Deep in the Tiger’s Den is a Het Pairing: Sasuke × Sakura’s Doujinshi Popularity

When I traveled to Japan this past May, one of my activities was to visit various doujin shops such as Toranoana. I like to see what’s popular, to get a general image of trends among hardcore fans. Which titles are popular? Which characters? Which pairings? And unlike doujin events, where many artists release their own works more for passion than profit, Toranoana is about what sells.

In Akihabara, this means going to multiple Toranoana stores, each of which specialize in a certain demographic. One in particular is devoted to girls (though nothing prevents guys from entering and shopping there), and as expected it’s primarily filled with BL.

However, one major exception was actually Naruto. In a relatively small yet dedicated section, surrounded by guy-guy pairings in most every other title, heterosexual romance took to the majority of the Naruto shelf. Of those couples, Sakura × Sasuke was by far the most popular.

I’m not against Sasuke × Sakura by any means, but I have to wonder why does it hold such a special place among hardcore female anime and manga fans. Why is it to the point that other het pairings are outshone, and the normally dominant BL pairings fade into the distance in this one ninja-themed microcosm?

One thing I discovered while searching for reasons is that Sasuke × Sakura is perhaps the most popular straight romantic pairing in English-speaking Naruto fandom, and visibly popular among Japanese fans. Given that context, it might just be the case that its sheer prominence is able to overcome even the fujoshi hegemony of the girls’ doujin scene.

Perhaps one factor is that Sakura is an easy target for female readers to project themselves onto. She’s also closer to the two most important characters in the manga than anyone else. However, given that fujoshi popularity is usually based on the strength of the pairing itself than the individual characters, it makes me skeptical about Sasuke × Sakura being an exception, even if it is a heterosexual ship.

From what I’ve read, a common reason fans support Sakura is her sense of loyalty towards Sasuke. She’s willing to support him through thick and thin, and even oppose him when she feels he needs it. The scene where Sakura tries to stop Sasuke from leaving to join Orochimaru appears to have been a flashpoint for supporters and haters of Sasuke × Sakura, because the former saw Sasuke’s “thank you” and knocking Saa away as him reluctantly pushing away those he cares about, while the latter saw it as an example of Sasuke showing flat, platonic fondness at best. Given the actual outcome of the series—Sakura and Sasuke married and had a child—the fans clearly won out, with Sasuke’s behavior best described as “reliably angsty.” Even as husband and wife, Sasuke’s #1 gesture to show affection is to tap Sakura on the forehead, and then disappear for months or years on end, undergoing secret missions to protect his family Andy his village.

Sasuke × Sakura reigns strong as a premiere het pairing, and I’m not bothered one bit. If any fans would like to help me understand the SasuSaku mind further, feel free to comment!

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Darling in the Franxx: Thoughts on a Divisive Anime

WARNING: Spoilers for Darling in the Franxx, Gurren-Lagann, Evangelion, and Daitarn 3 (yes, you read that right)

When I first wrote about Darling in the Franxx and its sexual dystopia, the series had just presented some major revelations, among them how Hiro and Zero Two first met, and the true identity of the Klaxosaurs. Seven concluding episodes later, it turns out those “bombshells” were only the tip of the iceberg.

But this show has been full of surprises, and fan reactions to all of these twists and turns has been just as fascinating to follow as the show itself. Darling in the Franxx is, in a word, divisive—perhaps more than any other anime I’ve seen in a long time. I believe the reason for this boils down to one thing: the show attracted a wider range of fan types than most anything else, and the conflicting takes are a product of these differences. My own take is tha the series only got better as it went along, but I’m well aware that many do not share my view to the extent that it seems as if we were all watching different anime. When I give my opinion and analysis of Darling in the Franxx, it’s with this caveat in mind.

Eye of the Beholder

Let’s get into some of the major reveals in the last quarter of the series.

  • Magma energy is revealed to be the energy source that has allowed humanity to achieve immortality.
  • The Klaxosaurs don’t consider humans their true enemy, because the actual problem is a non-corporeal alien race of conquerors called the VIRM, who all but destroyed Klaxosaur civilization both directly and indirectly thousands of years ago.
  • “Papa” is actually one of the VIRM. They infiltrated the human race and purposely pointed them towards magma energy as a way to weaken the Klaxosaurs. This is because the planet’s magma is actually made up of Klaxosaurs who purposely sacrificed themselves to become an energy source for the monster-form Klaxosaurs to fight off the VIRM.
  • The VIRM basically takes the minds of all of the adults because their goal is to integrate all species in the universe within themselves. This leaves only the non-adults (namely the Franxx pilots!) left to fight. The remaining humans join forces with the Klaxosaurs and go into space to fight the VIRM.
  • Ultimately, through the power of love and friendship, Hiro and Zero Two manage to truly become one (more on that later) and defeat the VIRM. Humanity has to rebuild without the use of magma energy, fully aware of the price they paid for draining the planet of such an important resource, and out of respect for the Klaxosaurs.

That’s quite a lot for a series where the initial main debate was “which girl is better, Zero Two or Ichigo?”, and for every fan who fell in love with the show from episode 1 only to be disappointed by where it went by episode 24, there seems to be another fan who thinks the opposite. Moreover, unlike series such as Dragon Ball Z, where the things that fans love about it are the very same things the haters scoff at, no one can actually seem to agree what Darling in the Franxx is about or what it’s saying, let alone which parts are good or bad.

The anime appears to have drawn in a larger variety of anime fans to it than is typical, combining a multitude of genre signals (mecha, science fiction, romance, love triangle) with provocative, often sexual imagery. As a result, the disparate values (both in terms of personal values and ideas as to what makes a show good) of the viewers meant that people came to the show with wildly different expectations from one another. In this environment, I’m not certain I can change anyone’s minds, but I can at least put my thoughts out there.

Defying and Affirming Conventional Humanity Through Romance

Take the subject of my previous post: whether or not the anime reinforced heteronormative values, extending to the rule of man and woman as father and mother. While Darling in the Franxx indeed ends with multiple characters having children in heterosexual relationships, it’s still notable that the main couple of the story cannot have children together. The ultimate expression of their union and happiness instead involves Zero Two becoming a literal giant robot version of herself, in a cross between a wedding dress and Mechagodzilla, while Hiro pilots her from within, carrying connotations of both penis and womb but also referencing the series’s own world. Hiro, in a way, acts like the magma energy that powers the Klaxosaurs, moving away from “conventional humanity” in order to be with the one he loves.

On a less dramatic scale, Ikuno (the only lesbian in the series) ultimately does not have children, but instead devotes her life to science and medicine. Without having any offspring of her own, she makes for herself a position that can help ensure humanity’s future. Hiro, Zero Two, and Ikuno all found ways to help humanity without having to be directly involved in pregnancy. And while not entirely clear, it might just be the case that Ikuno found someone who reciprocated her feelings as well. So I can’t see Darling in the Franxx as being all gung-ho about baby-making at the expense of other people’s life choices, though those more sensitive to the topic might see the degree to which the core cast decides to have children to be the stronger message.

Through the Lens of a Long-Time Mecha Fan

Another criticism of this series is that it’s shallow, schlock entertainment more interested in M. Night Shyamalan-esque swerves than any actual substance. What exactly this has meant in the context of Darling in the Franxx has changed over the course of the series, but one of the big sticking points is the VIRM reveal. Online discussion revolved around whether this was an unnecessary twist that betrayed the feel and purpose of the series, or if the show had cleverly set it up all along, and that it made perfect sense for Darling in the Franxx. I personally lean towards the latter, but I think this comes partly from being a long-time fan of the mecha.

Long before Gurren-Lagann took “go big or go home” to the most lovingly ridiculous degrees, sudden shifts to space or to larger-scale stakes were part and parcel of an anime genre founded in kids’ entertainment. The series Daitarn 3 (1978) literally goes immediately from Earth to space for the first time (barring flashbacks) in the final episode. In time, more creative and ambitious shows tried to incorporate that dramatic build-up more effectively, and I see the heavy emphasis on personal relationships and sexual tension of early Darling in the Franxx as an effective low-key cornerstone that sets up the eventual ramp-up in the long-term. Even the rapid pace of the last few episodes bothered me little for similar reasons, but fans who did not come into anime on shows that preferred such abrupt shifts could very well see it as clunky, headless-chicken writing. I understand, yet I still feel the progression to be appropriate and maybe even nostalgic.

Final Thoughts on the VIRM, and the Ending

It’s not uncommon to see Darling in the Franxx compared to either Evangelion or Gurren-Lagann for aesthetic and thematic reasons, but there’s another factor all three shows share: the idea that they in some way or form betrayed their audiences. Evangelion is probably the most famous example of an unexpected ending, with its compete stylistic departure and its abstract, introspection-heavy final episodes. Famously, the staff of Evangelion actually received death threats for it. Gurren-Lagann pulled the brakes on its do-anything, push-the-envelope mentality for its conclusion, which stung fans who watched it precisely to revel in that feeling of “doing the impossible.” Darling in the Franxx is capable of “betraying” large swathes of its diverse viewership, but I do not think the series actually crumbles when looked at with greater scrutiny.

While the opinion that the VIRM twist comes “out of nowhere” isn’t shared by all—some even accurately predicted the show’s move into space—I think an essential difference between detractors and supporters of the final episodes is that the finale comes with a tonal shift from being an anime that was focused heavily, at least on the surface, on the personal, intimate, and erotic. If that’s what you came to the show for, then it might feel like the two pieces don’t connect.

As mentioned previously, however, I don’t mind this change one bit. The reason? Because Darling in the Franxx has emphasized that something is terribly wrong with its world all along, and not just in terms of the Klaxosaur attacks. Whether it’s meeting other Franxx pilots and realizing how emotionally stunted they are, to the adult/child divide, to the sheer sterility of their cities, something has felt amiss from the start. Perhaps the VIRM being “the real enemy” can feel contrived, but taking a wide view of the series means seeing the depiction of a false Utopia that humankind bought into and that the children had to eventually make up for. Not enough people questioned the gradual consolidation of power around Papa and his organization, APE, or the exact nature of magma energy. Theirs was a society of ignorance, and it led to children like Hiro being punished for trying to fight that ignorance.

Even though Hiro and Zero Two manage to deal a crippling blow to the VIRM, the real challenge is trying to survive as a species without any magic bullets like magma energy. The libidinous energy that was once literally redirected into warfare goes to expressing love, whether that’s through making children, helping children, or just creating happiness. While personal perspective plays a significant role in how one interprets the series’s message, is it strange to see the main cast, poised to change the world since the first episode, end up doing so?

The Important Lesson Nadesico Teaches Us About Entertainment

Current discussion of entertainment media is filled with questions as to what messages, intentional or otherwise, are conveyed to audiences. Does a work promote racism or sexism through its characters actions? Does a series portray as heroic characters whose values are misanthropic? In this time, one work to look back on is the science fiction anime Martian Successor Nadesico, which highlights the idea that creative works are ultimately subject to personal interpretation, but that those subjective outlooks can have real consequences.

In Nadesico, many of the characters are fans of an old giant robot anime called Gekigangar 3. Cut from the same mold as 70s-era anime such as Getter Robo and Voltes V, it’s a simple story about heroes of Earth defending against alien invaders through the power of friendship and passion. At first, this series within a series acts mainly as a fun retro contrast to the setting and aesthetics of Nadesico itself. This all changes, however, when it’s revealed that the enemy forces are also fans of Gekigangar 3. In fact, they’re not just fans—they’ve based their entire civilization on Gekigangar.

Jovian men dress like the male heroes of Gekigangar 3. The women pattern themselves after the sole female character, Nanako. Even the robots they use to fight the Earth forces are made to look like the titular Gekiganger III. This mutual love of the same series between the space battleship Nadesico’s crew and the Jovians opens up the opportunity for peace. After all, Gekigangar 3 is all about friendship and passion, right?

One character, Jovian Vice-Admiral Kusakabe Haruki, does not see it that way, and he acts as the main antagonist at the finale of the TV series. When asked how he could defy the principles of Gekigangar, Kusakabe argues that his actions are completely in accordance with the show that forms the basis of Jovian society because Gekigangar 3 is about victory for the righteous against evil.

The same action scenes that the main crew of the Nadesico viewed as the bridge to peace also acts as the pretense for war and violence. While it’s possible to argue that Kusakabe’s interpretation was misguided and a too-narrow reading of Gekigangar 3, the reality is that it fuels his actions, and that even if the work had the best of intentions, the work does not exist in a vacuum and is subject to both social and personal perspectives.

The final joke about Gekigangar 3 is that the ending is pretty bad and hokey. Negating the noble sacrifice of one of the characters, Joe (whose design and narrative purpose is a mix of Hayato and Musashi from Getter Robo) conveniently comes back from the dead for a last-second save reminiscent of the finale of Mazinger Z when Great Mazinger shows up. The main hero of Nadesico, Tenkawa Akito, talks about how he held off on watching the last episode of Gekigangar 3 for a long time, only to find out that it’s nothing special. In a way, everyone who worshipped Gekigangar 3 put it on a pedestal that far exceeded its actual content, but at the same time the way it inspired people to strive for their best and to live with passion in their hearts is seen as a net-positive. “Remember this anime at its best” is the takeaway for the crew, but it requires an already-held belief of wanting to take a positive and humanity-affirming spin on any media consumed, which won’t always be the case for everyone.

Even works with the best of intentions, like Fight Club, are infamous for being misread. Entertainment meant to portray something in a negative light might accidentally be seen in pop culture as supporting those ideas. So for those shows and films like Gekigangar 3 that aren’t necessarily meant to be deep or extremely thoughtful, the opportunity for both loving and hateful interpretations is even greater. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of those watching to give their takes on a work, even if it’s not 100% intended by the original creators, so that a work’s interactions with the cultural and social symbols that live and grow among us can be discussed and debated upon.

Hopefully Celebrating Independence: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2018

The United States is another year older, and it’s starting to feel its age. I normally don’t try to talk politics too much in these monthly updates, but the times compel me to.

Before I jump into the nitty-gritty messiness, however, I want to thank my sponsors on Patreon and Ko-fi. You help make writing and blogging even more worthwhile than it already is.

Thank you to…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

When it comes to the state of the US in 2018, I feel a great deal of anxiety. Politics are tricky, but I constantly feel as if those in charge, especially on the right, are playing with napalm and are willfully ignoring the danger they pose to the people and the very foundations of American democracy. I’ve been watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These, and every instance of the democratic Free Planets Alliance trying to use jingoistic loyalty or play with human lives to gain favor for an election season his way too close to home at the moment.

If I had to describe my political beliefs, I’d say I’m broadly left/liberal. It’s not as if I walk lock-step with everything the left says, but if I have to choose between a side that can get a little over-enthusiastic about their desire to create a world free of racism, sexism, and discrimination of all kinds, and one that holds onto power by any oppressive means necessary, then I’m willing to take some disagreements from the former. Seeing the endless mental hoops that defenders of our current political climate try to jump through, all in order to keep power in the hands of those who willingly exploit the marginalized, saddens me.

I know that some others on the left don’t share my interpretation of Darling in the Franxx. And in the past, I’ve actually argued that Anita Sarkeesian was unfair in her early analyses of women in video games. But it’s better for a Sarkeesian or anyone else to try and call out issues of representation where she sees them than to pretend they don’t exist at all—or worse yet, drum up controversy for the thinly veiled sake of minimizing input from other groups.

On a lighter note, here are my favorite posts from June.

How Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Gameplay Decisions Support Both Casual and Competitive Players

The new Smash Bros. was revealed, and I am beyond excited. One thing I did notice is that a lot of the new changes try to embrace both casual and competitive players, and I’m optimistic about it.

“Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite” Concludes on a Body-Positive Note

The sequel to Mogusa-san, the story of a charmingly gluttonous girl, comes to an end.

Thoughts on Shinkalion, the Robot Anime Designed to Promote Bullet Trains

Subliminal, liminal, and superliminal approaches to selling the Shinkansen.

Return to Genshiken

It’s the final post on my series 1 re-read! See my closing thoughts on my favorite manga ever.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 5 of Kio’s new manga is the best one yet.

Patreon-Sponsored

The Relevance of Older Anime to Newer Anime Fans

It’ll always benefit a newer fan to look back, at least a little.

Closing

Here’s to hoping for a better world.

Precure: The Crossroads of Voice Acting

Fifteen years is a long time for an anime to continue running strong, and Precure still stands at the apex of the magical girl genre in terms of prominence and notoriety. In that decade and a half, numerous voice actors have lent their performances to Precure, and it’s made this franchise into one in which seiyuu of all stripes, from anime veterans to relative newbies, intersect. To be involved with Precure can become a defining role, or an affirmation of an illustrious career.

In the original Futari wa Pretty Cure, Cure Black was played by Honna Youko, who at the time had more experience playing small roles in live-action series. While the few voice performances under her belt at the time were big deals—starring roles in Studio Ghibli films Omohide Poroporo and Whisper of the Heart—she wasn’t an anime industry juggernaut. Opposite Honna in the role of Cure White was Yukana, who was coming into her own as a fan-favorite due to roles such as Li Meiling in Cardcaptor Sakura and Teletha Testarossa in Full Metal Panic! Since then, Honna has earned some major roles in anime, notably Sumeragi Li Noriega in Gundam 00, but the bulk of her career is in voice-overs and narrations for television. Yukana, meanwhile, has become an anime industry veteran.

Mizusawa Fumie, voice of Cure Marine

Another voice actress who had a career-defining performance in Precure is Mizusawa Fumie, voice of Cure Marine. Prior to Precure, she was relatively unknown, playing roles mostly in small and relatively obscure anime. Now, she’s beloved by both children and adults for her energetic performance in Precure, and is considered a highlight of every crossover movie she appears in. In contrast, Mizusawa’s counterparts—Nana Mizuki (Cure Blossom), Kuwashima Houko (Cure Sunshine), and Hisakawa Aya (Cure Moonlight—were in 2009 already known for numerous characters in extremely popular series. These include Naruto (Nana as Hyuuga Hinata), Azumanga Daioh (Kuwashima as Kagura), and Sailor Moon (Hisakawa as Sailor Mercury).

The list of veterans goes on. Sawashiro Miyuki (Mine Fujiko in the more recent Lupin III works) became Cure Scarlet. Kugimiya Rie, the tsundere queen, came to Precure as Cure Ace. Tamura Yukari (the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha to Nana Mizuki’s Fate Testarossa) is Cure Amour. Koshimizu Ami, who originally began her career as Nadja Applefield from the 2003 Toei anime Ashita no Nadja, became Cure Melody. In each case, there’s a sense that they’ve “arrived in Precure” at long last.

One unique case is Miyamoto Kanako, who began her Precure career as a theme song vocalist across multiple series. In time, she landed the role of Cure Sword before going back to performing more themes. Other Precure singers have made cameo appearances, but only Miyamoto has made it as a Cure.

Various levels of acting experience existing in a production is hardly unusual, anime or otherwise. However, what Precure has is sheer longevity and the constant reboots to bring in new blood. It’s been around for so long that girls who grew up with Precure are now old enough to audition for it. To that point, according to the original producer of the franchise, Washio Takashi, 2017’s Kira Kira Precure a la Mode was the first time that girls who grew up watching the series became the voices behind the Precures themselves. Precure is in a unique position to push younger talent while also celebrating the efforts of voice acting’s Titans, and it should continue to do so for as long as it’s around.

Splaket 11 + Popket Rebroadcast Double Doujin Event Report

On my recent trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to visit not one but two doujin events at the same venue: the Splatoon-themed Splaket 11 and the Pop Team Epic-themed Popket Rebroadcast. Both were held at Ota City Industrial Plaza PiO, which is the same venue as the Love Live! event I attended two years prior.

Splaket

Splaket wasn’t overwhelmingly large by any means, but it did get plenty of foot traffic. I actually saw a few parents bringing their young, Splatoon-loving kids there. I like to imagine they were otaku parents introducing their kids, but Splatoon is big enough a series that I’m not sure that’s guaranteed.

What stood out to me most, however, were the ways artists and creators of these doujin works transformed the Splatoon concept to fit their needs. It’s like the world established by the games is just detailed enough to girl the imagination and just open enough to let that same imagination fill in the blanks. I saw detailed weapons catalogs, fashion guides, BL, yuri, straight romance, Callie and Marie, Marina and Pearl, and everything in between. It made me feel what an astounding success Splatoon is in terms of visual aesthetic and design.

Popket

The first thing I saw upon reaching Popket was the event catalog—a standard of doujim events. However, when I tried to pay for it, it turned out that the ¥333 price tag meant exactly that amount. It’s based on a Pop Team Epic joke about how animators make only ¥3,330,000 (approximately $33,000 USD) in spite of the grueling labor required. if you wanted them to keep the change, they wouldn’t let you! It was free to enter, but if you wanted that extra item, you had to come prepared.

Given that Pop Team Epic actually had a fair amount of mainstream penetration in Japan, I was expecting a fairly large event, but it was actually significantly smaller than Splaket. I’m not sure why this was the case, but I wonder if it was a combination of factors, like scheduling and Pop Team Epic being a difficult series to parody for the purposes of doujinshi.

The goals of fan works are many, but two are taking the original property to new and curious places, and trying to faithfully extend it such that the characters remain familiar as they’re adventures continue. But Pop Team Epic defies nearly all expectations. How do you parody a work that practically parodies itself? How do you tell jokes on its level? It’s not easy.

What I saw from Popket was less parodying Pop Team Epic and more using it to parody other series. Rather than trying to put Popuko and Pipimu in new situations, the doujin creators mimicked the drawing style of the original artist, bkub, to spoof other works. It reminds me of that artist who keeps drawing parody doujinshi of various series in which all the characters look and act like they came from Fist of the North Star.

Overall

It was an afternoon well spent, and a good chance to connect with Japanese fans. As always, I wish there was more of a doujin culture in the US and elsewhere.

R.I.P. Nerd? More like RIPPED Nerd: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 5

I’ve liked Hashikko Ensemble well enough so far, but this is the first time I’ve found myself laughing over and over again while reading.

Summary

The rugby club has their eyes set on recruiting Orihara, but he doesn’t want anything to do with them. Jin wants Orihara for the ensemble club, but when the rugby boys claim that their sport is perfect for strapping young fellows, Jin reveals a secret: he’s actually incredibly ripped!

Jin and the rugby captain decide to settle it with a competition: who can do the most push-ups while reciting the school anthem? But while they seem even, Jin has a trick: harmonizing with the captain to throw him off! Jin’s ploy is successful, and he wins the right to Orihara, but the guy doesn’t care. An altercation with the rugby captain, who demands Orihara honor the bet, causes Orihara to take a swing, accidentally breaking his earphones in the process. An incensed Orihara leaves the classroom, only to run into Akira.

Singing is a Man’s Sport

Who would’ve thought that Kimura Jim was that built? He’s practically Muten Roshi from Dragon Ball or the Incredible Hulk! I simply did not expect this twist, and while I assume it’ll not alter the general story in any crazy way, it does highlight just how into music Jin really is. He got that body just so he could sing better!

Funny thing: as I started this chapter, I thought to myself how Hashikko Ensemble showcases Kio’s knack for depicting realistic characters, where the humor doesn’t feel overtly “manga-esque.”

Then the shirts started coming off. Between the reaction from Hasegawa (whose clear preference for macho bodies comedically contrasts with her friend’s interest in more handsome types) and the “singing push-up” competition, the chapter hit a certain level of absurd that both deviates from Kio’s norm and reinforces that strength in characterization. It’s ridiculous but still somehow down to earth, and not in that healing slice-of-life way.

Orihara’s Part-Time Job?

Orihara has a part-time job of some kind, and it appears to have major implications. Orihara himself states that it’s the reason he can’t join any clubs. Jin guesses—correctly, it seems—that the job has something to do with his voice. I have no idea what that could be, but perhaps he works the loudspeaker at a supermarket or something.

Also, according to Jin, it’s work that probably requires Orihara to be heard, and he theorizes that Orihara has developed a rich baritone where his facial movements allow him to transmit sound more clearly without having to be as loud. This is also some solid storytelling, as it connects one of the first scenes in the chapter, the face exercises Akira and Jin are doing on the title page, with this new information.

The Girls

It might seem unusual that I bring up the female characters in every review, but that’s mainly because their purposes in the story are nowhere near as obvious compared to Akira, Jin, and even Orihara fall into the general flow of the narrative. Gradually, chapter by chapter, they come more into view. In Chapter 5, we learn about Kurata’s antagonistic perspective on club activities, which in her eyes serve no purpose in a high school devoted to tech and engineering—especially not music. Is her path continued opposition of the Ensemble Club? If so, would it be more active or passive? Questions, questions.

I actually didn’t recognize Kurata at first, because she’s only shown up so far with her hair tied up and an intense look in her eye as she tries to master subtlety and control with her tools. The fact that she looks so serious and together in this chapter contrasts somewhat with her previous depictions. The only thing that makes it crystal clear it’s the same girl is the closeup on her eye. If there’s any way to describe her, it might be “serious business to the point of comedy.”

Hasegawa seems pretty nonchalant in general, so seeing her freak out over some hard bodies adds an extra wrinkle to her character. I find it noteworthy that she can talk to Orihara so naturally when he’s implied to be just as buff. Does she really only react to bare muscles, or is there something else? I also wonder if Hasegawa’s going to be into Jin, or if the fact that there’s plenty of muscles to go around means no direct romance.

The Science of Hearing

When Jin is talking to Orihara about the latter’s cryptic “I can’t hear it but I can” statement, he brings up two terms: “phoneme restoration” and “aural harmonic.”

Phoneme restoration, or the phoneme restoration effect, refers to when a listener somehow hears a sound during speech that wasn’t actually present. Under the right conditions, a word could be pronounced with noise replacing or overlapping certain consonants, and our brains fill them in as if they were there.

Aural harmonic is “an overtone that is heard by the normal ear when a pure tone of suitable frequency and intensity is sounded and that is presumably due to the nonlinear response of the ear mechanism.”

In other words, both refer to effects that alter listening and make you hear things that aren’t necessarily there. It’s unclear as to whether or not this applies to Orihara, though.

Songs

No special songs this month! Just the school song again, albeit done by buff guys doing push-ups.

Final Thoughts

I wonder if Orihara’s presumed ability to make his voice heard despite not speaking very loudly means he’s going to be a teacher of sorts for Akira. And as for Jin, I wonder if everyone in school will see him differently now.