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The Sad, Existential Plight of Jingoro

June 22, 2010

Lacking things to watch, I started watching Kimagure Orange Road again for the first time.

I put it that way since I distinctly remember watching at least some of it back in the day, but damned if I can remember much of it other than the basic premise and the personalities of the characters.

What stood out to me the most in these episodes is Kyousuke’s cat, Jingoro, and his hopeless desire to run away from home.

The deal with Kimagure Orange Road is that it’s a romantic comedy with a bit of a twist: The main character, Kyousuke,and his family are all ESPers. They have telekinetic powers that they try to hide from the public lest they get strange looks and unwanted questions and have to move to a new town. Again.

They have a pet cat named Jingoro. The poor thing seems to get the brunt of their powers. Things fall on him, he gets tossed around, and all in all he finds his “family” more of a health hazard than group of caring individuals. His survival instincts have kicked in and have told him that free meals and a roof over his head aren’t worth the idea that the refrigerator could squish him at any moment, so he does his best to escape from their tyrannical grasp. Every attempt to run away is met with a telekinetic hand that reaches out and snatches him away from his much-wanted freedom and safety.

It got me thinking about how Jongoro’s plight is much like my own when it comes to the romantic comedy anime. I know that most modern series that fall along those lines are utter crap. No matter how much a series like Bakemonogatari may tease me with images of a relatively decent relationship between its main dude and main chick, it’ll boil down to a harem game situation where the guy has to follow a set “path” with “switches” that result in him saving the girl from some esoteric emotional situation of her own concoction that she can’t solve on her own.

I know that if I want a romantic anime that comes off even remotely watchable I have to look elsewhere. It’s the only reason why I find Kemonozume, Book of Bantorra and Black Lagoon to be the three most romantic anime series from the past ten years. I know I should run away from the modern generation’s ideal of “romance,” just like Jingoro runs away from Kyousuke’s family, but I always find that metaphorical telekinetic hand reaching out and dragging me back in.

That hand is of my own creation, and it’s born out of my love for these old-school romance anime series like Orange Road and Maison Ikkoku (Along with a lingering love for Ah! My Goddess despite its faults.). I always find myself giving series a chance despite knowing that I’ll most likely get burned in the end. I was excited about Bakemonogatari after the first couple of episodes, only to find those hopes crushed like a cat under a fridge.

And as I watched these first few episodes of Orange Road I realized what it was that drew me in to these series. Sure, there’s a degree of wish-fulfillment present (What romance story doesn’t boil down to “I wish I had it this way?”), but the wishes being fulfilled aren’t of the obnoxious “knight in shining armor” variety. Kyousuke doesn’t fall for Madoka because she needs someone to help her. He falls for her at first because she comes off as a decent person when he first meets her. He catches her hat in a classic meet-cute moment, they talk, and he finds that he just downright likes her. Then, as he finds out more about her, he realizes that she’s just as much of a misunderstood outsider as he is. He’s the secret ESPer that has to move towns to keep out of the limelight while she’s the rebel girl with a reputation that she doesn’t really deserve.

Kyousuke likes her because he can relate with her on some level. They have different issues, but they’re issues that relate back to one another. They have some common ground that’ll make understanding one another a little easier than usual.

It’s a relationship of relative equality and compatibility rather than a relationship built on the guy choosing A instead of B and getting the choice right. That’s what makes me come back to these sorts of series time and time again: hoping to see a similar relationship form.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 3:34 AM

    I was wondering who Makoto was when I discovered you were talking about Madoka! KOR was the great ancestor of all the romance anime that have come out today. It had the archetypal love triangle, ingenuously rendered that it was the basis of all modern romance comedies. Unlike Maison Ikkoku, however, it was extremely episodic and not very much to my liking. Kyousuke’s lack of cojones in addition, was just irritating at times. I don’t like men who aren’t even honest with themselves, although that was rectified in the ending to some extent.

    I prefer Maison Ikkoku because Godai was more decisive and determined than Kyousuke would ever be, but that’s just my opinion.

    • Landon permalink
      June 23, 2010 4:23 PM

      Gah! Name fixed. Stupid me makes sure the cat’s name is right but doesn’t bother to check the main girl’s name.

      Yeah, what I’ve seen of Orange Road makes me like Kyousuke a good bit less than I do Godai. Half the time Godai’s problems were with the people around him. I can relate a good deal more with his “I want to do X, but Y keeps getting in my way” problems than the usual “I just can’t man up and say something” attitude you see in similar series.

      Can’t make any final call on how much I like Orange Road just yet, but I don’t see it trumping Ikkoku on my list.

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