See also: After-School Special, Strangers With Candy.
Bit behind on this one; off in training land again, so my free time has been remarkably scant of late. But, Tamako Market! Do I even need to mention which episode in particular I’m talking about, or does the title of this post alone make it obvious? On the other hand, you know that line about god sure loving dumb people…
So, in episode two of Tamako Market, we find ourselves spending a good deal of time with blonde Midori, one of Tamako’s closest friends. Midori has a secret! And it’s Valentine’s Day, so we find ourselves with the perfect framing for her little secret.
Y’know, despite my somewhat mocking tone, I don’t want to pick on Tamako Market (Tamarket?) too much here, honestly. I was amused by the reactions to Valentine’s Day by Tamako and her friends – for Tamako, its not about romance, its about marketing opportunity! For Kanna, its not about making chocolate for the boy one has a crush on, its about designing a house made of chocolate! Midori’s feelings are played a bit straighter here (no pun intended, really) insofar as traditional approaches to Valentine’s Day episodes in anime go, as she’s very quietly angsting about who she would want to give chocolates to were she not too afraid to go through with it. Of course, the kicker here is that her favored recipient is a girl, not a boy, and we’ve arrived at a full subversion of The Valentine’s Day Episode.
The upshot of all of this is that we have a surprisingly unobnoxious episode that involves Valentine’s Day yet isn’t overrun with stupid teenager antics involving chocolate, blushing, and tears.
However, that doesn’t alter the fact that the entire episode felt like A Very Special Episode in which We Learned a Valuable Lesson. It was, quite simply, clunkier than a a suitcase without wheels. I could almost feel the show patting me on the head for learning that being gay is okay and isn’t weird.
But the fact is that I give KyoAni a thumbs up on effort here; Midori is depicted as a young woman who is gay but isn’t therefore a budding sex offender. I know, I know – this is a little much to take in, but just breathe easy and you’ll acclimate, I promise. Midori is a teenager, she feels weird about having a crush on one of her friends (because yes, a. her friend is also a girl, but b. its her friend, which is, speaking from experience, quite honestly as much of a big deal in situations like this as the first fact is), and she doesn’t have anyone to talk to about it. She’s clearly not thrilled with the situation, but she isn’t wasting away in agony over it, either.
Execution though… well, it isn’t handled in a terribly subtle fashion. Some folks have argued this is in order to avoid having people miss the fact that, bros, she’s gay, and maybe that is the case… but it doesn’t change that its the narrative equivalent of being smacked in the face with a placard stating “MIDORI IS GAY AND HAS A CRUSH ON TAMAKO AND FEELS WEIRD ABOUT IT”. Having watched the deftness with which the developing relationship between Houtarou and Chitanda was handled in Hyouka, I honestly expect better from KyoAni; I know it isn’t the same crew as worked on Hyouka, but, well, it still colors how I look at KyoAni shows! Sort of like how those Marvel anime that Madhouse did were a lot more disappointing for being bad than if Xebec had done them and they’d been bad – if you set a precedent, people are going to expect something.
(Yeah, I know, Madhouse stinks now, shut up, whatever, when I was your age they were fucking quality, get off my lawn) (also: Chihayafuru… although I dropped it)
Damn where was I?
Oh, yeah. Handled with all the artfulness of an armadillo juggling doughnuts. Alternately: handled in a manner which indicates that the staff of Tamako Market thinks we’re all morons (although sadly proven is that a lot of folks watching are, in fact, morons if forums and comment sections in aninerdloserdom is anything to go by).
I also found that the neat resolution was rather forced and lead us to Kanna kicking us between the eyes in case we somehow managed to miss it that “Anyone can love anyone they want to.” Midori feels weird about having a crush on her (same-sex) friend. She weirds out during the filming of a commercial, and ends up having coffee with the ridiculous bird as she mopes a little. Well-timed topical music is dispensed with fortune cookie aphorisms. Its too staged, and it bugs me that Midori in all of this never once states what the issue really is – she’s just cheered up by blandly heartening words and phrases from those around her.
Mind you, I’m not demanding that it was resolved at that juncture – just that it hadn’t been positioned so much as having been resolved. One could argue that its the nature of the show (I’ll eat my hat if Mochizou ever manages to cough out a confession), but then why go to such an effort to highlight Midori’s feelings in the first place? And, come on now, really! “Anyone can love anyone is they want to.”?!?!?!?!?! Talk about a canned line!
Ah well. Pearls before swine, perhaps. At the end of it, I appreciate that Midori is clearly respected as a character and isn’t viewed as a useful potential punchline even if the execution left a lot to be desired. I much prefer this sort of situation any day over the groping idiocy of “gay” girls in a lot of other anime.