All Grown Up

October 5, 2014 § 3 Comments

Can someone out there please sell me on Honey & Clover? Having watched three episodes so far, here are the things I like about this anime:

  1. I like that it appears to take place in a world like our own, because it means the characters will die someday.
  2. I like that the sun will consume our planet five billion years from now, because it means that said characters will die even if they possess biological or clinical immortality.
  3. I like that there’s a tsundere girl who throws clay pots while crying into them.
  4. I like that there’s a girl with a crutch, that’s different.

There, I’m tapped out. The thing is, I’ve looked into my heart and I don’t think I can handle another show wherein multiple guys fall all over each other to win the affections of a girl who we are assured is at least eighteen even though she looks and acts like she’s maybe half that. Girls like Hagumi break my heart, but not in a good way.

Hagumi from Honey & Clover

Mawaru Penguindrum had a similar problem with Himari, she of the titular penguin paraphernalia, but Ikuhara Kinikiho has so much else at work in that anime that it’s easy to ignore what isn’t appealing at a given moment. Still, Himari is the least appealing part of Penguindrum by far, lacking the energy of Ringo, secret wife/stalker extraordinaire, and the mystery of Masako, the Jury/Julie expy with nothing much to do. She just sits in bed, thinking idle thoughts about the other characters, while the audience waits for her to be possessed by the Princess of the Crystal and turn into another character entirely. She’s a perfect example of the dreaded “moe blob” character, but this time at the center of an anime that is otherwise one of the most unique and ambitious of the past few years.

Himari from Mawaru Penguindrum

Himari from Mawaru Penguindrum

I ask you, what good is moe if all it does is render women inert by infantilizing them? Is there any entertainment value, let alone artistic value, to be had in a female character that cannot affect the plot by her very design? I’ve already been asking myself that for some time now. For me, the question first presented itself some years back when I was watching The Incredibles for the first time. Partway through the movie, I found myself much more interested in the capable mother than in her gloomy daughter, even though the latter was (and sadly, still is) much more my type, at least on a superficial level. It wasn’t a revelation from above, but it was humbling nevertheless to realize that what I want now from fictional characters is not good aesthetics, but growth and change according to their strengths and weaknesses, even if they happen to be women.

Violet, Dash, and Helen from The Incredibles

I don’t know why sometimes I can’t enjoy moe for what it is. I know that I’ve posted on here about how much I love K-On! and what it’s doing, but for all their cuteness and harmlessness, Yui and her friends affect the plot almost entirely in their own right. It just so happens that the plot is one in which very little happens, with which I don’t have quite so much of a problem. Perhaps, through a combination of experience and maturity, I’ve begun to expect more from what I watch, in that I want to watch shows where the characters act like people. The ubiquitous “high school” setting in anime seems antithetical to that, but then again, Honey & Clover takes place among twenty-somethings in college and is still driving me nuts, so maybe I’m fighting a battle that’s already been lost everywhere.

Or has it? I hear Golden Time is a good anime about a romance between adults. I don’t know, I’ve been burned before, I’ve been burned before…

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