Vrai, Chiaki, and Anime Herald‘s Editor-in-Chief Samantha Ferreira look back on the 2006 genderbending rom-com that spoke to a generation of trans anime fans.
Date Recorded: August 28th, 2021
Hosts: Vrai, Chiaki
Guest: Samantha Ferreira
0:01:07 Background and personal experiences
0:13:49 Anime Works subtitles
0:16:21 Hazumu’s dad
0:21:02 The alien
0:24:57 The polycule arc
0:26:11 Hazumu’s false dichotomy
0:28:21 Alternate endings, broader franchise, and time granules
0:32:36 Tomari vs Yasuna
0:40:33 Historical artifact
0:47:28 Final thoughts
VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, and our retrospective of the 2006 anime Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl. My name is Vrai Kaiser. I’m the managing content editor at Anime Feminist. You can find my freelance work on Twitter @WriterVrai, or you can find the podcast that I cohost about weird trash media @trashpod. And with me today is Chiaki and our special guest Samantha Ferreira.
VRAI: And Samantha, I had to have you on because you had a whole storm of feelings when it was announced that Discotek would be relicensing this particular project.
SAMANTHA: Oh yes. This is one that was really special to me because many years ago, as Babby Sam was still discovering herself, I found this series kind of tucked away in the bargain bin. So this really opened my eyes to a lot of things and cracked my proverbial eggshell, you could say. It also didn’t help that this was at a time when I was going through this really big phase where I was trying to watch everything by Satoru Akahori, so it worked out so well in that really weird, strange way.
VRAI: Yeah, I feel like this was the egg series for a lot of people, just a whole generation of girls. It was also something in the air at the time. There were a lot of tentative gender play and crossdressing-type series around at this time.
As I mentioned, Kashimashi comes out in 2006. The K-drama adaptation of Hana-Kimi is 2007, which I think is the first time that anime fandom kind of became aware of K-drama as an art form. You also had Princess Princess, which was literally the season after Kashimashi came out. You had Maria Holic in 2007.
It was a whole thing at the time where we are playing around with gender presentation a lot, but at the end of the day still reassuring you that “don’t worry: this person is going to go back to presenting as a cishet person…” except for this one, which makes it a little bit interesting.
So, quick production notes—because I think this series has become a little bit obscure for younger viewers—before we really dig into it. So, Kashimashi the anime comes out in 2006. It is based on a shounen manga that ran from 2004 to 2007 by Akahori Satoru, who, relevant to Samantha’s interests, worked on the Sakura Wars manga, as well as Saber Marionette J, the manga for Sorcerer Hunters, a bunch of other very ‘90s things.
CHIAKI: Literally everywhere.
SAMANTHA: You could throw a rock and you’d hit something by him.
VRAI: You also mention the illustrator here, Chiaki, if you would like to nerd out a little bit about him.
CHIAKI: Well, so, the manga itself was being illustrated by Katsura Yukimaru. She is the mangaka for Air, which ran around the same time, 2004–2006. And the character designs were by Inugami Sukune, who did one of my favorite weird, offbeat romance mangas, Ai-kagi, back in 2009. This is just me being an obscure manga fan. But I just like the touch… It’s a very soft touch that Inugami has. And I guess if you’ve read Air, the feeling you get from the manga is very much the same, I think.
VRAI: And, as you rightly point out, those are both women, which I think… This is a very male-dominated cast on the anime side, so I think that contribution is important to note here.
The director of the series is not one that probably a lot of modern anime viewers are going to be familiar with, Nakanishi Nobuaki, whose biggest claim to fame is Koihime Musou. Mainly he did a lot of episode-directing, like he worked on Cardcaptor Sakura, and more individual contributions to bigger shows that people might know.
The series composer, however, is our big name attached to the project, which is Hanada Jukki. You at home may know him for the series composition of A Place Further Than the Universe, the series composition for Granbelm, and the adaptive scripts for both Bloom Into You and Sound! Euphonium.
This was originally licensed by Media Blasters under their Anime Works label. The license fell out of print and in 2020 was rescued by Discotek, who notably assured viewers at home that it would come out with new subtitles, which was a pretty big deal because the old ones were, to my understanding, not good.
SAMANTHA: To say it lightly.
VRAI: [Sighs] I think we will dig into that. And if you are saying at home, “Was this really that big a deal?”… When the manga was licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment in 2007, when they were a smaller company than they are now, this was their number-one-selling manga. So it was kind of a big deal 15 years ago, which I suppose leads us into personal histories with the series. Samantha, you mentioned watching it when you were a lot younger. What about you, Chiaki?
CHIAKI: So this would have been when I was in high school, probably, 2004, 2006, definitely senior year of high school for me there. And judging by the fact that I own the first four volumes of the manga and not the fifth, which came out in the fall of 2006, and I went to Japan my summer year after graduating high school, yeah, I was definitely reading it around then.
By then I was pretty much out as trans, at least to my friends. And it was just trying to find everything and anything that had something to do with a guy turning into a girl. It is an obsession that continues to this day, as far as stories go for me.
VRAI: Yes, we will put it in the show notes, the article you did for us on TSF fiction. The other one you have in the queue may or may not be out by the time this airs. If it is, it will also be in there. But Kashimashi is, I guess, a little unique in that it is that premise of “Oh gosh! A seemingly cis boy was magically transformed into a cis girl. Gosh, wouldn’t that be terrible? Guess I’ll have to live with it.”
CHIAKI: One thing I would like to note, though: around the time Kashimashi was coming out was also the time that Wandering Son was also being serialized. Just so we have a little bit more context in terms [of] what the environment was in terms of trans representation and gender-bender stories that were available to readers.
VRAI: Right. This would have been around the time that the elementary school arc of Wandering Son was just starting to be published and was a really landmark big deal.
CHIAKI: In Japan at least, yeah.
VRAI: I am actually comparatively a newcomer to this series, because I didn’t get hold of the manga until a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t even able to finish it because I was reading library copies and they no longer had all of it and it’s well out of print, unfortunately. And this is my first brush with the anime.
It’s an interesting watch. I was watching a lot of the other things I mentioned up top at this time, but I think, because my experiences were different as a transmasc person, this was very much not a show made for me. I was much more Ranma-oriented than the horror story of somebody being magically bodied into being a girl. That was not made to appeal to my brain.
To start out, though, what are your feelings about Hazumu, especially how she compares to other protagonists at the time, other… She’s kind of related to but distinct from various Potato-kun type heroines.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, on the plus side, at least she has agency, you know?
CHIAKI: I think so. She feels like she’s a character who is very shy. So she doesn’t necessarily take as much initiative or action in the series, but it feels like it’s in-character with her. I think most of her character arc is the ability to decide what she wants in life, which is a more general adolescent challenge that kids go through, so I think it fits who she is and is unique to her. It’s not just like, “Oh, we’re gonna have the plot happen to her.” She is trying to navigate and she’s doing her gosh-darn hardest.
VRAI: Right. Navigating her adolescence of “How do I make decisions about things and how do I commit and realize that not committing isn’t just… It’s only saving my feelings and it might be hurting other people.” Pretty relatable, but also she’s dealing with the fact that she is now interfacing with society under socialized feminine expectations, which the show spends a surprisingly subtle amount of time on.
CHIAKI: I felt like there wasn’t as much, because I felt society really quickly accepts her—which is actually also a nice fantasy to live in: having society affirm that you’re a girl when you used to be a boy without being called weird, like “She had no choice. So therefore, we have to take pity on her or at least respect her as who she is now.”
I think it’s not quite the most ideal trans narrative, right? If you’re trans, you want to just be respected as your gender. You come out; you say, “I’m a woman. Just respect me as one.” You know, it’s more a feeling of pity from society, but I think it’s still very accepting overall. And I didn’t think it was necessarily too protracted by people around her.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, I have to agree there. It was very much like, even if you listen to the secondary character dialogue, there’s the acceptance, which is always fantastic to see, but they seem to tinge it with “Well, it can’t be helped, so here goes” type of thing, outside of that first episode or second episode, where they were dealing with the paparazzi outside of her house.
CHIAKI: Yeah, they disappeared real quick. [Chuckles]
SAMANTHA: Oh, yeah, they just vanished.
VRAI: Yeah, yeah. There’s almost this kind-of arc that… I couldn’t tell if it was the subtitles being inconsistent in their choices or if it’s narrative decisions or a little bit of column A, little column B, where, as Tomari in particular sorts out her feelings about Hazumu, she shifts towards using she/her pronouns by the end of the series completely. Where, for probably the good solid first half of the show, she keeps referring to Hazumu with he/him pronouns.
And Hazumu does use “boku” throughout, but she also pretty well accepts “Well, I’m a girl now. This is who I am.” It’s interesting to me.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, that was actually a very cool character arc I liked for Tomari, because it kind of makes some issues—some things I saw with my own family as they struggled to accept my identity.
CHIAKI: Mm-hm. Yeah, I think, same here. Definitely.
I think also, just to note here for Hazumu’s referring to herself as “boku,” there are people in Japan who are women who refer to themselves as “boku”: bokukko. Not quite as prevalent, certainly, but just somebody who is generally a little bit more masculine or isn’t… I mean, given Hazumu, how feminine she is, it’s a little weird, but definitely there are women who refer to themselves if they see themselves a little bit more masculine than not.
VRAI: Hm. Samantha, do you want to talk here a little bit about the Anime Works-era subtitles?
SAMANTHA: Yeah, the Anime Works subtitles were bad, to say it lightly. In particular, they liked to misgender Hazumu quite a bit when it wasn’t warranted. And they tended to lean towards the masculine pronouns as opposed to the feminine despite what the rest of the world around them were saying, so it was kind of messy, very clumsy.
In this day and age, it would be a yikes thing, but the mid-2000s, when this came around, I think a lot of us were willing to give it a pass because it actually came out at a time when this was so hard to come by in stores.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, completely. I think, in another one of those illustrative-of-the-era anecdotes, around this same time in high school, I got really burned by reading the manga of After School Nightmare, which was ostensibly this dreamlike, surreal manga about a main character who was quote-unquote… his top half was “male” and his bottom half was “female,” so he’s like a flat-chested dude with a vulva. And so much of that manga involved pushing this character down and having him threatened with sexual assault because of his sex characteristics and ultimately him choosing to be reborn into the world as a cis female.
And that’s way more often what I ran into than this kind of well-meaning but clumsy effort, which I think is part of what helped Kashimashi be so special to people, even now.
SAMANTHA: Oh, definitely. I mean, back then it was one of the things where it was like there was no real malice behind it. It was mostly just, at the time, the U.S. in particular was still kind of grappling with… I mean, it was grappling with gay people, let alone queer people, trans people. This was a point before gay marriage was even legal. So, to see them actually try to make a good-faith effort, I think a lot of people were willing to give them that bit of slack.
VRAI: Yeah. Meanwhile, it is worth saying all the men in this series are trash. They’re trash and I do hate them all.
SAMANTHA: Oh yeah, they’re all garbage.
VRAI: Why is Hazumu’s dad a rapist! Why is this a comedy bit!
CHIAKI: [ironic] It’s funny! Ha-ha-ha…
CHIAKI: [ironic] Ah, sexual harassment. It’s so great!
SAMANTHA: Fuck that dude. Sorry, sorry, I don’t know if I can curse. But that’s just my visceral reaction.
VRAI: No, that’s fair and reasonable. And it’s so… The tone of this series overall is very wacky slapstick. But even in the context of the show, it’s a weird, uncomfortable gag. It’s like if the horrible teacher from Azumanga Daioh was supposed to be relatable to the audience?
CHIAKI: I wouldn’t call him relatable. I think he was just there to just be laughed at occasionally. Like, he is the horrible teacher from Azumanga Daioh, but he’s given a little bit more empathy just because he’s her dad, I guess. But then, also, her mom immediately just slaps the shit out of him.
VRAI: Every time. She’s always there.
SAMANTHA: I love Hazumu’s mom. She’s the absolute best.
VRAI: She’s so good. And maybe part of the reason her dad being gross sticks out is because part of the nice fantasy is that her parents are so totally on board instantly and have bought her a whole new wardrobe.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, it lends that air of seediness to some of it, like “Oh, dear God.”
CHIAKI: I feel like they kind of wanted a girl from the very beginning, kind of adding to “Hazumu has always been a girl,” or at least everyone thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if Hazumu was a girl?”
VRAI: Yeah, that is a subtext throughout. Hazumu was always very feminine and wore feminine clothing in one of those “Well, we always knew. This seems like it’s fitting that this has happened,” which is part of that subtext as well.
But also, meanwhile, then you have his best friend Asuta, who I think escaped from X-Change, the TSF game that JAST published around this era, where he is the best friend who, now that his best friend has boobs, he must obviously have a crush on her. It just changed everything.
CHIAKI: Let me just put it out there: that is a common fantasy, for me at least. I was like, “Oh, what if I turned into a girl and suddenly all my dude friends liked me?” [Chuckles]
VRAI: Fair enough.
CHIAKI: But I’m damaged. Don’t worry.
CHIAKI: No, the thing about Asuta that really annoys me… and the anime also has him be this “Oh, what if we can date? What if Hazumu is my new love interest?” This continues for like the entirety of the manga as well, and it’s just as grating, as well as his father, but even more so because he has more screen time.
VRAI: Right. Maybe the reason I found it off-putting is there was a certain amount of sense to the character in terms of “Ah, teenagers have overactive imaginations when they’ve never dated, and so they look at everything through the lens of ‘Maybe this could be love!’” And I’m fine with that.
But after he has his wonky failed confession scene and is like, “Ah, I’ve been shut down. Don’t worry: I’m gonna be your really good friend for life.” And I’m like, “Aw! That’s a really nice and healthy thing to have on.” And then the fantasy sequences get about 50 times worse after that, and I’m like, “Okay, I take it all back.”
SAMANTHA: I am so glad that it got to that point where the entire rest of the cast [is] like “Yeah, just ignore him. He’s fucking creepy.”
CHIAKI: [Laughs] You know, yeah, there is that dude in your friend circle, isn’t there, occasionally?
VRAI: Yeah. No, I think we all… Not even always a dude sometimes, but the dude version of it is often pushier.
VRAI: Our third male character who matters is our alien, who has come to save his planet’s declining birth rate.
CHIAKI: You know, I think you said he’s the best guy out of the lot. He’s the most well-adjusted, I guess, and he’s literally a sociopath. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yep! Yeah! Because that’s the plot of this show, secretly: is that aliens have come to observe humanity because they can no longer feel connection to one another, and so they’re dying out. And so they are observing this girl and her romantic dalliances—this high school girl. Which, okay, it’s wacky.
CHIAKI: [deadpan] Sure is a 2000s anime.
VRAI: I can’t even be that mad at it because I remember Sukisho, which also had an equally convoluted, barely sci-fi premise about that stupid. It does interest me that the reason these aliens stick around is because of Hazumu’s crush, Yasuna, who has a bullshit anime disease.
If we were to loosely connect it to something in the real world, maybe we could call it visual agnosia, specifically face blindness, where from a young age she can’t distinguish men; they just look like vague blobs to her. So when Hazumu, pre-transition, confessed to her, she got scared and ran away because she thought she wouldn’t be able because of her previous trauma, but now she is pursuing current-day Hazumu. And hence, conflict.
It’s very silly. Mostly it interests me because of how her silly anime disease kind of skirts the line of characters in manga who like girls because they have damage around men, the “lesbian because trauma” narrative. And the anime never quite goes there, but I was on the edge of my seat a little bit the whole time.
SAMANTHA: It wouldn’t have been shocking if it did go there, basically.
VRAI: The last episode or two, I was like, “Oh, God! Oh, God! Hazumu… She’s worked through her issues. Is she going to end up with one of the random dudes who wanted to ask her out now? Uh…”
CHIAKI: I feel like she stays kinda gay at the end, though? But I’m not sure.
VRAI: Honestly, I actually liked the ending of Yasuna’s character arc, where… The series ends with her and Hazumu ostensibly getting together, and then in the OVA, four months later we find out she’s broken up and wants to be on her own for a while. Which, you don’t see a lot of characters who are happily single. And I was fine with that.
CHIAKI: Yeah. It’s a show of strength. There’s a number of love-triangle stories that end with the quote-unquote “loser” kind of swearing, “Oh, I’m gonna be strong now. I don’t need anyone to support me. I don’t need love,” or “I’m going to pursue my own love,” or “I’m still gonna pine for you.” I feel like with Yasuna, it’s also just driven by her own character that she’s the one that initiated the breakup, which is a major difference compared to a lot of the other third-wheel situations that come up in manga and anime.
VRAI: Yeah, for sure. What are your guys’ thoughts on the middle stretch here: the Hazumu’s polycule arc, as I like to call it?
CHIAKI: I wish he was more like the biggest himbo wife guy Naoya, from Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
VRAI: I thought about Girlfriend, Girlfriend so much while I was watching this!
SAMANTHA: Seriously. That’s what I was thinking of when I was watching it, too. I was like, “Oh my God, this would… This…”
VRAI: This is better Girlfriend, Girlfriend!
CHIAKI: [Chuckles] This is the better Girlfriend, Girlfriend! It’s the Girlfriend, Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
VRAI: New name! Better name!
CHIAKI: There we go. You know what, though? If I recall correctly, the kanji for “kashimashii,” which is very loud or boisterous, is literally the kanji for woman written three times.
CHIAKI: Which is a little sexist, because, hey, Japanese language weird, huh. But that’s… Yeah. [Chuckles]
VRAI: No, but puns!
I was so torn once it started to get to the last arc because, on the one hand, I respect the arc that they set up with Hazumu’s character where she literally can’t make a decision about anything, including what she wants to order at a restaurant, and how not choosing is a kind of selfishness even if you think you’re doing it not to hurt anybody, because that’s very teenage.
But at the same time, it was kind of a bummer that that also equaled “You have to choose your one partner,” because I really liked the parts where it was the three of them being a V and working out this slightly thorny friendship between Tomari and Yasuna. I really liked those scenes, actually!
CHIAKI: And it seemed like they were able to share. It’s not like there was any kind of reason why they couldn’t monopolize— They weren’t necessarily monopolizing each other and they were very understanding that Hazumu is somebody to be shared. [Chuckles]
SAMANTHA: Definitely. And honestly, I think they could have easily gone with that ending with them three in a polycule, and it would have been just as satisfying, if not more so.
CHIAKI: More satisfying and also groundbreaking.
SAMANTHA: Exactly, because, yeah, that just wasn’t a thing in 2006 in media.
CHIAKI: Hear that, Akahori Satoru? Your series got beaten by Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
VRAI: Feel ashamed!
VRAI: You wouldn’t even have to do away with the major point of conflict of feeling anxious about your partner being more intimate more quickly with their other partner before you, because that’s real and full of emotions as teenager, adult… but it’s just the way they ended up executing. It was too 2006. We could have had it all.
SAMANTHA: We really could have.
SAMANTHA: What could have been?
VRAI: I spent a long time thinking that actually this series just straight-up decided to 50/50 split, where in the manga Hazumu ends up with Tomari and then in the anime she ends up with Yasuna, which is true but also isn’t true because then the OVA also has her end up with Tomari. But I am surprised there isn’t more variety, given that apparently this had just a ginormous franchise. Good Lord! It was the manga, a light novel, a visual novel, several radio dramas.
CHIAKI: Yeah, no, I feel like as far as this adaptation goes, the anime came out around when volume 3 or 4 was coming out in Japan. And that’s the volume, right? So it’s been running in Dengeki beforehand. And of course, you have people who are making the anime, plotting it out, talking with Akahori Satoru on where the series is going. The anime series essentially condenses the first two volumes of the manga into one cour of anime, so I feel like that’s just kinda where the manga was at at the time, and they might have just thrown a dart, going “Okay. This is the ending.”
SAMANTHA: Yeah, I could see that.
VRAI: Yeah, definitely.
SAMANTHA: I mean, it didn’t go into the weirdness of the manga with the whole time granules or anything like that, so…
VRAI: You have to explain that to me because, again, I didn’t make it that far in the manga and the Wikipedia was not cutting it.
SAMANTHA: [Laughs] All right, well, basically… I’m going by memory on this, by the way, so please don’t hurt me if I’m a bit wrong on this. But basically, as part of the reconstruction process of Hazumu’s body after she got completely flattened and disintegrated by the alien ship, the process was not perfect, leading her to basically start dying, basically. Her literal time was escaping in the form of time granules. And they had to find a way to prevent that from happening or she would die within a month or something of them discovering it.
CHIAKI: Thirty days.
VRAI: All right.
SAMANTHA: Because Akahori Satoru BS, basically. This is one of the things that he likes to do to throw in conflict in his works: he contrives some really weird, really strange reason and kind of works back from there.
CHIAKI: Did you want me to spoil the entire series here?
CHIAKI: Okay. So, the reason why Hazumu chooses Tomari at the end is that they both… It’s time granules, right? So it’s like, oh, is she going to die because of some kind of anime cancer? No, it’s the fact that fate literally conspires to kill her once she’s out of time granules.
And so, at the very end of the series, Hazumu falls off the roof of the school and is like, oh, this is how she’s gonna die. But then Tomari jumps with her to try to save her, and they both miraculously survive, and the alien is like, “Oh, I see. Tomari shared her life granules with Hazumu, and now they are both bound to each other with their fate, and they’re gonna live to be old together.”
VRAI and SAMANTHA: Okay!
SAMANTHA: Yeah, that’s an Akahori storyline.
CHIAKI: Yes, Hazumu also chooses Tomari because she loves her, but also, that’s what seals the deal, I think.
VRAI: Mm. You know? All right. Even the anime definitely leans hard toward Tomari in terms of the effort and emotionality and framing on their scenes together.
There’s some interesting subtext going on. It feels a little bit out of my lane to talk too much about it, but there is definitely some subtext in Yasuna’s arc about disability and guilt and her concerns that Hazumu is in fact only staying with her because she feels obligated to her. And there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there that the anime really doesn’t get too much into. But she always kind of feels like the second choice because she’s not the childhood friend, also.
Honestly, the biking scene in the last episode is really good, though. They’re really sweet.
SAMANTHA: Mm, it was.
CHIAKI: Can I just say something about how the anime ends, pre-OVA? I feel like it was designed for Tomari to be the final choice that Hazumu makes, mostly because the anime literally finishes with Yasuna implying the breakup. It doesn’t go there. It just says, “Hey, Hazumu!” and then it freeze-frames. And then, the next thing you know, it goes to Hazumu and Tomari on the riverside, and Hazumu goes like, “Hey, Tomari!” and then it’s freeze-frames.
It’s like, okay, what is that supposed to mean? If you haven’t seen the OVA, what is that supposed to mean? That’s not really an ending. It just kinda implies everyone’s happy. That’s great, I guess. But then you find out in the OVA, yeah, Hazumu got broken up with and confessed to Tomari afterwards. Right?
VRAI: Yeah, it’s such a weird ending scene. I guess maybe they knew they were going to have the OVA, because it only came out about six months after the series finished airing, it seems like. But wow! What a middle finger just imagining it on its own with nothing after that.
CHIAKI: Yeah, if you were watching this on the TV and you weren’t gonna buy the DVD, what are you gonna get out of this?
VRAI: “All right, that happened! That was a waste of 12 episodes, I guess! It will continue like this forever.”
SAMANTHA: “Why did I spend all that time watching that?”
CHIAKI: That’s what I feel about every anime I watch, though.
SAMANTHA: To be fair, yeah.
VRAI: [crosstalk] No, fair. Yeah.
Do we want to talk about Ayuki at all? She feels kind of prefigure-y of the best friend guy in Bloom Into You, the cheerleader character who is weirdly invested in other people’s relationships.
SAMANTHA: I actually liked her as a character. I mean, she kind of knew what she wanted from the get-go and she just seemed to really just enjoy watching this entire thing unfold. She really actually did strike me as someone who was ace with a degree of aro, again, in a time before this was commonly accepted.
VRAI: Mm. Yeah, I definitely think that reading is extremely viable. All the pieces, et cetera. I will say she is connected to that horrifying, hilarious CGI butterfly, which I had to stop the anime for a good minute…
CHIAKI: [Chuckles, then groans]
VRAI: It is incredible. Ex-Arm took inspiration from this magnificent butterfly CG.
CHIAKI: I mean, okay, just so we’re clear, I think the animation quality of the butterfly was still probably better than Ex-Arm.
VRAI: No, no, that’s fair. That’s an insult to Kashimashi that it did not deserve.
SAMANTHA: Didn’t it, though? That thing was horrifying.
VRAI: It was upsetting to look at. The way it unfolds… I know CG was rough in 2006, but my God! Why? I know this was the era of moe blobs and digital paint. But why?
CHIAKI: It was poetic.
VRAI: It was poetic! [Chuckles] You know it’s poetic because there’s a lot of text on screen in that episode.
VRAI: This show is so of its era! I felt I had de-aged 15 years watching it.
VRAI: But yeah. She is a likable character. I think you’re right, Samantha. Even if she is kind of there to be the plot winch who fixes things when characters won’t talk to each other, it is nice to have that kind of mature voice in the series to balance out the aggressively loud shenanigans.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. Although I do have to say this one: she took one look at that butterfly and said, “No, thanks, I guess.” [Chuckles]
VRAI: [Chuckles] If that’s what love is, I’m out, actually.
CHIAKI: That’s just an excuse at that point.
SAMANTHA: To be fair, we all said the exact same thing!
VRAI: I’m suddenly very sad that none of the ace members of the team are on to confirm for us if that is what looking at the world of romance is like: an ugly, horrifying CGI butterfly you would like nothing to do with.
CHIAKI: Yeah, well, we’ll have a quick poll in the staff chat, I guess.
VRAI: Yes! Good!
Although I guess it is important, I can’t imagine showing this to other people. I genuinely had a good time watching Kashimashi, but I think it is because I was watching so many other shows like it, so I could put myself back in the mindset of being that age and the intended audience. I don’t know if a 19- or a 20-year-old would have a good time with this one.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. This is very much something that if you didn’t watch at a younger age or you can’t get into that mindset, it would definitely not really sit with you.
CHIAKI: I definitely tried to reread the manga for this podcast, and let me tell you: I got through the first volume, the second volume became a slog, I couldn’t bring myself to open the third, and by the fourth, I was just flipping through.
VRAI: Hoo! Ouch.
CHIAKI: So, I’ve changed. I’ve grown as a person. I haven’t been in high school for 15 years. So, yeah, definitely. But it’s definitely something that I feel I’ve moved on from in a lot of ways.
VRAI: Yeah, fair. It’s still a really interesting historical piece. I’m really glad that Discotek is preserving it, because that is what they are single-handedly trying to do. Thank you, Discotek.
VRAI: It’s especially nice to see them rescue a series that is not giant robots and shooty-bangs, as much as I enjoy those shows, too. I feel like shows like this tend to fall through the cracks of licensing, lost, and just nobody thinks they’re worth bringing back. So this is an interesting case in that respect.
But the quadrants where I can think of recommending it to people: like if you are interested in the history of the evolution of representation, I would recommend this in the same way I would recommend, say, the Earthian manga for queer rep, where there is this central, kind of compelling, happy love story, but also there’s all this shit around it, like weird incest dad and the kind of cisnormative language even though the subtitles are doing their damnedest.
And maybe part of the issue is that Hanada himself has gone on to do so many other really tender, compelling high schooler works as he’s evolved as a scriptwriter. So if you want more of this style of character interaction… Which, I think, honestly, there are some really good character scenes in the show, but there’s also other Hanada series where he’s done that kind of thing with ten years’ more experience!
I don’t know. Please tell me I’m wrong.
SAMANTHA: Oh, you’re not wrong there at all. I mean, this is one of those shows where it’s very much a time capsule of what it was. It’s an encapsulation of an era, to be very honest. This is very much a 2006 series—a 2006 queer series, and it’s definitely not going to have the same impact now if you’re coming back to it now or if you weren’t able to get into that mindset back then.
This is something where we’ve seen great strides, not only in writing and characterization and presentation and representation, but generally, like you even said, Hanada Jukki has evolved immensely since this series, I mean. And some of the variations of even some of the character sequences in this have appeared in other works. So it’s one of those shows where, unless you have some nostalgia attached, it’s probably not going to land the same way at all, especially when you start getting into stuff, the truly troubling stuff, like Trash Dad, because that’s a screaming red flag even today—well, even back then.
VRAI: Yeah. And also, not that it’s comparative to Trash Dad, but let us not forget 35-year-old teacher who’s never had a boyfriend and this is now her one goal in life.
SAMANTHA: Seriously. Poor Namiko.
CHIAKI: Who is a crossover from a separate series, as well, right?
SAMANTHA: Mon Colle Knights.
SAMANTHA: I feel so bad for her. She just deserves all the happiness.
VRAI: I’ll be real. My favorite part of the OVA was her ending up with alien guy. Good for you, girl!
CHIAKI: You know, in the manga she doesn’t get together with him.
VRAI: No! Why?
CHIAKI: At the very end it’s Ayuki, actually, who goes like, “Hey, do you need a research assistant to observe humans? I’m here to observe humans as well.” And he’s like, “Hm. Yes, you might be a good assistant. Okay.”
VRAI: She’s gone to the planet of the aros!
VRAI: Okay! All right!
CHIAKI: In the manga they even have an extra side story for Namiko when she’s like, “My turn for love is still yet to bloom. It’ll be here soon. I swear it’ll be here soon.” And then the alien guy pulls up a mirror thing that tells people what they’ll look like at their sexual… or their peak of attractiveness, and it shows her as a high school girl. And everyone’s like, “Oh. Oh. Oh no.” [Chuckles]
VRAI: No, clearly what you should have done is taken her back to your planet where you need to quote-unquote “fix” your declining birth rate, and she will fall in love with everyone. She will heal the entire planet with her weirdly enthusiastic desire for romance.
CHIAKI: If we had a Namiko spinoff anime right now, it would be the pinnacle Abenime.
VRAI: Oh God, it would.
VRAI: I like that we still call it Abenime even though he’s out of office.
CHIAKI: I mean, Suganime… I guess Suganime is actually easier to say, huh.
VRAI: You know what? Maybe that’s for the best that they didn’t, because the whole implication’s there… Frankly, it’s shocking how well the series doesn’t do that, because no one tells Ayuki that she’s weird and should in fact be trying to date somebody, and also all the participants in the weird science alien love experiment all are actively seeking a romance. So that’s something. Monkey’s paw, et cetera, et cetera.
And while I’m at it, this anime should not probably be remade.
SAMANTHA: Oh God, no.
CHIAKI: But what if it was poly in the remake?
VRAI: Okay, you got me. I’ve changed my mind entirely.
SAMANTHA: That could work.
VRAI: Yes. Kashimashi remake, but only if it’s Hazumu polycule ending. Done. Solved it. Good work, everyone.
CHIAKI: All right, let’s get funding.
VRAI: Do either of you have anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to talk about with the series? Because I feel like I talked a lot today.
CHIAKI: I think that about covers it for me.
SAMANTHA: For me, yeah, all I can really say is I appreciated some of the more subtle nods to this series. Things like, say, if you watch closely, particularly Hazumu’s wardrobe, it slowly transitions from more boyish clothes to more feminine presentation. And that kind of hit home for me because transition is expensive as far as heck. I mean, clothes are expensive, so that really struck me as an interesting little realistic point more than anything.
VRAI: Yeah, that’s a great point, because even with the gags about her parents buying her a fancy wardrobe so they can take pictures of her, which is weird, for the first half of the series, she feels really self-conscious and keeps wearing a lot of those more masculine cuts. And then by the end of the series, she has cute sundresses. And it’s nice.
SAMANTHA: It really is.
VRAI: Yeah. Thank you so much, by the way, for coming and being the voice of nostalgia with us on this episode.
SAMANTHA: Not at all. It was a lot of fun.
VRAI: Like I said, even if it’s not one we recommend by the end of this, it is a show that I wanted to take an episode of the podcast to celebrate, just so people can remember it.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, definitely.
VRAI: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us at home, AniFam. If you also watched this series and want to shout about it in the comments, we would love that.
If you liked what you heard today, you can find more of our work in your ears and on the page by going to AnimeFeminist.com. And if you really liked what you’re heard, consider chucking a dollar a month to our Patreon at patreon.com/animefeminist. Every little bit really does help us to continue paying all of our contributors and our hardworking staff, including our transcriptionist for these episodes, so we really appreciate you.
Thanks for joining us, AniFam, and remember: you can, in fact, have both cotton candies.