Not quite a response to biankita’s post, since my own story does not involve a triangle, here I discuss the narrative black hole that is the ‘happily ever after‘. To quote from the post,
After one of the male leads emerges victorious for the battle for the female lead’s heart, they turn into the most boring couple in the world. All the personal demons of each character have been let out – family problems, personal hang-ups, traumas, even the tragic way so-and-so character’s puppy died – have been let out and accepted. While during its run where the characters struggle with each other, after it’s all said and done, there’s pretty much nothing left afterwards. No opportunity for any sequel or OVA because everything else come out as… weh.
I think that all of us are interested in keeping happily ever after within a mythological space, a mystery: like the Transubstantiation during the Eucharist, Christ’s virgin birth, Life after Death and other comforting things that we’d rather not think about too much. We want it to be true, and we’ll gladly suffer the mystery because we’re afraid that biankita is right not only about shoujo anime, but about life as well.
The resolution of romantic tension in a narrative that depends on it to deliver the entertainment is a death sentence. In television, we see the leads get together and break up every season (with reasons escalating in ludicrousness) just to keep the romantic tension alive (see Grey’s Anatomy). In anime, I don’t really know of any show that features married couples as the lead. Given that marriage is the mythological milestone that signifies “happily ever after”.
My wife, (then my girlfriend) introduced me to two anime titles that I fell in love with: The Vision of Escaflowne, and Kare Kano. Music from the respective original soundtracks were played in our wedding ^_^ Escaflowne somewhat follows the triangle type of shoujo anime that biankita talks about, but Kare Kano hits closer to home. While it isn’t really the anime that depicts what happily ever after looks like (the manga did it), Kare Kano felt very real to me.
I won’t spoil it further than I already have; suffice to say, the leads got together very early on in the manga and they helped each other through their personal problems which led to their eventual marriage and subsequent life together. Even so, there are significant parts where the leads were totally uninteresting (they’re just happy together, no drama) such that the narrative was carried by supporting characters with their own developing romantic arcs.
So in biankita’s terms, the romantic tension that is what the manga relies on to deliver entertainment is sustained by spreading it out over different characters. But what about the happily ever after? Is it really that uninteresting? Is happiness so boring? Without conflict, the narrative is nothing but a news report. Stories to be gripping need struggle and toil. It just so happens that in most love stories, the biggest conflict is between the leads, is about the feelings for each other they need to acknowledge to themselves. There are very few things that are larger than themselves that they strive to reach/struggle against.
I think The Incredibles does a good job of portraying this post-wedding life, but still I find too much sending up of the former selves of the romantic leads as opposed to them being who they are in the present. But what about anime? Kare Kano is one, though the manga did most of the heavy lifting. What else is there?
Why am I so interested in this all sudden? It’s because today is a significant milestone in my marriage, it is the second anniversary of our wedding. I feel very blessed to be with this awesome person, that in addition to all the things I love about her, she likes anime too (and watched Gundam 00 S2 ep 10 with me last night, as well as five straight episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes). Am I lucky or what?
The happily ever after part of our love story is still pending. I don’t think it’ll ever happen at all, to be honest with you. Unless we all relax our expectations and accept that I’m a happy person in general – but this kind of self-generated happiness is completely independent from our life together. I’ll be happy no matter what. But the kind of happily ever after we’re interested in is the romantic one.
But with the romantic tensions already resolved, how would it make for a good narrative (never mind shoujo)? The problems of money, career, time, and extended family issues are not necessarily the stuff of good anime. I think it would be great if there were enemies to fight, preferrably with giant mecha to pit our wits against. I somehow thought of me and the wife as Hikaru x Misa, but the more I think about it we’re less and less like them. It’s really a lot more like Patrick x Katie these days.
Ending up being the Immortal Colassaur is easier to take now that I’m more comfortable in my skin as a Gundam fan. In a lot of ways I’m the comic relief in the relationship, while the wife tsunderes her way all over me. She really is a soldier with the rank of captain (though she’s an attorney for the army, and not a strategic forecaster). I’m just this mecha fan pretending to be an ace pilot (not unlike Patrick at all). In the story they’re not quite together yet, but I really feel good about them. That’s why I believe that episode 09 of Gundam 00 S2 is the turning point of the series. Patrick returned, signaling the return of the awesomeness and good fun to balance all the emo that goes on in this show. I do wish they do get together soon, if only to see working relationships portrayed in anime, doing great things (or in Patrick’s case, lulz).
They’re fast becoming my favorite couple. Here are a couple of questions for you:
- How can ‘happily ever after’ be made interesting in a romance story?
- Who are the best couples in anime (in terms of workability of relationships, and not drama)? In before Jinto x Lafiel.