After some good laughs (Nozaki-kun), drama (Blue Spring Ride), tears (AnoHana), and schadenfreude (Madoka), the Feels Trip has hit the road again to make a few more stops. The feels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round, ‘round and ‘round, ‘round and ‘round~
WARNING: There will be spoilers. Consider yourself sort-of-warned.
What I Expected Going In: A romance show that had some sort of sad twist or event, giving the title meaning
What I Got: Now here is a show that will make you truly cry....with frustration and rage. I had asked the other authors for recommendations for more shows while I was writing the first installment of this grand journey, and our wonderful chef recommended this equally wonderful lesson over the importance of being specific. When I asked for “feels shows,” I meant feels that can’t be come across by simply driving in rush hour traffic or going to Walmart. As I was watching this and talking about it in the AniTAY chat, our pedantically-minded benefactor kept telling me that he would discuss the show after I had finished. Taking this to mean that eventually things would get better, or at least make sense, I eagerly watched more. Besides the first 6 episodes doing absolutely nothing except introducing the characters, making metaphors about chickens, and not explaining a lot of things (like what in the world the dad does for a living, why there is some random girl living in their house that may or may not be the half-sister of the main character, or why chicken-girl is obsessed with chickens), the show did little to atone for these shortcomings during its latter portion.
The show did very little to build sympathy for the characters, and I didn’t even know who I wanted to advocate in terms of a pairing, let alone who was supposed to be the canon ‘main girl’ and get the happy ending. Each of the girls had little in terms of development and writing to engender any sort of attachment to them. Then, finally, at the end of episode 6, something significant happens and things look like they will pick up. But, unfortunately, the rest of the episodes do little more to develop the characters to a point of making the story emotionally compelling or dramatic. Also, I still don’t understand why chicken-girl had to “collect people’s tears” or whatever she said in the first and last episode, but never referred to outside of those two times. There was kind of a similar theme to M3: The Dark Metal (I like it, but most people will disagree on its effectiveness), which I learned was by the same writer (Anohana was as well), but I feel that the emotions felt by the characters were better expressed in M3 than in True Tears (and better t Anohana, except for that last moment). Now, saying something isn’t as good as another does not mean it is bad, but in this case, True Tears fails to be emotionally moving due to the reasons stated previously.
Once I was finished with the series, I made sure Raitzeno had whatever conversation he was making me wait until the end of the show to have. Here is the short version - Raitz: “Anger and confusion are ‘feels’ as well. You should be more specific next time.” GG. Best troll I’ve seen in a while. The worst part is that I can’t be annoyed, because I would totally do the same to someone else. I’ll give it Feels Points (TM) for being absolutely infuriating, but not a lot because it wasn’t the intended feel.
Feels Rating: Red Chicken Feed/10 (5/10)
The Feels: Frustration; Annoyance; Confusion
What I Expected Going In: Lighthearted slice-of-life feels with some sentimental “dawwww” moments when the main character guy grows connected to the kids and townspeople
What I Got: Barakamon is indeed a great slice-of-life show that has wonderful interactions between the main character and the children/villagers on the island, but it is much more than that. While it doesn’t have the childhood nostalgia that, say, Non Non Biyori does, it has much more progression and development. Besides the lighthearted fun to be had with each episode’s events and the laughs to be enjoyed because of the kids’ (read: Naru’s) actions, each episode slowly built Sensei’s character. At the beginning, I felt the same way he did about the kids, especially when they wouldn’t leave him in peace, but I had expected that, as it comes with the territory of “grumpy loner guy becomes happy through forced socialization with kids.” I enjoy being in solitude as well, but I also enjoy being around people - it’s just the transition from one state to the other that causes friction, much like with Sensei. I think Barakamon did a wonderful job of expressing how he felt most of the time, whether it was commonplace occurrences that made him laugh, smile, or get angry or building up to an awe-inspiring moment that compels Sensei to write. Yes, this might just be a description of any typical slice-of-life, but Barakamon balances a sense of everyday life along with a narrative of a calligrapher from Tokyo who has been exiled to a rural island village trying to find his own style (and ultimately the ability to relax and be happy). There are many times when just one line spoken by a character or one circumstance within an episode evokes a small response of something akin to contentment or understanding, and the directing of the show does a wonderful job of highlighting these small, meaningful moments. Not only did I find a good “happy-feels” show in Barakamon, but also a good show to recommend to people who might want to get into the slice-of-life genre, but just don’t know it yet - there’s enough of a plot to keep most people interested, but a lot of small everyday life going on to set up for other shows that focus entirely on this aspect.
Feels Rating: Konomon/10 (7/10)
The Feels: Happy/Content; Good Laughs; Relaxing
What I Expected Going In: rotoscoping; a sad story about social awkwardness and stuff; that discomfort I get every time some character in a show does something embarrassing or whatnot and I just want to stop watching and leave the room
What I Got: This show, man. This show. I’m terrible with shows based around “look, this character does something awkward and then the rest of the show is about what happens as they deal with it and more awkwardness.” Aku no Hana is definitely one of those shows...and much more. I cannot describe to you what Aku no Hana is. It is not something to be watched, or even felt, but to be endured. And that’s the whole point. The show is painful and awkward and all sorts of awful, and that’s the entire goal of the show, which it executes immaculately. The hardest part about watching this is that there is constantly the slightest sliver of hope throughout the show, and also times where you sympathize with the character but not their actions. Realizing that each of the characters are in legitimate need of something in their lives hits hard as well. From the eerie and sad music to the painfully silent moments - the bland look of the rotoscoping to the strange facial expressions - the OP that changes to match each character and section of the series to the ED that also changes while still retaining its creepy, dreary march onwards - Aku no Hana is the best “feels” show I have seen.
It is most certainly not the best in the sense that it makes you feel good, or that it is enjoyable, but it makes you feel how it wants you to feel regardless of how you want to feel. The audio, visuals, and story are all expertly crafted to make you feel uncomfortable and stressed and ever so slightly hopeful, only to have that hope dashed to the ground and replaced with more cringing and skin-crawling and a new sliver of hopefulness. Because of this, Aku no Hana was one of the most difficult shows to watch for me. The way I explained it after one episode was that the show is amazing...and amazingly painful. There is no mercy here. There is only the story of discomfort and regret and emptiness. You will feel sad. You will not have fun. But you will come out on the other side a little stronger for your endurance and a little more appreciative of things that may not be what you want, but are still excellent at doing what they set out to do.
Feels Rating: no bad joke rating, just a 10/10
The Feels: Discomfort, Fremdschämen, Sadness
This particular stretch of the trip was a particularly bumpy one, between forcing myself to get through another episode of True Tears each time I sat down to watch it and not being able to watch more than 2 episodes of Aku no Hana in a single sitting. As always, suggestions are welcome, but I do have a pretty large list of shows to get through so it may take me a while. For a sneak preview of what’s to come with the next Feels Trip article, I’ll leave you with an old article by the great wowcat himself.
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