Kuragehime Ep. 7: I only got to second base

At this point my kokoro (TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: KOKORO MEANS HEART) is closed to Kuragehime.

It’s probably not the worst thing this season, but the most sympathetic character is the villain. The protagonist is a spineless nothing, completely without agency.

Actually, my least favorite thing this week is what E Minor aptly characterized as “nerd cultural relativism.” When Koibuchi suggests Chieko sell her creepy doll menagerie to pay for the house, he’s violently repulsed by Banba, who claims that because Chieko treats the dolls like family, they basically are her family. This attitude of accepting the other party’s value system no matter how ass-backwards it might seem is ridiculous in real life and ridiculous in fiction. Obviously, it’s painful to lose anything with such personal attachment value, but there are more pressing issues at hand. She could unload some fucking toys to keep a roof over her head and the heads of all her friends, but won’t because she’s a big, old nerd.

In the end, it’s her junk to sell or keep, but the idea that Koibuchi and the others are required to look at the situation from only Chieko’s point of view is silly. “Being a doll nerd” isn’t even a culture; it’s just a hobby. When do we get to the part where the denizens of the Amamizukan grow the hell up?

Your moment of zen:

Bonus video:

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8 thoughts on “Kuragehime Ep. 7: I only got to second base

  1. kaei

    There was an episode in Nodame Cantabile involving (in the interest of keeping spoilers to a minimum) a father and the lengths he went to to protect his prized collection, at the cost to his family; the resolution to it, though played for laughs, was extremely effective, and I was really hoping for something like that here. Heck! Even 40-year-old Virgin got it right!

    Reply
    1. The Fin Post author

      As nearly as I can tell they played this one straight. She could sell some dolls and save everyone, but not only will she not, but also we’re apparently supposed to believe Koibuchi had no right to ask. I can’t get over how much anime these days seems to be about empowering dorks to ruin their own lives. Keep your obsessive collection, fuck your friends! Try to go pro as a mangaka at 16, start blowing off school! Screw around with your amateur music club and let your little sister manage your life like you’re mentally retarded! Of course at the end of K-on! there was this little nod to “maturity” when Yui goes through one study montage and magically gets into the same school as everyone else, and I’m sure Kuragehime and Bakuman will end similarly, with “do as I say, not as I do” episodes where everyone grows up. But in the meantime they seem content to just revel in the idiocy of nerdy youth to the point of glorifying it.

      Reply
  2. The Hamster

    Geezus. Okay, let’s put it on the line like this.

    The Sisterhood is freaking crazy. I mean they are diagnosable, and too awkward to go out and get said diagnosis. They are eccentrics, and have been shoved into the series as such. I don’t think everyone who watches the series is going to agree with their ways, I don’t think that’s the point, and it’s clearly not what I got from watching it so far.

    I get that they are freaking crazy.

    I’m okay with this, and I think it’s pretty early to tear them a new asshole for having some sensitivity to their crazy. What Banba was saying translated to me as “Hey, you can’t treat these things that are her life as nothing, and expect her not to freak out. It’s easier if you think of these as her children. I know it’s hard, but your being an asshole.” There is even some appreciation now for what Kuranosuke is trying to accomplish.

    After reading these reviews, it seems you were ready to hate this series right off, and have continued to make it some kind of political attack on neo-feminist civilities. I don’t think the show is taking itself that seriously, and see no reason to criticize it on that level. Doing so makes you seem as awkward and crazy as any of the characters at the house, just in a different way.

    Chill out.

    Reply
    1. The Fin Post author

      Harsh! I was actually pretty into Kuragehime at first, I thought it had potential. As the old parental scold goes, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

      The thing about the sisterhood’s craziness is that it’s just not making good television. We’ve already seen it over and over, and it just grates to watch people, even fictional cartoon characters, embarrass themselves. And I’m just not sure I buy your take on Banba bouncing Koibuchi. She’s one of the craziest ones there and she straight up told him to get out, I didn’t read any subtext about how she was secretly on his side. We’ve seen the big reveal move-that-bus makeovers of their appearances, but so far there’s just been zero reform of their actual personalities.

      I don’t think the author sat down and wrote Kuragehime as an attack on women, but as E Minor is always reminding us, the author is dead. All we have is the finished product, and in it there are two girls competing for Shu’s pure virgin heart. One is a do-nothing wimp whose frailty is supposed to be charming, the other is a ballbusting career woman who’s also apparently a date rapist. To me that contrast makes some pretty clear and upsetting implications about what women are supposed to be and do. If you’ve got a different take on it then by all means, share, but “how seriously x is taking y/itself” is not a useful metric in criticism. Just call them as you see them, because you can’t really learn much by trying to crawl into the writer’s brain and figure out whether they were jk or super cereal.

      Google tells me neofeminism is that special kind of strawman feminism where those darn hairy-armpitted dykes think that all women are better than all men. No one describes themselves as neofeminist because it’s a made-up word, and I shave on the regular so I’m gonna go ahead and deny that one! I’m just a person with a third of a blog and some opinions.

      Reply
  3. The Hamster

    Fair. I was harsh, as a response to something I saw as harsh.

    I do have a very different take on what I’ve been watching though, but I’ll get to that in a moment. “Neo-feminism” was used for a reason, and it was specifically because of the image it brings up of the angry man hater. It’s actually NOT a made up word, and follows the strict rule of suffixes and prefixes in diction. Neo- works fine attached to feminism, and is only a made up word if feminism is. To an extent, yes, feminism is a made up word, but language changes over time, but I’m getting off point.

    Neo- has a dark history, if you think about it, almost nothing good is “Neo-” because things that contain this prefix are usually extremely to one side of an issue. Think about a nazi, he’s pretty bad, but a Neo-nazi is that much worse. Similarly both sides of a political debate appreciate slinging Neo-conservative or Neo-liberal around when it will cause the proper reaction of making that person seem more negative.

    For this reason, let me re-iterate my stance. I doubt you are a non-shaving dyke man hater, however, your writing above is still a bit on the extreme side on how it views women. Women are a strange thing in this anime to be sure, but even here you re-iterate a bad taste feeling due to the two main female role models.

    That is the crux of my point. When Beevis and Butthead first aired I was somewhat young, appropriately aged for such humour and watching it. My parents discovered this and discussed it with me explaining that they didn’t like me watching it, because “the show had very negative role models, and they couldn’t understand why I would appreciate such heroes”. Thinking back on this, this is coming from people who introduced me to such movies as Stripes, and Animal House. Really Beevis and Butthead are just an update of something that is always hanging out somewhere in society, and that is the potty humour department of your local college/high school. Today we have Family Guy and Southpark for comparison to what has come before, and I use this memory as a sort of guidepost to remember to not think too badly of things that at one point I enjoyed. I don’t appreciate the heavy handed political messaging of either show, as it pretty much slaps “believe this” in every attempt they make to make such a statement, and it’s hardly ever so simple.

    So why would I condemn a show that uses potty-humour for their simplistic display of politics? I did totally do that for a long time, and then a friend of mine said “chill” and pointed out that not only is it nothing new, but Southpark has managed to be enough of a phenomenon, and is clever enough, to have references to itself spiced out through the whole of american society. Really, Cartman is a fairly big icon at this point.

    Getting back to the topic, here is the connection to the above. I can definitely understand a ‘bad-taste’ feeling towards a percieved statement of a show. My take is different, but first I want to ask you to look at this show from a different perspective.

    First off, Shu is an ass. He’s hinted at being an ass from the beginning, and although he’s made more 3 dimensional than simply an ass, he continues to be not just an ass, but a spineless one at that. He HAS been the lackey of his father, but now he is allowing himself to be caught up in the machinations of a rather sinister character. This is due to weakness, and from any perspective, Shu is the mouse and not the man.

    This is important, because I honestly doubt that either woman is going to win this battle for “Shu’s virgin heart”. He is redeemable, and probably will be redeemed, especially after the signs shown at the end of episode 6, but this doesn’t mean he even belongs with either woman. One is a manipulator, and two-faced to boot, and the other he only loves when her outside is painted pretty. He doesn’t appreciate the whole package which really ends up being nothing more than an image, which he is prone to fall for. The relationship Shu and the protagonist have is cute in the same way small children dating is cute. Neither has the social experience or ability to make anything real out of this, and if they did, they would be caught up in the image of each other, and not able to deal with the reality.

    I would be disappointed if this is how it turned out, but, well, this show is obvious enough that I KNOW that it isn’t going to turn out that way. As for the antagonist of the series. She isn’t even painted as a “career woman”. She’s corporate slime. Here’s a quick trick for you. If you imagined both of the main female roles of this show as men, would the argument you gave above fly for even two seconds? If Shu was a woman and the same actions occurred, not only would the writing portray the antagonist as corporate slime, but it might also go further to suggest that Shu was raped by the big scary corporate monster who harangles power over his naivette.

    Shu has a lot of that by the way. He is extremely naive.

    As for the main character, it is a bit easy to call her spineless when she literally is too neurotic for words. From the get go they displayed someone who suffers deeply from angoraphobia and social anxiety disorder IF NOT Generalized Anxiety Disorder. What’s more, we’re dealing with a character who has become content with not even trying to treat what is pulling her back from interacting with the rest of the world. The reason we are supposed to feel for her is she is stuck in a state of mourning, and for anyone who has been in mourning, they know the feeling it won’t end. Seeing someone who holds on to it like she does is an old trick. Seen it a million times.

    Why isn’t there a main female lead to counteract two rather messed up individuals? Probably because one doesn’t fit. Giving the protagonist a normal female friend does something to pull her out of her shell she’s created, and one would have to ask why she wasn’t dragged away for help. The main male lead(used loosely, but I will try to cover that in a moment) works for the role of someone openning her up, because he faces his own neurosis. He’s not going to drag her away for help for the same reason he hasn’t done so for himself.

    As an aside, if the females are viewed as negative, who is the positive male figure in this show? As far as culture is concerned, I can see where it would be more important to have a strong female lead, because it’s rarer, but really, the show doesn’t contain anyone I’d want to look up to as a role model. It kind of portrays a crowd of nutjobs.

    As for the male lead, let’s talk about him for a minute. I don’t buy that the only reason ANYONE would constantly dress like a girl is to mess with their parents. If there was anything asked of me to believe that could have been insulting, this would have been it, but then I don’t buy that “excuse”. He is as neurotic as she is, and dense to boot. He constantly displays an attitude that doesn’t do much to consider those around him, and is very single minded. In addition he doesn’t much know himself, which is part of why he seeks out his mom constantly. He wants to see her to get the full story on himself.

    This is what I’ve gotten from the show so far. It’s only my perspective though, and really, I cannot change the reaction you have to it. My goal isn’t to change your opinion but to ask you to…well…I guess lighten up?

    On another aside, I will occasionally give something a second try if a friend can convince me to. I notice you really like Maria-holic. Interestingly enough I cannot stand that show. I find it incredibly mean spirited, and somewhat of a constant gay bash. I mean, they constantly shove this meek lesbian with social issues at a vindictive man who wants to turn her into a crying blob to fulfill his BDSM fetishes or something.

    Does that sound harsh? I’m sure it is, I’ve been told it is, but it was my original view of Maria-holic. Friends convinced me to watch it again, but as someone who has constantly dealt with diversity from family for identifying as a lesbian, the show comes off too painful to be funny. If that is the case here I do not expect to change your mind, and in a way I can relate. I do think the above review is being very harsh to a series that isn’t finished yet.

    I believe by the end of the series, we will see the two protagonists get together. This is obvious, sure, but it has already been well established that they are in love. Just being in each others presence makes them feel fluffy and happy, it’s why the main male protagonist has put up with her crap this long, and it’s why she is slowly getting stronger when he is around. They also fit each others Neurosis well and have had a chance to really meet each other, which is something she really hasn’t done with Shuu.

    Shuu will get redeemed, but it’s up in the air whether the female antagonist will be. She is a bit of a shallow monster, and too narcisistic to be redeemed from the front view, but maybe she’s just crazy too. The show has 4 episodes to come to a conclusion though, so I’ll go on record as saying I doubt she will be.

    As far as the house, it will be saved, it will come out that he’s a guy, they will either lose contact with him and her, or keep a friendship due to the efforts he took to get them to be viable to stand up for themselves.

    One last note, while I’m thinking about it. I am not saying Banba was secretly on his side but more that he was being an ass. To take her as being selfish due to her neurotic showing is kind of….bad. She’s crazy and she has more interaction with those dolls than with people, so him taking them to get sold would be extremely traumatic to her. No psychologist in the world would think that the first step would be to right out take the dolls away, ESPECIALLY in the manner he brutally attempted to. Banba was saying “I appreciate what your trying to do, but wow, your being an ass”. They were establishing(yet again really)why these individuals can currently not hold money.

    If there house wasn’t getting taken from them, these aren’t people who would manage to keep up this lifestyle forever anyway. It’s not sustainable, and the series has never suggested that it is. The house is in ill repair, leaking badly, and being bandaged in ways that would eventually lead to it being condemned. To take it out of it’s fantasy it probably is one inspection away from BEING condemned, and the money that her mom is getting for selling it, would probably buy them a new nunnery that would be less condemnable at least at first.

    But that isn’t the point. The point is to establish a crisis situation to build conflict in the story and hold interest. Of course, it fails to do that for you, I do not expect to change your mind. I don’t think it’s a great series, it’s actually rather predictable and does not escape it’s own tropes, I do find it none the less charming.

    Thanks for reading, and sorry about any previous harshness.

    Reply
    1. The Fin Post author

      Those are some damn solid predictions about the shape of the show going into the future. I agree that there’s no way Tsukimi will end up with Shuu, I just think her competition with Shouko is significant because it highlights the difference between the two women. We’ll see about the rest, but your guess sounds hella believable.

      We’re coming up on a 2 year anniversary for this blog (if you ignore the huge missing chunks where one or all of us vanished), and in that time I think the most common thing we’ve heard from angry readers is that we need to chill. You’d think we’d get the hint! But consider if you will your take on Maria+Holic. I see the show completely differently, to me it’s all about parodying the fantastical yuri shows like Marimite, so the stuff that hits too close to home for you is what has me in tears of laughter, because it contrasts so hilariously with the flowery bullshit in mainstream yuri. But your take is completely valid, and I wouldn’t dream of telling you to chill out and try to take the show less seriously. There’s not an objectively correct response to Maria+Holic, and no absolute level of seriousness that “should” be applied to it. That’s not to belittle your experiences by the way, I don’t have any similar kind of story that influences my views of Kuragehime, I just mean that as you well know, shows can mean different things to different people without anyone being “wrong”.

      A lot of our other different experiences of Kuragehime seem to come down to what constitutes a mental disease and how to respond to it, which unfortunately involves just as much, if not more, gray area. If you think Tsukimi and Chieko have anxiety disorders or depression or obsessive complusions, best treated with therapy and psychopharmocology, then yeah Koibuchi undeniably crossed the line, as did I by calling Tsukimi spineless. And a lot of their actions are symptomatic of those kinds of diseases. But I would argue that anime just doesn’t often dwell on fine distinctions between personality quirks and dysfunction, and it almost never waits weeks for dosages to build up or group meetings to have an effect. Generally these things get resolves with tearful shouting matches and then confessions or flashbacks or whatever other silly anime devices. The tearful shouting match not resulting in the desired outcome, as in Koibuchi v. Chieko, seems to me to suggest that Chieko is not really dysfunctional, and just loves her dolls more than she loves her friends. In real life that diagnosis doesn’t make sense, but this is anime, so I analyze with the tropes available to me.

      Also, Tsukimi’s meekness is only part of the problem to me, the other part is that Koibuchi (I should call him Kuranosuke I guess) seems to adore her for it. Whenever he gets all doki doki it’s because she’s acting frail and moe, not because she’s growing up or acting more maturely. It seems like he would love her just fine as frumpy fujoshi, so why should she bother to change? Obviously the show is still in motion, the situation will develop, but so far Kuragehime (which, again, I did have high hopes for at one point) is just piling disappointment on disappointment for me.

      I realize I didn’t engage with all of your points, but I have 3 finals and an LSAT in the next 48 hours, so I really have to run. I promise I’ll be back if you’ve got more to talk about though.

      Reply

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