I just wanted to drop a message saying that my Japan blog is now active! You can follow my adventures living and working in Japan at IgirisuJen, but the latest post can be found at the link below.
Phrases I never thought I’d say:
“I’m going to work in Japan.”
“I’m going to a week long seminar in Tokyo.”
“I’m going to be living in Kanto.”
Over the last few months, those phrases had become commonplace, gradually becoming part of my new reality. I’m still slowly adjusting to that reality and even as I look at my plane ticket, my visa, or even my offer of employment, it doesn’t feel a hundred percent true.
But it is definitely happening.
Reigen Arataka claims himself to be the next big thing in the world of psychics; which (considering he has no supernatural ability) is a bit of a bold claim. He runs an exorcism agency in Seasoning City, where he hires a middle schooler named Kageyama Shigeo for 300 yen an hour. Kageyama, also known as Mob, possesses real extrasensory perception so Reigen uses him to defeat spirits whilst pretending to act as his mentor. The duo ‘team up’ to help their clients but there’s one big problem… it’s only a matter of time before Mob explodes.
Suzukaze Aoba starts her second year at work, daunted at the possibility of being a senpai to the new hires… only to find out that there aren’t any. (Mostly) undeterred at the prospect of being the youngest in the office for another year, Aoba proposes that she takes on more challenging characters to design. Hazuki asks the Eagle Jump employees to pitch ideas for a game, but in the meantime, everyone goes to a hanami party. There, she announces that there’ll be a competition to become the next project’s lead character designer.
In an alternate version of Tokyo, where beings known as Ghouls hunt and eat people, Kaneki Ken leads a relatively normal life. He’s painfully shy, but plucks up the courage to ask out a girl who frequents his favourite café. She seems perfect; she’s pretty, likes the same things as Kaneki, and she even seems interested in him too. After their date, he walks her home… and soon realises she wants him for completely different reasons. She’s a Ghoul, but before she can kill him, she’s crushed by falling scaffolding and dies. Kaneki wakes up in hospital, with a strange eye and a new-found thirst for human flesh…
Thanks to Viceland actually airing anime on TV in the UK, I’m finally getting around to watching Cowboy Bebop. And because it’s such a popular series, I decided to do something different and live-blog my thoughts at the same time as watching it…
Attack on Titan Season 2 is Spring 2017’s most eagerly anticipated series by miles, and quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated sequel in anime history. Four years, two live action movies, two spin-off series and a video game later, the franchise that took the world by storm in 2013 doesn’t look like it’s about to slow down.
A mysterious girl named Sana has escaped from a top-secret research facility. With her captors in hot pursuit, she runs away to Shinjuku, where she comes across an old man named Kashimura Zouroku. Zouroku has a bad temper and a distaste for trouble, so when Sana starts talking about ‘wishes’ and ‘deals’ he immediately decides to stay out of it.
But he isn’t given a choice.
He and Sana are attacked by other children from the facility, which leads to Zouroku being taken into police custody for questioning. The whole incident is covered up to hide the existence of magic, and despite his initial reluctance he decides to give the girl a temporary place to stay. Although, the danger isn’t over yet…
An adaptation of Hiromi Takashima’s Kase-san manga, the Asagao to Kase-san video follows the tale of two high school girls in love. While tending the school’s flowerbeds, Yamada meets Kase-san, an athletic tomboy on the school’s track team. Kase-san helps Yamada and they walk home together. Instantly smitten, the girls promise to meet again. As they grow closer, their feelings grow too.
In the last few years, there have been three anime music videos that have taken the otaku community by storm. From daoko’s ME!ME!ME! and its possible prequel GIRL, to Porter Robinson and Madeon’s Shelter, the MV format is a perfect way of achieving widespread popularity. Because the videos are short and often available on legal streaming sites like YouTube, it’s so much more accessible than full length anime. And because they don’t use much dialogue (if any) there’s usually no need for subtitles. Yes, it does add an extra layer of meaning if you can understand the lyrics of the song, but the actual plotline is still perfectly understandable without it.
Although, the meaning doesn’t necessarily have to be obvious. ME!ME!ME!, GIRL and Shelter went viral for that very reason, sparking debate over different interpretations of the story. I’m hoping that Asagao to Kase-san has the same success, because I absolutely love it, but it probably won’t because there’s absolutely no room for interpretation.
Any subtext between Yamada and Kase-san is made text, with no way to read their affection for each other as platonic. It’s quite simply a love story, just like we’ve seen in so many anime before.
Asagao to Kase-san is full of the typical tropes from high school romance series. They walk home together, share a scene on the school’s rooftop, and watch the sunset. Yamada even rides on the back of Kase-san’s bike; something found in Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso and played for laughs in Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. There’s no denying that Kousei has feelings for Kaori and there’s no denying that Sakura has feelings for Nozaki. Just like there’s no denying that Yamada and Kase-san like each other too.
But if there was any room for doubt left, the girls kiss, confirming what we’d known all along.
It’s sugary sweet but it’s so cute, I don’t even mind. The art style fits it perfectly, with its absolutely beautiful watercolour-esque scenery and its expressive characters.
The song choice fits perfectly too. Kimi no Egao is about a person who’s met someone that changed them, giving them a dream for the future. During the chorus, the lyrics say: “Now I have found something precious, something that I want to protect.” During the moment the two girls meet, the lyrics say: “Your smile and your voice created my future”. During the scene where Yamada is upset (which leads to their kiss) the lyrics say: “I don’t know the reason for your tears that day, beyond the upset I saw a path leading to a dream” (all translations via pltgokuhanako). The song isn’t specifically ‘sung’ by one girl to another, but it seems to come from both of them. Because of that, it’s implied that Yamada and Kase-san feel the exact same way about each other, wanting to stay together forever.
The girls meet while Yamada is looking after the school’s morning glory flowers, or asagao in Japanese. In Hanakotoba, the Japanese language of flowers, asagao plants mean “willful promises”. I’ve talked about Hanakotoba on this blog before because flowers are very important in Japanese culture, so I doubt that morning glories were chosen just because they look pretty. Pairing the flowers’ meaning with the song’s lyrics, it’s as if the girls have made promises to stay by each other’s side, swearing to protect that precious thing that they’ve found.
But it’s not just the morning glory that has been linked to romantic relationships between women. Historically, bisexual and lesbian women would give violets to the women they loved, as a reference to the poet Sappho. More recently, lilies have been associated with lesbianism. In American TV show Glee, one girl gives bouquets of lilies to her soulmate, calling them the “lesbians of flowers”. In British movie Imagine Me and You, a florist tells her female love interest that the lily means “I dare you to love me.” In Japanese anime Yuri Kuma Arashi, lilies feature heavily in the series. In fact, the whole yuri genre is named after the lily. So if the asagao joins the violet and lily as a ‘gay’ flower, then I say, the more the merrier.
I’m really hoping that this leads to a full series. And it possibly will. Kase-san’s staff have worked on popular series like Steins;Gate, Akame ga Kill and Re:Zero, so it doesn’t make sense for them to invest their time in a music video… unless it grows into something bigger. Literally my only issue with Asagao to Kase-san is that there isn’t more of it, and judging by social media, I’m not the only one.
But if it stays as a promotional video for the manga, it’s definitely done its job. The timing’s just right too; Asagao to Kase-san was first published in English less than three months ago. If you love yuri and shoujo ai, I really recommend watching the video and buying the manga because you never know, we could just get a full anime out of it.
If you liked Asagao to Kase-san, you’ll like…
Asagao to Kase-san is very reminiscent of Chinese web-comic Tamen de Gushi, and anyone who likes one is bound to like the other. In both stories, a quiet blonde meets a brunette tomboy and they fall in love. I’ve been following Tamen de Gushi for eight months now and saw the similarities straight away, but even if they’re alike they’re definitely not the same.