and clear out misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Giving a chance to open up communication, regardless of the pain, showed deeper love/commitment I think Kanojo is trying to “hint” a model for society (within relationships or even normal friendships) to follow. It’s cool to see youth (wait… i still am youth…) battle their emotions and not allow it to master themselves. juzbcuzyorhurtdunmeanyoshudnotconfrontle1ulove.
Thanks for all the insight. Everyone’s input was very interesting to read. :)
You bring up another great point that I think illustrates why so many people love this series: watching characters in a relationship actively work towards battling their emotions, as you say, and strengthening their relationship. In fact, when more generic elements try to creep in, like the advice that Akira receives from his classmates, Urabe thwarts it with precision. It’s nice to see a series where the characters not only struggle with their feelings inwardly, but attempt to move past them outwardly, and with each other, as well.
Actually, this is one of the few high school romances I’ve seen in a long time where the males and females often interact with each other in regular and more realistic (in spite of the spit) ways.
Thanks for the comment! ^ ^
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