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12 days of anime #11 – The gayness of Kyoto Animation [Tamako Market & Hibike Euphonium]


TLS - midori

In the end I became like that person. The one I used to get annoyed at. The kind of person that picks out any slightest hint of SA/yuri in a light-hearted carefree series then talks at length about it as if all other content was ignorable. The homoshipper. Not the one that squeals uncontrollably when two people onscreen get lovey-dovey for I squeal internally and controllably. Also not the one that reads or writes steamy fanfiction with ratings well over T. But the one that insists on acknowledging a same-sex attraction based on the studio’s baits. The one that believes Kumiko and Reina are more than friends, or Midori is definitely a lesbian, even though these details are somewhat skippable, if you really need to skip, in enjoying Hibike Euphonium or Tamako Market.

Let me first lay the foundation by talking about Kyoto Animation in particular. Rumour has it that they are, for lack of better words, “gayer” each passing year. Not only do KyoAni animators polish their skills of drawing cute girls, or script writers polish their sensibility in writing slice-of-life school club stories, but KyoAni masterminds also aim for products that appeal to more homoshippers. They up their game little by little, from Spring 2012’s Hyouka (I think that first ED is weird, and how about Irisu or Satoshi) to Fall 2012’s Chuunibyo (haven’t watched it, but some amvs look convincing enough), to Winter 2013’s Tamako Market (look at that heartbroken Midori), to Summer 2013’s Free (of fangirls, by fangirls, for fangirls) and the latest installment Spring 2015’s Hibike Euphonium (with a criminally high level of yuri baits). The thing is, it works. Overwhelmed by the yuri power of Hibike Euphonium, I was converted into their dedicated follower. KyoAni’s attention to details and characterisation are just right up my alley. Apart from the studio’s not having the guts to spell out the sexual preference of their characters, I think that even the new trend of adding SA is well handled, since it blends naturally into the stories. And yes, as a newly self-declared fan, I am biased.

I’ll consider taking a look at Kyoto Animation’s other series, seeing how I really like what I’ve watched from them till now. As for this year, Tamako Market and Hibike Euphonium are what I watched, enjoyed for the high quality, and liked all the more for any yuri-related additions.

TLS - nice expression

Tamako Market

Midori’s feelings for Tamako are… interesting. Most of the curiosity arises from how she never vocalises, or is not allowed by the series to vocalise, her feelings. The Love Story movie makes a point of emphasising Midori’s role but never for once gives those feelings a name. In the TV series, there is even one full episode dedicated to Midori’s self-awareness on Valentine Day, that the only one in her mind is Tamako. Tamako’s head, meanwhile, is “nothing but hair and mochi” so she’s completely ignorant as expected, but still it’s the worst kept secret of Tamako Market that the series features a girl who falls for her girlfriend.

The ignorance of Tamako makes it hard to, well, ship her with Midori, and the solution of the movie (Tamako x Mochizou) seems satisfactory enough to me. Midori never stands a chance. She goes through the whole show being portrayed with a lot of glimpses, blinks and stares into the distance. Whereas Tamako Market is all about fun and (silly) daily lives, whenever the love subplot is brought on screen, Midori’s part is incredibly mute. We have to see the unvocalised, unrequited love drags on until she is finally freed by letting it go. At the end of the movie, Kanna appears and sees through Midori’s broken heart, only to comment that her friend has a nice expression then. The expression of a long haboured love being given up. The filmmakers do treat Midori with appropriate respect as well as great cruelty. How bittersweet is that.

HE 05 - happy kumiko

Hibike Euphonium

Hibike Euphonium is special, in that I know more about the sexuality of many bloggers thanks to it. I’ve been silently following anime blogs for quite some time. Then one spring season during the airing of a certain music anime, its yuri element became such a hot topic that in order to explain the realistic feels of the series’s same-sex attraction, some favourite bloggers of mine suddenly mentioned whether they are gay, lesbian, bi or not. “Do you remember your first love?” asked illegenes of Isn’t It Electrifying?.  Her post was so well written I read it over and over again (an enthusiastic aniblog reader that I am). This doesn’t happen every day. I even watched and read about Yurikuma Arashi three months before Hibike Euphonium, yet those same people had spilt no words at the time.

Two years after the “Midori experiment” of Tamako Market, Kyoto Animation decided they wanted a mutual relationship where two girls are both attracted towards each other and tied together by a red string of fate. The wonder that comes out of this higher level of baits is Hibike Euphonium. Apparently Kumiko and Reina are no lovers. The key idea here is that their mutual attraction is depicted in the way that would make you wish your first crush from school had treated you the same. Their eyes should have met yours. Your remarks should have been reflected later by them because they would treasure whatever thing you said. And then you should have made a trip together somewhere, only the two of you, since your differences from the rest of the world were shared by each other, even making you feel like you had found a soul mate. Then there should have been a confession of love and you should have vowed never to leave the other person…

Well, no, this is just too much. First crushes don’t work out that way. Which is why pathetic bloggers all over the blogosphere were so moved by the fiction of Hibike Euphonium, the one that they couldn’t have realised for themselves. I really love reading their pathetic posts resulted from those sentiments. Hibike Euphonium brings out what I love best about anime blogging: the personal experience and feelings of the bloggers, not just analyses of technical aspects or discussion of the anime medium. This is why I seek out personal blogs – to see the person behind the blog and their life through the lenses of anime. If not for that (and some other things to be written later, if I can), online websites, wikis and forums should be enough. I don’t google a series’s title randomly to read reviews. I choose a specific community, see how I relate to their writings, and stick with them.

…Or so I digress.

You see, Hibike Euphonium is special. Its musical performances may get the bigger share of the budget, but the romance between the two leads is the golden part which transcends their gender barriers. It reminds viewers of that one soul they inherently long(ed) for. There are always things left unmentioned in people’s daily lives, but if an anime can inspire viewers to admit that normally hidden part about themselves, then said anime must be quite something.

Again I am biased. People may have some qualms about KyoAni turning “gay” but I think this trend can give them the opportunities to explore more aspects of relationship and emotions. Because thankfully they don’t do blatant fanservice; that made a lot of differences. But of course I haven’t watched Kyoukai no Kanata, Amagi or Free so I should shut up.

  1. I wonder whether I’m one of those you’re talking about. It seems I have traits of all three.

    • sangeld permalink

      Oh shoot, I didn’t notice that the descriptions would fit you so well =)))
      In fact, I was having some anime bloggers in mind that kept on complaining about how some studios are just cowards for baiting fans. Which hopefully you are not (or are you? since I remember that you are quite happy with ships in general…)
      And while your blog is clearly dedicated to BL, theirs are not. I rarely read your blog because I assume BL and American films are not my thing; but I often read their blogs and then suddenly I see irrelevant complaints that get in the way of reviews. Though, as I said in this post, lately I’ve warmed up to that and even think that it’s good.

      • I don’t know whether to feel sad that I didn’t appear in your thought because you rarely read my stuff (never, I assume?). But you don’t seem to like those bloggers a lot so I’m glad I’m staying in safe zone.

        Speaking of ships, there are a few that I do ship, some I don’t and some I hate. I even shamelessly ship some incest couples, just to say how low I am when it comes to shipping. Usually I go with whatever ships the studios offer because well, can’t fight canon. Western shows aren’t above baiting fans, just saying.

        On a side note, I write a lot about BL but my blog isn’t dedicated to BL.

        • sangeld permalink

          Hmmm, I love reading certain anime blogs, so I actually like those bloggers a lot, just needing some time to figure out their way of thinking.

          You did flashed through my mind in the “writes steamy fanfiction” part. I just didn’t think more than that to connect all ideas.

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