Denpa-teki na Kanojo, episode 1 – tropes

Before we start let me say that this is not a review of Denpa-teki na Kanojo. If you want a review – we already have one written by Shaurya, you are welcome to read it. Here I want to discuss this OVA rather than to review it, so I’ll assume you’ve seen it. It is a good show by the way, and it is fairly short too, so if you haven’t seen it you can start watching it now and come back in 40 minutes =)

Ame Ochibana

I decided to write about Denpa-teki na Kanojo because it gives me a great opportunity to talk about certain recurring setups in anime. Before we start though I would ask you to try not to let any negative preconceptions about these tropes to guide you as you are reading.

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Colorful

I’ve recently watched Colorful, a 2010 movie suggested to me by Shaurya. The movie follows a person who had died but was given a chance to redeem himself. He was reincarnated in a body of Makoto Kobayashi, a boy who killed himself with sleeping pills overdose. After the reincarnation the new Makoto needs to deal with the echoes of the Makoto’s life before the incident, the problems that lead up to his suicide.

I would say Colorful is a serious movie, at least compared to other things I’ve been watching recently. It might be a little hard to watch at times, but it definitely isn’t boring. Makoto’s mother acting is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, I almost want to watch the movie again just to see it again (even though her role is such a sad one). If you like movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Makoto Shinkai, you should check this one out. It would be different, but chances are you’ll like it.

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Puru Puru, sort of an angel that guides Kobayashi

Now time for spoilers. Though before the spoilers begin let me make a little detour and talk about stories in anime. Most anime do have a story, and it can be quite complex. The story can be told directly by the characters or a narrator, or it can be acted out; some of the events can be only alluded to without being shown. You can hide your story behind hints and metaphors, tell it through references, and since it is anime you can use words, pictures, sound and motion to construct those hints and references. Though if you aren’t careful no one will be able to decipher what the story was.

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3 Level Combination

3 Level Combination is a Korean comic by Il-Kwon Ha, the guy you may know as the author of Annarasumanara. Shaurya recommended me both of those manhwa, and I am really glad she did. Here I want to talk about what I think about that comic. I’ll make a tiny introduction for those who haven’t read it and put a spoiler warning before the part where I start to go deeper into the story.

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3 Level Combination starts as a story about a boy Hogu, a boy from a poor family who is being bullied at school. We follow him around, observing how he is being humiliated, beaten and otherwise abused by a group of his classmates. It gets pretty heavy and the story doesn’t hold back at all. After a while a new character is introduced, a humanoid robot prototype named Chevrolet. That robot was supposed to attend school together with normal students as a part of its testing. For better or worse the robots ends up becoming Hogu’s friend, while Hogu is put in charge of keeping it safe. With this event the both the story and Hogu’s life become more complex, going through tragic and happy moments, always unpredictable and thought provoking. Please read it, it is very good.

I want to mention that for me 3 Level Combination was a really hard read, I even had to make a break for a few weeks, because I felt a bit overwhelmed. It is just my personal thing though, stories about abused people living in misery kinda get me. I don’t know if that affected my opinion about the comic, though.

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Spoilers start from here.

I want to talk about a few of the characters, and since I myself can barely remember any names from this comic I decided to list them all beforehand. Besides Hogu I am going to be talking his former friend Minwoo, his class president Anna and her father Dr. Lee. Hope it won’t get too long.

I think a good way to start thinking about this story is with Dr. Lee. Who was that person? We know he was largely responsible of making a complete mess of his family life. His wife committed suicide after seeing him clearly displaying preference for a female humanoid robot over her. He said that the robot is better because “it is obedient”, because it is “his type”. He was a sad man who wasn’t able to appreciate the people around him and would rather play with toys. And his story doesn’t even seem all that interesting. The main reason I’ve brought it up is his daughter Anna.

I think Anna might be the central figure to this whole story, and I will try to explain what I mean. What defines Anna as a person? She grew up in a broken family and saw a lot more ugliness of human relations than a child should. Do you remember what was her reaction to that? She would say that it was “boring”. Such an inadequate description, such an obviously wrong choice of words. But let’s go on. Anna’s mother committed suicide because her father brought home a robot and stated that he liked it more than his wife. Naturally that influenced the way Anna felt about robots. She learnt to hate them. She even decided to study robots to prove that they can never be humans. Now let’s pause and think about it. Why would she do that? It is not a disgust towards machines that can be understood in her situation. What’s more, she was still working with her dad. I think what we see here is Anna misplacing the responsibility for what happened in her family; instead of blaming her father entirely she puts a part of the responsibility on the robots. It should be easy to realize that Dr. Lee’s self-centered destructive behavior was the reason Anna’s family ended up in the state it is. He could have had any other occupation, it wouldn’t have mattered, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that he didn’t appreciate his wife and was abusive.

So here is what I am getting at. I think a large part of Anna’s character is self-deception and neglect. Just as she was pretending to be bored to ignore her pain as a child she now pretended that the robots are to blame for what happened in her family. Why would she do it this time – who knows, but an obvious reason is so that she would be able to live on with her father without losing her mind because of the cognitive dissonance.

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You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t justify the word “neglect” yet. To talk about that I will need to jump to another character I’ve said I would talk about, Minwoo. He, Hogu, and Anna were friends back when they were younger and Hogu was what kept them together. In the quick episode where Hogu takes a picture of Anna and Minwoo it is pretty obviously hinted that in this friendship Anna was mostly interested in Hogu, while Minwoo was more interested in Anna. And apparently she was oblivious to that. What’s more, this never stopped, with the only exception that after a while Minwoo started to target Hogu, making his school life worse and worse. It might have been jealousy, might have been a desire to get Anna’s attention, likely it was both. And it seems that Anna could have stopped the whole thing, as she did in chapter 17, just by asking Minwoo to do so. But she never even tried to talk to him, never started a conversation in the whole year, as Minwoo mentioned once. Imagine if she did, if she thought through this situation and realized Minwoo motives. Anna is smart, she definitely could do it. And if she asked Minwoo to stop hurting Hogu, then maybe there wouldn’t have been any fights in that class. And going from what we saw of Minwoo I think that is the only thing she needed to do was to ask, there wouldn’t have been conditions or price. But Anna never even thought about it. That is what I mean by “neglect”.

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Minwoo

I am sorry if you think I’ve spend more than enough time on Anna, but I have to go a little further. In the late chapters we see Anna repeatedly putting effort into making Hogu see that Chevrolet is a robot and hence his friendship with it is absurd. She doesn’t see (or prefer to not notice) the simple fact that Chevrolet was the only one who showed Hogu kindness and care, who spent time with him when he needed it. It is so simple to see, and it is so easy to then understand why the boy would be so attached to the thing, regardless of its nature. What’s more, it is not hard to imagine that Anna might have wanted to be the one who did all of that for Hogu; only she didn’t do it. She would say that Chevrolet was a piece of metal, only the reality was that this robot was more of a human then most of the people around it. And instead of embracing that reality Anna would rather destroy it. She did, with a lie, betrayal and murder, a one act that took away all she had, including her own conscience.

I find it interesting that throughout most of the story Anna doesn’t do anything wrong, and there is no way to blame her. She isn’t hurting anyone, even does good things here and there. Nevertheless, it is as if her way of life slowly places a rope around her heck. It is one of the most interesting character arcs I’ve seen in a long time.

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It doesn’t feel right to talk about supporting characters all this time and leave out Hogu and Chevrolet. But I don’t think I have as much to say about them. I like their story. It is the kind of story you would want to end on a happy note. While reading I thought that maybe they will use this bomb episode to say that from now on Chevrolet can’t be opened and since her remote control functions were disabled she could effectively become a human. That would open a possibility for a nice ending for both her and Hogu. I was also prepared for Chevrolet’s demise; I think Hogu would have survived that, and I wonder what kind of person would he ended up being. Neither of that happened though.

The actual end made me think of the Romeo and Juliet play. It used be regarded as the greatest love story of all. I’ve heard that since some time ago people started to look at it in a new light, considering Romeo and Juliet to be a cautionary tale about irresponsible passion of young people. I can see that point of view and I don’t think it takes away anything from the romantic side of the play. What’s more, I think the same argument can be made for the story of Hogu and Chevrolet. Do you want to see their story and it’s end as a beautiful romantic tragedy? Or do you want to see it as a tale that says “Don’t be as foolish as this boy was.”? Both ways are good I think. I like the ending, even though it does make the story even more sad.

One more thing. I imagine 3 Level Combination would naturally make you wonder about human-robot relations, asking yourself “What was this friendship between Hogu and Chevrolet? Was it different from the relations Dr. Lee had with his old robot? Can you take any of this seriously?”. I think the comic doesn’t have a lot to say about robots and their potential place as a new kind of sentient beings in our society. Was Hogu any different from Dr. Lee – I have no idea. It is a very hard question, and I don’t see any answers in the manhwa.

Sorry if this post was a bit too long. See you next time!

Annarasumanara

Annarasumanara is a short Korean manga I finished reading recently.If you don’t know about it and wanna hear my opinion – here it is. Annarasumanara is probably the best comic I’ve read so far. The story is great, and if you are willing to spend a little time thinking it over you get even more from it. Characters, art style, the way pages are arranged, all that is very different from what I’ve seen in manga and anime. Check it out.

The rest of this post is intended for those who have read the manga already, I won’t explain all that happens in the story, just assume you know about it. Sorry ^^’

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I intentionally didn’t cut this picture; I think this scrolling down that you keep doing when reading the manga is more or less a part of it and I wanted to bring a little bit of that feeling back :P

What is Annarasumanara about? Korean students’ welfare? Magic? Life choices? In the beginning I thought that it is going to be a story about a girl who wants to grow up as an escape from the kind life she has now. She is being dragged through the mud of adult world, and then through a dreamland of child’s fantasies of the magician. Ai’s story is full of little turns and vignettes that don’t necessarily lead anywhere. Like that episode with a burger. Someone ate a bite and left it, and hungry Ai who was cleaning the tables was facing this little problem – eat it and satisfy her hunger or keep her pride. She ate the burger; and nothing happened. She is a strong person, hurt pride isn’t enough to seriously affect her. You see what I am talking about, this story is just one little episode that doesn’t go anywhere, but at the same time it maybe is the first time writer tells us that “breaking norms is okay”; or maybe it is more like “here is this girl you sympathize with, she just finished someones burger, are you gonna change your opinion about her?”. At the end of the book this is going to be one if the central points. When in the last part of the manga Il Deung breaks the norm (or just breaks a window, depends on how you see it :P), it is being celebrated by changing his appearance, the way he is drawn. From this point on he looks normal, while before his head was deformed in a weird way. You can’t applaud your character in a more literal way.

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So what I wanted to say is that Ai’s story is very rich in many ways. But what is even more interesting is the direction it was heading. Look at Ai in the beginning and in the end of the manga. Did she change? Maybe she grew up a little, learned more about life, learned to accept her own desires more; but that is not much. The road she planned for herself had not changed, the way she was heading towards becoming a “boring adult” stayed the same. The manga took us through a very bright and breath-taking period of her life, but it didn’t change anything for her.

Same with Il Deung, he didn’t change either. There was so much talk about him going off his asphalt road to the bed of flowers, he even had this moment of catharsis after witch his appearance changed. But at the end he became a college student, same as Ai, same as he and his parents planned all along.

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So what is up with that? I think the answer to this question lies in magician’s character and his back story. See, Ryu is the one who did not fit into this pattern. He did change his ways, back many years ago. And we all know what he became. An outcast, a man who lives in his illusions. Those are beautiful illusions, but never the less, they are not reality. He does “real magic”, but really every time he performs, it is just an act that masks the ugliness of actual reality. I am not judging him, it is fine for him to live the way he wants. But the fact remains that he does not fit into society. And think about this, that kind of life, it is not what Ai can enjoy. She need to take care of her sister, she wants to escape poverty; I’m sure she has other ambitions as well. And unlike Ryu all those ambitions are her own, it wasn’t like others pushed those goals onto her. See the difference? Ai is a real person with real goals and real problems. Ryu is like a fairy tale character, and his life turned like that because of the problems he had in his head, but not in reality. And their ways can’t be the same. That is the message of this story, I think. That if you live on Earth you can’t follow a shooting star. You can enjoy looking at it, you can run the direction it points, but yours is the Earth and its is the sky. It is a message that does not looks all that positive, when you put it this way. I like it though, just as I like everything that is not obvious but makes sense ^^

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There is this very nice pair of events that illustrates what I’m saying. Remember this moment when Il Deung snaps at the guy who tried to frame Ryu? Il Deung tries to hit him. And remember how Ryu snaps at the girl who spilled his cards? The two events mirror each other, but how different are they. Il Deung cares about something that happened in reality, something that is an actual problem, a dishonorable act of injustice. Ryu, he cares about a ruined magic trick for a group of children. It is like the two of them live in different worlds, even though at this time the similarity between Ryu and Il Deung was shown pretty clearly.

I liked this story a lot. Very thankful to Shaurya who suggested it to me \^^/ Thank you =)

Till the next time  (^_^)/

To see all my posts on manga click here: Posts on mangaTo see the catalog of the posts published in this blog click here.