(Originally written around the end of June 2014)
Speaking of Ei Aoki, here’s a show he directed that could not be further from Ga-Rei Zero, Fate/Zero and Kara no Kyoukai in terms of its story or genres. This show caught my attention when I read its synopsis and saw that it seemed to be tackling gender identity in a non-humorous and extremely direct way, which is certainly very unusual in anime. At first I didn’t even notice that it was directed by Ei Aoki, and why should I? The possibility never even crossed my mind before I saw his name in the credits. As I said, this is not like the other shows directed by him. This is a story about middle-school children who wonder about who they really are, what they really want and how they should communicate with other people. And in some ways, it’s darker than Fate/Zero, Ga-Rei Zero and Kara no Kyoukai 1 put together. The themes surrounding gender identity come so close to stories I’ve heard from real people as well as my own experiences that at times the show feels frightening and dominating. It’s like it’s assaulting my self-perception and it makes me anxious. I am actually slightly afraid of continuing it for fear that something will happen in the show that I can’t process either rationally or emotionally.
But man, that fear and that dominating effect, they feel absolutely great to experience. This show feels great to watch, because it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before in terms of how directly it addresses its core themes. This show uses very few metaphors, if any. When a girl says that she doesn’t want to wear a bra, that’s because she truly doesn’t want to. When a boy says that he wants to wear a dress, that’s because he really does want to wear a dress. And that brings me to the greatest thing about this show, and the reason that I’m still entertaining the possibility that I fell and hit my head 4 days ago and that this show is just a figment of my imagination:
I think the characters are perfect. No, not in the “MC-kun can do everything and he gets all the girls” kind of way, I mean in terms of writing. First of all, every character serves a purpose, but it doesn’t feel like they were created from the ground up to fill very specific roles. Instead, it feels like the original author wrote a bunch of middle-school kids, made them part of the same group of friends and let the characters fill the different roles in the group dynamic naturally. And indeed, some of the characters feel very natural all around. They have their unique characters, but they all feel the full range of emotions felt by humans. In addition, the characters in this show are just as direct as the show’s themes. They are very honest with both themselves(to a certain extent) and others, and most characters rarely hesitate to say what’s on their minds. But, to counteract this almost unnatural openness, most of the characters are also capable of lying. Basically, none of the characters are extreme(except maybe for one). For all of these reasons, I find the characters in this show to be perfect in the sense that I don’t know how they could be improved. They’re wise and mature in exactly the ways that I like my characters to be, and I absolutely love it.
…Except for one thing. The characters being wise and mature is awesome, right? Yes, but they’re pretty much 12 years old, an age at which very few children are wise and mature. My greatest criticism of this show is that I feel like the characters are not immature enough. They shouldn’t be so quick to forgive. They shouldn’t be direct and unhesitant all the time. They shouldn’t be so understanding of each other. And this is causing me a terrible headache, because I never thought I would encounter characters like this: They’re so perfect and I love them all and this show so much, but for the same reasons, the character writing is flawed.