Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kimi to Boku 2 – 13 (End) and Series Review

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I never thought all that much about Kimi to Boku during its run, but now that it’s ending I’ve become aware that I’m really going to miss it.

Fittingly for a show that never worried too much about plot, KtB leaves the airwaves forever with an episode as thoughtful and slow-paced as any during the last two cours.  And happily for fans of the characters, two of them who’ve pretty much window-dressing this season – Yuuta and Shun – are at the forefront of the episode and get some real development, especially the latter.  Given that the other odd man out, Kaname, got his 22 minutes in the spotlight last week that should leave viewers feeling pretty satisfied no matter who their favorites are.

I can’t help but find it hilarious that Shun was more romantically inclined as a six-year old than as a third-year high schooler. I don’t know who he was thinking about when he was kissing that teddy (I thought he and Kanamechibi might have a go for a minute, but even then Shun-chan was much too young for him) but it really doesn’t matter – the fact that he was thinking about it at all sets his Kindergarten self leagues ahead of the teenager we’ve been given access to.  Shun is an odd duck to say the least, but way back when this all started he seemed like the heart of the group in some ways – certainly he’s the one most invested in keeping them together – so it was nice to see a return to that theme at the end of all things.

The topics of the last ep were both universal – final year high-school angst over the future – and particular (the tea ceremony).  It makes perfect sense than Shun and Yuuta were in the Tea Club – they’re both perfectly suited for it.  Added some color to the tea scenes is instructor Tsunashi-sensei (the legendary Morikawa Toshiyuki) whose bald dome the visiting Chizuru, Yuuki and even Kaname find irresistibly hilarious.  The mere notion of Chizuru pursuing the Way of Tea is absurd on the face of it – there could hardly be anyone more ill-suited for it – but it’s good for classic Chizuru laughs.  I especially loved his declaration that he’d put Ochanomizu as his first choice school on the mock exam so he could study tea (“Ocha” being Japanese for tea, and it being a girls school that doesn’t offer tea instruction).

If you were looking for any resolution to the plot elements that poked their way into this season – most prominently Chizuru and Mary-saki’s romance with Shun as a third wheel – you were disappointed.  But you shouldn’t have been, really, because finishing with plot would have been very out of character for Kimi to Boku.  This finale was a slightly more serious version of what the show is – gently humorous slice-of-life about five fujoshi-friendly boys making their way through high school.  Shun’s introspection about the future brought a nice bittersweet tone that was very appropriate for a last episode – as much as anything he was sad because he was thinking about the gang breaking up, always a sad part of finishing high school – and Yuuta’s low-key kindness was a nice cherry on top that was very much in character.  All in all, a nice finale.

I was very much of two minds about this series when it started – in fact, I stopped blogging it for several episodes in the first season.  To be fair the show did struggle out of the gate and the second season was (happily) much the better.  Part of it was me, though, as I was definitely expecting something quite different from what we got.  I won’t say I was expecting Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, but that was definitely closer to what I envisioned – a show that was very much about the guy experience from a guy perspective.  My main gripe about the first several eps (apart from the fact that they were rather boring) was that everything that happened seemed to be gender-neutral.  It was a 4 cute girls @ school show with penises.

So what changed that might me at least something of a fan – the show, or me?  A little of both, probably.  Once it became clear what KtB was and more importantly what it wasn’t, it was easier to appreciate for its own charms.  And with the arrival of Miyu Irino’s Chizuru on the scene just before the halfway point of S1, the series took a dramatic turn for the better.  All the gentle wistfulness that was putting me to sleep suddenly got shaken up, and Chizuru added desperately-needed energy to the cast. He forced the others out of their comfort zones and drove the action forward.  Both the situational comedy and the romance aspects of the show improved, too.

So did Kimi to Boku ever really get past that gender-neutral barrier?  While, not really – but TBH, neither did Oofuri and that’s a show I liked an awful lot in spite of it.  There were elements of this show that struck a realistic chord for someone who used to be a teenaged male – among them the obsessive drive to find ways to waste time and on general nonsense (again, often driven by Chizuru).  I think Oofuri and KtB are both shows that present teenaged boys as fujoshi imagine them to be – non-threatening, emotionally open, and chaste (with a couple of notable exceptions).  There actually isn’t all that much in KtB that wouldn’t have worked if the characters had been girls, but in the final analysis it still ended up feeling like a highly idealized series about guys rather than a series about girls.  That’s more than I would have guessed after four or five episodes.

I like Kimi to Boku, and I’m going to miss Kimi to Boku.  That’s the most important thing I guess, and it tells me that the series succeeded in what it set out to do.  It certainly wasn’t a groundbreaker and I don’t think it’s going to be regarded as a classic, but it does manage to carve a fairly distinct niche for itself (given that Oofuri is really the only comp I can think of, that’s surely the case).  It is after all a show about male friendship and that’s an element of anime whose demise I bemoan frequently, and it it leans towards the fantastical and idealized rather than the messy reality of life, that’s fine too – as a show, it doesn’t have a mean bone in its body.  If the real world were more like the one in Kimi to Boku, it’d be a much happier place.

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15 comments:

  1. Kimi to boku exceeded my expectation the first season was kinda weak but this one specially chizuru's episodes were quite entertaining. I know it probably won't get another season but I wish it does so many manga chapters that were not cover.

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  2. Wow, I think I got a little teary-eyed watching this, knowing it's over. I could definitely relate to Shun's feelings this episode - I remember feeling like that when I was in my last year of high school.

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  3. Hmm, these Kimi to Boku boys are VILLAINS!! Especially the mean-looking red hair guy. There is no mistaking these sharp eyes of mine.

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    1. well, no seems to realize this was a joke, a tongue-in-cheek post, if you will! Why else such illogical statement? Then again it's very hard to differentiate a joke from trolling these days.

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  4. Shun must be Japan's Benjamin Button. I'll miss KtB even if it did end on a very random note and with none of the threads ever reaching a conclusion, not that they ever will until the manga ends.

    I'd like to ask a question. Do we want to see another KtB or was it a one time thing because it was a slice of life with guys rather than girls?

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    1. I'm not sure I understand the question - another season of KtB (sure, why not?) or another series?

      We've got a jillion of these shows about girls, to the point where it's basically impossible to do anything original with them anymore. The more of these types of series centered of guys the better, if you ask me.

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    2. Another series like KtB with guys instead of girls. Thanks for the answer

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    3. Given a choice I'd prefer another series like Danshi Koukousei (or just more of that one), but I'd certainly take a show similar to KtB over the nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnth one with an all-girl cast.

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  5. I liked the first season better. I consider all of the episodes as classics. The second one though; there was too much Chizuru and Mary romance. While it definitely is a good romance, I'd prefer a more wide approach. We saw Yuta's friend just in one episode for example, and she was feeding a cat or something on the background.
    Anyway, the second season was of course great too. Some episodes I don't like as much as I did ones of the first one, but the ones I do I like about the same, if that makes sense.

    I'm a bit disappointed with your review, Enzo. I consider Kimi to Boku and Oofuri some of my absolute favorites, and I think the writing in these shows is miles above anything similar. There's honesty and authenticity there. Calling them fujoshi fantasies, or whatever, I think does a disservice to exactly that. They don't pander. If they wanted to, they could, and very easily at that. I don't think that someone can deny that the matches in Oofuri are the best baseball matches we've ever seen in anime (and we're ever going to see, to be honest), or that the romance aspects of Kimi to Boku is a refreshing and honest take to what other anime see as wish fulfilment or are just vulgar about it. Kimi to Boku *respects* its characters.

    Writing slice of life is not easier than writing something with explosions or whatever. Hell, it might even more difficult. You only have the characters. You have to make them real. You have to make them interesting. You have to create empathy. That's your only weapon. There are no guns or dinosaurs or breasts at your disposal.

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    1. Well, you seem to be responding to a lot of things I never said.

      I love slice-of-life as a genre (though the term is often overused) and I never said a word against it here. I also like KtB, and Oofuri (especially the first series) even more, as I did say here. I just happen to find both of them to be very idealized versions of the male experience from a female perspective, and the demographics (who buys the manga and DVDs) would seem to support that notion. I see plenty of examples in both shows that very plainly play directly to this audience and I don't think they're especially hard to spot.

      As for the games in Oofuri, first of all, "I don't think someone can deny they're the best ever" is a pretty preposterous statement. Of course they can deny it - not everyone has to agree with you. In this case I don't agree myself - the matches in Oofuri are probably the longest I've seen in a baseball match, and they're quite good, but I've certainly seen better. I guess it just depends on what your priorities are for a sports anime.

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    2. "I just happen to find both of them to be very idealized versions of the male experience"
      Maybe that's the unique problem I seen with Kimi to Boku, the absence of major defects, making it a bit (too) "moe" for say something, but I don't find that's a bad thing at all, at least for what Kimi to Boku tries to be (a relaxing slice of life comedy).

      Anyway, apparently the original creator is a man, because Kiichi is a male name (or at least, more usual as male name), those minor "fujoshi" undertones were mostly by part of JC Staff, but the "moe" factor is from the manga, anyway.

      Well, I enjoyed this show a lot, and the ending was pretty good, too, a good closure. Though, I'll don't miss Kimi to Boku,, because I'm following the manga now, I'm actually pretty happy with what the anime's adaption did.

      Anyway, I loved Kimi to Boku, but, you recomend me Oofuri, then? I never seen Oofuri before, and I'm unsure if I'll enjoy seen the show or don't.

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    3. I think Oofuri (especially S1) is a better series than KtB. There are long baseball matches, so if you have zero interest in that, that's the only possible problem I see. They're very well done, though.

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    4. I'll give it a try, then! Thanks~

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  6. I know you like sol and I agree that the term is overused, but it certainly applies to KtB. I go off on tangents and write stuff, doesn't mean I'm directly responding to someone unless stated or obviously implied. I hope that's ok.

    It doesn't matter who buys the DVDs. It has nothing to do with the objective qualities of what we see on screen.
    Yes, if you wanted, you could very easily single out scenes from both of these shows that may seem suspect (hand holding and such), and they could be guilty of pandering... if we were talking about other shows. It's not the hand holding itself that's cheap and panders. It could very much be a well deserved emotional scene between two males. And no two males are the same in how they deal with stuff. It's about how you put them in use in your story.
    Either way, everything is someone's fetish. I can imagine there are plenty of girls that would love Yuki, or Shun, or any of them. That doesn't mean that this is what they're there for. The writing in both of these shows is far from fanfiction-y. They don't serve as wish fulfilment.

    You're right about the matches in Oofuri. My bad for not articulating my thoughts properly. Let me try again.
    I don't think it can be denied that they are both the longest and the most complex we've ever seen in anime. If someone's looking for something short that resembles a fighting shounen battle, of course Major is the way to go.
    Anyway, that's only part of why I consider Oofuri's matches the best. They also perfectly ingrain character development in a way that mostly doesn't feel staged. That's just my opinion and it's direcly related to my idea of what the best is in a sports match. I should have made all this clear.

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  7. I liked this show a lot, but am I gonna miss it? That's a harder question to answer. Certainly, I'll think about it next week and maybe for several weeks and wish there was a new episode airing, but in the long run I don't think I will. It's hard in the long term to miss a show that gives you no emotional payoff. In shows like this plot lines rarely get resolved and when they do it's almost always depressing in some way. Despite the fact that they are very different shows, it's the same reason I don't really miss Working! very much. I miss the comedy but I'm kind of glad not to be getting emotionally jerked around by plot lines that never quite seem to resolve. In the end I like KtB quite a lot and if by some miracle it does get another season I will surely watch it, but I'm also good with it not getting another season, since I know if it does it will just be more of the same, dangling the carrot in front of our face but never quite letting us reach it.

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