30 Things I Like About My 30 Favorite Anime: Kare Kano

Stop everything, it's a new feature on the blog.
Stop everything, it’s a new feature on the blog.

Rather than just spit out a list of shows to then be subject to ridicule, I have decided to just take one aspect of each show on my list and talk about what I like about it. This may end up being a rather eccentric list that is more sad than anything open to ridicule. It’s my list damn it and I’m going to talk about what I want to on this blog.

Episode 19

A shot of some chemicals which includes a heavily disguised Star Trek reference
The Star Trek reference on the bottle in this screenshot is one of my favorite things.

The 19th episode of Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (or His and Her Circumstances or Karekano as I refer to this going forward) is not the type of episode that will likely ever be made again. It combines a combination of backgrounds, live-action and very little in the way of traditional animation. Or to put it another way, it looks like something that would be done by kids on a really small budget. There’s a pretty good story behind all of this, I assure you.

Having spent the previous 3 years devoted to all things Evangelion, Anno Hideaki was brought in to direct Kare Kano, Gainax’s first adaptation of pre-written material. The manga is centered on the high school romance between the protagonists Miyazawa Yukino and Arima Soichiro, who struggle to try to be themselves in a world of heavy societal pressures. Anno, in adapting the material, decided to take a personal view to how the relationships developed between different characters in the show. This personal view happened to centered around comedic moments and less on the romantic portions of the manga, the author of the manga Tsuda Masami didn’t like his version of her story.

The moment this episode becomes different.
The moment this episode becomes different.

The difference became irreconcilable as the show aired. A story that progressed well through the first half of the series suddenly ground to a halt. Recap episodes then focuses on relationships outside of the one between Yukino and Arima feel in retrospect like they were made out of spite. Then after 18 episodes, Anno quit and set his sites on directing live-action films and rushed in was Tsurumaki Kazuya, who later went on to direct FLCL, Diebuster and the run of Evangelion rebuild films. He had directed episode 12 and did storyboards and key animation for a few of the episodes before this point, but nothing that would indicate this kind of episode.

I should probably also mention at this point that Imaishi Hiroyuki was really a driving force behind this episode. In charge of animation, script and storyboard, this episode is really his in reflection. I have a love-hate relationship with his work, with almost all hate since his Trigger work began. I don’t want to be considered a contrarian for that; it’s more that I just think that left to his own devices there’s no need to be so juvenile.

In one of the more high quality scenes in this episode, Yukino's personality confuses the class.
In one of the more high quality scenes in this episode, Yukino’s personality confuses the class.

As for the episode itself, it’s a pretty standard late series storyline of characters catching up after summer break and then planning for the cultural festival in the fall. That’s not really why I like this episode so much, it’s the damn visuals that draw me in as well as the opening moments of monologue at the beginning of the episode.

First the beginning of the episode. If you had watched the series up to this point, the first few minutes look visually just like the 2 recap episodes that were a few episodes back. So people recapping the plot over various still images. It’s the words that strike me each time I go back and watch this. This is a story set in and still is a changing time period for Japan. The end of the century stills show no people, but convey a feeling that I can describe as this: humanity is capable of creating so many different things for so many people, so why did everything have to stop?

May as well destroy the building too.
May as well destroy the building too.

When that is all over, it switches to this episode’s signature of cheap looking animation of storyboards and reused cells from earlier in the series. Yes, of course there is also the stick puppets and the literally setting stuff on fire plus also just filming a television and then setting more stuff on fire during the end credits. Plus there was crushing Gainax headquarters during one of the rare bits of action during the episode.

I still have a pretty hard time really describing my feelings on the episode in the end. It’s definitely an indulgent sort of episode, but of the sort visually that was like Shinbo’s early works for Shaft in trying to craft their own style. It’s rebellious against the situation the people involved in making this episode were put into. Yet, it still does move the plot forward a little and allows those who had nothing to do with the disagreements between Anno and Tsuda to still do their proper work. I’d like to think there was a production meeting after Anno had abruptly left where they just decided to do everything as cheaply as possible to make a point and then set it all on fire at the end to cleanse themselves of this mess of a series.

Just burn it all.
Just burn it all.