“I thought it was a good idea but now… kill me…”
|Thankfully this wasn’t the last episode, like I was starting to think it was as they wrapped up the episode. But it was definitely a good episode, and let’s see what happened.|
Too Much Support
Getting dressed down for caring too much
The manner of entry for the main conflict this week was “How do demi-chans beat the heat?”. But to be honest, that really didn’t matter, because what it was really was a jumping off point for the idea, floated by the school’s vice-principal, that maybe Tetsuo is being too attentive to the demi girls, and not giving them a chance to develop relationships with other teachers and learn to count on other people, because he is always the person they go to. This criticism leads Tetsuo to start second-guessing himself, ultimately demurring from his scheduled help with the girls about how to stay cool in the summer. But of course, he doesn’t let them in on what the issue is, just kinda gets weird and bails.
“I’ll… uh… talk to you later… maybe”
Trying to think about things on their own
But the issue brings in some other people, well, the only other people in the school we know, mainly Yusuke, Junichi, Atsumi, and Shizuka (which I think are all names given to the characters for this anime, since they’re all named after their VAs). We actually have a bit of time when they discuss the issue of discrimination and the idea of treating everyone the same. It’s an interesting conundrum that’s thrown up in the current thinking of people’s differences. “You shouldn’t treat people differently” is a fine idea, but everyone is different, and not acknowledging their differences can be hurtful in itself. And that’s a point that’s brought up in a rather backwards manner in the discussion by the black-haired girl (because honestly, I have no idea which one is Atsumi and which one is Shizuka) by dropping the bomb that “Should we really treat them like normal people?” It sounds bad right at the beginning, but the larger point holds up: If you treat them like normal people, can you expect them to come to you and open up about issues that only they have? Treating someone like “just a normal person” actually implies quite a bit of distance, because you’re not close to everyone in your life.
Learning what happened
The idea they get around to, even though they don’t really state it as such, is that if you want to be friends with them, you have to treat them like you would a friend. Be interested in their individual issues. Be accepting and acknowledge their individual differences. And you know what’s really great about this conversation amongst these kids? That they think about it for a second… and realize that they are the ones who should change. Is this idealized? Yeah, it is. But if a high school kid is watching this, I’d MUCH rather them see the message that thinking about changing yourself and your behavior to be kinder and friendlier to another person than just about any other message. Don’t even screw around with the idea of resisting the change and then being punished. Make it be a positive reward for doing the right thing. Because that’s what they get when the four of them take the initiative to go talk to the demi girls about the things that make them demis. A good chance to find out differences, to smile and learn and find out about other people.
The two groups finally come together
Cheer Up, Iron Man
Yuki gives it a go
The other kids making the effort to meet and learn isn’t what turns the episode, tho. After being kinda blown off by Tetsuo, the girls talk about what they think is the matter, getting the good idea to ask Sakie. But on the way they learn the real issue, as Hikari encounters the other kids after they have talked about it, and is filled in on what happened with the vice-principal. But after discussing it amongst themselves, with Sakie as well, they really don’t feel like the vice-principal is right, although I found it pretty great that Sakie praises the vice-principal instead of going along with the other girls idea of him being a bad guy. But he’s still put the chill on Tetsuo by saying he’s gone too far to help the demis, so they decide to try to cheer him up.
And Sakie will lend you a… shoulder… for support (although the word she used was 胸)
What follows is a wonderfully heartfelt moment, just as Tetsuo is really doubting himself. Showing caring and gratitude, the girls and Sakie send him a video saying how much they appreciate the help they’ve given them, and more than the help, the opportunity for them to be themselves and discuss themselves with someone else without feeling like it’s going too far. Sakie even offers to reciprocate, maybe getting a little forward with asking him out for drinks to discuss things, but runs out of steam. And even if Hikari doesn’t add to the video, her time with Tetsuo where she shouts how much he inspires her is more the things that she probably was too embarrassed to say in front of the other girls.
Hikari adds her own part in person
But I think that I’m not really sure I’d agree with what the Vice-principal says. From what I see, the fact of having a teacher that’s so close to the girls is more likely to let them gain confidence in themselves and help them engender those relationships with the other teachers, instead of the other way around. Maybe it’s more of a western idea, but teachers who take that individual interest in their students, whether it be for just a few students or for all of them, but still meeting them individually, seem to be the ones that are remembered, the ones that are thought of as inspirations. Yes, you want young people growing up to learn a sense of independence and responsibility. But if you just throw them to the wolves, as it were, it can be the breeding ground for their insecurities and lead to a bad place. Is it likely that Hikari would become a brooding emo vampire kid? No, certainly not. But what if Yuki hadn’t had someone that she felt just a little less uncomfortable talking to? How much deeper into her own worries would she have gotten, perhaps reinforcing thought patterns that would make it much tougher for her to express herself? I think that it’s good to have teens grow up to be good adults, and responsible people. But I don’t think that the way to do it is necessarily to limit their contact with agreeable adults.
And someone finally cheers up
I love the little things the show does. Things like reminding us about Hikari’s differences like being able to identify him from a quarter-mile away. Things like having Tetsuo start the video on his phone in portrait mode, switch to landscape, and then have the video switch. Things like when Sakie was talking to Ugaki a few episodes ago, have her fidgeting with the bear while on the phone. Or when Kyouko is first talking to Tetsuo, the way her arms are moving while he’s holding her head. When you start learning a little bit about the production process in anime, it becomes clear that every bit of movement costs money. So you end up with a lot of cuts that are static shots, that are pans over unmoving things, a lot of background people standing still. Everyone does it, because it’s the cumulative cost of those little things that eat into your margin of both money and time. Which is why it’s great to see these little “extra” movements in this show. The things that take the animation out of the uncanny valley and into our hearts, that humanize the characters, that help show their anxiety, their excitement, their impatience. It’s not big and flashy. It’s small and probably unnoticed by a lot of people who “watch” these shows in the background while they’re playing a video game or cooking dinner, who don’t give it their full attention, who skip through or play at double speed because “Well, we’re reading it anyway, right?” But that’s what gives these shows the connection to me, the love and care that they put into the production that comes through as their love of the work, and comes to us as characters we love.