Friday, April 25, 2014

Rewind: Kaichou wa Maid-sama!

Many teenage girls learn to squeal and giggle about boys with their friends... or at least, that's what I imagine. I didn't talk about that kind of thing very much, and I didn't have any crushes. I was too practical, too shy, and too unwilling to objectify men. Those last two traits explain themselves, but in regards to practicality... I didn't plan to date until I reached the marrying age. Nothing but disappointment could come from getting prematurely excited about some male classmate (particularly since I didn't have the guts to talk to most of them). And I really didn't get other girls' obsession with actors like Orlando Bloom. Thus, I discovered my squeal while watching shoujo anime like Kaichou wa Maid-sama.

Usui in glasses. Episode 19. When I first watched this, I was
surprised how much those thin loops of wire on his face affected
me... I just realized that his shirt's open in this pic. I was too
focused on his face to see that before.
I discovered other things, too. Anime bishounen in glasses caused a certain happiness in my chest, similar to the feeling I got when I saw a character do something romantic. I felt free to stare at these bishounen, such as Usui Takami in Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, in a way I couldn't look at real people (not even actors in a movie). I knew Usui wouldn't catch me looking. 

Don't misunderstand; I'm not talking about lust. In fact, in that first year or two of anime watching, I was too naive to recognize a lot of the innuendo in what I watched. For example, in Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, the main character, Misaki, works at a maid cafe. At the time, I had almost entirely innocent connotations with these kinds of things. And, honestly, a lot of things went over my head. When I re-watch episodes, I realize that a lot of it went over Misaki's head, too. For example, near the end of episode 7, when the maid cafe is having a cross dressing day, two female customers discuss the role Misaki would have if she were a guy in a yaoi coupling. Misaki doesn't understand their lingo, and I probably still wouldn't understand it if I hadn't continued hanging around otaku corners of the internet.

I'm not saying that Kaichou wa Maid-sama! isn't good to watch. Nor am I saying that my mind was completely innocent during my junior and senior years of high school. But things were different. I was different; I don't enjoy this type of shoujo anime nearly as much as I did three years ago. Okay, actually, maybe I do enjoy it, just with a little more discretion. And let's face it; some of the recent shoujo, especially reverse harems like Brothers Conflict, could disillusion almost anyone. I should probably finish re-watching Kaichou wa Maid-sama! within the next couple weeks to remind myself why this stuff can be good.

What did I like about it? I vaguely remember some really good themes, but it's been a long time since I watched the whole thing. I know that, to some extent, I was still enamored by the shoujo anime world, a world different enough from my real life to be fantasy, even if there was no magic in it. The exaggerated characters and situations made me laugh. I had fun. 

I lived through the characters to some extent, as is usually the case. Misaki is pretty cool: she's strong, inspirational, and hardworking. But she does have weaknesses, which make her relatable. Plus, Usui is interested her. He's strong, good-looking, and amusing to watch, as many anime characters are. And he can be quite the knight in shining armor when he needs to be. Sure, he has some serious character flaws -  the way he teases Misaki could get him a sexual harassment charge. But, obviously, he's an anime character, so I can (and did) forgive him such faults.

I do wonder Usui's type of character, though. He's good at heart, but he can be a jerk. I've seen it in other shoujo fare, most notably Itazura na Kiss (although I'm not sure how good Irie's heart actually is). It's appeared in an abundance of fiction written by teen girls on Wattpad, too. Something about that character is attractive, at least in fictional form. Perhaps it's just that he's flawed, which makes him relatable, yet there's good in him, and it's most obvious when he's in love... making the girl a kind of savior, which is probably an ego boost. 

Of course, right after I said all that cynical stuff, I went and re-watched episode 8. I saw all the devices they were using to get me hyped up (including the music). I knew what they were doing. And I've

watched a lot more Law and Order: SVU since the last time I watched this, so the scene felt more intense. When Usui swooped in to save Misaka, I let out a little squeak, even though I was in a criticizing mood and knew exactly what was happening. The mangaka, director, etc. are good at their craft, that's for sure.
Right before Usui burst in to save Misaki, she whispered his
name. She's tough, but even she needs saving sometimes, and
Usui is always there.

But I've spent far too much time on this already. Perhaps I'll speculate about shoujo characters in a more thorough post someday (don't count on it, though). For now, I need to wrap this up. I have a paper I'd like to finish tonight (it was actually due this afternoon, but I couldn't manage it), and quite a bit of writing and studying to do over the next five or so days. Then, I will finally be free for another summer.  And not a moment too soon. If I didn't love school so much, I'd hate it right now. I'm so sleep deprived, the mere idea of climbing under my covers for a good night's sleep makes me giggle in delight.

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