- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The Meaning and Moral of Sighs
I hope that my first Blog follower, fellow Haruhi fan Janette, doesn't mind me borrowing this picture taken straight from her blog. I use this picture since it relates a great deal to what this blog entry will prove to be about.
First, the 15, 532 million dollar question; the question on every anime blogger's mind that has been following these latest episodes of Haruhi...
To Punch, or Not to Punch?: That is the Question! ;)
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of Haruhi's abuse;
Or to take arms against her acts of trouble, and by opposing, end them?
It's not everyday that paraphrased Shakespeare can apply to this anime, but I believe that this day is one of them. ;)
And what are the various answers offered up for Kyon's ethical dilemma?
Some, like a friend of mine from Anime Suki named Chikorita157, have put up blogs strongly condeming Haruhi and supporting Kyon. Others, like RabbitPoet have put forward defenses of Haruhi that would make Phoenix Wright blush while effectively critiquing Kyon. And, of course, there are many blogs and comments and votes that fall inbetween these two opposing views.
So, after reading all sides of this pressing issue... an issue controversial enough that it causes me to miraculously forget a certain arc that wondrously fades into the ether of endless past... what conclusion have I come to?
Well, as Shakespeare would probably point out, taking arms against a tyrant's abusive slings and arrows can come at a deadly price. The rebellion may succeed (likely with Pizza Hut's support of course ;) ), or, in this case, it could bring the world crashing down.
Personally, I don't think that enduring a punch from Kyon would cause Haruhi to destroy the world. Or, at the very least, I certainly hope not. Because if such a thing would, then that means that Haruhi must be continually handled with kid gloves. The SOS Brigade are like four followers walking on eggshells placed precariously on the tips of a bed of a nails, while their fearless leader is able to walk directly over the nails with out any bloodletting or notice of pain at all.
And, perhaps as much as anything, this is what irritates Kyon. The situation he finds himself in is an intensely infuriating one.
In a way, Haruhi's powers are both a blessing and a curse.
They are a blessing in how they allow the possibility of even her grandest dreams becoming reality, but they are a curse in how they make it almost impossible for her closest friends to treat her like a normal human being that they care about and like to share time with. This perverts Haruhi's maturation process in ways that even a father as poor as Gendo Ikari could scarcely manage.
Speaking of Gendo Ikari, though, I think that I know what the idea behind Sighs is.
What Sighs does is put the SOS-dan, and their associates Tsuruya, Taniguchi, and Kunikida, through a NGE-esque realism meat-grinder.
Think about it... for each of these characters, what we assume to be true about them runs crashing into how a situation like theirs would play out in real life...
Haruhi always gets her way, right? Well, look at the picture above. She's not getting her way this time, clearly. Not in any remotely timely fashion, at least.
Kyon is the always cautious, cool, calm, and collected subordinate who internally snarks but externally keeps his composure at all times, correct? Not anymore...
Itsuki is the shady figure that never lets his guard down or shows us what he really thinks, isn't he? Not going by his own words this time, as the veil is lifted ever so slightly as the Defender of Earth shows us a glimpse of his real side...
Mikuru is simply there to be comically abused, and that's all just good harmless fun, huh? Quite the contrary; it's coming off as rather dark and serious now.
Yuki is perpetually smart and wise, and always there when you need her, right? Hardly in this arc, as she helps Haruhi out in creating situations that gradually builds to Kyon's explosion on Haruhi.
What Sighs does is take these five characters, and their situation, and show how they and it would likely play out in a realistic setting, free from the genre conventions of a slice of life, otaku focused, school based, anime comedy. In some ways, then, you could perhaps even argue that Sighs is a deconstruction in the Neon Genesis Evangelion mold.
I think that most people in Kyon's position would find it unbearable, and untenable. The constant need to restrain oneself. The ever present fear that the slightest wrong word or act could throw the entire universe into jeopardy. The inability to correct a dear friend who's regularly getting out of hand and doing that which she shouldn't.
Being told time and time again by Itsuki Koizumi that you have to let it all slide; that you dare not risk raising forth the wrath of an out of control teenage girl with the powers of creation and destruction.
It has to be insanely infuriating. I get infuriated just imagining myself in Kyon's shoes; how much worse it must be to actually be in them.
Don't get me wrong... Haruhi's a great friend in many ways, and at many times. She can be a blast to hang out with. But having a friend who constantly holds the ultimate trump card over you, and who can incessantly make the most outrageous demands of her 'subordinates' and friends, would prove taxing to the best of us, I think.
That's partly why I can understand why Kyon throws his punch. And most people, from what I've seen, agreed with the act.
But was it right?
Well, my initial objection to it was that Haruhi is a girl, and it's wrong for a guy to hit a girl except in necessary self-defense. That is, though, an admittedly old-fashioned idea, likely born out of the fact that I'm an old-fashioned romantic. If Haruhi was a guy... if Haruhi was Haruki, would Kyon's punch then be right?
At first, when I discussed this with a friend of mine over AIM, my feeling was yes, I'd have to admit that I'd support the punching if Haruhi was Haruki. But upon further thought...
In real life, discipline should come in stages. It should gradually escalate from one stage to the next to the next. Even job discipline for adult workers typically operates this way.
So... at what discipline stage would throwing a punch at Haruhi (or at Haruki, for that matter) fall on? Certainly, such a potentially damaging act wouldn't be on the first discipline stage, would it?
No, I don't think that it would. And yet, for Haruhi, that's what is happening here - her first real dose of discipline is a punch. Seems a bit excessive, and naturally shocking to the recipient, I think.
So what should Kyon (and the SOS-dan) done?
They should have notified Haruhi's parents. Haruhi's parents are the ones that should be taking care of this, not Kyon. That's not his responsibility, or at least, it shouldn't be.
And if Haruhi's parents don't act on it, then Kyon should perhaps stick strictly to trying to reason with Haruhi.
The setup of this anime and novel puts too great a burden on Kyon. That's what makes the anime and novel so frequently dramatic and intense and intriguing, of course (and hence I wouldn't actually want it changed)... but it's also what causes situations like the one in Sighs that seems so out of whack for many of us. It means that, in canon, Kyon shouldn't be the solution every time, though he is for thematic purposes.
Haruhi needs to be disciplined, but punching her (as a first act of discipline) is wrong, but punching her is the only real thing that Kyon can personally do to try to straighten Haruhi out, since mere argumentation is failing him. He doesn't control her allowance, what she can have in her home, whether or not she's grounded, or any other lesser means of discipline... but Haruhi's parents, presumably, do.
So, then, I ultimately come down against the punch, as much as I totally understand why Kyon went for it.
Haruhi needed to be put in her place.
It shouldn't be Kyon's job to do it.
And perhaps that is the meaning and moral of Sighs.
George Orwell wrote a famous novel called "Lord of the Flies". It delves into what kids can be like when they try to mimic the world of adults, discipline themselves, and govern themselves.
It inevitably collapses and falls apart... because this is what adults and parents are for.
And that is the meaning and moral of Sighs: In the real world, the SOS-dan would go through exactly what they went through here. They would fissure and split for a time, with out a calmer experienced respected adult hand to guide the ship. They need adults... for even Haruhi respects adult authority, as she has shown in many anime episodes.
Haruhi is the Lord of the Flies... and she needs a parent to come in, cut through the cosmological situation, and gently discipline her into sound adulthood.
Any and all comments would be welcomed. :)