Friday, March 30, 2012

Inu X Boku SS –12 (End) and Series Review

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What a strange trip watching Inu X Boku SS turned out to be.


An interesting thing happened this week: the sales figures for the first volume of Inu X Boku came out – and they were good.  Very, very good in fact – about 11K in the first week.  But while that’s indeed interesting, the most fascinating element is that they were split almost 50-50 between Blu-rays and DVDs, which is almost unheard of.  What that tells us, if history is to be believed, is that they were purchased almost equally by male otaku (who traditionally buy Blu-rays) and fujoshi (who usually prefer DVDs).  And that fits in with my strong feeling that this was a series with no single target audience.  It has a cast full of bishounen, yet tons of loli fanservice.  Is has a fiercely yuri character, and frequent scenes of males cross-dressing.  My assumption was that the show would commercially flop for this reason, as shows are rarely able to succeed without targeting a specific demographic.  Instead, this one seems to have pulled an inside straight  and managed to score by appealing to a little of every group.

I wonder if the guys at David Productions were somewhat surprised to see the series take off as much as it did, because it appears that they tried very hard to make a finale that was a true ending, as if this were to be last we’d see of the anime.  It’s hard to imagine we won’t see a sequel based on these numbers, but the writers will have to do a bit of wiggling to make sense of that now – not that it’s an insurmountable problem.  One supposes that a studio wouldn’t adapt a manga unless they had some small hope that it would be a hit in addition to helping sell manga – but it sure doesn’t feel like it here.

The finale was very much in line with the series as a whole – utterly unconcerned with conventional dramatic structure, almost perversely so.  Most of the first half of the episode was given over to the story of a character we’ve barely seen, Kotarou – the little son of the Ayakashi-Kan cook, .  He’s recently found out that supernatural creatures sometimes carry the same memories and personalities as their ancestors – a sort of reincarnation – and this has Kotarou worried that his father Joutarou will exist in another life feeling love for a woman other thank Kotarou’s mother, perhaps even having another child.  Naturally this has the little boy feeling anxious and depressed, and Renshou and Natsume are the ones who end up helping out.

That conundrum, like so much in this generally light series, has a sort of existential depth to it, and it’s an interesting topic to explore.  It’s also interesting to see Renshou in the spotlight again for a while.  I love this character, and I love Hosoya Yoshimasa’s deadpan performance (not to mention the cool factor of hearing Hosoya-san and Mamoru Miyano interacting in roles so different than Arata and Taichi).  It was also interesting as it cast Natsume in a slightly new light.  Renshou was initially concerned that Natsume would (seemingly in character) toy with the boy’s very real feelings for his own amusement – but Natsume derives a solution with seemingly genuine kind intent, the creation of a time capsule.  Natsume remains an enigma, of course (he still treats Watanuki rather cruelly) but this plays into the notion that there’s more to him that the razor-wire prankster.

The time capsule’s main purpose in the episode, of course – Kotarou and Joutarou’s arc is wrapped-up fairly early on – is to be a catalyst to drive the main romantic relationship (and to a lesser extent, the secondary one) forward.  When Karuta speculates that she might not be friends with Watanuki in their next life, he’s enraged by the notion.  But the main event occurs when Ririchiyo mixes up her time capsule letter – a florid and heartfelt confession of love for Soushi – with the apology letter she’d intended to give him for dropping his melon.  It’s a clever device, and well-used both for comedy and drama, and it certainly accomplishes the task of advancing their relationship in a big way.

This being a rather perversely weird series, it doesn’t try to make anything too easy for us, and I’m not sure what to think of that main relationship.  The fact is that Soushi is a 22 year-old man with a pronounced history of moral ambiguity, and Ririchiyo is a 15 year-old girl.  Not only that, but we’re given a rather startling view of Soushi’s bathroom wall.  It’s certainly played romantically, but this episode does have an “ick” factor for me – I have major concerns about these two being together, and for all the fantastical and whimsical elements Inu X Boku definitely plays the interpersonal side of things in a way that asks to be taken seriously.  I don’t know whether the author wants this to be ambiguous, or he’s endorsing the pairing wholeheartedly – I suppose we’d find out the answer in season 2 – but the ending, where the two are lying on Soushi’s couch together and he tells her that he wants to have a baby with her, certainly has shock value.  While I don’ deny that Soushi’s troubles were mostly not of his own making and he’s basically a victim, does that make the man he’s become any safer?  And if you had a 15 year-old daughter or younger sister, would you be comfortable with her engaging in a physical relationship with a 22 year-old former gigolo?

I guess in the end I like the fact that this series forces me to ask myself difficult questions, and appears not to spell out any easy answers.  It’s been an interesting journey, right from the start – the notion of a hard-core tsundere entering a sort of self-imposed rehab to try and get better is an interesting one in the context of today’s anime landscape.  But the impact of Inu X Boku has definitely been cumulative, as witness the fact that I didn’t blog it until the sixth episode.  It wormed its way inside my consciousness, slowly but surely, with its odd humor and glacial pacing.  Episode after episode went by where no real plot was involved – it was mostly a series of indulging various fetishes for comedic effect (usually effectively).  But all the while, there was a slow movement in Ririchiyo’s self-awareness and a buildup towards the much more dramatic final two episodes (especially the penultimate one).

I said during the course of the series that I found the scenes between the grossly obsequious Soushi and Ririchiyo by far the least entertaining in the series, and that’s still true.  It can’t be denied that seeing Soushi that way for ten episodes made the events of the last two far more dramatic, so in that sense it was surely effective.  But is it really worth making ten episodes less entertaining so the final two will have a greater impact?  It’s certainly an interesting question – but then, this series is full of those.  Though the concluding drama was very effective, for my money the greatest joys of the show were still the moments of bizarre comedy, and the scenes involving Watanuki and Karuta.  Those two were one of my favorite anime couples in a long time, with their straightforward adoration and their irresistible cuteness.

If the past is any judge, we’ll most likely be seeing a second season of Inu X Boku – and maybe quite soon, too, as there should be enough manga material to support it.  While I would have been pretty ambivalent about that a couple of months ago I find myself quite looking forward to it now – both in anticipation of more delightfully off-center and weird humor and KaruTanuki goodness, and semi-morbid curiosity about where the uncomfortable yet compelling and complicated relationship between Ririchiyo and Soushi will go from here. 

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21 comments:

  1. GE:"And if you had a 15 year-old daughter or younger sister, would you be comfortable with her engaging in a physical relationship with a 22 year-old former gigolo?"

    Hell no. And I refuse to get into online "debates" online with people insisting that "age doesn't matter" or whatever nonsense to rationalize such nonsense in real life. I was also a little uncomfortable with the romance aspect this episode for that reason, but this is anime and Riri looks nice in those knee-high stockings. lol

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    1. I'm kind of on the fence about it, to be honest.

      On one hand, I can honestly say that I have difficulty finding reason to care whether a nice guy, creep, or douchebag is 15 or 22 for the purpose of dating a 15 year old. I care about which category they fall into.

      On the other hand, when it comes to ascertaining whether someone is a nice guy, creepy, or douchebag, the age difference does play a role. At least around here, there's a social stigma attached to a 22 year old dating a 15 year old and someone who is willing to put up with that strikes me as rather... "driven" in a way that would make me suspicious of them and their motives. And it's unusual to have enough data on a person to dismiss that sort of suspicion easily.

      None of which really impacts on my opinion of the couple here because their motives are much clearer. I agree with a few other posters that Soushi's treatment of Ririchiyo shows he treats her differently from the women he used to go after, so no issues there. The "family" discussion was a shock though more from a pure surprise standpoint than an offended one.

      Not quite as good as episode 11 (which was easily one of the best anime episodes I've seen recently), but still a pretty strong episode overall.

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  2. If it's about age, I remember Usagi from Sailor Moon was 14 and Mamoru, her love interest and eventual boyfriend, was 20.... No one complained about them then, so I don't see what's the problem between Ririchiyo and Soushi.

    Soushi's mental state due to his past is another thing all together, but then again, Ririchiyo also has social/emotional problems of her own. Ultimately, the truth is that they need each other. The anime is pretty explicit and clear about that fact.

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    1. Not everyone who has issues with the age gap and how young Ririchiyo is has watched Sailor Moon though.

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  3. I just followed this show because it was mildly amusing.

    However, the last episode was spectacular and moving.

    This was pretty much the opposite of Another in every way, including my appreciation of the show.

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  4. Personally, I like them as a couple. I was surprised by how smoothly they just got together. Honestly when Ririshyo lied to Miketsukami abouth er letter and he just accepted it I was like " oh great, i bet we're getting 12 more episodes of Her trying to say she loves him and him trying to stop loathing himself long enough to see that." But, they got TOGETHER! OFFICIALLY! I am astounded, really. Now I really want a S2.
    As for the age issue. Personally I don't think it's right to ask us if Ririchyo was our daughter or sister or something. We have got to drop our disbelief a bit for this show, I mean they're demons after all, in a demon household. a little rule bending's okay by me. In fact the ONLY issue that came to mind at all was his gigolo past, which does make me think that he's a bit more "experienced" than he should be for Ririchyo. But I can put that aside, I think the goal of that information was to put his mental state in perspective, not his new relationship.

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    1. Soushi knows she almost never says what she means, at least on first attempt. He's seen through her the entire time. He just takes what he can get and he really seemed to have no devices past serving her. He also knows she puts all of her actual feelings in letters. Which means, no matter how much she says, he does know its her feelings.

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  5. I watched through 1-11 two days ago, mostly on a whim, and I found a series I enjoyed. Ep 12 really cements how different of a series this was.

    Natsume is about 65% troll and 35% kind hearted. He's actually tried to setup Watanuki & Karuta several times in the series. Though, given his ability to "see everything", he also is getting his kicks out of watching Watanuki fail.

    While they were able to wrap up a somewhat cohesive story arc, they weren't really writing themselves into a corner, if I understand how the manga proceeds. Though a second season would likely be a lot darker.

    As for Soushi & Ririchiyo, by Japanese law, she's only a year from consenting to marriage, so in that context, the ages aren't a huge issue. But I did love how they directly pointed out the oddities, by our... less than subtle group of residents. That was pretty funny.

    For the relationship directly, you have to note the contrast between ep 11 and what Soushi was capable of doing and how he acted with Ririchiyo in ep 12. Given his obsessive knowledge of her (as the picture wall wonderfully pointed out) and given his capability of wooing women, he could have easily made a move on her long, long ago. Still could but he wouldn't. That's what the last scene was really getting at. Soushi was being honest (something he only ever can be with Ririchiyo) and looking towards a possible future. That's a black & white contrast between his attempt to gain his freedom from his family. There's supposed to be some discomfort with everyone in this series (Kagerou, I'm looking at your gloriousness), so some of that reaction is a bit of a given. Still, it works and was very enjoyable.

    I love how they showed they kept all of the letters. Something they'd shown for Ririchiyo early on, but now it comes full circle. And, Soushi being Soushi, it was offered to destroy them. Those letters are probably the single thing most precious to Soushi and he offered to destroy them for Ririchiyo's sake. It's a touching moment, even if it was done in voice over.

    We can probably expect another season next year, and I look forward to it. Thanks for blogging it!

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  6. @Enzo:
    1. Riri's parents don't seem to care much about her.
    2. His stalker photos was already reviewed a while back. In the Mike ED Song. I called him a stalker then... He really is one...

    Good End

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    1. The series pointed out that she'd been all but separated from her family for most of her life. (This wasn't by their choice) She was treated more like a cloistered princess than a member of her actual family. Why she pointed out she liked being called "Onee-san" by her sister the one time.

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    2. I mean, it's her parents not caring much about her is pretty obvious, based on the fact that they had no problem with her being engaged to Kagerou. Most parents would move to the moon to get their daughter away from him but they were like "engagement? Hells yes!"

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  7. I'm glad that other people decided to watch this show as when it started no one really did. I really liked straight from the start primarily because it didn't pick out a demograph to appeal to but rather tried to be likeable for everyone, which is no small feat in the anime world.

    Soushi and Ririchiyo may be a strange couple but they have their moments and it certainly is interesting to see where there relationship will go with all the angst and emotion out. Karuta and Watanuki were adorable too and I'd love to see something happen between Renshou and Nobara as they seem to literally be on poles apart.

    Thanks GE for blogging it and bringing it to a lot of peoples attention

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    1. I don't think Nobara pays a lot of attention to poles.

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  8. Actually into the manga they got together at the same time in the same, so its not like they wrote that in to have it feel like it was ending.

    So even if there is no second season it works well stand alone, but I hope there is. I like Ririchiyo and Soushi but I agree that I think Karuta and Watanuki kind of take the spotlight off them. Could they be any more adorable? I'd love to see future arcs based solely on their relationship. I really hope predictions from sales can be trusted.

    Eh I don't really care about age gap but that's because I'd be relating to Ririchiyou in the situation, not as Ririchiyo's non-existent older brother/father or whatnot lol. A shoujo manga I love called Dengeki Daisy there's an 8 age gap, but the couple are so adorable that I don't even start to give a damn. However if you're referring to the situation in a real world context yeah my view may be different, seeing as the real world people can be corrupted whereas in our stories, we just see them as good characters with no ill intentions.

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  9. A fine ending to a fine series, I must say.

    For Ririchiyo discovering Soushi's bathroom wall, I cannot understand how people can think of anything sinister and not see the intended comedy that it was supposed to be.

    That applies to Soushi's "stalker-like" behaviour towards Ririchiyo, for that matter. :)

    Ririchiyo has gone from tsundere cute to sickeningly cute by the end of the series.

    Even the side-characters were fun to watch, most notably Renshou, Kagerou and Karuta x Watanuki.

    I look forward to a second season.

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  10. Season 2? Yes, maniac! The only thing I didn't like about this series was not enough Nobara, if the production company fixes this issue in the second season we'll call it square!

    As to the age difference, it's a little weird granted but it's one of those differences that will seem like nothing later on. If Ririchiyo was 25 and he was 32 nobody would think it's strange at all. That said, they obviously better not go too far with their relationship while she's still so young or there will be major squick.

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  11. Replies
    1. If Season 2 is Good, S!

      If Season 2 is Bad, M!

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  12. When it comes to the age gap it is very common in anime's and I don't see the problem. Why? Because its in other words a "cartoon". If this was real life then it becomes a taboo situation and morally wrong. I have seen bigger age gaps and even incest between child and parent (siblings, etc.) in anime's that really make you question hmm.. This might be taking it a bit too far. Compared to many I've seen this relationship is harmless and innocent. It's not like he is pressuring the girl or raping her. He just wants to be by her side forever and love her unconditionally. Then when they are older and she is clearly of age family making will be involved. Geez.. At the end of the day whether its an age gap or even incest it's just an anime meant for entertainment. And I was thoroughly entertained. I LOVED this anime, especially Ririchiyo and Soushi's relationship. It's heartwarming and beautiful. SEASON 2 SEASON 2 !!!!!

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    1. I'm pretty sure you'll get your S2, don't worry. BD/DVD sales were just too good.

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