Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien, Or Fiction Mirroring Reality

As I haven't had internet at home for well over two weeks now due to my internet provider (KabelBW) screwing up on the transition from a regular to a business account, I have fortunately have had a chance to revisit an anime series I have only once watched before. The series is called Kimi ga Nozomu Eien [1] ('You Long for Eternity') and when I first watched it was probably in 2005 or thereabouts. Back then I doubt that I got the full impact of this series' story and the interaction between the characters. This time around it was quite different, with its story hitting me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Note that many spoilers will follow for those who haven't watched this (10-year old) series yet.

KgNE's story starts like so many with a sunny, happy-go-lucky group of students and their relations. The shy girl, Haruka, gets hooked up with the main character, Takayuki, through the efforts of the others and a relationship blossoms. It wouldn't be much of a story if things stayed just like that, of course. That's why, when Takayuki is late for a date with Haruka, he gets stopped by Mitsuki, who makes him buy a present for her birthday even though he is late already. She picks a ring from a street vendor, after which Takayuki rushes off to his date.

At the agreed-upon location at the station he finds a scene of carnage, with police cars, ambulances and a big crowd surrounding an area near the station. It takes Takayuki a few moments to realize that it was Haruka who was the victim there, as a police officer reads out her name on the radio to HQ. Haruka isn't dead, but requires immediate surgery due to the car hitting her as she was standing there. Cue scenes of Takayuki waiting in the hospital, breaking down as he sees Haruka's parents in tears.

Fast-forward three years and Haruka is still in a coma. Mitsuki and Takayuki have meanwhile found each other in what can only in the most liberal terms be called a relationship. This becomes especially pronounced when Haruka awakes from her coma. To not shock her too much, everyone pretends that almost no time has passed since the accident and that things are still the way they were three years ago. Mitsuki quitting the swimming team because she lost all self-confidence, Takayuki giving up his university studies for much the same reason and both their relationship with each other, everything is ignored.

In the end the truth always comes to light of course. In this case by Haruka's younger sister, Akane, who tells the truth in front of everyone, fed up and frustrated as she is with this charade. As Haruka lapses back into unconsciousness as a result of this shock, Akane is left wondering whether she did the right thing. It seems to push everything forwards, though, and as Haruka awakes again after a few days, she seems to have changed. Gone is the innocent little girl of three years ago. Instead she seems to have aged many years while asleep, almost turning into a different person.

In the end Haruka and Takayuki have their last conversation outside the hospital, while viewing the ocean next to which the hospital is located. There Haruka tells Takayuki about this great fairy tale she read in the book she was looking for three years ago already. It's about an immortal fairy who encounters a group of children with whom she becomes friends until eventually the children grow older and forget about her. Except for the first girl who she met. With her she has one final conversation, during which they say farewell, both knowing that this has to be the end. With the story ended, Haruka and Takayuki say their own farewells.

The most interesting thing about this story is in my opinion that it isn't really about the main character, Takayuki, but about Haruka. She is the one who goes through so much character development and changes from a shy young girl into a successful author of children's books. The others more or less flounder around her, except for maybe the other friend, Shinji, who pursues his university studies, not letting things sway him too much from his ultimate goal.

One scene which is also very emotionally charged and recognizable to me is the one where Haruka is hitting her shrivelled legs with her fists for not obeying her commands to move while she's going through rehabilitation. The realization that she has lost three years of her life frustrates her, and yet she isn't blaming anyone for this. While Mitsuki can't look at the ring on her finger without feeling nagging guilt which she quickly pushes away and Takayuki keeps blaming himself for not being on time, Haruka only seeks to push herself harder to make up for all this lost time. Thus she keeps moving forward, while the other two remain stuck in time.

While obviously a fictional story, I think that KgNE has a lot of important lessons in it, most of all about how to deal with difficult situations in a relationship, or when the unthinkable happens, like one's loved one lapsing into a coma without knowing when or if they will ever awake from it. It shows the importance of transparency and honesty, both to others and oneself. Both Haruka and Shinji always stayed honest to themselves and thus can live their lives without too many regrets, while Mitsuki and Takayuki even when everything has been said and done keep feeling torn by regrets and sorrow. Akane once followed Mitsuki as an idol, but through the course of the series comes to see her sister as the true idol.

In the end this second viewing of KgNE for me was a very touching and emotional event. Haruka's struggles so reminded me of what I have gone through since I first watched the series. The frustration over having lost so much time, the urge to make up for it and the need to move on by saying farewell to what has been and can no longer be. Sometimes fiction is a true mirror of reality.




Chris said...

I'm on my third trip through Rumbling Hearts / Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, though the first in Japanese with English subtitles rather than the English dub. It surprised me to find lots of details in the original that were omitted or changed in the dub… not that the dub isn't faithful to the original, but the little changes add up after a while. You can follow my progress through the re-watch on my Tumblr, with the Rumbling Hearts tag.

I've always liked and sympathized with Mitsuki in this show, that she gives up so much to save Takayuki, and yet she's really taken for granted because it seems like she's the character who most has her act together, when that's not really true at all. Akane is possibly the most interesting character, as a catalyst who is always the one pushing the three main characters into action. And I've even got a soft spot for Takayuki himself, who certainly means well, even if he rarely does well.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Horgan said...

Thank you. I hadn't seen it but now I will. I like the way you found some healing in it.

Chris said...

Now that you mention the idea of Haruka's lost time, I wonder if that doesn't apply to some of the other characters as well. Takayuki spends that first year as a pretty much a recluse: unshaven, bedraggled, and practically uncommunicative by the time Mitsuki decides to intervene. And Mitsuki should have been training for the Olympics by this point in her life, but we see instead that her focusing on Takayuki led directly to the failure of her athletic career, which is how she ends up with an indistinct Office Lady job and not much of a future beyond it. Lost years, indeed.