12/21/2007

Twelve Moments in Anime 2007 - #5: Da Capo 22

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The "12 Days of Christmas" series is a joint feature by some members of the Anime Blogging Collective recognizing twelve moments, twelve series, or just twelve things about anime that we've enjoyed over the past year, that really make us enjoy loving what we do, and that is being an anime fan. Feel free to join in the list-making fun too if you wish. We hope you enjoy this feature.

"There is no coincidence. There is nothing but the inevitable."

Ah, but what is the inevitable, Kaho-sensei? Sometimes one has to wonder just how the pieces manage to fall in just the right place to make a moment legendary.

It's those moments that you just can't reproduce, when it goes beyond the anime itself. A series of events where the stars line up just right, creating an image that's like none ever seen.

Again, in a sense, it's connection. A character, a moment manages to hit just the right nerve, hits the resonant frequency, and that is when the powerful moments happen.

It's when every conception you had of a character gets reversed, when a character you wrote off as scratch comes off to hit you with a story, a moment like you would never believe.

Maybe I'm a sucker for tear-jerkers. Maybe I'm a sucker for these plots. Maybe I'm just a giant sap inside.

But I never thought I would like cat-eared maids as much as I did when watching Da Capo 22.


12 Moments of Anime 2007
#5 Da Capo 22
"Isn't it sad, Yoriko?"


Let me get things straight: us harem freaks are not all crazy.

Siscon isn't incredibly appealing, I like girls whose chests don't generate their own gravitational field, and I've never been one for maids.

Although there have been amazing examples (Hisui) of characters (Hisui) done right (Hisui) who happen to be maids (and Kohaku, I suppose), as a whole the maid stereotype is a disturbing representative of what most people see in the harem genre; unabashed, blatant pandering.

Because for every good maid there is out there, there's a couple dozen more ones that live only to shout "Welcome back, master" and get into awkward fanserivce situations. Being one who prefers to live by perhaps more subtle appeals than obvious sexualization and escapism, it's always frustrating seeing a character wasted or a bit of belief suspended for an essential doormat (and usually a very idealized one at that) for fanboys to drool over.

Unsuprisingly then, when Yoriko, not just a maid, but one with cat-ears (another strange fetish, to me), was revealed in Da Capo, I was less than enthusiastic. I mean, I've never seen a clumsy but well-intentioned (and proportioned) French maid in anime appear out of nowhere before.

As usual, however, my massive sarcasm turned out to betray me in the end.

Da Capo, while seeming to have some pretty stereotypical harem characters initially, didn't fare too bad in the character development department (Moe's rule of Why Can't Characters Have Breasts AND A Story? beside).

The double siscon trouble of Nemu and Sakura showed a lot of sides to the two that wouldn't be expected; Sakura at the least struggled with her subconscious jealousy of Nemu, and Nemu wasn't too bad in herself, with a sharp (if not mean) wit hiding a worrisome, shy personality.

Kotori, the school idol and fan favorite, had an enjoyable little piece about the ever-intriguing ability to read minds - sometimes willingly, sometimes not. And her story dealt not just with the massive power an ability provides but also the massive reliance that having such a skill causes, and the vulnerability felt when the ability fades and she feels like a fish out of water.

Mako took up the role of the enjoyable character that should get more screentime in the story than she ended up getting; her tsundere act was like Nemu's except with less edge to it, and so watching her struggle to express her feelings for at least one episode was heartwarming. It's a shame that Kotori was already there to take up the president's role in the D.C. wing of the Nayuki Club.

And, well, Suginami had me at "hey, I'm another half-witty, half-scheming, nigh-on-invicible and damn hilarious friend of the main character."

One of the strengths of Da Capo, I felt, was the way in which it tied everything together. While Nemu and Sakura did take center stage, their plot was connected to the ever-blooming cherry blossom tree, which was in turn connected to the special abilities of all the characters. And so, the storyline with Sakura killing the sakura tree set off repercussions throughout the anime.

Yoriko was one of those affected. She wasn't an overly important character to the story before, perhaps staring in a few fanservice moments. There was a small subplot revolving around her fear of going outside - tied to her true nature as a cat, and whatnot.

Still, she served mostly as a background character, or maybe a catalyst to the relationship of Junichi and Nemu.

But, for one episode, all of that changed.

In retrospect, it was another one of those things I should've seen coming. The fact that a random neko-mimi maid popped out of nowhere was certainly suspicious, combined with all the mystery surrounding Misaki the sheltered girl and her dissapeared cat.

But I wrote it off as simple Harem Circumstances - one of those things that should be accepted, rather than explained. And so, I didn't really expect Yoriko to get a huge moment in the spotlight.

And if I did, certainly not like this. Goodbye scenes are pretty common in a lot of visual novel anime, and they're not much for fazing me, but this one caught me flat-footed and came with a bunch of special circumstances that really made it top-notch.

There was a point in the episode, one which I'm very familiar with, that "Oh don't tell me" moment where it suddenly occurs to me that I'm not going to be seeing Yoriko beyond this episode. A change in speech, a sudden amount of attention brought to a character never seen before, a different music, atmosphere, it all added up to one thing and that was a tearful farewell.

And, as common as these things are nowadays, it really worked wonders this time around. Watching Yoriko build up the courage and tell Junichi her true story was a really touching moment, especially as she managed to keep a smile on her face when telling Junichi about all the daily errands, like she would still be there tommorow.

Maybe that's a weakness of mine, watching people trying to put on a different face from what they're truly feeling. It's a kind of strength that few characters exhibit.

BUt the seal on the deal was just how far Yoriko managed to push herself in her confession; the final goodbye kiss was one that was completely unexpected and the final emotionally powerful touch on a charged scene.

Being one that fights for the underdogs in harem romance all the time, it always touches me to see someone realize their unrequited (or perhaps, in this case, impossible) love, if only for a moment.

And, as shown in the picture above, sometimes the outside circumstances really put the cherry on top of the sundae of awesomeness. Satsuki Yumizuka is a similar character, one of my personal favorites and popular with fans for her sad and never-resolved story; it's completely impossible to land a good end with her in the Tsukihime visual novel.

The background pictured, of Satsuki delivering her true feelings, is incredibly fitting for a moment like this, with incredible parallels that makes me wonder what divine force is behind my background rotating program. These two characters are ones that grab me strongly with their tearfully touching stories, with goodbye scenes that rank up there with the most touching of moments.

And so, to see the two of their plots juxtaposed on each others', at least on my computer screen, for a fleeting minute, is something incredibly powerful. I guess, in the end, when a maid's story is good, a maid's story is good.

-CCY

4 comments:

That kiss scene in ep 22 ranks as one of my all time favourites in anime. The meld of cinematography and music was so gripping. It also made me realise how awesome the Da Capo OST is.

Great job summarising the strengths of Da Capo. Detractors of the series need to read this post. :)

Note to self: when Stripey is in need of summoning, mention Da Capo. XD

The Da Capo OST didn't strike me as much during my first watch of it - the OPs for first and second season were nice but the BGM wasn't stand-out in comparison to other visual novel shows like Kanon, Tsukihime, or sola. If I ever go through D.C. again, I will have to pay attention to the music more.

(With any luck, I hope for someone to license D.C. so I can have an excuse to rewatch it. It's funny, how harem shows like this haven't really caught on the U.S. anime market. Or, have they?)

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