Monday, October 7, 2013

"Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl" (2006): In Which I Pretend to be a Raging Social Anthropologist

Osaragi Hazumu (center), Kurusu Tomari (right), and Kamiizumi Yasuna (left)
I set out to watch "Kashimashi: Girl meets Girl" with the express intention of watching a show with gender-bending being a major part of the theme. In case you're a puritan, gender-bending is generally understood to mean the switching of a character's gender within a story. Why a gender-bending tale, then? My choice was largely random, though I suppose my having completed the ultra violent Black Lagoon a while ago left me needing a dose of hormonal re-balancing, but I wasn't ready to go for all-out romance (I'm looking at you, Amagami) just yet.

...I stepped away for a glass of hot water, and now that opening paragraph makes a lot less sense than it did while I was typing it out. Come to think of it, it rather feels like a liability if employers were to google for my name and read this instead... oh well. Less self-destruction and more inconsequential proselytism, then.

The plot in brief: The main star of Kashimashi is Osaragi Hazumu, who is often teased by others for his soft and quiet demeanor. One day he confesses his love to Kamiizumi Yasuna, a girl with a seeming phobia towards men, but she turns him down. Heartbroken, Hazumu goes for a hike on Mt Kashima to clear his head, but is 'killed' when a malfunctioning spaceship hits him- the aliens resurrect him, but mistakenly, and irreversibly turn him into a girl. Hazumu is left to deal with his new body and the consequences, especially in regard to his childhood darling, the tomboyish Kurusu Tomari.

A love triangle soon develops- though there are other players, they're wisely left on the sideline and not brought into the fray. Now for a few related questions regarding sex and gender instead, which Kashimashi managed to put into my head. First up- Hazumu's almost instantaneous acceptance of his new state was a surprise. He accepted his lot in a rather fatalistic way- "I'll just have to get used to it". There was the initial shock at having his body change, but I suppose gender somehow doesn't play that big a role in his/her personality makeup. In short, being male or female doesn't make you a different person- at the core you're still yourself... I have to wonder how I'd feel if I were to go through the same change Hazumu went through. I doubt that I'd take it as peacefully as he did- melodrama, self-pity, and a fair bit of time off would help though.

Was Hazumu's feminine personality shaped by his parents wanting a daughter instead of a son? I suppose this could have been the case- they did put him in dresses when he was a child, and both confessed to being delighted that he had turned into a she. In hindsight, perhaps that prepared him for the gender switch- but in terms of real-world parenting I don't think it's advisable to dress your son in frocks (though I did do some research on this and therefore found out about the ancient practice of breeching). Then again my own upbringing was fairly normal, and I still ended up being rather dissatisfied with my gender/sex- though I suppose that has more to do with me being hard to please and, well, greedy- wanting the best of both worlds (male/female) without the disadvantages- which is why I can't help but find characters like Ranma who freely change sex at the flip of coin rather fetching. On a similar tangent- I'm sorry to all the transgenders, transsexuals and cross-dressers out there, but I'm not on your side- if you're going to make the switch, do it perfectly. I know it just isn't possible with today's technology, but I'd settle for nothing less than a perfect fit.

Thirdly. Hazumu was often put down for 'acting like a girl'- breaking his gender stereotypes- the roles he is expected to play in society as a boy/man. I'll be honest here- I have an intense hatred of being labeled, though I do like to be the one doing the labeling- Hazumu as a boy does act rather effeminately. His mannerisms and speech are not what you'd typically label as that of an 'ordinary male', though he never managed to annoy me like some guys I've met have. That being said- what right does anyone have to call one out for not acting 'how you're supposed to act'? You're just using attempting to enforce your views on other people. So go ahead and annoy the alpha males out there, I say.

The last few paragraphs seem to have degenerated into a semi-related social rant. Like I said- Kashimashi does get you thinking about these things. Back to Kashimashi itself, then. Hazumu is eventually forced into a corner- he has to choose between Tomari and Yasuna, both of whom have made peace with the fact that the boy they are in love with is for all intents and purposes a girl. Hazumu's indecisive nature torments him once again- he wants to keep the peace, but the growing tension amongst the three is tormenting him. According to Hazumu's mother, his inability to choose always led him to lose everything- like how (s)he had trouble choosing between a juice and parfait at a restaurant and ran out of time for either. I find myself in a similar spot quite often- albeit with different consequences- I make a decision in the end, but usually end up regretting it.

Major spoiler warning. Reading the wiki, it seems that the manga and anime have two different endings. Technically, there are three different endings, since the OVA offered a post facto alternative to the anime ending. The anime ending had me torn up- Hazumu chose Yasuna over Tomari, thus healing her mental sickness. Over time I'd developed some empathy for Tomari, but almost none for Yasuna, so it was heartbreaking to see her cast away. Then... the OVA came and reversed Hazumu's decision. Yasuna, realizing that it was unfair of her to use Hazumu as a crutch to overcome her weakness (his being able to cure her being the main reason Hazumu chose to be with Yasuna), broke up with him, thus paving the way for Hazumu to propose to Tomari once more. The OVA ending, though more in line with the manga- and though it honestly does make me happier, just feels like it is cheating.

Oh well. I'm seven years late, but all the best to the newlyweds!

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