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No.6: anime and the dearth of wit

Something's been bugging me ever since I started watching No.6.

Maybe it's just me - or perhaps it's the shows I am or ain't watching - but is anime killing the ability of its fans to appreciate the subtlety of wit?

Take Yakumo for instance, which I really liked because some of the exchanges between the characters brought huge grins to my face. Others thought it was boring - I suppose they were more interested the 'detective' bit, which really wasn't all that fulfilling.

Now let's take a look at a couple of exchanges from No.6.

From episode 2 (my translation):

Thanks for saving me.

...
So have you noticed?

What?

I'm taller than you.

Liar...!

What in the world have you been eating? You're stick thin - there's no way you can bare yourself before your sweetheart like that.

That's none of your business! And it's not like you've seen me naked, right?

And if I said I had?

...! Nezumi...have you been watching me all this time?

What do you mean?

Don't play dumb! This timing, it's as if you knew this would happen to me.

I don't have that much free time.

(etc...)

"And if I said I had?" Quite a few people harp on about that, citing it as proof that Nezumi has 'loved' Shion ever since that fateful day 4 years ago.

Personally, I just grinned - Nezumi's comebacks are pretty damn good, and completely in line with his theatrical and literary background. I mean, how else could he have reacted? Stuttered? Ignored it? In fact, stuttering would be more indicative of romantic interest. Nezumi simply doesn't think of Shion that way - yet, if you wish - though his reasons for saving Shion aren't revealed until later in the volume (and way too many episodes later in the anime).

Other things they keep bringing up include a fair amount of 'skinship', as my former students would say, including the waltz. This one's actually a bit out of place in the anime, because the "goodbye kiss" came first in the novel. In my opinion, the switch has made it seem more significant than it was originally. Using the Greek words since the distinctions in English are crap: it's actually pretty obvious that, by this point, Shion probably loves Nezumi in terms of 'eros' as well as 'agape'. His thoughts as revealed in the novels seem to confirm it. But going by Nezumi's thoughts, it still appears more like 'philia', if it's love at all. I'm half inclined to leave it as 'intense gratitude and loyalty'. Why teach Shion how to waltz then? I suggest reading a translation of that scene in the novel. Long story short: probably a variety of reasons, but I personally don't see 'romantic love' very high on that list, if at all...

Then there's the kiss itself. Asano-sensei's comment in her Otona Animedia interview is that it's what she believed Shion would do given the circumstances, that she wanted to show how they're drawn to each other - though I'd like to actually read it before I say anything more. But the interview in the guidebook is pretty interesting too. Here's the section on Shion and Nezumi, from page 92-3:

(How were the two main characters born?)
Because it was to be a "YA Entertainment" series, I decided that I would have boys as my protagonists. Once I expanded my image of a world in the near future, two boys came to my mind: one who lived within the state, and another who lived alone. One that knew nothing, and another that knew everything. Something like 'light and dark', you could say, that's how Shion and Nezumi were born as such contrasts. But even though they are complete opposites of each other, rather than regarding each other with hostility, they're drawn to each other. But from that relationship, it turned into me just wanting to write about the two of them.

(From an adult's perspective, their relationship is rather mysterious.) 
It's not just restricted to male characters - I rather like writing about relationships between people of the same sex. When you write about opposite sexes who are drawn to each other, you typically end up with them falling in love, or (becoming) husband and wife... To a certain extent, there is a fixed 'template'. But if you write about people of the same sex, a relationship that you can't express with words like friendship, comradery, love or hate is born. I think that there is great value in writing relationships where you can't draw lines like that. Between Shion and Nezumi is a 'unique relationship' born of particular conditions and particular experiences, something that only they have. I wanted to write it because I wanted to know what that relationship would be. Of course, such 'unique relationships' can be formed between people of the opposite sexes too. It's not like we get 'mass-produced' feelings whenever two people meet. But I really feel that what's really interesting to write about are the 'original' feelings that come from relationships between people of the same sex.

Some people say that Asano-sensei's just making excuses when, instead, she just really likes providing fanservice, but I think she actually has a point. There's also something to be said about the expectation that the end point of any meaningful relationship between a girl and a guy is that they'll hook up, but that's a whole other post.