Rabu-Rabu special: What happens after the romantic leads get together?

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.

My wife is very much like Yukino, but ghostlightning /= Arima

My wife is very much like Yukino, but ghostlightning /= Arima

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.

xjaymanx_kare_kano_01sm
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?

wedding-anniv-post-img2

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.

wedding-anniv-post-img1

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).

katie-and-the-immortal-colassaur

They’re fast becoming my favorite couple. Here are a couple of questions for you:

  1. How can ‘happily ever after’ be made interesting in a romance story?
  2. Who are the best couples in anime (in terms of workability of relationships, and not drama)? In before Jinto x Lafiel.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, fanboy, how to remember love and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Rabu-Rabu special: What happens after the romantic leads get together?

  1. bwahahaha!!! Finally! I’ve always hated that things in stories end off unexplained. If you haven’t go see Manabi Straight to see how a proper happily ever after ending should be (one that geave me a nervous breakdown). Though it’s not romance.

    Indeed I always think at the end ‘after all that bullshit we’re supposed to believe they live without issues?’ your average anime hookup prolly doesn’t last a fucking WEEK.

    That’s why in all the stories I write I’m very thorough. I follow every character to their death except for in the event that they live eternally (which they often do).

    best workable relationships? Right now Ryuuji and Taiga are looking pretty fucking awesome. There’s also the Spice and Wolf duo who I was almost bothered that they hadn’t already become a couple since they so obviously should have been one. Fucking cocktease anime…..

    when it comes down to it, a good male lead is almost always enough to solidify a believable romance (but they are so rare….)

  2. Patrick: Colonel! Give me a mobile sui… DINNER!

    Kati: SHUT UP!

    Partrick: !!! Colonel… 😦

  3. animekritik says:

    Sorry to be sour puss, but i don’t know a case of the happily ever ever in real life! unless the couple gets hit by a bus during the honeymoon or something. human beings are born to be unhappy..

  4. biankita says:

    well… it’s nice that you and your waifu are living your idea of happily-ever-after. personally, i don’t believe in happily-ever-afters. XX number of worthless boyfriends made jaded and cynical when it comes to love. but yeah… i love love stories in fiction. i’m very suspicious if it happens in real life.

  5. @biankita

    What about in Vampire Knight?

  6. ghostlightning says:

    Christ, the negativity!

    @ digitalboy

    I don’t know if we’ll agree on what a good male lead is, but I do like Ryuuji. I think you can’t be generous if you have nothing to give, and while he seems to be abused by Taiga, he chooses it and is responsible for it.

    @ The Sojourner

    That’s my life, though Katie probably outranks my wife.

    @ animekritik

    I like Camus: you are born without reason, are prolonged by suffering, and die by accident. Existense is humiliated. This is the default state of human life.

    Happiness is a choice, not a circumstance. If humans are nothing more than the result of contingent circumstances, then we should just drug ourselves to the very end. I choose the possibility of happiness, kicking reason to the curb.

    @ biankita

    Suspicion is your field of absolute terror. It protects you, is hostile to others, and isolates you. Sorry I couldn’t resist making an Evangelion reference. The odds are dramatically against us, but we have each other to count on. I offer no hope or advice, only considerations. My life is difficult enough for me to pretend to know what’s best for you.

    @ everyone

    Even without the happily ever after, the story can continue. God knows it’s not smooth sailing at all being in a relationship. This is hard work. Look at how the Immortal Colassaur sacrifices his dignity on the altar of love! I’m no different! Tsunderes… I wonder if this reality, the grit that grinds people to pulp in relationships can be found in an anime, and if so, is it entertaining? gripping? fun?

  7. Owen S says:

    Does your wife watch anime? You should give Itazura na Kiss a shot. Especially relevant to your interest (I think/hope).

  8. ghostlightning says:

    @ Owen S

    Will do! I enjoyed reading your post on it, too bad I haven’t seen it yet so I couldn’t participate in the discussions.

  9. biankita says:

    @The Sojourner: 😮 what?? you think i watch it for the compelling drama??? XD

    @ghostlightning: evangelion is still on my to-be-watched list. co-dependency is a beautiful thing.

  10. schneider says:

    I kinda liked Max and Millia as they were portrayed throughout the Macross timeline. In the first show, they meet on the battlefield, fall in love, have lots of kids, show’s over. But that’s not the end of their story.

    Macross 7 opened up with them estranged, and for a long time their relationship was in a limbo. I’m not sure how they hooked up together again in the end (don’t ask me, I was only following the storyline of Super Robot Wars Alpha 3), but it was good. Maybe the answer is there–happily ever afters ain’t, you just have to keep working it out. Winning the girl is just the start; after that, you’ll have to win battles alongside her.

    As for workable couples… Yang and his girl come to mind. It was handled with minimal drama yet had the mark of a dependable relationship. They simply support each other without the melodrama.

  11. Itazura na Kiss is definitely relevant, as Owen says. I don’t know quite how to judge a workable couple in anime, as it feels weird to apply criteria from the real world to fictional characters. I’d argue that Lafiel and Jinto, from a pragmatic point of view, don’t form a very workable couple, though: presumably, he’ll die before she reaches half of her natural lifespan! It’s probably a good thing that the Abh have very different ideas about love matches, really.

    Oh, and congratulations on your second wedding anniversary!

    @ schneider: Don’t forget (desperately seeks to avoid spoilers) the . . . other Galactic Hero’s marriage, which is a fine example of a marriage that isn’t Disney perfection, but rather the best that could be hoped for given the power politics and difficult circumstances that surround it.

  12. ghostlightning says:

    @ biankita

    If Evangelion is on your watch list, I can recommend the new movies. You are Not Alone is the first one and it’s pretty good. It cuts out the filler, you see. The second one isn’t out yet. Watch NAO, you won’t regret it!

    @ schneider

    Max and Millia’s relationship is played for laughs, but Macross 7 is already on my queue so I didn’t bother mentioning them. But theirs is definitely entertaining, with 7 daughters too!

    @ The Animanachronism

    Thanks man!

    Yeah it’s weird to apply real-world criteria, but it’s fun – as long as we don’t get carried away with our value judgments on the show based only on these criteria.

    Thanks for not spoiling LoGH, though I’m not that spoiler averse and my discipline in spoiler management in my posts leave much to be desired. But yeah! I’m enjoying that show so much. We just finished ep 19 last night. It’s awesome that there’s so much more left.

    Tytania on the other hand…

  13. schneider says:

    Dunno if Eva would have a positive effect on jaded people. I’d rather recommend RahXephon instead. Not as groundbreaking, but just as good. 😛

  14. animekritik says:

    @ghostlightning

    Evangelion filler?? Never was such a thing. I suggest people watch the original series first.
    It’s true that the complexities of a long-term relationship often present more twists and turns than love triangles etc.., but I think they’re not popular anime plot material because people like to see different characters (men/women) showing up. Who’s gonna get her? Who’s she going to pick? That sort of thing…

  15. ghostlightning says:

    @ schneider

    You can’t tell what the Eva experience will be like for people. Rahxephon is also very good, only I don’t recommend it because for some reason I can’t fall in love with it.

    @ animekritik

    J-E-T A-L-O-N-E

    I also expect the movies to streamline long, expository conversations where the only thing you see is a barely moving escalator from hundreds of meters away. I ended up watching a lot of escalators this way over the course of the series. Also that long excruciating scene which wasted the dialogue between Misato and Kaji because the only thing they can afford to animate is a freaking ashtray and an empty beer can.

    Otherwise, I agree with your statements about popularity. Love stories are treated like fantasies, not alike giant mecha, but fantasies nonetheless. Very rarely does it ever become ‘real’.

  16. gloval says:

    there’s this couple in the anime “this ugly yet beautiful world” that interests me quite a lot. ryo x akari is just the secondary couple in that anime yet the stability of their relationship just appeals to me. they basically just “clicked,” no hysterics, no extreme highs and lows whatsoever. taken individually, their personalities are indeed already the stable kind, both playing it cool and firm in their beliefs. as a couple they build up on this individual stability to provide strong and decisive assistance to the lead couple.

    SPOILER!!
    unfortunately we couldn’t see how this stability could go on happily ever after because akari chose to leave and fulfill her role in life and ryo accepted her decision. but even in this parting, although there was indeed profound sadness, there was still the absence of emotional hsyterics.

  17. schneider says:

    @ ghostlightning

    Sad. RahXephon is a show that merits a rewatch, at least, just to see how all the pieces of the puzzle amazingly fit. The ending also has got to be one of my all-time favorites.

    And damn Jet Alone was great. Eva’s fillers are godly.

  18. animekritik says:

    @schneider

    Of course Eva would have a positive effect on jaded people. It would confirm/reinforce their views, and it’s always positive to be told you’re right (even when you’re right about the apocalypse)

    @ghostlightning

    Jet Alone was tragic/funny/exasperating, but not a filler. It’s a necessary part of the story to know that other people out there besides Nerv were doing something about the English (oops) I meant the Angels..

  19. ETERNAL says:

    Ah, gotta love life posts that don’t involve meaningless ranting ;P

    Well, I’m a bit late to the conversation, but I just thought I’d add that in my opinion, a big part of my enjoyment of shoujo and romance stems from the questions poised by the story. For example, let’s say a show begins with a male and female that hardly notice one another, and ends with the two going out; the build-up and conflicts they must overcome to get there are something anyone can relate to, and thus something anyone can enjoy. On the other hand, what if something like True Tears continued to explain what happened to the main couple after the story ended? Aside from the fact that the plot would be over and there wouldn’t be much to talk about, I personally probably wouldn’t like it as much because it attempts to answer a question that the viewer has about the future; namely, whether or not it’s possible to live happily ever after.

    I’m not sure how much sense that made, and undoubtedly all of our responses would differ based on our ages in real life, but I guess I’m trying to say that when a story crosses the line between relatable – even if the characters are older than you – and unrelatable, the enjoyment decreases and the story becomes more dull. Assuming that a lot of anime is aimed at people under 30, presumably unmarried, a show that talks about marriage or life in a relationship would be accepted by a smaller audience than a show that talks about a high school couple overcoming their own weaknesses.

    Of course, we also have happily-ever-after shows like Kare Kano, which inevitable lead one to question whether such a thing is even possible in real…but that’s material for a whole different conversation >_>

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  21. ghostlightning says:

    @ gloval

    Interesting anime, I’ll look it up. Thanks for the tip!

    @ schneider

    It does merit a rewatch, when I finish looking up all the shows I haven’t watched!

    Re: Jet Alone…

    @ animekritik

    YOU WIN. How can I stay bothered about a huge robot. It was massive fail and I took it as a derailment of the plot.

    In hindsight it established how awesome Misato is outside the command center. And her being the other/better lead character in the anime, is what makes Evangelion even lovelier to me.

    I really love Misato.

    @ ETERNAL

    Thanks! Your sharing I think actually underscores the claim I made early in the post about us, the viewers are more comfortable keeping the idea of “happily ever after” in a mythological space. It’s like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy for teenagers and young adults.

    Your claim about how relative age affects expectations is correct. I probably wouldn’t be as concerned about happily ever afters 10 years ago. But it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be!

    Re: possibility, yes it’s real, though not like it’s a zombie-like love-trance until death does the couple part. My grandparents were such a success, loving each other through Alzheimer’s Disease where my grandpa had to endure his love’s mindless insults and dredging up of painful memories every day until she finally died. They raised 7 kids who all love each other and take care of each other, through poverty too. It’s a happy ending indeed, though throughout their life it was quite painful and difficult.

  22. usagijen says:

    I love how you juxtaposed 2D vs reality in those pics XD

    Speaking of romance stories, I seem to have acquired this bad habit of comparing them to RL standards, more often than not, and end up hating couples who I deem will be “doomed even if they end up together” (the category which I classify Kotoko and Naoki’s relationship to be — hence my ItaKiss hate post), because of certain ‘romance/relationship criteria’ I set for myself, and imposed even to the 2D stuff I watch =_=; It’s like I’m being jaded even when I’m not supposed to (since all I have are all theories and not based on actual experience)!

    The couples who passed my so-called ‘relationship test standards’ include Iku x Doujou from Toshokan Sensou, also Yuusuke x Botan from YuYuHakusho… and if we’ll count manga, I say Sasara x Shuuri FOREVER. Had I watched KareKano I’d most likely love Arima x Yukino too, especially as I can relate well with Yukino.

  23. ghostlightning says:

    @ usagijen

    Thanks ‘jen! I have negligible image manipulation skills, so this is pretty much all I can do. I’m very glad you like it.

    I had some disasters in my time. But you know what, I was never ever jaded. Not that I’m always bubbling with love, it’s just that I’m confident that I’ll survive the mess.

    Read the Kare Kano manga by all means. It’s awesome! From what manga is Sasara x Shuuri?

  24. usagijen says:

    Sasara and Shuuri is from Basara, I say READ IT, by all means! It’s one of the rare few EPIC (in the true epic ‘Iliad and the Oddysey’ sense — ok I might be exaggerating a bit there) shoujo mangas.

    I think I stopped following the KareKano manga along the way… though it was for the shallow reason that I found Arima too emo. That was almost a decade ago, though, so if I’ve changed for the better, I’m sure to have a better impression of it than when I first “read” it.

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