Go on Throw This Stone, into This Halfway Home: Shibahime Tsubasa’s Family Portrait

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Although those earlier episodes of KareKano are concerned with the affecting minutiae of Yukino and Arima’s burgeoning relationship, in shoujo land rarely does ‘the course of true love… run smooth’. Enter Tsubasa in an id-fuelled maelstrom of pouts and scowls, resenting Yukino for digging her claws into Arima. While initially portrayed as yet another antagonistic cog fuelling the collectivist machine that is shoujo bullying, Tsubasa is in fact a pitiful figure who managed to see something of herself in Arima. Beyond humourous attempts at middle school wooing, they gravitated towards each other due to similar sorrowful pasts. Although Arima’s issues simmer beneath an immaculate veneer, ensnared in an increasingly convoluted web of self-loathing and expectations spun across the series’ entirety, Tsubasa’s are explored through an arresting two-parter.

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“Tranquil Days That Felt Empty”: Arima Souichirou and Incongruous Blossoms

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The establishing shot of KareKano’s eighth episode features an abandoned bouquet of cherry blossoms, petals solemnly strewn amidst a black background. The same piano piece that highlighted clandestine moments of emotional intensity during the first episode rise alongside “it was before I met you”, alluding to the wistful sentimentality of the past. The material of such a remarkably directed half-episode is concerned with depicting Arima’s first few weeks at school; affection blooming amidst the shadowy annals of his psyche while subconsciously striving to transcend blossoms blocking the path to self-acceptance. Otherwise ubiquitous imagery adorning many a graduation scene, the beautiful flowers signify fresh starts and new beginnings, blooming in tandem with the beginning and end of the Japanese school year.

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“How Do People See Me?”: Miyazawa Yukino and the Looking-Glass Self

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Among the myriad romantic comedies inundating the medium with their formulaic reliance on will-they-or-won’t-they nail-biters and divisive love triangles, almost twenty years on GAINAX’s Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (KareKano/His and Her Circumstances) has stood the test of time through instead turning its gaze inwards. Broadly speculating on the fraught identity politics Yukino and Arima endure in the midst of social and familial turmoil, it proves to be a remarkably introspective character study arguably on par with Neon Genesis Evangelion – both of which have director Hideaki Anno on board. Through their relationship the pair grapple with the intricacies of learning to live for themselves, a thematic strand deftly weaved into the narrative from the anime’s first frame. Consisting of a white backdrop emblazoned with a suggestive question, it asks “how do people see me?”.

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