Aniwords – The Art of Good Anime Crushes

Once Konobi got over its creepy jokes as Usami’s expense in the first episode, it worked its way into being one of my favorite shows this season. All in all, it’s not an exceptional anime by any means, but there’s one aspect of it that has really endeared it to me—the surprising excellence of Usami and Uchimaki’s relationship. Shows like Absolute Duo have shown I’m weak to anime where the central relationship is solid, and Konobi falls into that category. And so I wrote about what makes Usami’s crush on Uchimaki better than your average anime blushing.

Also, I hope you guys appreciate the fantastic pun I worked into the title this week.

Here’s the link~

Konobi

4 thoughts on “Aniwords – The Art of Good Anime Crushes

  1. I completely agree with everything you say about Konobi, down to the fact that it’s probably the anime staff that’s responsible for the resonance rather than the source writing (and the picture with Usami painting is an excellent choice to give an example).

    I’d add that the Konobi type of crush goes nowhere by design. Things can change, but it’s prime function is to support comedy. The crush is real, it’s one-sided, and it’s resistant to the presence of turn-off factors. I think the bench-mark for this kind of crush (with reaction faces good and bad) is still Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. And this, I think, is why the presence of a crush doesn’t make a romance. This sort of show has romance potential, but it’s unmined until there’s some sort of romantic reciprocation. But reciprocation is a risk in that sort of show, since it means transforming its prime gimmick. If this doesn’t work you go from a good comedy to a lacklustre romance. (I can’t think of examples right now.)

    So when we go from crush to relationship, that’s quite a leap. The twist with Toradora is that, while the show’s not skipping the curshing phase, both of them cursh over other people. It’s actually quite clever, and lets the relationship develop in plausible ways, before either of them actually notice it happens. Basically, Toradora separates crushing from the development of a relationship. So: getting along is important for a relationship, but how important is it for crushing? And does crushing mean you want a relationship in the first place? What does it mean to crush over a 2d chara?

    And this is where I disagree with you: Momokuri does not rely solely on cuteness and fluff. Perhaps more than any other anime I’ve seen (and that includes Toradora) the show understands the difference between a crush and a relationship. In the early episodes, all we have is Kurihara crushing over Momotsuki, and Momotsuki being kind and cute. But the show strips this away layer by layer, and a relationship emerges that surprises and confuses both of our protagonists in their own ways. And they have friends who are there for them and watch out for them. Momokuri is a show about crushing, and about relationship expectations. It’s not a well of deep insight, but it is rooted in a very subtle emotional understanding of what teens go through, I’d say. It’s easy to miss, especially early on (I certainly missed it), because what the show is doing is developing a relationship out of a “relationship”. I’d go into details, but what you said makes me think you haven’t actually watched the show beyond the early episodes, and if you ever get back to it, it’s probably better to do so naively. It’s really good and knows what it’s doing.

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    • I actually meant to get around to talking more about the crush going nowhere by design and how I actually think that plays into giving the relationship space to grow out of actual friendship because it’s not “mired” in explicitly romantic terms. Like you said, the transformation can become a gimmick; so in this case the stasis is actually beneficial.

      My Momokuri comment was an ignorant one based on my impression of the first episode; I”m glad to hear that there’s more to it. Kinda encourages me to take a look at it again!

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  2. Naturally, this got me thinking about some of the best one-sided crushes I’ve seen in anime, and I think your criteria are pretty much spot-on for what I like to see in a well-done one-sided crush also. Looking at a few examples from shows I know you’ve seen, that meet all three of your criteria:

    Tomoyo –> Jurai (Inou Battle). Most people who remember this show at all probably remember it mainly for Hatoko, but this was always the pairing I liked best. Of all the girls, Tomoyo’s the most similar to Jurai in base personality type and interests and the closest overall to being on his wavelength, even when she’s getting thoroughly exasperated with his chuuni antics. It’s also probably the closest in spirit to the Konobi quasi-relationship you talked about, especially in that it also fits the bill of teasing their relationship potential even though there’s no chance of it ever happening within the duration of the series.

    Ami –> Ryuuji (Toradora). I’m team Ryuuji/Taiga of course, but that one’s pretty much mutual from the time it starts to develop. So out of all Toradora’s numerous one-sided crushes, it may surprise you that this is the one I liked the best. But I think it works so well for me because out of everyone in their circle of friends, Ami and Ryuuji are the two who, by choice or necessity, are already the closest to living in the adult world. So it feels like some of the conversations they have are just on a totally different level, and they’re generally comfortable being completely honest with each other about their thoughts and feelings, which they aren’t always with the rest of the group. She never had a chance in the romantic race, but they still found a solid, if unlikely, friendship.

    Hachiken –> Aki (Silver Spoon). Technically not one-sided, since there are clear hints all along that the interest is mutual, but since most of the story is from the terminally insecure Hachiken’s perspective, it usually feels pretty one-sided, plus there’s no actual confession, so it fits the bill well enough. I think this one is a stellar example of mutual engagement, in particular, with the ways they’re able to talk and listen to each other and sometimes help each other out. The quiet support he’s giving her late in season 2 when she has to face her parents about her future is a standout scene for both of them.

    So I guess along with the three things you brought up, thinking about it as I’m writing these down is highlighting a fourth trend that’s also important to me, which is having the character with the crush still being able to function as an independent person with their own agency and role in the story beyond the crush itself or their relationship to the other person (an issue I’ve sometimes had with other characters where “has crush on X” is one of their given personality traits, like Hinata from Naruto). Ami and of course Hachiken both have plenty of their own agency and are central to the storylines of their respective shows beyond just the romantic subplots, and while Inou Battle is more classically “harem romcom,” we still get enough of a sense of Tomoyo as her own person with her own goals and ambitions that the relationship works for me at a more substantial level than “it’s cute.”

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    • SHAME ON ME FOR FORGETTING HACHIKEN X AKI. DEFINITELY IN THE HIGH TIERS OF MY FAVORITE ANIME COUPLES.

      It’s just been such a long time since I watched Silver Spoon and its greatness to me is a rather quiet one that doesn’t give it quite the mental presence for me that other shows do.

      And this fourth trend you mention is a good one, too. I don’t think we get that all that much from Konobi, but it helps that Usami is the viewpoint character more often than not, so it feels more like her story.

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