A picture of the future, or at least, a hope of one.
This is the third of my entries into 2017’s rendition of the 12 Days of Anime aniblogger project. For more about the project, read appropriant’s introductory post. Please also check out the spreadsheet containing the work of all the bloggers participating!
When I recently watched the first few episodes of Ouran High School Host Club, a thought I had gave me the key I needed to unlocking my feelings about a different anime I’d recently seen that also featured a cast of young boys: High Speed! -Free! Starting Days-. That thought was something like this: “I wish more anime, no, more media in general, portrayed boys who are kind-hearted, gentle, loving, and a bit silly as a good and desirable way to be male.” The way High Speed! portrays its male characters is different than the way Ouran does—it is a drama, not a comedy, after all—but my feelings about the film are a familiar echo.
I wish more media portrayed it as okay for boys to emotional, uncertain, vulnerable, and able to rely on each other to find their way through as good.
“Why are you forcing yourself to change?” “I was thinking that I should starting calling myself ‘ore’ now.” “What will I do?” “Looking at you now just hurts!” “My little brother is amazing.“ The emotional range of High Speed! is astounding in isolation, but all the more so when you remember that this is exclusively a cast of boys. The panic, the pain, the confidence, the fear, the love—these feelings are spun out like thread, and then woven together in a cradle of acceptance. There are no John Waynes in this film, not even among the somewhat wiser senpai who do their inconsistent best to guide those younger than them. In this world, to have a heart and to show that heart to others is not an anomaly; it’s just the default state.
We need not annihilate the stoic man, merely his status as an idol to aspire to. When Nao embraces Asashi—shown above, my favorite moment in the film—to the younger boy he is something solid. But the expression on his face betrays the pain in his own heart, his empathy for someone who is hurting. That, I firmly believe, ought to be our ideal of masculinity. Because it is not really masculine at all, but human. Furthermore, because this film is a film that prioritizes (perhaps even glorifies?) the emotional realities of boys, it is not just Nao’s solidity that High Speed! glamorizes in the theatrical mode—but the entire spectrum of feeling its cast portrays.
Haru’s discomfort with a changing world and changing people. Makoto’s struggles with his identity as a unique person. Ikuya’s ambivalent view of his brother. Asahi’s insecurities. Representation matters, and what High Speed! represents is boys who don’t have to be golden statues, but can instead be melting wax—and be loved.
The color here exists in many ways. The vividness of the direction and the richness of the animation are key to me, because they offer an artistic experience knit into the fabric of High Speed!‘s thoughtful vision of boyhood. The visual and aural beauty are worthwhile on their own, but they also serve as polish on a gem, making the film’s ideas glitter. This is compelling—idealization wielded in a way that frees, not constrains. As I consider the color of this film, that I suppose is the heart of the matter. The color is clear, clean, fresh, and gorgeously rendered. As I say, it is an appealing vision.