As winter comes, there are a lot more sniffles around the office where I work. I’ve had a sore throat the last few days, the lady in the office next to me spent the whole today clearing her throat constantly, and our office manager is once again going around telling the story of when our company was a lot smaller, and everyone in the office was sick or home with a sick child.
There are a lot of single mothers where I work, and they spend much more of their time off caring for sick children or taking them to the doctor than they take off for their own reasons. I’d never thought about it much, other than to roll my eyes at the extra work I’d have to do because one of them was home with a sick kid.
If you had asked me about it, I’d probably have agreed, purely on an intellectual basis, that being a single mother is substantially more difficult than just being single, or having another partner to help take care of children. Thinking about all the time and energy that went into taking care of you, you can kind of map that onto the average amount of free time someone who works a full-time job has on any given day, plus the additional expense of all the stuff kids need and want badly enough to whine about, and realize that working full time and being the sole caretaker of one child, let alone several, is a pretty tough job.
Well, having taken a season break after wrapping up their lovely but ultimately flawed Gosick, it looks the animation studio Bones is ready to try their hand at another mystery series, this time set in a near future Japan. And like with Gosick, the mystery trappings of the show are just that: trappings. It’s clear that the heart of the show is elsewhere.
I suppose that’s a good thing, because if Un-Go was meant to be a mystery series, it fails horribly. Thus far the mysteries have been mostly predictable and easily solved (particularly in the second episode). The feeling of a just resolution that comes from seeing the guilty be caught and punished is also absent, for the guilty more or less get away with it. This show is not about crime solving because solving crime is about discovering the truth. This is show concerns itself with a more basic question: whether it is possible for the truth to win out in an age of mass media and government manipulation.
Last time I wrote about Usagi Drop, I wrote about Daikichi’s cousin, and my discomfort with the show’s insistence that she remain in what seemed to be a demeaning and unfulfilling existence. The show’s emphasis on traditional Japanese family values has been something of a reoccurring theme so far, and it comes back again strongly here, with its most untraditional female character.
Funimation spent 2010 simulcasting every noitaminA show it could get its hands on, which gave us gems like Tatami Galaxy, Shiki, and Princess Jellyfish. This year, the company has been much more selective about its simulcast choices in general, including with the noitaminA block. It selected the high-concept sci-fi dystopia series with thinly veiled social commentary over the carefully crafted character drama in winter and spring, and didn’t even pick up the dystopia show in the summer. That last decision was wise, as No. 6 was the worst noitaminA show we’ve had in years, but Fractale and [C] were also far weaker than their less political counterparts.
Guilty Crown is the latest show set in a dystopian future; here Japan has been taken over by a shadowy multinational organization and a band of resistance fighters seeks to liberate the country. One would think that Funimation would still be a bit shy of this sort of series, given how their last picks turned out, but instead the company is doubling down on their pick, running ads on anime related websites about how Guilty Crown is “the most anticipated new series” of the season.
Given the show is vying with the swan song of one of the most iconic series of the past decade, and the lavishly produced prequel of the popular Fate/Stay Night, that was and is a rather grandiose claim, but it may well be true. The more amazing fact is that all that anticipation looks to be justified.
One thing interesting about watching anime is how familiar the values and ideals expressed in it often are. While watching the product of a different (and, in the case of most anime, non-mainstream) culture is one of the style’s main draws for me, most of the time when what I’ve watched has sharply contrasted with my own beliefs, it’s been because the show is unabashedly focused on the sexual desires of lonely otaku, or because it’s just terribly, terribly written.
It doesn’t often happen in drama shows, or shows that aren’t otherwise flawed in other ways that make the dissonance easy to write off. That’s part of what makes this episode so jarring.
We are all connected to the people who came before us, just like our children and grandchildren will be to us. Those ties can be weak or shallow, depending on whom they are with, but they exist nonetheless, stretching back beyond antiquity to our very first ancestors.
To me, that’s a grand, powerful thought—that all of us are folded together into the great narrative of humanity—but it’s equally true on a smaller level, as well. Because we’re also connected to our family, to the people who created us, the people who raised us, and the people whose impact has irreversibly changed our lives.
Ever since Daikichi took Rin home, he has wondered about her mother. Throughout the previous episodes, he has been slowly piecing together information on her: she’s young, not much more than a girl herself, and was apparently his grandfather’s maid, which explains where an 80-year old man would have even met someone who could have borne his child.
Eventually, he gets a name, Masako Yoshii, and phone number. Although he doubts she wants anything to do with Rin, the temptation is too great. He has to schedule a meeting with her.
Masako, it turns out, is a manga artist who finally started to get noticed right as she became pregnant with Rin. She quickly decided not to think of Rin as her daughter, but was persuaded by the father to keep the child.
Although she grew attached to Rin after giving birth, Masako quickly gave up on parenting, the huge time demands and late night meetings that are part of making manga grew too much to be both a parent and an artist.