This is a love letter.
To an anime character.
I know, I know… this is why all the Readers here are strictly Mythical. Even if someone did stumble into this dusty dead-end on the internet, the previous two sentences will have made them desperately stab at the back button, if not the off button itself.
That’s all good and fine; I’m well used to talking to myself. Seeing as how no one else listens anyway.
So I shall carry on.
Now, where was I… oh, yes, love letter, to an anime character.
I didn’t, please note, say I was in love with the anime character. Damn near everyone reading those first two sentences will have thought that’s what I said. This is partly because the English language uses the word “love” for too damn many distinct things/emotions, and it gets everyone confused. There is also the difference between “loving” something, and “being in love” with something/someone.
I love bananas. I am not in love with bananas.
I hope that makes the next sentence more clear. For you see, I love Chitanda Eru, from the anime Hyouka. I am not in love with the character, though.
I’m belaboring the distinction because it’s the men who don’t have that distinction clear in their minds, that end up being shown on TV shows as they take their dakimakura pillows of their loved character out in public on dates. (For the record, I don’t even own a dakimakura pillow, so there. And aren’t you surprised, oh Mythical Reader, that the character is not from K-On!?) (there’s too much punctuation at the end of that sentence, but oh well)
So, what do I mean, then, when I say that I love Chitanda Eru?
Well, let’s take the long way around. Let me talk about the show, Hyouka, itself first. Oh, spoiler warnings and the like.
Hyouka is an anime with a mystery theme. The “main” character, Houtarou Oreki, doesn’t like to do anything he doesn’t have to, but throughout the show he gets pulled into solving mysteries big and small. Usually the one doing the pulling is Chitanda. The subplot throughout is that Chitanda is changing Houtarou, and that he’s slowly… well, I won’t spoil everything. But when Chitanda says her phrase “I’m curious!” and looks at Houtarou, that’s it, he’s hooked. And he knows it.
Same reason I’m in love with Chitanda.
She’s a really well-rounded character. In some ways, she is very innocent, coming from a well-known family in a small Japanese town, and has thus been sheltered in many ways. But she’s not stupid, either. In many cases she’s shown to have a much better grasp of the social intricacies of Japanese society than Houtarou does. She’s kind, but not a pushover. She’s gentle, but can be strong. And she is, of course, curious. Not just about the mysteries in the show, but about what is going on around her, about life, about the people she interacts with. Frankly, she is sweet and nice.
Is she a moe character? Yes, without doubt. But not a one-dimensional moe character.
Most anime shows that are based on mysteries have very little re-watchability — because once you know the solution to the mystery, why watch it again? The character of Chitanda makes watching Hyouka again a pleasure.
But it will probably never get licensed for North America. It’s too subtle, too outside the standard anime marketing targets, as it lacks big boobs and it lacks robots. There aren’t even any explosions or gunfire. (well, a squirt gun.)
That’s why I bought the Japanese Blu-rays of the show.
Couldn’t I have just kept the fansubs? Yes… but I like physical copies of the things I truly enjoy. I was afraid if I didn’t get the Japanese Blu-rays now, I couldn’t in the future. If I’m wrong, and it’s licensed for North America in the future, I’ll buy those Blu-rays, too. Especially since I don’t understand Japanese.
Yes, I bought discs of a show, without subtitles, in a language that I don’t understand.
I love Chitanda Eru. And I want to watch the show with her in it, again. And again. And again. Not directly repeating; I mean I’ll watch it once a year, every year, for many years to come.
But of course I am not in love with Chitanda Eru. She doesn’t exist.
Chitanda is a fictional character. Fictional characters are abstractions of human beings, with different characters being assigned by their creators different aspects from real human beings (either specific actual humans known by the creator, or more generalized aspects that are “characteristic” of many actual human beings).
I could potentially be in love with a woman who was possessed of all, or even most, of the characteristics that Chitanda exemplifies. To be honest, I wish that this were so.
However, this will not be so. Never happen.
Besides my own vast and ample deficiencies as a potential love interest for anyone, let alone marriage material, the simple fact is that there aren’t any sweet and nice people out there anymore.
At least not in my society.
Everyone is coarse. Everyone is brutal. Caring for others is seen as a weakness, and one to be exploited at that.
No one here is nice.
Now of course I’m generalizing. I’m sure there are quite a few nice people left out there… on their Amish farmsteads, or in their Mormon households, or huddled in their rooms safe from the brutality that’s all around them, too. But I’ll never meet them in any of those places, so from my point of view, they might as well not exist either.
Not even in my societies’ media products are there nice characters depicted, except in the few minutes before the criminal in the cop/doctor/lawyer show kills them. This is one big reason why I’ve come back to watching anime, because at least in some anime shows there are some characters that are nice. I don’t have cable anymore, and I haven’t missed it.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that because I like the anime, that I think Japan society must be like the anime portrays. Many an anime fan makes that mistake, and wishes they had been born Japanese. Anime is a product of Japan, not a mirror of it.
It does make me wonder if there are more nice people in Japan. It hardly matters to me, as I’ll never even get to visit there.
But that is part of the reason that I buy anime, even Japanese Blu-rays that I don’t understand the language of. Because I’m giving my money to the subsection of that society that can still remember what nice people are.
That subsection, the anime subculture, produces beautiful things. Anime shows. Manga books. PVC figures. I find myself far more willing to support that subculture, from halfway around the world, than I am the culture I was unfortunate enough to be born into, which from the beginning has had no use for me, nor I for it.
Chitanda Eru is beautiful. She is kind. She is nice, and sweet. And she doesn’t exist.
If I could find a woman who also was kind, and nice, and sweet, (I wouldn’t even try for beautiful) my life would be better than it is. But I won’t. Those types of people only rarely even survive in this society. And since I won’t settle for less than that, I’m going to be alone.
There are worse fates.
At least, being alone, I can fill my apartment with images of Chitanda, and the other anime characters that I love, and use those images to remind myself that somewhere are still people who remember what kindness, niceness, and sweetness are.
And I will give those people my money, to help that subculture continue to exist… and to help my own society fall faster, as it so richly deserves.
I love Chitanda Eru. But I am not in love with her. I’m merely in love with the ideals that she represents. It’s important to remember that distinction, if only because dakimakura pillows are really damn expensive.