I will completely spoil this show for you
Episodes 1-3 was a beautiful love story. I was ready to cry if it didn’t happen and jump for joy if it did. Mai Sakurajima, bishoujo and actress, was disappearing because of the poisonous atmosphere of the school. Sakuta Azusagawa brought her back thru the intensity of his love. Ok, end of a very very wonderful series. Even if Rio Futaba is the most beautiful girl in the show.
The only thing that could have made it better is if Mai had been an ordinary girl. Not a bishoujo. Not a famous celebrity. Ordinary face, ordinary hair, ordinary body, loving personality. I’m not sure any of those exist in anime but I want to see them. Anime is part of the stress we place on children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults. The impossible physical ideals that anime (and most live-action movies and series) present distort the idea of what it means to be an attractive human.
In reality, many of us will never look that good – and most who do won’t for very long. Most of us will never have lovers that are so perfect. Desirability and passion, love and lust, will have to come from the inside and not external visuals. Something other than ordinary aesthetics. The man or woman who is beautiful because of what you feel and not just what you see. Perhaps that story is too difficult for anime?
OMG! Schrödinger’s cat!
He also has a little sister, Kaede, who suffered so terribly from online bullying that she started to spontaneously cut and bleed and lost her memories. As a result, she is a stay at home sister, never leaving the apartment or even answering the phone. He doesn’t own a smartphone because she can’t be around anything with the internet.
Sakuto also suffered massive self-induced injuries as a result of his sister’s issues and his inability to do anything about it. He is also by nature a loner. This leads to wild rumors among his classmates about how it happened.
The two live alone together because their parents can’t emotionally deal with the situation. So much for the adults in their lives.
This is getting a bit real here as cutting is a fairly common expression of depression among adolescent girls. Often if one girl in a community will start to cut there will be an epidemic of it.
Kaede is a bit of a brocon as well – but understandably so. Her life is totally dependent on him. Because of her psychological impairment, he is the only person she’s seen regularly in two years. I don’t see any incest here but I am sure some will want to see it – either to be disgusted or excited. Incest goggles, anyone?
Absentee parents is a nearly universal trope – but it gets them out of the way. Mai also has absentee divorced parents. Freaking parents are almost never there, useless when they are, and often so damaging they should be banned from anime completely.
Then episode 4 happened. Now he is off rescuing another girl from “adolescence syndrome” while maintaining his relationship with his original love. this time it is Tomoe Koga, with whom he had an earlier exchange of mutual butt-kicking. (You read that right.) She is extremely worried about her status within the class and was causing one day to repeat over and over until she could find an acceptable way to turn a suitor down.
Solution? The accidental compromising position trope. The Unwanted Suitor sees it and gives up on Tomoe. Of course, Mai sees it also. Explanation: Tomoe is undergoing adolescence syndrome and needs a fake boyfriend or tomorrow never happens. Tomoe is insanely worried about her place in the class and her social standing.
Laplace’s demon! This is insanely arousing.
He really isn’t wearing anything. Wait… are they… talking about him fapping???
Back to his real romance, Mai is concerned about his academics. She really wants him to go to the same college as her, so she decides to tutor him. He isn’t very enthusiastic, so she gets desperate.
He and Tomoe formally decide to break it off on the last day of school. Oh shit… groundhog day again. She has fallen for him and is looking for a way for it not to end. The girl is persistent if anything. Things eventually work out.
And Rio explains it all as being quantum entanglement. I want to have her baby so badly!
Suddenly… someone who did vanish years ago, as Mai almost did, reappears in his life. And Rio starts having problems. But Sakuta knows exactly what his priority must be!
But alas, Rio has fallen apart. Literally. There are now two of them wandering about. The brainy one and one who is more concerned about her… other assets. The brain moves in with Sakuta and to protect his virtue, Mai moves in too. Lil’ sis feel so displaced! Once again, Sakuta brilliantly divines the proper course of action.
The problem isn’t just quantum entanglement. Now it is quantum teleportation! All this sexy science talk is making me ha-a-a – uh, back to the anime.
Episode 8 gets back to serious stuff. Rio’s other half is posting lewd photos on the internet just to get reactions from creeps. She compares it to self-mutilation but says it is the only thing she has to offer. From intermittently hilarious and sometimes quite romantic it has gotten very very dark.
Rio Futaba is a great girl. I joke about how attractive I find her but there is truth in my jokes. I like her mind. She could be as flat as a board or the heaviest girl in class and I’d still find her attractive. Her intelligence draws me. Her quiet companionship and support of Sakuta as he rushes about putting out fires gives me a very warm feeling. She is far and away the most interesting female in the show. How can she not see what a good person she is?
Still, she feels like she has nothing to offer, so she uses her body to get likes. She isn’t a nudie like me, documenting a lifestyle. She hates what she is doing – but she needs some kind of positive attention. So she disassociates part of her so one part can take the photos and show them and get the likes and the other can get on with her life.
She doesn’t make the play for the boy she wants (Yuuma Kunimi) because being intelligent and honest, quiet and supportive does not seem like something a boy would like. (The anime trope for her would be kuudere.) She hates herself for not being fun and bubbly and sexy. She obviously has the visuals for desirability because that is how she is drawn but isn’t feeling it. If a boy did tell her he liked her, she would probably find a reason to turn him down.
She has friends. Especially Sakuta. And a promising future in science. Why does she discount them? I think maybe she’s depressed. When one is depressed, yellow becomes grey and red becomes black. It isn’t something one chooses any more than one might choose an impairment or a disability.
He doesn’t know the real me and just thinks he likes me. Or, it must be because he’s desperate. Nobody else would have him. Or, he really doesn’t like me at all and just wants my body.
Yeah. I’ve met all of those. They’re real bummers to hear when you have a genuine interest in someone.
She sees a photo of the copy Rio appearing to be friends with Sakuta and Yuuma. She rushes off in a storm to be alone at school. She is planning to quietly leave the entire area so at least Copy Rio can have a happy life. With Copy Rio’s help, Sakuta tracks her down and talks her out of it.
Rio needs to get herself together. Literally. And then recognize herself for the precious person she is. She’ll find love eventually as long as she is open to it. In the meantime, she needs to make the best of her life right now.
You’re only young once.
But what’s this? Yet another attack of adolescent syndrome, this time involving Mai and her little half-sister Nodoka Toyohama. They’ve swapped bodies.
Take some bitter familial discord, mix in a bit of sister rivalry where one doesn’t feel she can ever measure up to the other and what do you expect to happen. Of course, they will swap bodies!
Nodaka goes to Mai’s photo shoot. The first time she faints and the second time it requires 12 takes.
Mai goes to Nodaka’s concert and knocks it out of the park. Nodaka is distraught to see her mother lavishing the praise and love on Mai – in her body – that she never received. Suicidal, she wades into the ocean to drown herself. She feels she can never measure up.
Sakuta is there to save her. She has a chance to find out that her sister loved her all along.
Kaede is starting to recover. There are things she wants to do. Like, answer the phone. Go outside the apartment. Become independent so that Big Bro can get on with his life. Of course it doesn’t go smoothly.
Am I the only one who thinks Kaede’s voice is unnatural? And so high pitched and squeaky it is annoying? She’s supposed to be in middle school. Last Friday I subbed for a class of kindergarteners. None of their voices are this high or squeaky. I have heard many children of every age cry, including my own. None of them ever sounded like her. Just one more thing anime does poorly. I’m sorry but a child’s voice is not an adult’s voice in falsetto.
Getting her to step outside the apartment and explore the world was really touching. Kaede not only erased her memory of the bullying that led to her self harm but her mother snapped and went nuts. Father disappeared from both childrens’ lives to be with her, leaving the two to fend for themselves.
Entering the world again with no memory of what happened before is a painful thing. Kaede has done it twice. Sakuta has lost his sister twice. Both times he hated himself for not doing more for her. But that’s what a big brother does. He absorbs the pain for the sake of his little sister, doubly so if the parents are absentee.
How will he manage this?
With a little help from a friend.
Consider the entire show to be a parable on the troubles of adolescents. Depression and a low sense of self-worth. One girl is bullied and self harms. A boy who is torn apart by his inability to help the sister he loves. One girl engages in self-isolation. One girl is obsessed with social acceptance and her place in the social structure. One girl who can’t cope with her sexuality. One girl who cannot compete with a perfect elder sibling. Parents who are absent, useless or downright harmful. Parents who use their children in proxy wars.
Definitely two thumbs up on this one!
Here are a few extra screenshots I didn’t manage to drop in.
And the Peggies really killed the opening music!
KIMI NO SEI, KIMI NO SEI, KIMI NO SEI, DE WATASHI, UWU!