Category Archives: Frivolous Musings

Hidamari Sketch: Eternal Sunshine? The Kids Aren’t Alright

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Welcome back. From time to time, we the authors bring you special features not found anywhere else. This special edition in-depth feature both celebrates and takes a skewed view of the popular slice-of-life series Hidamari Sketch, soon to return this year with a confirmed fourth season. Well, who doesn’t love a good sequel?

The world of Hidamari Sketch is a place of sunshine, flowers, butterflies, rainbows, puppies and pretty much anything stereotypically associated with idyllic harmony and inherent goodness. Basically, a literal Heaven-on-earth. Here, said puppies are invariably always well-fed, never kicked (or have sticks shoved up their asses by malicious schoolgirls with compulsively-destructive tendencies: this means you, Mitama Mayo!) and will without fail find good homes. Because the people who inhabit this land of eternal happiness essentially live in a vacuum sealed off from all the ills, woes and despair found in the real world, one would be hard pressed to experience crises more serious than forgetting one’s homework as they simply don’t exist. –Or do they?

Beneath all the whimsical cheerfulness lies telltale signs of an altogether different story that unfolds from day to day. Upon closer examination, disturbing traits and personality disorders become readily apparent. In a series of short surveys, I uncover the more serious issues afflicting the main characters and select minor players, revealing shocking truths that indicate the world of Hidamari Sketch is in fact as maladjusted, angst-ridden and dysfunctional as any other.

As Hidamari Sketch is not a series that focuses on developing a full-fledged plot around a central protagonist in the typical fashion so much as it presents short-and-sweet vignettes in an achronological format, the more significant characters in the daily lives of the main girls will be presented (with certain exceptions).

Disclaimer: As a recent convert to the Hidamari Sketch series (all thanks/blame goes to mutsulini), I must emphasize that I am a fan. This post is not intended to be an extensive, serious psychiatric analysis, neither is it a professional evaluation in any way. I do not claim advanced knowledge of nor do I hold degrees in psychiatry or its related fields. The speculative musings presented here are precisely that and are at best mild exaggerations and at worst obvious gross misrepresentations of the simple, innocent quirks that make Aoki Ume’s characters such clean, wholesome fun.

 

YUNO (ゆの)

By the third season, Hidamari Sketch x  Hoshimittsu, Yuno has graduated to second year but remains the shortest of the six girls living in the apartment. Occasionally, Yuno has displayed signs of having a fairly-sensitive height complex. The problem of course, lies not with Yuno’s height in itself, but whether the issue of her diminutive stature is a source of deep, psychological angst and/or undue psychosomatic stress on her physical person.

Yuno is often ill-at-ease, second-guessing herself and often seeks confirmation from others to feel secure. Of the four upperclassmen, Yuno perhaps has the most fragile sense of self in that her confidence needs a boost every now and then. Though in the end all her anxieties and self-consciousness are probably nothing more than the everyday insecurities of adolescence. Ultimately, the case for Yuno’s potential neuroses is minimal at best.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

MIYAKO (宮子)

A tall, strikingly beautiful blonde with a beaming smile and friendly, out-going personality, she is the definition of the easy-going “my pace” (マイペース) character. Her characteristic sanguine nature seems to display a combination of symptoms of hypomania within the Bipolar disorder spectrum.

Her elevated mood (i.e. her near-constant state of euphoria);  attention deficit (a trait that already qualifies Miyako as also possibly suffering from ADHD/ADD); occasional sporadic acts of disregard for her personal safety in the face of potential physical danger; and near-compulsive need for engagement in hyperactive physical activity all mark her as a potential hypomaniac. There is also the lesser issue of her immense appetite but this is probably owing to nothing more than evidence of the kind of metabolism needed to fuel the absurd, boundless energy levels she displays on any given day.

In correlation to the above, Miyako may also suffer from depression as a prerequisite (indeed, essential) condition necessary to developing hypomania:

Often in those who have experienced their first episode of hypomania (which is a level of mild to moderate mania) – generally without psychotic features – there will have been a long or recent history of depression prior to the emergence of manic symptoms, and commonly this surfaces in the mid to late teens. Due to this being an emotionally charged time, it is not unusual for mood swings to be passed off as hormonal or teenage ups and downs and for a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder to be missed until there is evidence of an obvious manic/hypomanic phase [Drug-Induced Dysfunction in Psychiatry. Matcheri S. Keshavan and John S. Kennedy, Editors (Taylor & Francis, 1992].

Do these findings imply there are additional, external factors which contributed as a direct cause of Miyako’s outward symptoms of hypomania originating in depression? There seem to be signs, however circumstantial, of a troubled home life. Child abandonment and abuse via neglect are the most likely potential causes/issues at stake.

Resourceful and independent, Miyako can pretty much get by on her own, undertaking her move to the apartments without her parents’ help; and while she does mention an older brother in passing (he apparently maintains her hair with his gardening skills), she never really ventures to talk about her home life in the course of Hidamari‘s three seasons and specials. Mysteriously, significant periods of her life are unaccounted for. Details are unclear, but she discloses she once had to rely on celestial navigation to find her way. Thus what little is known about her background hints at a past of hardship and adversity.

Always hungry, Miyako is virtually a scavenger amongst her friends as she is always on the lookout for a potential meal. Though her appetite has already been mentioned if one really stops to consider: the mere fact she becomes crestfallen over the sacrifice of the equivalent food value of Sae’s ¥160/apiece Poloroid snapshots (Hidamari Sketch x 365 – EX) is enough to depress anyone.

In fact, a patient with the equivalent of Miyako’s assortment of possible issues faces the possibility of advancing from hypomania to full-blown mania and possibly even dementia or psychosis.

CONCLUSION: HIGH-RISK. INTENSIVE THERAPY RECOMMENDED.

 

HIRO (ヒロ)

Hiro, sweet Hiro. Virtually all of her insecurities stem from issues with her weight. Thus she is extremely self-conscious about her body image. Hiro has been shown to engage in controversial tactics for the sake of slimming down, including but not limited to forced fasts (Hidamari x Hoshimittsu Ep. 5), special diets (such as the infamous konnyaku jelly diet), and other extreme measures, such as wearing heavy clothes at a kotatsu in the middle of summer. However, while she strives to maintain an ideal figure, Hiro is not above binging on sweets or other treats to reward herself for meeting certain goals (Vanilla ice cream anyone? She’s got a whole freezer full of it (Hidamari x Hoshimittsu Ep. 12).

Aside from her fixation with weight and dieting, Hiro is rather socially well-adjusted and displays no other known irrational behaviors, social disorders or serious mental health issues outside of her possible moderate eating disorder.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

SAE (紗英)

The no-nonsense, industrious Sae is cool and level-headed; her only true social disorder seems to arise from mild symptoms of emotional repression when it comes to her her imouto Chika, though by Hidamari x Hoshimitsu that issue seems to have been resolved for the most part. Although Sae sometimes displays signs of moderate withdrawal from social interaction (e.g. shutting herself away in her room for days at a time), this arises when she is under pressure from work deadlines and as such is irrelevant to her psychological profile.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

NAZUNA (なずな)

Introduced in Hidamari x Hoshimittsu, Nazuna is one of two freshmen living at the apartments. A pure, gentle soul, Nazuna is mild-mannered and occasionally displays slight symptoms of mild social anxiety disorder via shyness. She seems more comfortable allowing others to initiate conversation and social dialogue; but aside from her more passive social posture, Nazuna’s shyness is not problematic as a full-blown social phobia and does not interfere with her day-to-day ability to function in society.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

NORI (乃莉)

Nori is clearly the most tech savvy of all the Hidamari residents, as she is the first to utilize an internet connection in the building; but while she is proficient with computers, she displays no warning signs of abnormal or asocial behavior related to technology e.g. complete withdrawal from physical interaction with others in favor of communication with the outside world exclusively via computer. As such, she is disqualified from further clinical evaluation.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

NATSUME (夏目)

Natsume: the “other girl” in Sae’s life, or rather, the girl hovering at the outer border of Sae’s life. Poor Natsume is never able to bring herself to openly communicate her feelings to Sae and thus is perpetually left feeling unfulfilled. Natsume’s mechanism for coping with her frustrating, unresolved emotional impasse is to engage in stalking the object of her desire.

Stalking is a serious indication of obsessive behavior that is unacceptable and is a violation of interpersonal boundaries. Unless the root cause of such behavior is confronted and properly addressed, the obsession will continue to threaten Natsume’s healthy social adjustment and her ability to effectively channel and express her emotions in a socially acceptable manner.

CONCLUSION: CAUTION – MODERATE RISK. COUNSELING RECOMMENDED.

 

CHIKA (智花)

Chika may very well be the ideal imouto: she’s sweet without being being reduced to a treacly mess of sugar and fluff; and she has the moe factor without trying so hard to make one painfully aware of the fact. In fact, her seiyuu (the venerable Kugimiya Rie) dials down the tsun-tsun tartness inherent in most of her younger girl types and complements it with real charm and wit. Chika has a frankness and frighteningly-discerning acumen of a much older girl; and her genuine warmth is her most disarming aspect. Though she’s one of the most mature girls in the series, her cuteness remains unrivaled. In sum, Chika is the type of imouto who merits being spoiled rotten.

By the way, just to clarify:

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH CHIKA. PERIOD.

 

OYA-SAN (大家さん)

The landlady of the Hidamari apartment complex struggles to kick her cigarette addiction and she seems to have hoarding tendencies (Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu Ep. 10) but there doesn’t appear to be any serious underlying psychological issues worth exploring here… nothing a beer couldn’t fix anyway.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

MISATO-SENPAI (みさとセンパイ)

Mysterious kitsune upperclassman to Sae and Hiro, Misato-senpai is a self-admitted compulsive liar (Hidamari Sketch x 365 Ep. 7). The fact she has a habit of lying consciously and with extreme ease about the most trivial matters is definitely a serious red flag. Disturbingly, that may only be the tip of the iceberg, however, as compulsive lying is often a symptom of some deeper underlying psychological issue, such as Borderline personality disorder, Narcissistic personality disorder or even Bipolar disorder.

Since Misato-senpai is a rather minor character and only rarely makes an appearance (mostly via flashback), speculation as to her possible psychiatric profile cannot be concretely defined with any real substance. This is rather unfortunate as she has one of the most complex and engaging personalities in the Hidamari universe, and analyzing her would no doubt yield most interesting results.

CONCLUSION: INCONCLUSIVE – HIGH RISK POTENTIAL. CURRENT WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN.

 

KOUCHOU-SENSEI (校長先生)

Yamabuki Koukou’s long-suffering principal is often the only agent to rein in the flighty, volatile Yoshinoya-sensei’s more outrageous antics. He seems to be one of the more stable, rational personalities in the series, and apparently has the vigor and agility to perform outstanding feats of physical prowess, such as jumping both the school gate and the street in front of it in a single leap. The principal has no known observable personality disorders.

CONCLUSION: He’s just old. That’s it.

 

YOSHINOYA-SENSEI (吉野屋先生)

Finally, the main event, the piece de resistance.

A woman truly rife with issues, Yoshinoya-sensei earns the distinction of displaying the most serious problematic behaviors of all the cast. No other character, however minor, that appears in Hidamari Sketch is so fraught with such a severe case of behavioral abnormalities. Her most readily apparent personality disorder lies with her rather severe adult child complex or perhaps, to use a popular pop-psychology term, Peter pan syndrome (which also seems to have ties to psychiatrist Carl Jung‘s puer aeturnus archetype (Latin for ‘eternal boy,’ although in this case the subject is a puella aeterna). However, her vast litany of potential personality disorders go far beyond any other character on the list in terms of both breadth and severity of her symptoms.

Conveniently, the bulk of her psychological abnormality can be summarized with the single term hyperthymia. Indeed, when considering the extent of the varied manifestations of problematic behavior inherent with this personality type, Yoshinoya-sensei’s pattern of bizarre, childish and grossly inappropriate behavior becomes a natural fit for a diagnosis of hyperthymic temperament. Those individuals afflicted with hyperthymia often display a multiplicity of symptoms, including but not limited to ignoring social norms; extreme talkativeness; activity extroversion and productivity; low threshold for boredom; strong attention-seeking behavior; vividly cheerful temperament; emotional sensitivity; and very strong sexual drive. For a more comprehensive list of other relevant symptoms, please consult the link above.

While a couple or even a few of these symptoms together do not necessarily constitute a state of psychological irregularity or even signify anything remotely out of tune with a particularly vigorous disposition, when coupled with her child-like frame of mind; lack of properly-defined personal boundaries; and strong tendency to construct fantasies/escape reality and responsibility, it is incontrovertible evidence of a severely imbalanced psychological state.

Like Miyako, she may also have a less-than ideal home life situation (circumstances of her childhood and upbringing is not explored) but that is likely only a natural conflict arising from her irresponsible behavior as an adult and status as a parasite single, employment notwithstanding. All things considered, Yoshinoya-sensei can only be described as a person possessed of severe personality issues and emotional instability. Her disturbed mental state is all but confirmed by her own actions.

There is nothing to account for her squeaky feet, though (It’s been proven that it is in fact her very feet that squeak, rather than her shoes or indoor slippers (Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimitsu Ep. 5)). That’s probably a question modern science has no answer for.

CONCLUSION: CATEGORICALLY-CONFIRMED. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED FOR INTAKE INTO PATIENT POPULATION TO BEGIN INDEFINITE ONSITE TREATMENT ASAP

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GONZO returns from self-imposed Last Exile with… Last Exile…

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Many moons ago an anime studio existed calling itself GONZO.

Depiction may not be accurate

This may be a bit more accurate

Then another company was born and then it merged with GONZO and more companies were born and again merged with the merged GONZO, now calling itself GDH.  GONZO, the animation studio, then existed as a subsidiary of GDH.  But poor GDH started having money troubles and couldn’t maintain all the companies it owned.  Soon, it needed to shed some of its weight to maintain profitability (rather, not go broke.)  It abolished some of its subsidiaries but most notably it cut a chunk of GONZO’s animation staff to rely almost wholly on outsourcing animation.  Even after all this GDH realized its name recognition was next to none while GONZO was still a widely acknowledged company.  So, GDH did what any sensible man would do.  It swallowed GONZO whole, name and all.  Merging with its subsidiary and closing down other costly ventures, GDH now bacame GONZO.  Basically, we’ve turned a full circle.  Apparently this was not good enough for GDH’s investors and soon GDH was delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, ouch.  After all this, it was 2009.  GONZO was not having the best year of its life, perhaps worst year of its history.

Shangri-La volume 1 DVD Cover

GONZO was still then a famed anime production studio producing well known fan hits like Rosario+Vampire series (of Nana Mizuki fame,) Strike Witches, Tower of Druaga series, and Welcome to the NHK, just to name a few.  But reality was pretty harsh for GONZO in 2009.  GONZO after its restructuring took two major blows to the face: rights to Strike Witches 2nd season was handed over to AIC (another well-known anime production studio) and DVD sales of the much anticipated Shangri-La tanked.  I was not to hear from GONZO again… that is until now.

Along with its many works in animation based on manga/novels/etc. GONZO had produced an original gem called Last Exile back in 2003.  It turned out to be quite an epic.  Last Exile was a steampunk-esque romanticism engorged with high-paced airship combat in a soup of blue and white while on the ground it was full of drama, betrayal, and love.  It was just too bad the show ended with a very finite ending… or did it?

What better way to return from an exile than to release an anime called “Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing” (ラストエグザイル ~銀翼のファム~,) GONZO sure outdid itself there.

GONZO didn’t die.  They were just being fairly quiet by not producing any full season anime in the past 2 years.  In 2011, they released a 12-episode short called Nyanpire, what looks to be a Flash-based 5 minute anime skit about a cat that’s also a vampire.  Other than that apparently they have been preparing for their grand re-entrance.

For those of you who were not able to watch the original Last Exile, go watch it now.  For those of us that have, you’re in for a treat.  The first episode seems promising in that it remains faithful to the original as well as having that fresh car smell.  For the time being, it is still questionable whether if this is a direct sequel or a side story or another universe-type deal.  Yet, 2 of the characters from the original will be reappearing.

One being a former antagonist Dio Eraclea pictured above and another being Alvis E. Hamilton who did not appear in the first episode.  Also, just like in the original, the English episode titles will be read by Yukana (C.C. from Code Geass,) along with the return of director Koichi Chigura, composer Hitomi Kuroishi, and character designer Osamu Horiuchi from the original Last Exile.  In addition to the the cameos other things you will find is that, just as before, airships serve as a key part of the setting.  I call them airships but these are actually giant flying battleships with lots of cannons and decks for smaller vanships, world equivalent for airplanes.

In keeping with the times of moe-boom, the new cast of characters have become somewhat younger looking despite their ages being not that different.  For instance, Claus, the lead protagonist from the original Last Exile, and Fam, the new lead protagonist, are both supposed to be 15.  And to lead these new moe characters, Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing includes an impressive cast.  Aki Toyosaki (Yui from K-ON!) plays the lead Fam and Aoi Yuuki (Madoka from Madoka Magica) plays Fam’s co-pilot Giselle.  Other cast includes Miyuki Sawashiro (is in everything,) Ai Kayano (Index from A Certain Magical Index,) Chiwa Saitou (Hitagi from Bakemonogatari also lead protagonist Lavie from the first Last Exile,) and Kana Hanazawa (Mayuri from Steins;Gate.)  The mentioned appear to be the more prominent characters in the show.  It also appears that Maaya Sakamoto (Alphard from Canaan) and Megumi Nakajima (Ranka from Macross Frontier) will have minor roles.  There are more, of course, but to list them would be redundant.  You can check out all of confirmed cast from here or in English here.

Fam and Giselle, you'll be seeing a lot of this on this show

I always thought if both Aki Toyosaki and Aoi Yuuki were in the same room, the world would explode with moe but so far, the combination is working out well for the show.  The flow of action and events is significantly more exciting than it was for the original Last Exile as well.  As for the music, Maaya Sakamoto sings the opening “Buddy” and Hitomi Kuroishi does the ending theme “Starboard.”  The show starts off with Maaya Sakamoto’s notably powerful voice then ending with the sorrowful Hotomi Kuroishi’s choral piece.  For those of you not in the know, Hitomi Kuroishi (often credited as Hitomi for singing roles) is responsible all of the choral-like songs in Code Geass, Shangri-La, and the original Last Exile.  She is also responsible for those shows’ soundtrack.

Enough about the Last Exile as this is not a review.

We need more airships

It appears that success of this particular show will make or break GONZO.  Though they’ve been through worse, GONZO has been waning in the anime industry and they almost deserve a successful hit by now.  Just from a glimpse of the first episode, the show looks to be promising and definitely raised the bar of anticipation even higher.  Now the question is whether they can sell those blu-rays like hotcakes…  Stay tuned.

Sore wa Tabemono Desu Ka? The Uncanny, Amazing, Astonishing Evolution of Anime Food – Intro

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Welcome back.

Aside from our normal coverage of ongoing and, yes, previously-aired anime, from time-to-time we the authors shall explore topics anime-related and indulge in musings of a rather more whimsical, frivolous nature. Thus I would like to introduce a new Omoshirosou(!) Exclusive miniseries, found only here at Omoshirosou(!), coming soon. To elaborate on the nature of this topic and avoid any confusion, this miniseries will cover the evolution of the way food appears on-screen in the course of an anime episode. Specifically, I’m referring to finished meals and prepared foodstuffs. Thus raw, unprocessed food such as actual animals and livestock raised for the purpose of human consumption are excluded by default.

Also I must emphasize that bastard kitchen projects will not be covered in this miniseries. (By “bastard” I mean failed cooking attempts so vile their mere existence heralds certain death/disaster and thus must of necessity be banished to the outer reaches of the universe. If the resulting product happens to be sentient immediate disposal is all the more imperative.) This is an overview of the advancement of animation quality through the years as gauged by the appeal of what a given character happens to be eating rather than an examination of the “Can’t Cook to Save Their Life” trope that has become an all but hackneyed staple of mainstream high-school life/harem anime. One may indeed derive a certain perverse amusement mocking the sad efforts of otherwise harmless characters oblivious to the pain they visit upon others through their cooking. However that is not the objective here.

Himari-chan's homemade-cooking

The way food is presented in anime has come a long way, and while today most likely even the humble bento will more than satisfactorily dazzle the eye such was not always the case. Even in modern anime, the range of overall appeal and presentation quality varies considerably. Taking artistic style into account, for practical purposes of this discussion a “transparent” nonfactor, they generally fall into three categories or levels of appeal: nondescript objects that cannot be positively identified without further extensive empirical analysis; objects that bear a passable resemblance to their real-life counterparts; and gastronomical wonders of creation that surpass even the real thing -food so perfect, so beautiful, the mere thought of committing an act as vulgar as destroying it to satiate one’s filthy, undeserving palate is all but sacrilege.

I shall examine numerous examples of different food types, from simple snacks/appetizers to full meals and desserts. Western and Japanese-style cooking will have primary consideration with other types of Asian and other cuisine featuring occasionally. Examples from earlier anime titles will begin my discussion and from there I shall progress through the decades to anime of the present. The first installment is forthcoming, with subsequent chapters available as they are released. Stay tuned.

*Disclaimer: This miniseries may stimulate your desire for bodily nourishment, so please take care to prepare something to have at your convenience before reading.