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!