Kimi ni Todoke (anime series)
There is a season one and a season two (just started).
Season 1 Raving Here:
Sawako Kuronuma , Sawa-chan, has been seen as a scary girl for most of her school life. She's called Sadako, after the girl in the movie 'The Ring'. Schoolmates assume she puts curses on people. No one wants to look her in the eye. Rumours float about who she's made sick or who broke their arm etc after being rude to her, or brushing past her or sitting in her seat etc. It's this quintessential isolation, othering than can happen in school. During the course of the series she befriends and is befriended by people and her life starts to open up. One person in particular is the most popular boy in the class, who judges others based on what he sees, not on supposition or rumour etc. And he sees a hard working student, who despite being feared by others does her best.
On the one hand, and the way it's touted in some places and presented it's 'Boy Sees True Person In Girl, Opens Up Her World'. And I admit the girl in question DOES see things that way. Whereas I think the romance has prominence because it's hetero romance. But there's a lot to be said for one person giving another a chance, trying to get to know them.
It is incredibly painful but also heart warming to see Sawa-chan open up and be so grateful people are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt; not seeing herself as honest and forthright at all, because she's so used to all her actions being misinterpreted for weird and unwanted. I seriously found myself thinking over and over again about non-neurotypical individuals and how being so can make them shy, which only increases the possibilities for misunderstandings for those who don't want to take the time and effort to see beneath surface societal expectations.
Another reason I like the show so much is that it is one of the few that just simply portrayed the powerful and dynamic power of girl warfare. Rumours and whispers and reputation destroying and emotional manipulation and social manipulation, etc. Often all done with a cheerful, bright, innocent face. I found myself reflecting on how rare it is for me to see the subversive nature of being a girl played out; the pretty object on the outside, vs the seething power player on the inside. If you only have one arena, you fight like hell to win in it. To me even the US movie Mean Girls was a parody of things and didn't really capture the... policing involved. It's not just about being mean, it's about getting what you want as deftly as possible, with no one suspecting you ever really wanted it in the first place.
When you add in someone who is basically grateful not to be spit on, or blessed against, and how easily they themselves could be manipulated in such circumstances, it leaves lots of room for appreciating how a non-neurotypical mind works, and, what a good defense good friends really are.
There are other stories going on other than Sawa-chan's however. Growing up stories. Pre-cautionary stories. The peers in her life, her new friends, each navigating some aspect of being a teenager and trying to figure out love, friendship, control, good relations as much as she is, though not in her particular way.
Season 2 Ranting Here:
Why a rant? Well based off the summary and seeing ep1 of the new season, the characters that are trying to overcome shyness and in my mind possible non neurotpical complications to social interaction etc... and grow closer, that's suddenly not enough anymore. There has to be a third party now. A romantic rival. Potential jealousy.
I'm not saying it is impossible for someone who was once severely ostracized, feared and run away from, rumoured about etc to have two people romantically interested in her. But this concept just feels CHEAP. As if it isn't enough to watch her over-come her fears. It isn't enough for the boy who befriends and cares deeply for her to wait while she grows more, and gains self confidence etc. It isn't enough that he'd admired how hard she tries and will now struggle not to push or rush anything and do his best to continue being someone she talks to and trusts. No. There's this... it feels CHEAP motivation, throw another guy in there, get the first guy jealous and bothered and arrrgh.
And it happens a whole damn lot in general in shows and books etc. It's like the romance version of MOAR SPLOSIONS! GIMME BIGGER FX!
And for Kimi ni Todoke I hate the thought of it. I would much rather watch Sawa-chan heal from years of social ostrasization, to grow up, to become even more comfortable interacting with people and not always assuming she's in the wrong and has done something off-putting. For her to perhaps reach a place of not fearing rejection, not fearing the crush of loneliness (which felt more like a heavy weight the moment she had friends).
I will wait a while longer before I watch more S2 and then see how it goes. I'm going to hope that S2 makes me think the way S1 did, and won't just anger and irritate me with a bunch of shallow scenarios. I can think of so much conflict this particular couple, as a couple, would be trying to handle - really, Moonlighting won't happen to EVERY fictional pairing the moment they get together. Think world.