In which Tsuwabuki is basically Dipper, but more quickly aware of how tired that crush is.
Episode Specifics: Grade schooler Tsuwabuki is no longer content just being near Nanami, but he’s not sure what wanting “more” means either. Most of all, he wants the answer to the eternal puzzle: “what will make me an adult?”
Tsuwabuki’s duel music is one of the more difficult songs to parse, with a lot more lyrical repetition than some of its fellows. Then again, perhaps that is the point – a child hears the same repetitive refrain when asking the questions our duelist is so interested in. “You’ll understand when you’re older. You’re not old enough for this. You’re too young for me.” It can seem as if the answers aren’t something that will come naturally but something that adults are deliberately locking you out of. Like the modified sighs going on in the lyrics, the specter of adulthood seems to have power to change the simple thing you know into a million subtle shades of meaning (passion, exhaustion, determination, depth, above all meaning). And that Supreme Being, as if tamping down and grasping a simple answer to the “adulthood” question will suddenly tear back a curtain on the true meaning of the universe.
Back to our familiar motif of seemingly impenetrable seperations
I see what you did there, cinematography
The Student Council meeting this week is almost an afterthought, and purposefully so. Our duelists are wondering if they’ve been forgotten, after all. It’s also an interesting spin on the theme of the “unchosen” – Tsuwabuki isn’t allowed at the top of the tower because he isn’t a chosen council member, but he’s the one who will be chosen as a duelist before the episode is out. Even when a perceived stratification is crumbling those who were favored will attempt to hold to it, slipping at last from feared to pathetic – something we’ll be seeing again before the series is done.
Thanks for summing that up for me
Creator Commentary: When I was a kid, I really liked the Candies (a ‘70s idol group). When someone asked me “Who’s your favorite?”, I was seriously torn between Ran and Su.
When I was a kid, I really liked Pink Lady too. Someone asked me, “Who’s your favorite?”
I liked Mie, but for some reason I had the feeling that I shouldn’t say that, so I fudged and said, “Well, I don’t really like one more than the other.”
The Candies got their big break with the song “Toshishita no Otoko no Ko (Younger Boy).” It was a song where girls sang about a younger boy. “You drive me crazy, but I love you”; that lyric made my heart go pitter-patter. It was just as if they were saying “I love you” to me!
Love and delusion are only separated by a very fine line.
In case the gap between them wasn’t clearly illustrated enough for you
Character Spotlight: The youngest of the cast and no less troubled for it, Tsuwabuki reminds us that “adolescence” isn’t tied to the false boundaries of a middle school uniform. My propensity for reference dropping aside, I didn’t make that comparison to Gravity Falls’ Dipper lightly: one of Alex Hirsch’s drawing points in writing Dipper was the remembered frustration of beginning to have adult desires while still trapped in an undeveloped child’s body. Hormones are hell, and a confusing one, a fact that Tsuwabuki is now having to grapple with. But what I want to call attention to (call me biased) is how Tsuwabuke tries to get information about “adulthood.” At first he attempts to ask those around him, only to get innuendo and non-answers. When that fails, he goes to media.
Books and film become the medium of trying to learn life, and it’s only logical. There are no adults worth trusting in this world, after all, and school teaches us that the way to learn is by example. And when it comes down to it, what is there? Well…innuendo and non-answers. At the very least our core cast have begun to ‘look’ like adults, to have the telltale signs of puberty, and so they can see some reflection of themselves in the romantic and sexual narratives created by the adult world (and even then, so many sexual cultures bind their depictions up in shame and restriction that there’s not much for those adolescents to do but….blush and offer innuendo, and guess).
But for kids like Tsuwabuki, there’s nothing. There’s nothing in popular media because that media is created by adults, and (quite rightly, or so I fucking hope) they don’t want to depict young characters dealing with sexual issues because there’s so often the issue of the gaze and making that character a desirable object for themselves/the audience (i.e. other adults). And that fear, one might imagine, bleeds over into books and conversation, strangling it until not only is there no exploitation (good!) but no information (bad!). Because you can’t graft an adult’s experience with romance (with the added years of physical maturation and emotional growth) onto a child’s (with a still-developing brain and so many other factors). And all of a sudden there’s a deep crack in the landscape of what adolescence means, of how to navigate it (or to even have the option to ask) – the very crack that Tsuwabuki feels himself being trapped in.
As a final addendum, Tsuwabuki’s duel item is that half eaten chocolate bar, or the “indirect kiss.” It manages to stand in for Tsuwabuki’s simultaneous desire for ‘adulthood’ but also his unpreparedness for it (the very notion of the ‘indirect kiss’ is childish long before it keeps him from eating the chocolate), and the fact that he truly is at the beginning of adolescence and not just pretending at it – that he’s begun to feel a physical attraction for another person (an attainable one, within his own emotional and physical maturity) even subconsciously.
The more you know!
Have You Heard: And here we have the shadow play to drive it home for us: our narrator (C-ko, if you like), is proudly announcing that she’s an adult because she’s done “it.” Of course, all the adults around her assume she’s talking about sex – just as it comes to the mind of every student Tsuwabuki questions. But there are many things only adults can do: donating blood, driving, voting, joining the military, and so on. And yet, the focus keeps on narrowing back down to one thing.
Anthy Watch: This is going to be a short segment for most of the arc, but it’s damn near enough to break your heart when Anthy talks about the “many things” that make her an adult. There is, of course, sexual experience (as everyone in the library is assuming)…but there’s the sorrow that’s tied to that ‘experience’ as well, and loss, betrayal, love and sacrifice as well. But then, children don’t think of such things.
Themes: Right, so, here we go: sex is put on a pedestal of ridiculous proportions (both in Japan as far as I’ve experienced and here in the States) while simultaneously being a subject of great taboo and shame if not performed in the exact alchemical compound society has deemed appropriate at that moment in time. I believe we can all agree on that. The next step, generally, tends to diverge as to whether sex is either a Very Important Experience shared between loving individuals or an inherently meaningless meeting of flesh and fluids between consenting individuals. The truth is that it can be either of those things (and many shades between) depending on the desires of the people involved.
And that’s just it – sex is so often down to people, more subjective than any other event that’s strictly defined as “adult” (children, after all, can and often do experience death and loss). But there are many imprecise aspects of sex that make it hard to mark out on the Ideal Adult Timeline: the frontal cortex (theoretically bringing adult emotional maturity) doesn’t fully develop until around age 23, but hormones and reproductive cycles can begin as early as 9 or 10; an individual’s sexual desires might manifest early, late, or never; and there’s that aforementioned dearth of information.
The lost Mystery Science Theater episode
So sex is imprecise, and culture is obsessed with it. But with that comes a damaging aspect, especially for our characters. Tsuwabuki is isolated by the oppositional forces going on his life – the individuals (like Nanami) telling him he’s “fine the way he is” while every unspoken aspect of culture impresses the importance of sexual assertiveness upon him…and how that assertiveness is impressed upon him, specifically, as a young man. Take a look at those movies he watches, almost universally the image of a man leaning into kiss a still and pliantly waiting woman. Taking charge, acting first, and never ever scared or uncertain. At his lowest point Tsuwabuki isolates and attacks Nanami (the ‘’sword pulling” this arc has always had overtones of assault, but it’s up to eleven in this episode) – the effect of that obsession with experience combined with the unaddressed fear and uncertainty pouring out as blind, harmful force (though Tsuwabuki is a Duelist at that point, at best a pure Id and at worst a will-free puppet of Mikage).
As for how sex is impressed upon young women…
That defense is not going to sound as good on the stand
…we’ll be coming to that in time.