I know y’all are probably waiting for a really deep explanation of the boxing match, but I’m just trying to overcome this sudden, crippling wave of Kangaroo Jack flashbacks. The horror.
Episode Specifics: Nanami is convinced that someone is out to kill her after almost falling victim to a series of bizarre ‘accidents.’ Your typical misunderstood conversation/histrionic adolescent combo convinces her that Touga is the one trying to do her in, leading her to seek out a boyfriend/bodyguard/minion in the form of sixth grader Tsuwabuki. Naturally, Tsuwabuki’s the one who’s been setting these accidents up in hopes of being able to gallantly save Nanami, the revelation of which goes over about as well as you’d expect. In other news, the animal kingdom’s hatred of Nanami is not a recent thing.
Do you lot ever do real student council stuff?
Call in door prize donations? Panhandle funds? Have stupid and head splitting arguments with school administration over their petty and arbitrary restrictions, regretting the wasted free time but a little too unmotivated to quit? Narrowly avoid throttling the other members for the same reason?
This week’s commentary goes beyond interesting production trivia – it’s the kind of thing that’s impossible to unsee as far as the narrative goes. Of course this episode should’ve come later. Of course the noticeably incongruous and light body switching episode should’ve come at the halfway point of the cour rather than two thirds through. This explains so many things. On that note, I took an eye at what would’ve originally been some pretty interesting episode-before foreshadowing.
Creator Commentary: This episode originally went into production as “Episode 8.” It was “in production as Episode 8” during scripting, storyboarding, and even after animation started. But it got switched in the broadcast order with as “Episode 6 (“Curried High Trip,” which broadcast as Episode 8),” because that episode fell behind schedule.
Because I always called this “Episode 8” during the production process, the impression stuck in my mind to this day is: “Curry is Ep 6; the kangaroo is Ep 8.”
It’s a comedic story, but it shows Nanami’s feelings for Touga. This wasn’t just about Nanami; it was also about how we’d present Touga. The original plan was to connect stories with a “Touga Episodes” theme: first in episode 8 we’d show Nanami’s feelings for Touga in a comedic way, then in episode 9 we’d show Touga in contrast with Saionji, then in episode 10 we’d show Touga using Nanami’s feelings for him, and finally in episode 11 we’d show Touga facing off against Utena.
I’d used a group of three identical characters before, in Sailor Moon S. It was strangely fun, so I tried sticking them in this show, too. The staff liked them, too (it was probably more like the staff found them convenient), so we turned them into semi-regular characters. It’s largely thanks to Ms. Hayashi, the animation director, that the production troubles weren’t reflected in the quality of the episode. I like how Touga looks so unnecessarily cool during the climax, when he defeats the kangaroo.
All the moments to call attention to ‘Hey, we worked on Eva,’
And they pick the Shinji-runs-from-NERV scene for Nanami. Iiiiiinteresting
Character Spotlight: I often wonder if my fondness for Nanami, as well as her general lack of popularity amongst the online fanbase, has something to do with the relativity of age. I’m well beyond the age where the Nanamis of the world can do me any harm, after all, so to my mind we’re watching the cringe-worthy yet somehow endearingly ineffective flails of a child desperately trying to control the world around them.
A younger viewer, still in the annals of secondary education, might still feel the pull of the extremely structured world where that kind of person might have some actual influence, setting one’s teeth on edge (and I think this is even built into the show somewhat, with Nanami’s episodes becoming more and more about her over the top misfortunes and misunderstandings until her final arc reveals the still childlike fragility of her worldview).
There’s no doubt that Nanami hurts others – she spends a good chunk of this episode stepping all over Tsuwabuki before Utena quite rightly calls her on it – but as I believe I’ve mentioned before, it’s not really a true cruelty. She’s no Akio, nor even as adept at the use and manipulation of others as her brother, setting up pawns and ruining whole lives in a network of schemes. Rather, she sees something she wants and takes it, finds something that makes her angry and lashes out against it. The violence of a schoolyard fight rather than a war, you might say – it still hurts, but both sides will walk away none too scarred. It’s a mark of Utena’s growing maturity as main character, and perhaps our own as audience, when Nanami isn’t so much a threat as a pitiful kid.
Have You Heard: Ah, camping. That thing that none of us really like but pretend we do, once we’re home again and have blocked out all the annoyances? The point being that the farther away we are from an event in our past (particular one we place a lot of weight on) the more we tend to romanticize it, buffing up the good bits and quietly forgetting the things we hated about it.
This applies to Nanami as much as it does to Tsuwabuki – both of them have idealized not only their childhoods (…relatively speaking) but the person they’re looking up to as well. Anyone looking in from the outside can (and they do) point out what’s unbalanced or ‘wrong’ about the relationship, but nostalgia can be a hard thing to shake.
Anthy Watch: Nothing really this week – there is that theory floating about that Anthy was the one who cursed Nanami to be hated by animals, but I think the flashback near-trampling puts a touch of a damper on that (that’s an awfully long game to be playing, and long before the dress incident as far as personal revenge goes). The silhouette Nanami sees in the overpass does look a touch like Akio (making sure a duelist isn’t taken out of commission?), but more likely that was Nanami’s imagination blowing things out of proportion.
I am rather interested in the greenhouse scene – Anthy has nothing to gain in the game from arguing against Touga, and arguably doesn’t know she’s being watched by outside parties. It’s the first glimpse of the overwhelming compassion that caused her to sacrifice herself in the first place, wholly removed from humanity and instead channeled into every kind of unwanted animal.
Themes: This might be the first time, though it won’t be the last, that the show’s begun to explore themes of love and devotion: what we do to be near the person we love, why we love them (and the titles that love receives); and how, at least for now, love can create inequality between people.
There’s very much a hierarchy of love in this episode – Nanami considers regular boys to be nothing, Tsuwabuki becomes her boyfriend so that he can be close to her (and that’s the social role that will let him come nearest), but he really wants to be her big brother – that is to say, he wants to be the person who she looks up to and can protect her, and his experience watching Touga labelled that relationship for him.
Those of us watching might feel the kneejerk contention that really he wants to be her boyfriend: after all, to us ‘big brother’ connotes seniority first and foremost, something Tsuwabuki will never have. But the label itself is the problem, and giving him another ill-fitting one solves nothing. Tsuwabuki knows how he feels and what, on a very simple level, that means.
It’s the simple desire to be close to another person, with a tentative foot in romance, friendship, and admiration. It’s…well, it’s got a lot of similarities to another long-time relationship with another certain Kiryuu sibling, resolutely boxed as ‘friendship’ on fairly arbitrary societal standards (seriously, it’s now killing me a little bit that this episode doesn’t directly precede episode 9).