Looking back at some old series: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien again

It has been a while since my previous post on Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, but I finally got myself to watch the next three episodes (i.e. episodes four, five and six). So what did I learn? Well, this show is a perfect example of anime studios lacking the guts to tackle an adaptation head on. First things first, I should make it very clear that I don’t really have a huge problem with the central plot to the story. Oh, there’s plenty to quibble with, but the love triangle full of anguish is hardly the worst thing about the anime. What ultimately dooms the show in my mind is how the adaptation half-asses the transition from a visual novel to a story it wants us to take seriously.

But before I proceed, let’s take stock. When I last left off, Haruka was still in a coma while her two best friends had found love in each others’ arms. Remember when Mitsuki suggested to Takayuki that they find an apartment to share as a couple? Our melodramatic lead is just now starting to take the idea seriously, but then he gets a phone call from Akane, Haruka’s sister. Not only is Haruka’s condition improving, she’s conscious for the first time in three years! What a coincidence! He immediately rushes to her side, but finds that due to her anterograde amnesia, he must mislead her into thinking that they’re still in high school, they’re still together, etc. Unfortunately, what I’ve described only covers the fourth episode; the narrative has not moved an inch since. Granted, the fifth episode is primarily composed of flashbacks, but this is where melodrama tends to rear its ugly head.

There’s a reason I typically abstain from watching melodramatic shows like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien: the whole thing plays out like BDSM. Once the miasma of anguish and despair settles into a show, it grips the characters like a vice and won’t let go until we’ve hit the climax. Unfortunately, there’s no safe word in anime. Y’see, catharsis isn’t just merely about achieving a certain high. It’s also about how high you can reach from the previous spot. 10,000 arbitrary happiness points might initially sound pretty impressive, but not so much if you previously had, say, 9,500 arbitrary happiness points. Clearly, we should shoot for 20,000 points instead, right? What a melodramatic show like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien will do is keep the goal posts in the same spot, but lower the previous position dramatically. The anime mires its audience in a pit of sorrow for so long that any ordinary catharsis has to feel utterly orgasmic by comparison. In other words… no pain, no gain.

Certainly, others can derive plenty of joy from experiencing a show like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien from start to finish. I’m not here to dispute that. And of course, every conflict has to be heart-wrenching on some level to make the resolution satisfying. I’m just saying that in melodramas, the despair seems forced and artificial. The anguish is a conceit to make the ending feel more substantial than it should. The characters take forever to resolve anything because all they do is cry and scream at each other for the time being. Misunderstandings arise because of a failure to communicate. For example, Akane thinks Takayuki has abandoned her sister without realizing that her parents told the guy that he’s not allowed to visit Haruka anymore. These contrivances make most of us want to scream at the monitor, imploring the characters to just talk, but they can’t. Not until the miasma of anguish and despair has done its job. In other words, I’ll keep choking you because the orgasm will feel super awesome when I finally let go.

But anyway, I started this post by saying how Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is the perfect example of anime studios lacking the guts to do an adaptation right. Despite what I’ve just written about the show’s melodramatic narrative, it is nevertheless the best thing that the anime has going for it. I mentioned in my previous post on the show that Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was originally a visual novel for the PC, and like most visual novels, the main character could bone every single female character (except for Haruka’s mom… but I could be wrong on that). For the adaptation, Studio Fantasia decided to focus primarily on the love triangle between Takayuki, Mitsuki and Haruka. This is ultimately a wise decision if you agree with me that the melodrama is the best thing about the narrative. So what am I still complaining about? All the extraneous fat that Studio Fantasia was too scared to trim.

In a story primarily about emotions — albeit usually just one emotion: sorrow — it’s such a jarring, immersion-ruining experience to suddenly have the narrative shift to Takayuki and his wacky hijinks at his place of employment. From the looks of it, Takayuki spends his working hours teasing a mega-tsundere co-worker in a cosplay-esque getup:

And these scenes add absolutely nothing to the main plot. Now, Ayu’s a love interest in the visual novel, so that’s why she even exists in the first place, but again, the adaptation wants to focus primarily on the love triangle at the center of the show, right? So if you’re going to do a proper adaptation, why even bother to keep Ayu’s character around? You might naturally say, “Gee, you’ve been ragging on the melodrama for the entire post, but then you turn around and complain about Ayu serving as a comic relief character?” Yes, because Ayu’s scenes add nothing, but filler which unnecessarily pads the story’s length. Every time I see her yell at Takayuki to eat cat shit — and no, I didn’t make that up — I just want to fast forward through the episode.

To a lesser extent, the other formerly-a-love-interest characters don’t fit either. Takayuki’s first trip to the hospital in two years should be fraught with conflicting emotions. How will he react when he finally gets to talk to her? What about Mitsuki? How does she feel about the whole situation? But on his way to Haruka’s room, Takayuki runs across a sexy, sultry doctor, a ridiculous reminder that this used to be a visual novel where every woman was — for a lack of a better word — bangable:

When he returns again, he finds even more babes:

And if you didn’t read my previous post on the show, that loli is supposed to be a grown woman ’cause anime just has to anime. So why can’t the adaptation just remove these characters completely from the show? Because the fans will get mad? One of the nurses doesn’t even have lines in the adaptation. She’s just there, so what’s the big deal if she disappears entirely from the show? Studio Fantasia has already gone to such lengths to tighten up the show’s narrative, but all of a sudden, the artistic license only extends so far? Why not just go all the way, then? You might think that these characters are so minor that they should not impact the narrative’s quality, but they completely ruin the atmosphere and aesthetics of the anime. It’s like the Ghost of Harem Past.

11 thoughts on “Looking back at some old series: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien again

  1. alsozara

    This is spot on, I think. I feel very much the same way about the show, but I’m afraid the angsty, stubbornly-refuse-to-progress melodrama is only going to get worse.

    Twas a good read, cheers.

    1. E Minor Post author

      It’s really funny reading “professional” reviews for the show, and it reminds me why I dislike most reviewers. As an aside, people also assume I write reviews even though I’ve never ever given so much as a numerical rating or a thumbs up.

  2. appropriant

    It’s not a perfect analogy, but I think of the initial negative reception of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining when this type of problem arises. I realize that this anime really wouldn’t be all that different story-wise if the extra characters were removed, but it does remove familiarity with the source material, and possibly the major characters themselves. That’s risky, especially when it comes to anime.

    1. E Minor Post author

      1) I don’t see how familiarity would be significantly impacted because the premise is still the same, the main characters’ actions are still the same, their demeanors are still the same, etc. So he doesn’t flirt with some tsunderekko every once in a while… big deal.

      2) Familiarity is overrated, because whether or not The Shining could’ve been more familiar, Kubrick crafted an amazing work. The film is capable of standing on its own two feet even if he did reimagine or reinterpret the original story. That’s how adaptations should go; that’s his job. It’s not supposed to be simply “See your favorite characters in real life!”

      the initial negative reception

      3) And this is why most professional reviews are really just amateurish.

  3. Ryan R

    I agree that the more “side-character-esque” female characters in this had a tendency to be a bit annoying and/or silly.

    Nonetheless, I really do think this show *needed* those scenes of Takayuki at his place of employment. As you correctly noted, the show is absolutely loaded with melodrama, and I think it needed something a bit more colorful and lighthearted to balance out with that. So I really don’t fault the people behind the anime for leaving in the annoying little tsundere and the whole “place of employment” side of the story.

    I’m also not sure why seeing attractive and slightly flirtatious nurses at a hospital of all places would somehow be immersion-breaking. Isn’t that just to be expected at a hospital setting? I’ll grant you though that the loli-nurse is a bad case of “anime being anime”.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I think it needed something a bit more colorful and lighthearted to balance out with that.

      The issue isn’t having levity in itself. The issue is the type of levity being employed, and the show chooses to remind you of its visual novel roots. I contend that this is all too distracting and immersion-breaking.

      I’m also not sure why seeing attractive and slightly flirtatious nurses at a hospital of all places would somehow be immersion-breaking. Isn’t that just to be expected at a hospital setting?

      Hah, please direct me to these hospitals full of hot, flirtatious nurses. But again, it’s about the time and the place. Hot, flirtatious nurses in a light-hearted show like Scrubs? Fine. Hot, flirtatious nurses in a serious show about three friends dealing with love, maturation, friendship, betrayal, etc.? C’mon.

  4. Violenta Crez

    I won’t say much, since most of my thoughts were expressed in the comments above, but I just wanted to show my appreciation for these more analytical posts. As much as I enjoy reading you rag on brainless Harems, it’s nice to see you take an anime seriously once in a while.

    I actually voted for this show when it was up for consideration — mostly because it was the only one I’d seen — and I mostly agree with everything you’ve said. The only thing I particularly disagree with is your beef with the female side-characters/love interests. I do agree that they didn’t add much to the story and that they were pretty invasive — that part is fine. I also agree that despite providing much-needed levity, there could have been better ways to do so.

    My main point of contention, however, has to do with the idea of agency; not with any of the characters, but with the studio itself. I know it seems like a cop-out, but I feel like with Harem visual novel adaptations there’s this unwritten rule that every heroine — major or not — must have some kind of screen-time. I know it’s an annoying trope and it deserves to be criticized, but on a practical level I understand the desire not to alienate or disappoint the existing fan base. I mean a cynical take on this kind of adaptation is that the anime is just there to move more copies of the game and to generate sales of figurines. Within that kind of context, I do think that it would be incredibly hard to create a coherent narrative, let alone a decent one. If anything I commend the studio for the way they handled it — they didn’t allow the side-heroines to completely derail the story by adding unnecessary arcs or by giving them too much screen time. Compared to stuff like Clannad and Kanon — long heralded as classics of the genre — Kimi ga Nozomu Eien has laser sharp focus and avoids much of the pitfalls that plague other Harems. I know it’s not much to call the show comparatively good, but I’d like to think that the way it dealt with an unavoidable trope was actually one of its finer points.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I know it’s an annoying trope and it deserves to be criticized, but on a practical level I understand the desire not to alienate or disappoint the existing fan base.

      I’m sorry, but I have to disagree wholeheartedly here. You can’t please everyone. All you can do as an artist is set out to make the best damn… well, whatever it is that you can. Some people aren’t going to like it, but this will always happen. There are always detractors. Especially vocal ones. It doesn’t mean, however, that the loudest voice in the room represents any sort of majority, and it definitely doesn’t mean a studio should compromise its vision just because a few harem fans will be displeased that a minor character has disappeared. After all, the show’s main appeal seems to rest on the fact that it contains a convoluted love triangle at its core. As such, I doubt you’ll drive away a large part of the audience by eliminating these extraneous characters and their interactions with the main character. These pointless scenes are hardly what puts the show over-the-top.

      I feel as though anime will stagnate from time to time because there’s no distinction between adaptations and the source material. Oftentimes, the adaptation is nothing more than the source material set to motion and accompanied with a soundtrack. This isn’t enough. I can only imagine all the gems we’d lose if filmmakers felt they had to stick to the source material as close as possible. And I disagree; I don’t think the anime deserves any cigar for going halfway.

  5. Willys

    The first image remembered to my self back in november of 1995, you know, after a break up. Coming back from one border town across Texas xxDDDD.
    I see that the anime mentions something about break ups and a love betwen two!.

  6. Pingback: Looking back at some old series: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien again

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