Monday, July 28, 2014

Ranma, Tell Akane She's Cute

I'm watching Ranma 1/2. It's enjoyable, but I have a serious issue with it. Can you guess what it is?

It's not the nudity, although I dislike that element.

No, not the gender-bending part of it, either, although I think that's why I initially marked it "won't watch" on Anime-Planet.

I take issue with the way Ranma treats Akane.

He attacks her femininity almost constantly. His most common insult is "you're so not cute."

Ranma and Akane walk to school together for the first time in episode
2. They're both frustrated about the whole arranged marriage thing,
and they take it out on each other. This setting becomes a common
one for their spats.
I know what you might think.

It's just an anime, Annalyn. Tsunderes and insensitive boys are always throwing out insults they don't mean. You should be used to it by now. 

Ranma just says those things because he's immature and can't process his true feelings. He's bashful. "You're not cute" means "you're adorable."

Akane isn't innocent, either. She calls him "baka" ("stupid") all the time, even though we all know that "baka" is practically a love confession. 

I've told myself the same things. Here's my response to the second and third defenses: Yes, the audience knows what's really in the characters' hearts. But the characters don't. Those are hurtful words.

It's just anime, you say? You're not wrong. So, why am I so annoyed by this very common comedic device?

Because I think Akane really believes she isn't cute, that she's boyish and not a desirable wife. I think she gave up on being "truly" feminine years ago, because she doesn't have traditional beauty, interests, or skills, like her oldest sister does. Sure, the guys at school are all after her. But they treat her like a trophy to be won, and they miss her heart. She's raised her defenses around her heart and invested her whole being into martial arts, because that's safe.

Yes, it's just an anime. Akane and Ranma will probably live happily ever after. I doubt that Ranma 1/2 will deal with the self-confidence and image issues that often result from these kinds of insults.

But what about the real Akanes? How many girls and women believe that they have somehow failed at womanhood? How many believe that they aren't cute, pretty, beautiful, or otherwise desirable? How many believe that they will never be married, because no one could possibly love them that much? How many married women believe they still don't measure up?

When Ranma tells Akane that she's not cute, or that she's otherwise unfeminine, he tells a lie. It's not a lie just because he really thinks she's cute. It's a lie because she is a woman. The mangaka, Takahashi, created her to be lovely. And he created her in the image of real women, who are all the more majestic, because we were created by God himself, in his image. 

God created man in his image, too, and men are thus amazing. But that's a different topic.

We're women. We're beautiful by nature, both on the outside and inside, although we don't always feel like we can show it. We're not just desirable. We're desired and loved by God. Each one of us. No exceptions. It doesn't matter if we, like Akane, can beat up boys, and it doesn't even matter if we've beaten up boys we really shouldn't have. We might, like Akane, spit out insults we shouldn't, call people baka or worse… we might not always be graceful, or merciful, or sweet. We're not perfect. We need salvation. But we're still feminine. We're still beautiful. We're still passionately loved and pursued by God.

And anyone who says otherwise, about any of us, is a liar. I don't care if they mean it, and I don't care if the perpetrator is just an anime character.

Because girls need to be told that they are lovely. We're strong, but we're also breakable. Too many women have been broken with the lie, "you're not enough of a woman." Some try to harden themselves to the insults, and when they do that, they deny part of who they are. They deny their need to know that they are beautiful and loved.

Let me speak to the women reading this blog: your need is real. Never feel silly for wanting to know that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are womanly. If you doubt that any of this is true about you, and you're hurting because of it, then please, know that your hurt is real, and it is worth crying over.

You don't have to believe the lies.

I'm a little more passionate about this topic than usual, probably because I just read Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. This book, written by John and Stasi Eldredge, has been popular for years now, and rightly so. It's not like they have all the answers, but they seem to have a pretty Biblical perspective on who women are and what we need—not what we should be doing, but what we desire and why. This book hasn't told me very much that's new, but it's affirmed what I already know about myself and other women. It gives a little extra confidence to what I'm writing in this post. Here's a taste of what I read in the chapter called "Beauty to Unveil":

"Beauty is what the world longs to experience from a woman. We know that. Somewhere down deep, we know it to be true. Most of our shame comes from this knowing and feeling that we have failed here. So listen to this: beauty is an essence that dwells in every woman. It was given to her by God. It was given to you" (p. 131, italics theirs).

Essence. That's something internal, unremovable. It cannot be gained with cooking skills, makeup, or a quiet demeanor. It can, however, be covered up, as the Eldredges explain. That's why beauty is something we unveil. We are image-bearers of a beautiful God, but sometimes our beauty gets hidden, even from ourselves. Our doubts get in the way. We hide our beauty, or try to put on artificial beauty, or otherwise raise our defenses.

If beauty is our essence, that means it's a core part of us. In order to unveil more of our beauty, we have to unveil who we really are. We have to be vulnerable and open.

In the first couple dozen episodes, Akane is rarely emotionally vulnerable. She's beautiful, and that can't be completely hidden, but she doesn't feel safe enough to share her heart and essence with those around her. And how could she? She doesn't feel desired or deeply cared for—in fact, Ranma repeatedly tells her that she is undesirable.  Her beauty, her essence is constantly called into question by herself and others, because it doesn't always show up in the traditional way. She's constantly on the defense around the guy her father betrothed her to. She won't show how much the insults hurt her, so she can't be herself.

She's not at rest.

One of my favorite moments in Ranma 1/2 is when Ranma goes a little nuts and believes he's a cat. In that moment, he is honest about his feelings. He curls up on Akane's lap, content to be with the one he loves.
Kitty Ranma curls up on Akane's lap in episode twenty-three.

And when he is an honest kitty, Akane is safe. She calls to him, holds him, and treats him tenderly. Cat Ranma won't reject her. So she can unveil more of her beauty.

She is at rest.

Her beauty also shows up when she defends her friends (or even her "pig"). She holds nothing back, she doesn't bother with the opinions of those watching, and she kicks the offender into the next zip code. She's too busy being beautiful to hide.

Of course, the deepest rest, the strongest confidence, comes through a relationship with God.

God isn't written into most anime or manga. Instead, the writers create love interests to clumsily take over God's affirming role. When a girl knows that she is loved, that she is desirable, she can be a little more at rest.

It would be nice to say women don't need affirmation from anyone. It doesn't matter if anyone says we're beautiful, as long as we think we are. But that's a lie. We're relational creatures. At the very least, we need affirmation from God, and we have that—we just might not realize it. We aren't cut out to be self-reliant anymore than man is (I'm thinking of Genesis 2, when God said "It's not good for man to be alone," right before he made Eve).

In a world without God, such as an anime, women must turn to others to affirm who they are. They must know that they are desired, that someone desires to really know them, not just the veneer they wear to keep themselves safe. That is how they find true rest, how they begin to unveil more of their beauty.

That's partially why Ranma annoys me. He doesn't help Akane to be really at rest. She can't trust in his acceptance, and she can't trust in her own beauty.

If I were talking about a real couple, I'd encourage Akane to turn to God for affirmation. By drawing closer to God, she could find the love and peace she needs to let down her defenses. Then I'd turn my attention to Ranma, who would still need to man up. Since this is anime, not reality, I'll skip straight to the Ranma part.

What's with our shape-shifting protagonist, anyway? Why won't Ranma acknowledge Akane's beauty? Is he afraid he won't measure up, that he can't gain the heart of a beautiful, confident woman? Does he fear the responsibility of caring for her heart? If it's that last one, then here's a newsflash: as a man as a human being, he already has the responsibility of watching out for her heart to at least some degree. Frankly, he's failing at that right now.

Perhaps Ranma believes that Akane's words are true, he really is a "baka," and she'd like to break off their engagement.

For obvious reasons, I know less about men than women. But I've picked up on a little. Love is just as vulnerable for men as for women. Perhaps Ranma doesn't have the confidence to tenderly pursue her or to enjoy her, just as she doesn't have confidence to invite him. Perhaps he believes he'll have a better chance when he breaks his curse and becomes "fully man." But, at this rate, waiting to break his curse looks like a bad idea. And, honestly, he doesn't need to wait. Even if he stops turning into a girl every time he gets a splash of cold water, he won't magically become all the man he's created to be.

Instead of waiting to have everything figured out, Ranma needs to man up now and tell Akane that she's cute—or, more honestly, downright beautiful.

When he finally does, Akane needs to affirm him for the compliment, rather than call him stupid. That might be hard for her at first, but eventually she'll start accepting his encouragement. She can invite him (and, in a different way, others) to get to know her and her beauty, encouraging him to be all of the man he is made to be. And he must pursue her, offer his strength as her defender, not only in combat, but also as a defender and pursuer of her heart.

I believe that, since God created us in his image, he gave us the opportunity to reflect who he is through our relationships with one another. We can show love, beauty, and bravery—and, through that, hopefully point to God. Or we can hide from who we are made to be, and show only hate and fear. In the first chunk of Ranma 1/2, Ranma and Akane often lean more toward hate and fear than beauty and bravery. They throw insults that would chip away at anyone's confidence—or cause them to harden their hearts. It's all the more irritating because I've seen glimpses of who they could be without those insults, if they'd only stop.

So, Ranma, tell Akane she's cute. Stop wounding her heart, and start defending and delighting in it.

And Akane, know that you're beautiful, that you're loved. And let that knowledge transform you.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rewind: Gargantia

I've been meaning to write about Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (aka Suisei no Gargantia) for a long time. It was never a candidate for my All Time Fave list, but the visuals were beautiful. In fact, when I watched the first episode, "Ooo! Pretty colors!" was one of my first reactions.

Of course, I wouldn't still think about Gargantia a year later just because of the colors. It stirred thoughts about the value of human life. In fact, it already inspired one post about what it means to be human.

But there's more. For the sake of brevity, I'll focus on the fourth episode in this post. Maybe, someday, I'll write more about episode ten, which really stirred me up.

You see, Ledo, the main character, grew up in the Galactic Alliance, where a person's worth is decided by his ability to move the society toward its goal: eradicating the enemy. In Ledo's home in outer space, individuals and their activities must be efficient, and that extends to relationships. Families are considered "inefficient" and "unnecessary" and no longer exist. So he is doubly surprised to hear his new acquaintance, Amy, talk about her frail little brother, Bevel. "In the Galactic Alliance, frail humans are eliminated and disposed of," Ledo tells her. "Humans who cannot participate in battle are useless."

Such a cold, cutthroat society sounds horrific, as it's supposed to. Humans' worth should not be judged by their usefulness—most of us can agree on that.

Bevel examines, then plays, the flute Ledo made, reminding Ledo
of the reason he makes these flutes. For the first time in years, he
remembers someone who made these flutes, but who was weak, and
thus eliminated.

So, what does make a person valuable?

Bevel does not believe he is unnecessary, even though he cannot do much. His big sister needs him, he says. And more importantly, he needs himself. He isn't needed because of some objective—rather, he is needed because of his relationship with others, and because he values himself.

That answer is more palatable to us than Ledo's. But, as Ledo points out, it's unclear. And, frankly, I don't like Bevel's answer myself, although it's certainly better than the philosophy running the Galactic Alliance.

When you think about it, Bevel's answer—that people are valuable to each other and themselves in rather intangible ways—is almost as scary as what the Galactic Alliance says. It still pins a person's worth on their usefulness to someone. If no one loves or needs them, and they don't love or need themselves, then they have no reason to live. Their life isn't worth fighting for.

When I see Bevel, I don't just see a wonderful little brother—although he is that. I see a precious human being. Even if his sister died, and even if no longer felt he was necessary, he'd be precious.

I'll ask again: what makes a person valuable? What makes a human life worthwhile?

Contrary to Ledo's belief, a person's abilities don't define his or her value. Contrary to Bevel's beliefs, other people's emotional attachments don't define a human's value. Nor does one's self esteem.

Human beings are inherently valuable because of God.

He created each one of us. We're not mass-produced, either. Our Creator knows every detail of each of us, body and soul (see David's words on this in Psalm 139:13-16).

God created many other things, too—from the biggest star to the tiniest micro-organism, everything originates with him. But only humans are made in his image. Now, this doesn't mean we're self-portraits. As far as I know, God doesn't walk around shape-shifting into people with brown or blue eyes, frizzy or tame hair, or inny or outy belly buttons. God gave each of us far more than just his looks. "In his image" isn't just about the visuals; we have a bit of who God is in each of us. We reflect God's personality (when sin doesn't get in the way and muck things up). Don't misunderstand: we're not all part of God. He's a separate being. But he made us a little like himself. That's an incredible honor—and part of why every person is so precious.

Of course, we're still not God. Compared to him, we're utterly useless. Relatively speaking, none of us have any power, we're always encountering pain, and our lives are extremely short. That doesn't matter. God still cares for each of us. Our lives are valuable to him, and he wants us to get to know him and love him. He gives us value in relation to others, too. We have opportunities to bless others, even when we don't see what we're doing.

It doesn't matter if we're healthy and can work. It doesn't matter if we're old or young, or how long we have left to live. Some of us can climb mountains, and others can't even get to the bathroom. All of us have value to God, and he has given us value for others.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees this. Not everyone takes the time to sit with people like Bevel, to listen to their wisdom, or to simply enjoy the presence of another wonderfully created being. Ledo's Galactic Alliance isn't as far from reality as we'd like to think. Already, we judge people's worth based on a synthesized "quality of life" we think they are capable of having. Already, those with disorders like Down's Syndrome are deemed less worthy of birth and loving care. A culture is developing where life is not always worth fighting for… if I had time, I'd dive into more examples.

For now, I'll just state that we need to see the inherent value in each human life, to come together, much like Amy, Bevel, and others in their fleet do. We can't just create our own criteria for what makes life worth supporting.

Gargantia makes statements about humanity and the value of "unproductive" things like beauty and kindness. Ledo learns more about the identity and value of people, and it's downright heartwarming at times. This anime shows that people are precious, and I applaud the creators for that. But they couldn't explain why every individual human is important. And how could they? It's rather difficult to grasp the full value of created beings without talking about their Creator.


This is NOT a Swamped Post...

This is an announcement. This week's Rewind post will be a full day late.

You: "Uhh… It's already Saturday, Annalyn."

Me: "Pffftt… not in Hawaii, it's not."

You: "But you don't live in Hawaii."

Me: …

You: …

Me: "Whatever. I'm sorry, okay? This important thing is that there will be a Rewind post up in less than 24 hours. And it will be a good one. A thoughtful one about Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. And it may spawn other posts. Actually, I've been procrastinating on this Gargantia post for about a year, so using it for Rewind is a good, low-stress way to get the ball rolling."

You: "Okay, I'll come back later today—or perhaps tomorrow."

Me: "Thank you, my dear, patient reader. I look forward to hearing your thoughts."

So, there you have it. This is an announcement, not a swamped post. Although I have been fairly swamped—tomorrow (err… today) will be my first real day off in almost two weeks… and I'll probably still end up doing a couple work-related emails.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Origins: Blogs (Part 3—Conversational Writing and Conclusion)

This is the last of a three-part series on the history and nature of blogs. In the first post, I wrote about blogs' early history and popularity growth. The second post included research from linguists (language scholars) about blogs' genres and grammar. This last section, excerpted and slightly modified from a research paper, covers the conversational elements of blogs before, and then concludes the series.

- - - 

Blogs are more personal and casual than most printed work. They are also more interactive, which is why many bloggers and academics refer to "conversation" in the blogosphere. Eric E. Peterson, a professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, finds this description troubling. He explores the topic in his 2011 article for Language@Internet, "How Conversational are Weblogs?" He acknowledges that bloggers often use a conversational tone, but cautions that the interactions on and between blogs do not truly constitute conversations. [Because, obviously, there is only one definition of "conversation," and we all know that the meanings of words are set in stone and never evolve at all… oh, wait.]

Unlike face-to-face conversations, blogs are non-linear and discontinuous in contact (Peterson). Responses to posts and comments are not immediate, and certainly not simultaneous. Bloggers write their posts uninterrupted by their audience's feedback, and if clarification is needed, it must happen across posts. Similarly, the context around posts is not immediate, but instead something that "both writers and readers must work to produce," usually by writing and reading serval posts over time.[I'd like to add that, in the aniblogosphere, our context grows with anime, other blogs and news sites, Twitter, and whatever else we share in our online experiences.]

While blog content is not a conversation, it is still conversational. Bloggers are writing to a large audience, but by using a conversational tone, they reach individuals in a more personal way. This attracts and keeps readers. It's not a new strategy, as Peterson points out. For decades, radio personalities have amassed listeners by speaking in a "for-anyone-as-someone" way, as if they were sitting down with each listener individually. Bloggers adopt an informal, frank style that readers perceive as "authentic, direct, and truthful" (Peterson). Of course, frankness, whether spoken or written, does not automatically confer honesty. But the popular perception remains. As a result, blogs attract millions of readers, many of whom feel a personal connection to their favorite, conversational bloggers.

The blogosphere has come a long way since the first online diaries of the 1990s. They vary widely in genre, purpose, and author. Blogs, though clearly a written form, have aspects of speech in their language. They are informal, even conversational, in style. They are not subject to the standardization process experienced by most published material, and their syntax and grammar reflects that.

- - -

So, there you have it. As bloggers and blog-readers, we're part of a form of communication so interesting, it's a topic of much conversation study and discussion among linguists. It took a while before they could all agree that the "blog" is a medium, not a genre. But even the slowest of them eventually arrived at that conclusion. And some of them think our often unconventional grammar is fascinating. Basically, they recognize that all of us in the blogosphere are part of something linguistically awesome. Or something like that. 

- - - 

Sources:
Peterson, Eric E. "How Conversational are Weblogs?." Language@Internet 8 (2011): n. pag. Web. <http://www.languageatinternet.org/articles/2011/Peterson>


Friday, July 11, 2014

Rewind: Tonari no Seki-kun

Throughout the Winter Season, and half of Spring, I looked forward to Sundays because of Tonari no Seki-kun. It was my 7-minute break between homework, my guaranteed chuckle in an evening otherwise spent on neglected (or just plain big) assignments.

It's a simple anime. Each short episode follows Yokoi Rumi, a well-behaved student, as she's distracted by the antics of her classmate Seki-kun. Seki-kun doesn't say anything or even make much noise. He just spends his class time on elaborate games and activities. Rumi tries to stop him at first, but she ends up following his play closely. She becomes sympathetic to perceived characters in his games, and eventually, sympathetic toward him.

I can't remember why, but in episode 6, Rumi decides to take
custody of Seki's robot family for a bit. 
Really, it's all quite amusing. I gave Tonari no Seki-Kun 5/5 stars on Anime-Planet, because there isn't much they could do better with this comedic short. Sure, the animation isn't stunning, but stunning animation would be out of place in this show. 

There's not much else to say, except that I recommend you check this out. Tonari no Seki-kun is one of those simple pleasures that can brighten your day.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Origins: Blogs (Part 2—Linguists, Genres, and Grammar)

Over a month ago, I posted about blogs' basic history. Most of the post was excerpted from a research paper I turned in last semester, called "The Linguistics of Blogs." You might want to check that out before reading this, but you don't have to. I'd like to share more of the same paper today. Did you know that, in the past, some linguists tried to shove blogs under the diary genre? I think that they all know better now. It's interesting to read their studies and articles—they think so hard about blogs, which I now consider to be a natural part of my life.

The rest is excerpted, with slight edits, from my essay.

- - - 

Blogs meld historical means of communication with modern technology. The result is unique, but some have still tried to fit it in more traditional categories. Many, especially in the blogosphere's early days, considered blogs to be a development of the personal diary. Laurie McNeill's 2005 article "Genre Under Construction: The Diary on the Internet" is based on the premise that blogs are "simply another kind or function of the diary genre, one particularly well-suited to contemporary diarists" (McNeill 6). Certainly, there are similarities. Like diaries, blogs have dated entries, which usually appear in chronological order. And many blogs do fit into the diary genre. In 2006, David Crystal wrote that the genre, which shows "a narrative account of events in a blogger's daily life… has been the fastest area of blog growth since 2001" (Language and the Internet 242).

However, blogs cannot be confined to a single genre. Crystal proposes a spectrum of blog purposes, with personal diaries on one end and corporate or institution-based blogs on the other end (Language and the Internet 240). Blogs can be written by one person or many, and some are run by companies. They may have no central theme, or they may focus on certain hobbies or political positions.

[At this point, most of you are probably thinking, "well, duh." But stick with me. A group of academics recently completed a study to prove that there are multiple blog genres… yes, it sounds like proving that  not all fruits are apples, but they took it very seriously. Read on.]

Last December, Dr. Alex Primo, Gabriela Zago, Erika Oikawa, and Gilberto Consoni of The Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul published a blog theme study in Discourse and Communication. In this study, they developed 36 subcategories of themes found in a sample of almost 7,000 posts. A few of the most common themes were technology, politics, mass media, and visual arts (352). The study only used Brazilian posts, but its broader conclusion applies across cultures in the blogosphere: blogs are more varied in theme than ever. "The online practice of self-expression" is no longer a sufficient model for explaining blogs. Further, "The view of blogs as a genre is also misleading, as it confuses medium and genres" (Primo et al. 355).

While blogs cannot be confined to any genre, the diary genre does show its linguistic freedom most clearly. Unlike traditionally printed work, blogs contain "freely written prose," untouched by standardization and editors. In his Internet Linguists: A Student Guide, David Crystal notes that syntax online is generally the same as offline, which some evolution according to the new mediums, or "outputs," as he calls them. He does, however, single out blogging as an output  where "some interesting syntactic developments could be taking place" (67). 

Crystal writes, "It is a syntax that reflects the way writers think and speak." Standard sentence divisions rarely come naturally in thoughts. Thus, "there is the unconstrained use of the dash to mark a change in the direction of thought, ellipses to show incompleteness, and the use of commas to mark pauses in rhythm" (68). At the same time, bloggers may leave out punctuation they consider unnecessary or troublesome, such as apostrophes. The grammar is unconventional, but present (69). A few similar styles appear in literature, such as James Joyce's stream of consciousness writing, but that is the limit. 

Even Joyce's work endured a level of editing and standardization. With blogs, however, there is no filter between author and reader except what they put there themselves. This kind of free, unmediated publication was normal in the Middle Ages, before standardization. In Language and the Internet, Crystal refers to "the spontaneous letter-writting of the late Middle Ages, for example, or some of the manuscript accounts of law-court proceedings…" Then, in the later part of the 1700s, grammar and usage manuals rose to power. These institutionalized "standard language," which became totalitarian "when publishers developed copy-editing procedures to ensure that their newspapers, magazines, and books conformed to an in-house style" (Language and the Internet 245). Of course, bloggers are not free from the influence of standardized English, and even the least conventional posts contain elements learned in school and recreational reading. And there are bloggers who "would be mortified if their text appeared in the blogosphere with a missing apostrophe" (246). Still, no matter what kind of grammar bloggers use, blogs, especially personal ones, stand separate from printed work in an important way: they are "a variety of writing intended for public consumption, which appears exactly as the author wrote it, which is not constrained by other genre conventions, and which privileges linguistic idiosyncrasy" (246). 

- - -

There's another small section of my blog linguistics paper, but this is enough for now. When I first researched this, I couldn't help but think of my own blogging habits, as well as some of the blogs I like to read. A lot of what Crystal said about ellipses and dashes is right on track. He didn't mention strikethrough, a formatting device that I've seen bloggers use for a humorous touch (or other purposes), and which is not replicable in spoken communication. But I can't expect his books to cover every cool way bloggers communicate. 

And so, another Origins post is finally done and posted. I hope you find this information at least half as interesting as I do.

- - -

Sources:
Crystal, David. Language and the Internet. 2 ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2006. Print.
Crystal, David. Internet Linguistics: A Student Guide. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Introvert's Guide to Boundaries and Friendship Behavior

I've mentioned this before, but friendship isn't exactly my area of expertise. For the several of my teen years, I was pretty lonely. Not friendless, but lonely. My longtime close friends lived in another town, and I was convinced it was impossible for me to make new friends, or to deepen the friendships I had at school. It took several years and three semesters of dorm life to gain the relative confidence I have now.

Of course, I'll always be an introvert, and I'm still clumsy when it comes to friendship. So I guess it's no surprise that I liked The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, an anime about Usa, a normal guy, and his introverted senpai, Ritsu.

Usa is on library duty when he first sees Ritsu in episode 1.
It's a rather affirming anime for me, as an introvert. It gives assurance, through the kind Usa-kun, that a friend (even, maybe, a potential love interest) could care enough to work with my need for quiet time. It also gives a lesson on how to draw boundaries and retain sanity after making friends. I've learned some of this through my own experience with the wonderful people I've met at college. So I know that, as ridiculous as Kawai Complex can be, it's not wrong about basic friendship things.

That's one reason that I like Kawai Complex so much. But there's one other thing: this anime portrays introversion extremely well. Each introvert is unique, because we're each a unique person. My needs and comforts are slightly different than Ritsu's. I don't always hate events with lots of people. But I'm still just as introverted as she is, and I feel like this show might advocate for introverts a bit.

[Before I write more, a disclaimer: there's a lot of sexual "humor" in Kawai Complex. In fact, there's so much of it, I'm surprised Hulu doesn't show it as TV-MA (seriously, though—Hetalia gets the mature rating, and Kawai Complex doesn't? That ain't right). I don't like any of the sexual humor, but I like Usa and Ritsu well enough, so I watched all 12 episodes.]

What's so great about how Kawai Complex portrays introversion and friendship?

First, they emphasize the difference between being alone and being lonely. Ritsu loves reading by herself, and she doesn't necessarily want to be interrupted, even if there are people having fun nearby. I can identify with that. Sometimes, at big events, I like to just sit to the side and observe, write, or read. And I'm content.

Of course, introverts can still get lonely, and we appreciate friendship. I think Kawai Complex shows that well. It includes the "what not to do" approach to friendship in the eleventh episode, when Rit-chan seems to make a new friend.

My fellow introverts, in the last two episodes of Kawai Complex, we learn a valuable lesson about boundaries. Boundaries can be hard, especially if you want people to like you, and especially if you finally have someone who's pursuing friendship with you. However, boundaries are necessary. Without them, we may go insane and lose our ability to be good friends to anyone.

For example, I dislike holding any significant conversations over text. It's cumbersome, even though I have a full keyboard, and I don't like feeling obligated to answer immediately. So, when I give my number to a friend who might be a texter, I say something like, "Just so you know, I'm not a big texter. I like texting about little things, since it's convenient and efficient, but it's not my favorite way to talk. I do better with chatting online or on the phone."

If I don't set boundaries with my phone, I feel exactly like Rit-chan
looks in this frame from episode 11: worn out and annoyed.
If I get sucked into a texting conversation anyway, I first consider my friend's feelings. I don't want to hurt them. Sometimes, I'll suggest that we move the conversation to chatting online. If I do stick to texting, I purposefully space out my replies, so they don't get used to my immediate response. I don't want them to get worried when I don't respond for over an hour.

And sometimes, whether it's by text, internet, phone, or even in person, I simply say, "Okay, I should really go now. I have things I need to get done (including recharge with alone time)."

There were times, especially when I lived in the dorms at school, when I didn't know how to set the boundaries I knew I desperately needed. There were girls in my hall who I really did like. They had tender hearts and a lot of conversation and emotion to share. But eventually, I ended up like this:

Ritsu complains to Usa in ep 12.
I called my parents one afternoon my freshman year, and I said something like this: "I love this girl, but I can't handle her coming by my room all the time! I don't want to cut her out completely, and maybe we can have lunch in the dining hall sometime, but I'm stressed out, and I need to be alone and at peace!"

Actually, I'm pretty sure I've called my parents with similar problems on multiple occasions, but that particular call to Dad sticks out to me. With his encouragement, I knew I needed to gently draw the line. The other girl was as understanding of my need to be alone as any extrovert can be. At the very least, she understood that too much interaction could trigger my anxiety.

For my part, I filled a couple pages of my journal with prayer, Bible verses, and problem-solving. I knew that, at times, I needed to give up my alone time for the sake of another person. My well-being was important, but it was neither more nor less important than my friend's. I asked God for help loving my friends and, at the same time, finding balance. When I drew a boundary between me and another person, I didn't want that boundary to leave them completely in the cold.

Exuberant, extroverted people occasionally struggle to understand our needs, and, sometimes, friendship with them doesn't go beyond surface-level interaction. In Kawai Complex, Ritsu started to make friends with a fellow book-lover… but the other girl was far more extroverted than she was, and was utterly exhausting to be with. She wasn't considerate of Ritsu's feelings, and she didn't take the effort to understand when Ritsu explained that she didn't like certain social events or too much emailing. Instead, this other girl dismissed Ritsu and went back to friends that were "on the same wavelength" and enjoyed nearly 24/7 interaction.

Later in the twelfth episode, Ritsu stated that she couldn't make any friends. In the screenshot below, her reasoning is shown in blue letters: "I don't think I'll ever find someone on my wavelength!"



It does get discouraging. Ritsu isn't just a little bit introverted, and she's not just a casual reader. She seriously can't handle too many people, or too much time actively hanging out with anyone. And she seriously loves her books. How will she ever find someone who needs and likes the same things she does?

I've wondered the same things. I'm not just a little bit introverted. I need more than a few hours to recharge each day, and I often go weeks before I need to hang out with a friend. And I don't just kind of like anime… I really like it. Most of all, I like being an aniblogger. Writing and my time online (limited as it my have to be, when even social media becomes too social for me) are important to me. How will I ever find a friend who shares both my introversion and all of my hobbies, a friend who knows me both online and off?

The answer is that I probably won't, and Ritsu won't, either.

So, people are exhausting, and we'll never find anyone that's exactly like us. Thus, we can't make friends. Right?

No. That's an easy statement to say, with reasoning that we can hide behind, but it's just a coward's shield. Here are some other lines I've said:

"None of the other girls here need friendship like I do. They already have good friends, so they don't need me. I'd just take their time and energy unnecessarily, and they'd share their hearts with the friends they already have."

"We all graduate and go to different colleges in less than a year, anyway. That's not enough time to make a good, lasting friendship."

"I don't have the energy to make friends, and I don't know how to anyway. Putting myself out there anymore will just worsen my anxiety."

If friendship is impossible, then we don't have to try, and we don't have to be hurt if we're rejected.

But it's not impossible. And if we don't try, it still hurts.

One of Ritsu's older housemates had a great response when she despaired of ever making friends. She told Ritsu that it doesn't matter if you match wavelengths. What matters is whether you can get along anyway.

And that's true. I had a great roommate last fall, the last semester before I moved out of the dorms. We were pretty different. She needed a fair amount of people time, while I couldn't get enough alone time. Our hobbies overlapped, but only barely—she still hasn't seen any of my anime. But she was sweet and considerate. And now, I consider her to be a dear friend. Sure, we didn't start out on the same wavelength. So we kind of made a new one between us. I enjoyed listening to what was important to her. And, after I moved out, she actually said she missed listening to me talk about anime.

Friends help each other grow. They learn to appreciate, and even enjoy, the things that are important to each other.

When someone shows any level of interest in what's important to me, I'm happy. If they start investing time and effort in me and in learning about my interests, I'm thrilled. That's why I love Usa-kun so much; he invests not only in an idealized version of Ritsu, but in learning about the real her. He doesn't ask about her books just because he wants to win her over or even, as he said, "to make her feel better. I'm genuinely interested. I want to learn to enjoy the things Senpai enjoys."

Of course, Usa is interested in Ritsu as more than just a friend. But he's starting out that way, and I expect their relationship will slowly develop, even if we don't get to see it on screen. Since their relationship is potentially more than friendship, I have even more interest. Because if a girl questions her ability to make friends, she's definitely going to question the idea of anyone pursuing her as more than a friend. But that's a bigger, more vulnerable topic. So I think I'd better end here.