Kyou, Koi wo Hajimemasu (Today, Love Begins)
Number of Episodes: TBA (there is a second one in the works)
Production Company: J.C. Staff
Brief Overview: Tsubaki Hibino has a talent for styling hair, but no personal sense of style, which makes her the butt of her classmates' jokes. Included amongst the teasers is Kyouta Tsubaki (who shares the same name), the class playboy, who decides to make Tsubaki his new "target."
Episode Summary: Tsubaki Hibino, a frank and somewhat misunderstood girl, manages to piss off her school's most popular playboy, Kyouta, right after the school entrance ceremony, and from that point on he decides to make her life miserable by stealing all of her "firsts," including her first kiss. Eventually the two make up and grow to like each-other. When Tsubaki gives Kyouta the birthday present of a makeshift planetarium in the classroom, he confesses his feelings to her, though she doesn't recognize it as such, and promises to trust her even though his trust has been betrayed in the past.
Tsubaki spends the next couple of days avoiding Kyouta's advances, because she doesn't believe that his love is serious; she assumes that she's the only one whose feelings are genuine, and that Kyouta has been playing her all along. An encounter in the library after school convinces her that Kyouta is working to change his ways, and his earnest confession begins their story of true, mutual love.
Thoughts: Clearly meant for fans of the manga (and included on a DVD with one of the manga volumes) this OAD manages to compress a lot of content into a tiny little space. How do I know this, having never read a page of the manga itself? Because there's a severe lack of character development - Tsubaki goes from wiping Kyouta's unwanted kisses from her mouth in disgust, to suddenly getting teary-eyed while attempting to impress him with her starry planetarium display and suggesting that she plans to nurture her feelings for him throughout their three years in high school. The whiplash-inducing shift in her attitude is just one of the things that's really, really wrong with this 20 minute amalgamation of story excerpts from what appears to be a middling shoujo manga.
Having recently watched Kimi ni Todoke, a shoujo series that had not only a lot of heart, but a good grasp of how to present characters that might be a bit clich� or unrealistic in such a way as to make them feel realistic and sympathetic, this 20 minute episode was thrown into sharp relief. Tsubaki and Kyouta are not provided the same loving care that went into the creation and portrayal of Sawako and Kazehaya, unfortunately. This shoujo series' relationship gimmick (and they almost all seem to have them, even the very good ones) is that the two characters share a name - Kyouta's family name is Tsubaki. Of course, this isn't expounded upon except during the course of Tsubaki's all-too-brief bout of being annoyed with Kyouta, an attitude which lasts for maybe the first minute or two of the episode before suddenly being tossed aside in favor of taming the wild playboy. There's some suggestion that a betrayal by his mother and a female teacher helped to shape Kyouta's wandering ways and his initial unwillingness to commit to a relationship with Tsubaki, and more explanation regarding this scenario would have perhaps made him appear to be less of a douche. Not an excuse for his behavior, but an explanation for it. Instead, it just feels tacked on because the specifics of the situation aren't known (did his mother abandon him? Was he molested by a teacher?). While I think it's safe to assume that there was some impetus to include all the important points for the fans of the manga, cramming them all into a tiny 20 minute window while ignoring proper techniques of good storytelling just made it seem more and more like the characters were entirely too impulsive, acting without thinking (and yes, I realize they're high school students, but even so much of what they did seemed illogical and out-of-line).
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this OAD is the way it portrays the obviously abusive, manipulative relationship the two characters have. Some people might think that I'm overreacting to the content of the episode, but the actions of the characters demonstrate what I think is wrong with a lot of romantic fiction - it reinforces the idea that, even if a female characters says that she doesn't want to kiss (or have sex with) the male character, she just needs to be "convinced" by him and will eventually come to her senses and realize the intensity of his love. Multiple times during the episode, Kyouta forcefully grabs Tsubaki by the arm, violently holds her down and kisses her against her will, while she's both physically and mentally resisting him. And more than once, she eventually gives in to this behavior. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to watch relationships presented in this way, because it essentially glorifies rape; if it's considered okay to kiss a girl against her will, it's implied, in my opinion, that the same rules apply in other situations. This is wrong, of course, but in so many shoujo series it seems like the idea that "no means yes" continues to be disseminated, and it's a real pet peeve of mine.
In light of my complaints regarding this OAD's content, this comment might ring a bit hollow, but one thing that I enjoyed in spite of everything else was the nice background artwork. Though again, I'm forced to compare it to Kimi ni Todoke, a standard to which this episode could never hope to reach. The planetarium scene in particular is beautifully rendered and has an otherworldly glow, adding a bit of magic to the otherwise awkwardly-presented romantic aspects. The scene at dusk in the library also pops with deep oranges and watercolor textures. Though whoever was in charge of episode composition phoned in his/her work, the background artists deserve whatever they were paid and then some. The character designs on the other hand, represent some of the most annoying trends in shoujo manga aesthetics, namely the prevalence of goofy-looking, pouty red lips on both male and female characters, and huge, goofy eyes. Visually, anime is defined for most people by large, shining eyes, but Tsubaki's are just downright ridiculous and look like they belong more in a series made for very young girls instead of young teens.
Some of my early anime favorites were shoujo series, and while I no longer have any particular genre loyalties, it still pains me to see terribad examples of shoujo anime like this one. I was young and impressionable once, and it bothers me to think that I might have seen something like this and possibly internalized it as a good example of what a relationship should be like. Manga and anime don't necessarily have to be entirely realistic, and part of the enjoyment one gets from reading the stories probably comes from certain elements of fantasy. But stuff like this is just irresponsible, and even a fully-realized anime series couldn't make up for the "rape is okay" mentality that I'm seeing here.
- The background artwork is very beautiful and full of great color and texture.
- The characters aren't fully-realized and seem shallow.
- The idea of the "no means yes" attitude presented here repulses me.
Recommended? No, there's simply too much wrong with this OAD in terms of writing, composition and attitude for me to be able to say much of anything good about it.