I have watched quite a few well-made anime series and they have had their fair share of emotional or simply well-done episodes and scenes. Yet, somehow, I can say with utmost confidence that the 7th episode of the second season of H&C is the one that has affected me the most. It’s a bit surprising, because on the whole, I prefer the first season. The coming-of-age story of Takemoto is, after all, the thing I like most about the series, and it appears primarily in the first season, not the second. The same can be said of the friendship angle of the show. This episode, though, is – in a way – standalone from most of the ongoing threads of the series. Morita is present – but the focus is on Kaoru, as well as Morita Sr. and his best friend, Tatsuo. And this episode completely sheds any romance or romantic overtones. Many people complain that H&C II lost a delicate balance the show once had because it brought the romantic overtones too much into the forefront. I tend to agree, but this episode showed us how powerful Honey and Clover can be when it deals with pure human emotion.
But the episode isn’t standalone, is it? The themes which pervade this episode have been with us for a long time – they are a variation of what both Takemoto and Shuuji have gone through. In the episode, Tatsuo asks, “Why is the world split into those who are talented and those who are not? Those who are loved, and those who are not?” He watches from the sides as Morita Sr., his friend, seems to do all the things that he cannot, and he struggles to understand why it is so. Think about those words, and the characters we’ve seen thusfar. Takemoto looks in from the outside at his friends (Morita, and Hagu), realizing that it is a world that he is unable to enter. Shuuji thinks to himself that the three friends he was once a part of was, in reality, one and a pair. Although they were the best of friends, he was always separate from the other two. They seemed to posses something which he could never attain.
Similarly, in this episode, we see Kaoru, as a child, beginning to feel the same way with regards to his brother. Morita Sr. did not intentionally favour Shinobu – yet in the end, Kaoru felt neglected, and couldn’t understand why. All he saw was that Shinobu could so naturally do things that Kaoru wanted to be able to do as well, but couldn’t. Is it jealousy? Perhaps, yet that word seems inadequate. At the end of the episode, Tatsuo betrayed Morita Sr., but it wasn’t out of hatred. He says himself, that he wanted to truly understand if Shinobu was a mortal human, as he was. It sounds silly when I write it out like this, but it is easy to understand. He saw this man who seemed to posses the things that Tatsuo yearned for, through no fault of his own, and wanted to know what the difference between them was. Was it even possible for Tatsuo to understand Morita Sr? When things became difficult to handle, would Morita be revealed to be flawed fundamentally as others, or was he simply on another level entirely, one that Tatsuo would never be able to comprehend?
When Morita Sr. calmly tells his two sons to harbor no hatred for Tatsuo, Shinobu agrees immediately, but it is Kaoru who cannot forgive Tatsuo. It is because he sees in Tatsuo a reflection of himself, a confirmation of the very things which Kaoru has been feeling. The scene where Tatsuo looks forward at the split in the road is the message which Umino Chika has engraved deeply in her story. “Why is the world split….?” There are many people for whom a message like this barely registers, and yet there are certainly many for whom it will be a heart wrenching thing to hear. There are some who can drift through life easily and successfully, while others are cursed from the beginning. That “curse” can be in many different forms, whether drastic or minor, yet they exist through no fault of the “victim”. That is simply how it is, and nobody can change that. It isn’t merely a question of talent, but a variety of factors that affect one’s life due to uncontrollable things. Tatsuo ponders this question, and then asks himself that if it is true, what was the purpose of his life? And that is an utterly tragic thing to hear and to see, but what’s worse is how genuine and realistic it seems. It doesn’t feel like the pen of a mangaka, it feels like the thoughts of a real human being.
Often I find myself thinking along these lines as well. While there are many skills and abilities I have which have given me benefits and praise over the years, there are nonetheless also many things I lack, things which make a difference in one’s life, things which cannot be ignored. Often, like Tatsuo, I begin to think that there is a sense of harshness to reality, in that some people are born with innate qualities that will give them benefits in life, while others are dealt different hands through no fault of their own and are forced to live out an existence which either can never reach that same level or must suffer a significant handicap. Could one claim that life is merely a predetermined set of paths that arbitrarily rewards some and punishes others?
Perhaps it is futile to even attempt to delve into these kind of philosophical questions in the scope of an anime blog. In fact, maybe I am’ the only one who has such a pronounced reaction to an episode like this. I certainly know many people who have seen this anime but don’t understand why I consider it my favourite. In the end, it’s about whether you can relate with Tatsuo or not. All I can say is that I have never been as affected by any other episode of anime, nor series in general.
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