So, I’ve kind of felt like I’ve been spinning my wheels with these posts for the last couple weeks, but no longer! Ore Monogatari!! is still super cute, but this episode’s escapade into the river of character secrets and insecurities has finally given me a reason to dive deep beyond the adorableness and really pull out some brainchildren to talk about…too much?
Since I made a big fuss about the fire last week, I’m sure some of you are interested in what I thought of the drowning child scene from this week’s episode. While I’m still of the opinion that it’s a little ridiculous to have a major life-threatening crisis arise in every episode, I found this week’s situation much more palatable due to the comparative weight given to the rest of the show’s events. I was actually thinking a little more about the fire scene since the last post; here’s what I came up with:
The difference with this week’s danger was that it was contained to a much smaller role in the episode and even served as a segue into another part of the episode: Takeo and Yamato’s date (with Suna tagging along again). More importantly, the river scene wasn’t the highlight of the episode the way the fire sequence was—with Takeo in very real danger of dying and his glorious, heroic, fantastic exit from the window, it was hard to think about much else in the episode. However, the ending of the river scene is truncated by Takeo’s desire to go see Yamato and the abbreviation of the interaction diminishes the relative importance of the scene, allowing it to become simply one piece of a chain of events, rather than a self-contained, important moment. This, happily, allows room for the true focus of the episode to take over in a way what ought to have been the focus last week couldn’t.
This episode of Ore Monogatari!! was all about first steps in a relationship and, more importantly and more interestingly, the differences in people’s individual ideas about how those steps should be taken. This is actually really cleverly set up by the episode in the first few minutes as Takeo’s classmates review the video of him and Yamato on the train. “I’d have gone on for the first kiss right then and there,” one of them exclaims, answered by another, “Takeo would never do that. Never.” Of course, at this point we have no idea what Yamato thinks, but from what we know of Takeo already it’s easy to trust his classmates’ opinion of him. It’s pretty easy to abstract their musings into, “Takeo would never take advantage of a girl,” which is, again, easy to believe given what we know of him right now (something he later confirms).
The second piece of the set-up comes during the post-swim date when Takeo grabs a bug off the side of Yamato’s face. Now, no one’s ever gone in for a kiss on me, but I’d guess if they were it would look something like how Takeo closed in on Yamato. Even his line—”Don’t move”—breathes of archetypal shoujo kissing moments, but of course Takeo is anything but a typical shoujo male lead. For Yamato, though…we don’t really know about her, but her reaction seems to indicate that she’d at least be interested in a kiss. She doesn’t pull away, she doesn’t yell or protest. She just listens, and then thanks him when he pulls away. You really have to feel a little bit bad for the girl! Her heart must have been beating like crazy, only for it to be yet another of Takeo’s selfless actions. That’s not to say Takeo’s selflessness is bad, but he certainly is a bit blinded by it sometimes…and, more significantly, by his attitudes about how he’s should treat Yamato.
The purity complex (some might say perversion) in the otaku fandom has been widely discussed elsewhere, but there’s most certainly an element of that reflected in the way Takeo perceives Yamato. To be blunt—he has no idea if she’s a pure-hearted as he thinks she is. He’s put her up on a pedestal (one she’s clearly uncomfortable with) where she’s a pure ideal. The irony that Takeo is obviously far more innocent and far more naive than she is further emphasizes the gap between his beliefs about Yamato and the enigma that she actually is. Furthermore, there’s an uncomfortable sort of infantilizing effect generated by the way Takeo treats Yamato with kid gloves constantly. His line, “Until you’re all grown up, I won’t touch a single hair on your head,” both radically misunderstands Yamato’s intentions (if you ask me, she’s clearly aiming for a kiss) and pins her into a specific conception of who she is without really knowing any better..
This all clearly is having an effect on Yamato, and not in a good way. Firstly, Takeo’s unrealistic ideals force Yamato (who, no matter what Suna’s sister may suspect, clearly does love Takeo) into a position where she feels obligated to not disappoint those perceptions—something that causes the guilt that Ai sees on Yamato’s face. I’m not really interested in hazarding a guess as to what Yamato’s secret might be. Knowing Ore Monogatari!!, it might be something as innocuous as her wanting a kiss and now feeling impure over wanting it thanks to Takeo’s rhetoric. Or maybe she’s uncomfortable with the way Takeo continues to risk his life for others. Or it could be something much more serious, although Ai’s suspicions that Yamato would be two-timing Takeo seem patently ridiculous to me. Whatever it is, unless we’ve been feed a huge red herring (in which case I’d be pretty unhappy with the show), there’s definitely something going on in her head.
I’d like to note here the interesting implications of Ai talking to Suna about Yamato’s secret. I don’t really trust Ai all that much thanks to her clear biases and I’m wary of allowing my perceptions of what might be going on to be influenced too much by her, but the fact that she sees something the show apparently confirms that Suna didn’t is interesting. To this point, Suna’s been the most perceptive member of the cast, but in a single episode with his sister he’s apparently missed on two counts: 1) his sister’s feelings for Takeo(?), and 2) Yamato’s secret(?). Who do we trust her? Suna’s judgement, or Ai’s? I don’t necessarily believe that his conclusion that Ai has feelings for Takeo is correct and Yamato’s secret might turn out to be nothing at all. But by introducing Ai into the equation, everything is thrown into far more doubt than it would have been had we merely been proceeding with our prior cast.
So, yeah. I’m really happy with where Ore Monogatari!! is going. There’s a ton of good stuff going on here about how you be in a relationship with another person, how you treat them, how much agency and trust you grant them, and what you assume about them. I’d love nothing more than to see Ore Monogatari!! blast away at a lot of the bad ideas Takeo has, in a gentle and constructive way. If it can knock this resolution out of the park, I’ll have huge expectations for the rest of the series—in a very good way.
Oh, yeah—and cheers to Takeo for potentially being the first ever male anime protagonist to realize that when a girl says, “It’s nothing,” it means the opposite. It took you a while, but you got there, buddy!