His and Her Circumstances

His and Her Circumstances

HIS AND HER CIRCUMSTANCES

Watched via DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: As far as shoujo anime goes, what could be more wacky than His and Her Circumstances? This bizarre adaptation of the Kare Kano manga brings shoujo to a whole new light. The story begins with Yukino Miyazawa essentially monologuing all the efforts she undergoes in order to be showered with praise and attention for being wonderfully smart, athletic, and beautiful. We quickly learn that it’s all an act in order to fulfill her vanity. Only one thing stands in the way of her “debut,” and that’s Soichiro Arima, top student at her high school.

In trying to surpass Arima in prestige, she begins to realize that smarts aren’t everything. Throughout the series we see her slowly remove her mask and allow for him and her classmates to get to know the person she really is behind the exterior. Overall this series explores learning to love oneself and to care for someone else, thorns and all. The pair of them serve as a support for each other in being themselves, rather than “the best.” Over time they learn that they don’t have to try harder than everyone else to prove anything, that they can just follow their dreams and hearts.

I have mixed feelings about the storyline of this series. I think it was executed in an interesting way with the focus on comedy more so than romance. However, I still can’t get around the underlying message of healing another being through love. Arima has a very troubled past, and he ends up taking that whole burden and putting it on his and Yukino’s shoulders. Honestly he needs to get professional help, and it ends up pushing their relationship towards the unhealthy end of the spectrum.

I like how the series encourages couples to talk about their issues and grow together. Arima’s issues do end up being too heavy to be easily solved, especially in the manga, but the anime portrays an okay example of how a good relationship can work. Y’know, until it tailspins and abruptly ends.

PLOT: His and Her Circumstances is a show about the façades teens can feel forced to put on in order to succeed in society. Yukino Miyazawa knows exactly how to get everyone to like her by studying her brains out, exercising all the time, and then appearing effortlessly smart, strong, and nice at school. In high school, Yukino meets Soichiro Arima, who seems genuinely better than her in all areas. Yukino at first sees Arima as her hated rival, but after some misunderstandings and love confessions, the two reveal their true colors to each other and begin dating, hopefully as themselves.

The rest of the series follows the two as they become more comfortable being themselves. Yukino, who’s outspoken and brash, quickly gains a circle of friends, which leaves Arima feeling left out. Arima has a much harder time abandoning his façade, and attempting to open a can of worms that leads to ugly places. The depths of his darkness are barely shown during the anime, but the manga shows Yukino and Arima’s relationship taking several dark turns and going into icky territory.

Fortunately, the anime doesn’t go there, leaving a pretty pleasant impression. As Yukino makes more friends, the viewer learns about their own pasts and emotional issues, which works pretty well as a format. Honestly, the side characters made me finish the manga to find out the rest of their stories.

Unfortunately, the anime ends in the middle of a long arc because the manga-ka was upset about its progression. To get any sense of resolution, you do have to read at least some of the manga following the anime, or you need to look up spoilers. I still think the anime stands fairly well on its own, but that inconclusive ending is pretty irritating.

I tend to think that the manga-ka should have just handed over the whole project to Hideaki Anno. Sure I probably couldn’t have if it was my story, but if you think about the themes in his work, he’s really great at exploring the journey to adulthood and less than stellar relationships. In fact, I think he’d have done a great job of showing just how abusive and unhealthy shoujo relationships can be. It would have killed the romance, and I can see why it cuts off to save face, but I kind of want to see Anno take on stereotypical shoujo relationships. Anno, please kill more shoujo.

SETTING: This is your average high school romance, which takes place mostly at school, with some scenes focusing on the home life of the two main protagonists. There is a strong focus on local, as Yukino only acts like her true self at home, while appearing as “perfect” outside of her family’s house. Even the drawing style changes depending on location. While Yukino is eating or interacting with her family members, they are usually drawn as SD characters. When Yukino steps outside she becomes tall and graceful.

At times the director emphasizes the theme of interior vs. exterior by splitting the screen or her face to show how interior Yukino really feels given a certain situation.

Otherwise the setting is very undeveloped. It serves no real purpose except to create a backdrop for events. Instead the emphasis is put on characters and dialogue.

SETTING: Setting is not much of an issue in this series, as the places seem fairly generic. Perhaps the setting is meant to be generic, so that the viewer picks up on the message that people with secrets and tragic pasts could be anywhere. Some class issues do come up at times, but that’s pretty par for the course.

Whitney’s right that the series only focuses on setting as it reflects the psychological state of the characters. Yukino’s appearance and actions change based on setting, but Arima’s effects on setting are more dramatic and interesting. Sometimes the setting also provides clues as to the direction of the narrative, such as when stoplights appear metaphorically.

CHARACTERS: Yukino is an interesting example of a reverse Cinderella type character. Rather than starting off as a common overlooked girl, who is turned into a popular and beautiful girl by the uncanny devotion of the school’s most popular boy (one of the largest tropes of shoujo), Yukino is already considered beautiful and popular by everyone. Instead we see her develop into herself, which is to say a dorky average day girl. Strangely I could see this also working as a type of wish fulfillment by showing young girls that even those fellow classmates they admire, who seem above them, are just as plain as they are, and in turn giving them hope that they too can become smart, athletic, and popular.

Arima is also kind of a reverse Cinderella type. He isn’t as expanded on as he is in the manga, but we see him slowly evolve from being naturally perfect, to a hot mess. In the beginning we see him through Yukino’s eyes and assume he’s all that he appears to be. Over time we discover that not only does he also have a mask, but his is so engrained in his identity, that removing it causes him extreme psychological stress.

His and Her Circumstances shows Yukino aiding in Arima’s recovery from his past and teaching him how to be loved. I personally don’t buy this for a second. Initially I loved this pair together. I liked that they were competitive and brainy, and I could easily relate to them. Once the two start unraveling emotionally, I started to get less enthusiastic about their relationship together. Not saying they aren’t a good pair, but I think they’d have been better off growing up and getting a handle on themselves before dating.

Part of what I find realistic about His and Her Circumstances is that Yukino and Arima don’t take a break to grow up and figure themselves out. Teens aren’t likely to recognize when they need to take that step, so I appreciate that this show provides a model of how to date someone going through major psychological issues (except it’s not a perfect model). Really, I wish the manga had a different ending, but it’s too late for that now.

CHARACTERS: The main reason I like this series so much is that the two main characters match up fairly well with my boyfriend and myself in high school. As the series progresses and Arima gets darker, these parallels weakened, but I still have a great affection for Yukino and Arima at the beginning of the anime, when they’re full of hope about their future together.

Yukino also makes the anime hilarious by being her boisterous self. Her new friends are also funny and genuine in the way that I remember being in high school, which makes them a joy to watch as the series progresses. This can be a very funny series, when not being dramatic, with plenty of visual gags and witty banter.

The side characters of His and Her Circumstances play a role like those in Fruits Basket, where I came to love them all and be invested in their struggles. As I mentioned above, I read the manga to find out what happens to the side characters, particularly the loner Tsubasa. This anime does a good job of showing the daily lives of characters you may initially dislike, like Tsubasa, and developing them so that you understand where they’re coming from and even root for their happiness. I appreciate when stories take this tack, since people in real life have so much more to them than how they act at school or work.

Arima, of course, is where the series gets messy. He’s initially likable, and I enjoy seeing how his relationship with Yukino develops, but he has a lot of issues. Granted, the anime presents them sinisterly, but their eventual resolution doesn’t stand up. Take note, people! If you end up dating someone with possessive issues like Arima, get out! Love won’t magically fix things, and Arima really should get psychological help. And thus continues shoujo’s glorification of abusive relationships….

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: His and Her Circumstances is totally worth watching solely for the directing styles of Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and Kazuya Tsurumaki (FLCL). While Anno left in the middle of the production of the series, Kazuya Tsurumaki was able to take over the position of director for the most part seamlessly. His history as an assistant to Anno fully prepared him for the task of taking over the series, and he performed an excellent job of continuing the unique flair that Anno started.

I really enjoyed the style of directing for this shoujo series, as it kept the story upbeat and lighthearted. The way the series slips between comedy and drama reminds me a lot of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Kodomo no Omocha. I think the comedic elements and extreme exaggeration of character designs really helped bring gravity to the more dramatic scenes later on in the series through juxtaposition of the two styles.

What struck me the most while re-watching an episode or two, is the datedness of the series. It’s so nostalgic to watch something from the ‘90s again. Animation series just aren’t directed this way anymore, and I really miss these kind of shows. I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse than the series being produced now days, but it definitely has a different kind of flavor. I feel that the directing, character designs, and effects all work well together as a product of the late ‘90s. Not only that, but they are wonderfully unique for a shoujo series, both from the past as well as the present.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Gainax ran out of money making this anime. You might know that they faced financial issues when finishing Evangelion, but the straits got pretty narrow here, too. Heck, in one episode they resorted to using paper cutouts on pens.

opening

At times, the style is similar to how Bakemonogatari saved money, using few colors, typing a lot of text, and panning over still images. His and Her Circumstances also uses sketchy images to reflect the characters’ emotional states, which is also cheap. Like Bakemonogatari, this series saved itself by looking artsy and inventive, keeping interest piqued despite its lack of budget.

When the budget wasn’t in the tank, the series looks like a middle-of-the-road shoujo anime from the ‘90s. Visual gags are used at times to give it a Gainax flair, but predominantly the series (on a good day) has cute characters who are drawn simply. The character designs are all appealing, and the two sides of Yukino are hilarious to compare. Perhaps the message of this anime is that appearances can hide all kinds of things, from characters’ flaws to the emotional depths of this anime.

Beautifully put. :’D Watching His and Her Circumstances can get a bit wacky to watch, considering we’re all coming from a background where we’ve seen so much anime, we assume what it’s supposed to look like. However, I really appreciate the few opportunities, in anime as a whole, that we get to see creative directions taken. Even if these are fueled by a need for cheapness, I think they work well as experimental story telling, and who better to do that than Hideaki Anno?

OVERALL: Having read the manga first, I was very excited to watch this series for the first time, several years ago. Looking back on it from a more mature stand point, I can’t necessarily say that I still believe it’s an 8, despite all that the series has going for it. Additionally, I’m uncertain as to whether young adults should be watching a story with an unhealthy relationship like this. I think that it could serve as a bad role model for dating, as it promotes healing trauma solely with love. That said, I do think the series is a good character study. It does an excellent job of depicting the humanity and flaws in individuals. I appreciated the break down of “ideals” to show how nothing is perfect.

Not to go into spoilers too much, but I also didn’t appreciate how Yukino began as a strong female character, and was slowly broken down into a subservient wife. The ending really left me feeling like the series just gave up.

So to sum things up, the characters are interesting, the comedy and drama are excellent, the directing is entertaining (the animation is a bit weak), and the series overall is wonderfully ‘90s. If you like shoujo, watch it. And for those who aren’t into shoujo, it has such a strong Anno flair, it’s worth watching a bit of just to see how he addresses comedy and romance.

OVERALL: My feelings on this series are muddled because I read the manga afterwards, meaning my good feelings towards Yukino and Arima at the beginning are mixed in with how much I disliked them by the end of the manga. I can’t remember for sure when I began to sour on the manga, but I’m fairly certain that I liked Yukino and was optimistic about Arima throughout the anime.

I do still think that this is a great shoujo anime, despite its issues and the manga’s problems. For one thing, it shows that appearances aren’t everything, and I like the idea of a couple working through their issues together instead of one partner being raised up by the other. This doesn’t work out perfectly, but His and Her Circumstances at least begins with a promising look at the details and depths of teen relationships.

To me, this anime is worth watching to see the promise an anime can have on a shoestring budget. Though the anime’s production ran into problems, it soldiered on and made the most entertaining anime it could. Furthermore, I think the anime’s an improvement on the manga, which wallows a bit much in the characters’ angst. Gainax’s comedy is a good fit for this series, and I wish things had gone in their favor so they could’ve extended the story and at least made a proper ending.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)
Advertisements

3 thoughts on “His and Her Circumstances

  1. Woh, something strange is happening with the formatting on this page…

    I never finished this show when I started trying to watch it many years ago. I have a friend who recently began watching it and she’s loving it so far. Along with your reviews, it’s nudging me toward giving the series another chance.

    • Are you using Firefox? I typically use Chrome and didn’t see a problem, but when I checked in Firefox it seems to be all shifted. Just wanted to see if that’s what you meant. I’ll talk to Crystal and see if there is some sort of change in column sizes that got written wrong this time. Thanks!

      I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily worth buying to see, but if you can borrow or rent it, you may find it at least an entertaining watch. The low budget quality of the series can be a little off putting, but the series still does some interesting things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s