“The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down”: Koe no Katachi and The Anxious Classroom Environment


An expressive and enriching meditation on redemption and scars shared, Koe no Katachi is a cinematic triumph and perhaps Kyoto Animation’s most celebrated offering yet. Boasting what appears to be a cloyingly feel-good spectacle certain to reward those in search of penitence, The Who’s ‘My Generation’ elevating a kaleidoscope of youth, that the film’s central conceits would be as cheap as the premise feels ought to be something of an inevitability. An experience tenderly crafted by the studio’s finest however, Koe no Katachi highlights more achingly poignant modes of guilt and redemption with scars running deep between victim and victimizer as they struggle to transcend cyclical modes of abuse; moistening an arid interpersonal wasteland. Shouko is deaf and subjected to a particularly ruthless form of systematic ostracism carried out by protagonist Shouya and the rest of their class, ridding her of agency through discarding the notebook which serves as her primary form of communication along with ripping out hearing aids with such venom, it scars. So callous is their treatment of Shouko that it eventually results in her transferring schools – an entire five months after she first set foot in their classroom. And yet the notion beggars belief.

Why did the school let the bullying go on for as long as it did?

Why didn’t the homeroom teacher reprimand those jeering at her in plain sight?

Why were her peers so reluctant when it came to actively dissuading Shouya’s harassment?

Why did they mostly amount to passive spectators, in turn contributing to Shouko’s pain?

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Me, Myself, and I: Sexual Politics Inside Mari’s Body-swap Narrative


When it comes to depicting adolescent struggles with sexuality, Oshimi Shuuzou is by no means a stranger with the sexually-charged Flowers of Evil laying waste to youthful idealism and schema precariously constructed, les fleurs du mal flourishing amidst the vestiges of innocence. His marked cynicism suffusing traditionalist narratives is something to be commended, and the same can certainly be said for his take on the body-swap genre and all of its established conventions. Ostensibly Boku wa Mari no Naka or Inside Mari appears to be yet another bawdy offering running the orthodox gamut, a relatively light-hearted piece about what girls and boys are made of. Isao is a NEET, days filled with video games and masturbation blurring into one. Having long since dropped out of university, the only ray of light in the darkness that is his life would be the angelic Mari. Admiring her from a distance through stalking allows Isao to momentarily forget how much of a failure he has become, and expects nothing to change… That is, until Mari turns around with an enigmatic smile and Isao wakes up in her body.

It’s a set-up which does little to destabilize the genre’s turgid whiff of homogeneity, all fidgeting in girls’ locker rooms and groping others a display of routine titillation. But true to Oshimi’s contemptuous model Inside Mari quickly takes on disturbing connotations as boundaries blur, challenging the genre and all its expected conceits once Isao peers into Mari’s impervious psyche.

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From the Stars Back to Our Cities, Where We’ve Never Felt So Small: Kakukaku Shikajika


Autobiographical effort of Higashimura Akiko, a mangaka celebrated for her sassy and stylish romps about the modern girl, caught many off guard through turning her gaze inward with the profoundly cathartic Kakukaku Shikajika. It is a work far removed from the effortless extravagance of Higashimura’s usual fare starring models flitting about sipping cocktails and quirky mavericks living on the fringes of society, instead introducing Hayashi Akiko, a slovenly teenager ambling through the sleepy coastal village of Miyazaki in the early ’90s. Head firmly in the clouds and elevated beyond by shoujo whimsies, what drags her back down to earth with a resounding crash is Hidaka Kenzou – an eccentric art teacher in the community. Hidaka openly criticizes Hayashi’s skills as soon as she steps into his classroom, appalled that such an amateurish individual could possibly have their sights set on attending an arts university the following year. As Hayashi quickly comes to learn Hidaka is quite the character, whacking students with a bamboo sword like it’s going out of style, unleashing mercilessly caustic jibes on young and old alike. It’s chaotic, and you’d never think that someone as frivolous like Hayashi would stay…

Kakukaku isn’t merely a charming origin story documenting the rise of one of the most prolific female mangaka in contemporary times, instead an achingly remorseful reflection on lived experiences and deep regrets harboured. Every time she purchases a beer after fighting against a deadline, every time she sees fruit in the supermarket, every time she returns to her childhood home and sees a vase, regret’s shadow lies long and heavy.

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So Hang High, Soft Star: The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls and Embracing Idiosyncrasies


“I want to believe that I can shine too, because I hate the way things are now.”

To say I didn’t hold a positive opinion of The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls’ first cour would be putting it lightly, its first nine episodes lolloping down the mobage track with assumed familiarity, not once pausing to allow the viewer to process the merciless onslaught of names hurriedly flung at them. I disparaged its business-orientated model; my head sent reeling at the cold approach designed with churning unit after unit in mind, evocative of its mobage origins struggling to thrive in a cutthroat industry where idol games are a dime a dozen. DereMas was a far cry from the warmth I’d experienced with its predecessor, The Idolmaster. Being perfectly honest, I was reluctant to press on.

But I’m glad I did.

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March 2017 Retrospective


March comes in like a lion and here I am desperately playing catch-up before the new season starts in a… W-Wait, what do you mean it’s already after starting?!

As an aside, if you think spring appears to be lacking its usual sheen my pal Alex happens to be hosting a group watch of Yamamoto Sayo’s spectacular Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine as a means of celebrating its fifth anniversary. Newbies and veterans alike are encouraged to join in, so feel free to pop along! More details can be found here.

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When Doves Cry: Dissolution in Onii-sama e…


A prestigious institution in the midst of celebrating its ninetieth anniversary, Onii-sama e…’s Seiran Academy would be considered one of the medium’s more ruthless takes on well-to-do finishing schools. A nod to traditionalist boarding school romps propelled along by literary figures such as Enid Blyton and Frances Hodgson Burnett, when contextualized they are essentially caste systems intended to nurture privileged young ladies, instructing them in all matter of femininity. Perhaps indicative of the period’s ignorance however, such idealistic settings generally avoided drawing attention to the societal mores which facilitated such a restrictive hegemony. Serving as a striking refutation to this model, Onii-sama’s 28th and 29th episodes resolve to aggressively tear down those structures built upon the misery of others – and all it takes is the flutter of a single dove’s wings.

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Summer’s lease hath all too short a date: The Sonnet of Ichinomiya Fukiko


Within Onii-sama e…’s fraught exploration of adolescent anxieties and the societal structures which bind, the elegant matriarch of Seiran Academy’s exclusive Sorority would be considered something an enigma where the student body is concerned. It isn’t too difficult to see why a figure such as Ichinomiya Fukiko would be considered the subject of every student’s adoration, however, all long skirts swishing with a gracefulness beyond her years, daintily arranging floral arrangements, golden curls whipping in the breeze. Despite the awe which follows, she nevertheless harbours a grave secret sealed deep within the confines of her heart… The source of which can only be found in a room which the maids have taken to calling ‘the sealed chamber’ in hushed tones out of milady’s earshot. Bedrooms often prove to be fascinating realms, revealing more about their occupants than words possibly could through personal whimsies. They essentially serve as a mirror upon which one’s psyche is reflected, yet unsettling implications lurk in the shadowy corners of Fukiko’s once the viewer is at last granted entry into this room and by proxy, her heart.

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