The Ballad of Narayama

The Ballad of NarayamaLast night I watched the 1958 Criterion Collection film The Ballad of Narayama on Hulu. This film deals with the possibly mythical tradition of ubasute, literally “discarding the elderly”. While Hulu’s plot summary made it seem as though the film is about a man struggling with having to leave his mother in the mountains to die, much of the story comes from his mother’s perspective. I would characterize this film more as the contrasting reactions of a very close mother and son to a tradition that forces them apart. (Criterion’s plot summary is much better.)

Where mother Orin is profoundly interested in tradition and saving face, son Tatsuhei is more strongly affected by the now, by the people and things he personally cares about. This contrast is plainly evident from the very beginning of the film; Orin is excited to have found a new wife for Tatsuhei, someone who can take care of her son once she’s gone to Mt. Narayama to die. Meanwhile, Tatsuhei is still mourning the loss of his first wife, and the thought of a new one simply causes him to worry about food supplies and remind him that he will lose his mother soon.

Tatsuhei’s son Kesakichi, a worthless layabout who has gotten his girlfriend pregnant, is often a catalyst for dissent in the family. He objects to getting a “new mother”, wanting to maximize available supplies for his girlfriend. He incites the local children to sing songs about demons with 33 teeth, which shames Orin, who at 69 still has 28 teeth. She is so unhappy that people and gods might think she is prideful or that she won’t accept her death at 70 with grace that she smashes her mouth into a cooking pot to break and knock out her own teeth. Tatsuhei is horrified; sobbing, he insists that Orin eat the special treat of white rice she has made for the festival, frustrated at the idea that she might no longer be able to enjoy food.

As Orin continues to put her affairs in order, Kesakichi continues to be obnoxious, bringing his girlfriend to live with the family and giving her most of the food, asking Orin when she’ll be going to Narayama. His girlfriend becomes bold too, joining in on these torments, but Orin accepts it all calmly, repeating that she’ll be going to Narayama at the New Year, the year she turns 70. Tatsuhei can say nothing to dissuade her and hides his face under a towel to cry.

Orin and Tatsuhei’s new wife Tama bond immediately, and their relationship is one of the best parts of the movie. Tama loves Orin as a mother and mourns almost as openly as Tatsuhei at the thought of her impending sacrifice. Unlike Tatsuhei, however, aside from one comment at their first meeting, Tama says nothing to Orin about her choice. She makes no attempts, subtle or otherwise, to change Orin’s mind. Perhaps she respects Orin’s independence over her own selfish desires. Or perhaps she recognizes the futility of fighting tradition and simply doesn’t want to make the event even harder on the family.

Neighbor Mata is already 70 and has resisted going to Narayama. He is starved at home and comes to Orin for food. Mata serves as an example of the cost of fighting tradition. In the end he is bound, dragged into the mountains, and flung off a cliff by his son.

And in the end, Orin’s wish to follow tradition is honored by her son, who carries her into the mountains on his back. Following established ritual, they are not allowed to speak once they enter the Narayama area, and so Tatsuhei stumbles unwillingly, silently through forest and rock and then piles and piles of skeletons as crows look on.

The sets in the film are fascinating; obviously the backgrounds are paintings, and transitions are done by cutting the lights and moving large props to reveal new scenes such that it feels like watching a play. But the sets are sprawling and elaborate, larger than any theater could contain. The camera pans along them, following actors as they move down paths and into detailed structures. The Narayama skeleton set is eerie; I honestly didn’t expect it, and I stared speechless at the clusters of bones surrounding Orin and Tatsuhei.

boneyard entrance

Tatsuhei and Orin in the boneyard

The final scene, showing a train pulling out of a station called Obasute, looked too real by comparison to all the other sets; it was jarring. I’m not sure what the point of that scene was, other than perhaps to make the point of the movie obvious. In my opinion it already was, so the scene is unnecessary.

I’m unclear on whether or not ubasute ever actually occurred. From the movie, I can understand why it might have–food supplies being low could inspire communities to dispose of their least productive members. Indeed, the film includes a different example of such a thing happening; an entire family is killed after it’s discovered they have been stealing. In this sense, I find the contrast between Orin and Kesakichi fascinating; of the two of them, Orin is far more useful to the family. (Orin knows how to catch trout, and shares her secret only with Tama; she admonishes the other woman not to tell anyone, perhaps highlighting the need for someone in this community to be of use. If only Tama knows the secret, her value goes up.)

What value does Kesakichi bring? He adds a mouth, eventually two mouths, to feed and doesn’t do his share of the work. If there was a “just” system for rooting out those who didn’t contribute, Kesakichi would be the first one kicked to the curb. But of course, getting rid of the young isn’t the tradition.

And despite the way he treats her, Orin loves Kesakichi and takes care of him and his girlfriend just as well as she takes care of the rest of the family. She is willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of tradition, but I wonder how she’d feel about others? After all, while she chides Mata for not going to Narayama, she still feeds him. Somehow, I can’t see her doing to Kesakichi what Kesakichi did to her.

Then again, even if she did, Kesakichi wouldn’t care. He’s not interested in tradition or saving face; he’s just interested in himself.

I’m sure this contrast between Orin and Kesakichi was intentional, meant to underline the importance of valuing our elders instead of tossing them aside. And I have to say it was effective, because I love Orin and I hate Kesakichi.

I found myself relating to and sympathizing with Orin. Her need to be accepted, to fit the mold others had created for her, was tragic, and cost her her life while she was still perfectly healthy. But she took it all with a smile, with no complaints. This made the message of the film far stronger than had she rebelled against her fate. We saw the lengths she was willing to go to stay in people’s favor; we understood the sheer ridiculousness of it; yet we knew she really had no choice, and that made her devotion to her reputation come off as brave rather than pathetic.

Orin in the snow
Orin waits in the snow to die. The Ballad of Narayama, 1958

Idea: A malleable restaurant experience

Reading through Tofugu’s Famous Foods of Every Japanese Prefecture [North, East, Central] makes me feel two things: hungry, and wistful. I want to go to all those places and try all those foods.

It occurred to me that it would be cool for a Japanese restaurant to have a small regular menu and then switch out other menu items, perhaps every quarter, to feature different items from different regions. It would be a little difficult logistically, as they’d have to source the ingredients and train the chefs and whatnot, but it would make for a fascinating dining experience. They could even change their decor to match the city or prefecture whose food they were featuring at any given time. A map and photos at the entryway could show guests what the current region is and what kinds of specialty items to expect.

The restaurant could also try weeklong events, such as an udon event or a ramen event, and go crazy with different selections. Maybe they could bring in guest chefs, specialists, to take some of the pressure off the main staff.

No matter how big a restaurant’s menu is–the menu at our current go-to Japanese restaurant is pretty huge–there’s always going to be something missing. And if Kitchen Nightmares has taught me anything, it’s that a smaller menu improves food quality all around. These lessons are actionable: shift to a smaller menu that changes regularly. This move would bring refreshing variety and the opportunity to try new things while allowing the chefs increased focus on each dish.

Goldfish Salvation

My friend Matt recently linked me to a blog post introducing “Goldfish Salvation”, an exhibit in London by Japanese artist Fukahori Riusuke. That one link sent me off on a web surfing expedition, culminating in a read through Fukahori’s own words on his original inspiration.

A Cup of Flower, Riusuke Fukahori - Goldfish Salvation
A Cup of Flower, Riusuke Fukahori - Goldfish Salvation (Photo by Dominic Alves)

Fukahori paints acrylic pictures of goldfish in containers between layers of resin, creating a lifelike 3D effect. His work is beautiful and powerful. Here’s a blog post detailing the setup of the exhibition, and here is a wonderful collection of photos of the various works. The exhibit’s official site unfortunately tells me that it’s over as of tomorrow. (Will Fukahori show his work elsewhere? Atlanta maybe, hint hint?)

I was interested to see if I could find out whether or not “Goldfish Salvation” was a translation of 金魚救い (kingyo sukui), the Japanese festival tradition of plucking goldfish out of a tank with a circular paper scoop. You have to swoop down just right in order to avoid the scoop getting too wet and breaking, letting the fish fall through it. 救い literally means “help; aid; relief; salvation”, so it’s like you’re saving the goldfish when you manage to do it right and take one home.

On Fukahori’s official page, I discovered that “Goldfish Salvation” does indeed make that direct reference…but it has a double meaning.

Fukahori had been thinking of giving up on art. Try as he might, he couldn’t find inspiration. He slumped across his bed in defeat, and as he lay there, he happened to see his pet goldfish Kinpin. He’d scooped her at a festival seven years prior. Staring down at her from above her tank, he thought about all she’d endured, and yet she’d kept going, kept living, growing to 20 centimeters in length. At that moment she was beautiful and strange to him.

He started painting, using her as a model. And when he was done he’d painted so many goldfish. “This is it,” he thought.


The answer I’d been searching for wasn’t in Europe. It wasn’t in America. It was right here in this room.

Since then, I’ve held precious the events of this day, calling them 金魚救い.

The goldfish he’d “saved” seven years ago at the festival had now saved him.

Goldfish Salvation.

Study abroad memories

The University of Kentucky Office of International Affairs recently asked past participants of its programs to post their favorite memories on their Facebook Wall. Here’s what I wrote:

Thanks to UKIA, I spent roughly six weeks in Japan in 2001. It was my first time outside the US. I was really impressed with how well the trip was organized, leaving my fellow students and me free to just take everything in and learn all we could. The whirlwind rail tour put me in touch with Japanese history and culture in a way I never could have experienced in a traditional classroom. I’m still friends with the girl whose family I stayed with in the small town of Yatsushiro. There are so many memories that it’s hard to choose a favorite, but ranking high are the dusk view of the lighted port city of Hakodate from the mountains, swimming at the base of waterfalls, writing a short essay on the aesthetics of haphazard power lines (really!), and strolling through preserved historic areas in tiny mountain towns. Ten years later, I’m still “homesick”!

“Girls Be Ambitious”

I was skimming through CDJapan’s clearance sale when I came across this CD. It’s the ending song for an anime called So-Ra-No-Wo-To. I’ve never heard of this show; what intrigued me was the name of the song: “Girls Be Ambitious”.

There’s a statue in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on the campus of Hokkaido University, with a similar message. The statue is of Dr. William S. Clark of Massachusetts, a former vice principal. Beneath his head-and-shoulders bust is a monument with what appears to be his signature, a seal, and the text “Boys Be Ambitious”. Here’s a picture of me posing with that statue in 2001. I sort of took that command as a challenge. If boys were supposed to be ambitious, what were girls supposed to do? Be completely overlooked?

me with William S. Clark statueMay 31, 2001

I don’t know if Haruka Tomatsu had this statue in mind when she wrote her song, or how ubiquitous the “Boys Be Ambitious” quote is in Japan, but it certainly struck a chord for me!

The corpse of the premodern Japanese studies field

Frog in the Well posted about two classical Japanese studies symposiums, one this weekend and one coming up in May. They both sound fascinating! While I would love to go, that isn’t the reason I’m posting. I just wanted to spotlight the opening paragraphs of the announcement post, which made me smile:

Premodernists, particularly those who focus on history, sometimes feel gloomy about the state of premodern Japanese studies in the U.S., where a number of large graduate programs have shrunk, disappeared, or fundamentally changed in emphasis in the past two decades. Some of us have even been known to eulogize the field, as if the heart of our collective endeavors had already stopped beating. Is the field more like a rotting corpse, or perhaps a mummified one? Have we been subject to cremation, leaving behind only bone fragments to be buried in an urn? Or was the corpse of the field left lying on the banks of the river, food for the crows and source of anxiety for locals, known as “wind burial”? (Thanks, PMJS!)

Two upcoming events prove that the rumors of the death of medieval Japanese studies were greatly exaggerated.

Love it.

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Don’t run

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve always had a problem properly pacing myself. Here’s a little story that illustrates that fact pretty well.

My first trip to Japan in 2001 was not a leisurely excursion. We were constantly on the move and we were always walking, whether it was to explore a certain area or just to get to our next destination.

In Kyoto, we spent a day wandering through the sprawling temples and shrines of Mt. Hiei. It was long day of hiking through the mountains.

Towards the end of the day we were headed back the way we came, so we could get to a trolley that would take us back down the mountain. We came to a temple at the foot of a long flight of wide stone stairs. I was feeling good. I’d made it through the long day and felt energetic enough to tackle those steps. And so I started briskly jogging up, to make the trip to the top shorter.

Our instructor Todd and my classmate Jason, both experienced hikers, immediately yelled at me, “No! Don’t run!” Startled, I slowed down as they explained: running up the stairs would take more energy than walking up them, and I’d wear myself out for the rest of the trip back.

I wasn’t sure I believed this was true. At least if I ran I could get it over with, and I might even enjoy it. Plodding up the stairs seemed like a neverending trial.

Still, I did as they suggested. It turned out that after that we had longer to go to the trolley than I’d thought. By the end of our hike my legs were only moving through the sheer force of my will. The trolley ride was but a brief respite, and soon we were trudging through the streets of Kyoto. When finally we stopped at a restaurant for a meal, I was so exhausted that all I could manage to eat was a bowl of white rice.

I wondered how it would have been if I had gone ahead and run the stairs. Would I have even made it to the trolley?

I realized even then that this story was a metaphor for life, but until yesterday I hadn’t applied it to my work. Now I see that I’ve been trying to run from 10 in the morning until 7 at night. Some days I’ve managed it. Some days I’ve stumbled. And some days I’ve been numb while I recovered. The end result? I’ve managed to excel at work, but pretty much everything else has fallen to the wayside.

I want to do more. I don’t want to pass out before I even get to the trolley.

I’ll just have to remember, when the urge to plow into a project consumes me, the lesson I learned on that historic mountain.

Don’t run.

Obama manjuu

Barack Obama has been endorsed by the city of Obama, Japan.

Members of a local tourism association and other people formed a volunteer group Monday supporting Obama and put up campaign posters at a local hotel.

“We’d like him to win the election and visit our city as president,” said 55-year-old Kiyoji Fujihara, a group representative.


According to the city government, the move arose out of an e-mail sent to city hall by a local resident in late 2006.

The message said Obama had joked “I’m from Obama” on TV when visiting Japan and that the city should consider giving him an award for the comment that became good publicity for the city.

It is not known if he actually did make such a comment, but the city last year sent Obama a letter and lacquered chopsticks, a local specialty, city officials said.

Most exciting to me, though, was this bit:

The group is also considering selling Japanese-style “manju” sweets with Obama’s portrait on them.

Mmm, Obama manjuu.

Via Japundit.

Update: It occurs to me that a person who uses name similarity in this way would be what Edogawa Conan would call an お芽出度い奴.

Well, maybe

Me (9:35:31 PM): I had the BEST curry at an Indian restaurant in Fukuoka
Me (9:35:51 PM): I guess I just need to go back there and get some more someday
Me (9:35:59 PM): because MY GOD MAN THAT WAS GOOD CURRY
Charles (9:36:40 PM): So, you liked it? ‘Cause I’m getting mixed signals here.
Me (9:36:58 PM): XD

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"The agriculture ministry is not in charge of Gundam"

Japan officials warned over Wikipedia

A Japanese bureaucrat has been reprimanded for shirking his duties to make hundreds of Wikipedia contributions about toy robots, officials said Friday.

The agriculture ministry said the bureaucrat, whose name was not released, contributed 260 times to the Japanese-language Wikipedia entry on Gundam, a popular, long-running animated series about giant robots that has spun off intricate toys popular among children and adults who belong to the so-called “otaku culture” of fascination with comic books, animation and robots.

“The agriculture ministry is not in charge of Gundam,” ministry official Tsutomu Shimomura said.

The agriculture ministry verbally reprimanded five other bureaucrats who contributed to entries on movies, typographical mistakes in billboard signs and local politics. The six employees together made 408 entries on the popular Internet encyclopedia from ministry computers since 2003.

The ministry did not object to employees making limited contributions on World Trade Organization and free trade agreements.

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Real model photography

You know that photography style (or Photoshop trick) where you make real life look like a model?

Well, デジ太 went to the 8th International Model Railroad Convention at Tokyo Big Site and took some actual miniature photography :D Check it out.

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A Japanese biker failed to notice his leg had been severed below the knee when he hit a safety barrier, and rode on for 2 km (1.2 miles), leaving a friend to pick up the missing limb.


He felt excruciating pain, but did not notice that his right leg was missing until he stopped at the next junction, the paper quoted local police as saying.

The guy’s from Hamamatsu. I used to read the blog of a guy who lived there, though he stopped posting shortly after his baby daughter was born. I wonder if he’s still there. I wonder if he knows this guy :>

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Rockin’ Girl Bloggers

Brooke has, for some unknown reason, named me a Rockin’ Girl Blogger.

As I draw close to my 3000th post and wonder what exactly it is I’m doing here, it makes me feel good that someone out there has a use for it all.

The thing to do here, as I understand it, is to pay it forward and name five Rocking Girl Bloggers of my own. Brooke also didn’t do any repeats, meaning I shouldn’t use her or anyone on her list.

So, with those guidelines in place, here are five girl bloggers I think are awesome.

V, of Violent Acres: I am consistently impressed and intrigued by this woman. She has no problem telling it exactly how it is, and her essays are often a much-needed jolt of common sense in this crazy “how can I be a victim today?” world. There are things she’s said that I disagree with, and there are times that I wonder if she’s really okay or not, but ultimately I find her posts refreshing and enlightening, sometimes touching and sometimes funny. She’s brutally honest about some things that you need to be anonymous to be brutally honest about, and I can respect that. And she’s smart, and she’s taking care of herself instead of expecting someone else to do it. That last is one of the hardest things in life; despite my own independent spirit, I struggle with it daily.

Merujo, of Church of the Big Sky: One of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting online, and certainly one of the best writers, Merujo inspires me with her fierce refusal to let life trample all over her. It knocks her down, repeatedly, especially lately, but what does she do? She gets right back up, usually with a snarky comment or two. But I was her fan before her current predicament–I like her style, I like her outlook on life, I like that she is so nonchalant about all the amazing things she does. Confident but never proud, Merujo is a model that any woman would be wise to aspire to.

Marie Mutsuki Mockett: Marie is a professional writer who blogs at her own space and on Japundit, which is where we met. I love her because she thinks like me, like an anthropologist. She’s aware that there are often numerous reasons for why things are the way they are, and she’s interested in exploring them all. Her specific interest in Japan, due to being part Japanese and growing up visiting Japan frequently, makes her writing extremely relevant to me, but anyone can write about Japan. Writing about it thoughtfully and objectively while adding personal perceptions and emotions is why I keep going back to Marie’s blog. She takes in as many resources as she can, she evaluates the facts fairly, but she also explores what it all means, both to who she is and to society. It’s that sort of critical analysis paired with emotional insight that draws me to a writer.

Sunshine, of Days of My Life: A teenager living in Mosul, Iraq, Sunshine has to fight to enjoy the things most of us in the US take for granted. She can’t go into her bedroom now because it has large windows that face the street. When school starts again, she will be in danger of terrorist attacks–or friendly fire from coalition soldiers!–en route to her classroom building. She can’t go anywhere or do anything and is essentially a prisoner in her own home, studying as best she can, reading ravenously, making handicrafts, and taking care of her younger siblings. But this is a girl who knows that if she gives in to her fear and depression, then she has already lost. This is a girl who steps out into her war-torn world with a smile on her face. Read this post for an example of what Sunshine lives through and how she has decided to live through it. If Sunshine is Iraq’s future, then despite the helplessness and despair I feel with every news story about the war, I can still have hope. She’s not just the pillar of support for her family…she’s supporting her entire country, her entire world.

Mama, of Emotions: Where Sunshine tries to keep positive on her blog, her mother offers full-on, visceral reactions–which is probably why she doesn’t post very often. There are no punches pulled at Emotions. This is a young mother who is hurting. Her country is a mess, her children can’t go to school without being in danger of being shot or blown up, she sometimes can’t get to her place of work as a dentist, and when she can she doesn’t have the proper equipment. She has so little control over her situation. This is a true victim; this is a person who can’t simply pull herself up by the bootstraps. And she tells us so. Look at what’s happening, she says. Feel my pain. Something needs to be done. Her message is the message that people need to hear–without spin, without remorse. Because despite it all, she is determined to live. And she deserves to live free of fear.

This Rockin’ Girl Blogger thing is everywhere. Just tracing back through my nomination at Brooke’s blog to her nomination and the nomination of the person who nominated her, I’ve found fifty gazillion girl blogs. I’m having trouble determining where it all started, but regardless, it seems like a really good way to expand your reading material, if you should have a need for that. *eyes her ever-expanding sidebar*

Kinda mean, kinda true

I hit up “The Artistic History of Webcomics” at the Webcomics Examiner today (via Gabe). The article is basically a group of comics-knowledgeables discussing some of the most artistically influential webcomics. There’s some interesting stuff there, but one comment really struck me.

In the part about Fred Gallagher and Megatokyo, Shaenon Garrity writes the following:

And, yes, I’m a little baffled by its popularity. […]

The best explanation I can give is that Gallagher has tapped into things that a lot of American manga fans like about manga, and they’re not necessarily the same things that make manga popular in Japan. For a lot of Western otaku, Japan fills the same function as Middle-Earth or Starfleet or twelfth-century England does for other flavors of geek: it’s a fantasy world where everything is attuned to their desires and, if they could magically get there, they wouldn’t feel like outsiders anymore. In this Japan, nerds are the ruling class, video games and comic books abound, cutting-edge high-tech toys flood the streets, and everyone dresses in cool, crazy fashions. And, of course, hot teenage girls fight each other for the right to hook up with introverted geeks. This fantasy version of Japan is seductive to a certain young, tech-saavy, socially awkward but culturally aware type — the type that increasingly dominates the Internet. Megatokyo delivers the fantasy in full: it’s about two American fanboys who move to Japan and, aside from some early fish-out-of-water difficulties, discover that it’s exactly the way it’s depicted in manga.

She has a point.

There are a lot of people who say they want to live in Japan…and yet have never set foot in the country. And I don’t mean they say it theoretically, like, “Oh, it’d be nice to live there.” I mean they go so far as to make serious plans–and if they find themselves unable to make the move, to sigh wistfully about it all the freaking time. (While I am guilty of the latter, at least I have actually been to Japan.)

It scares me that people seem to think they understand Japan because they watch anime, read manga, and listen to the music.

I’ve noticed myself making assumptions about culture or language based on input from those media, and I always have to stop myself and put a little disclaimer tag on the thought in my brain: This is not fact. This is a guess, based not on actual experience but on observing a stylized product.

Not only that, but I’ve picked up quite a few phrases from anime that I surely shouldn’t use in polite company. In fact, I seriously wonder whether anyone would ever really say the things you hear in anime at all.

One of my Japanese language or culture professors at UK (sadly, I can’t remember if it was Inoue-sensei or Slaymaker-sensei) explained once that written works in Japanese are done in plain form, for efficiency if I’m remembering correctly. There are two main forms of the language, plain and polite. As you can guess, plain is more abrupt and familiar and is considered quite rude if used in the wrong context. Polite is typically more extended. Newspapers, novels, manga, and even anime (a visual art, but still one that is initially written) are therefore all done primarily in plain form.

In other words, the way an anime character says something may not be the way you want to say it, and if you base your understanding of the language solely on anime, you may be in for some problems. Or, as I put it to my friends once, “I’m going to get to Japan and start having conversations, and they’re going to think Why does she talk like a rude twelve-year-old boy?

It’s hard not to romanticize Japan, or certain aspects of the Japanese experience. I find myself very strongly attached to high school anime. Sports, dramas, shoujo romances, you name it…if it’s got seishun, I’m there. Sometimes it’s almost painful to remind myself that even if I do move to Japan, I’m not going to have that experience. I’m not going to be a Japanese high school student, and I will never be able to truly relate to those who have been. And, to be perfectly honest, high school life couldn’t possibly be as wonderful as it’s portrayed in anime.

The most dramatic example of the idealized high school experience that I’ve seen is a tragic series called Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. The series actually moves past high school and into an adult life that seems more like a trap than anything else. While it’s true that the central tragedy of the series is a large reason behind the dark tone of the characters’ adult lives, it’s also true that the characters’ situations would not have changed much if the tragedy hadn’t occurred. Once high school was over, the adventure would have been over too. The characters might have been happy, or happier at least, but Takayuki probably still would have gone on to a job in the same town, and Mitsuki would have had to give up swimming eventually and become an O.L. just like she did in the anime. The two both gave up college due to the tragedy, but even if they had gone I got the feeling that they would only have been delaying the inevitable: entrance into the workforce, and acceptance of drudgery for the rest of their days. Compared to that, their time in high school, with the excitement of dating and tests and after-school activities and the promise of an open future waiting for them to write their names on it…well, there really is no comparison. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is about loss of innocence, and what better way to analogize than to present that stereotypical seishun and then snatch it away?

I feel, therefore, that anime invokes a good deal of nostalgia when presenting high school life (and life in general), and that this can (and does) give misguided impressions to people from other countries. This is, of course, not anime’s fault. Anime is an art form, not a cultural primer. And that’s what people, the people Shaenon Garrity’s talking about (and me), need to remember.