Caitlin, Dee, and Meru return to talk about Anno’s contributions to the adaptation, the memorable dub, and school bullies.
Editor’s Note: This series of episodes was recorded before Meru changed their name and pronouns; the transcript will reflect both in their updated form.
Date Recorded: October 24th, 2021
Hosts: Caitlin, Dee, Meru
0:04:35 Iconic segments
0:06:09 Sub vs dub (again)
0:11:11 Sex stuff
0:16:37 Anno’s influence (it’s depression)
0:23:14 Yukino and the bullying arc
0:36:36 The friends
0:43:33 Tsubasa’s family and her dad
0:55:16 Masami Tsuda’s reaction to the anime
0:57:49 Favorite moments
CAITLIN: Hi and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. This week, we are watching episodes 8 to 13 of His and Her Circumstances, also known as Kare Kano, also known as Kareshi to Kanojo no Jijou. —Was there a tone there?
DEE: Nobody knows it by that name, Caitlin. Come on.
CAITLIN: I’m Caitlin. I am one of the editors for AniFem, as well as a reviewer for Anime News Network. You can find me on Twitter @alltsun_nodere. And today I am joined by the lovely Dee and Meru.
DEE: Hi! I’m Dee. I’m also one of the managing editors here at AniFem. You can find most of my writings on my blog The Josei Next Door. I swear one of these days I will update the damn thing to feature all the stuff I’ve done on Anime Feminist since the last time I updated it. But until then you can also follow me on Twitter @joseinextdoor, where I generally do retweet the stuff I write on AniFem. So, hooray!
MERU: My name is Meru, and I am a Japanese-to-English translation editor as well as an editor here at Anime Feminist. And you can find me on Twitter @pixelatedlenses, where I am always trying to share some optimism, retweeting some articles, and I will not stop talking about how gay The Aquatope on White Sand is. You can’t stop me, internet. You can’t.
CAITLIN: So, Kare Kano episodes 8 to 13! What’d you guys think?
MERU: I like them actually. This is where I was like, okay, I’m fully on board now. I liked them. Liked them.
DEE: Yeah. I have some future worries, but I enjoyed this stretch a lot. Because the last stretch was good, but I think that we talked a little bit about how really there was just two characters, and there was kind of that sense of “How are we going to sustain this for a full cour?”
Because usually, these kind of school rom-coms do start to introduce some additional characters. And we got Asaba at the tail end of last week, but we didn’t really see that much of him. And this week brought in my favorite part of the shoujo high school rom-com: the girl friends.
DEE: Yeah, I had a really good time with the stretch. They zipped right by, and it’s nice that we’re getting a lot of different subplots and different characters who can bounce off each other, and it just gives them more options for how to move the story forward, and I appreciate that in a rom-com, sitcom-style setting.
CAITLIN: Yeah, absolutely. This is probably the best stretch of episodes…
DEE: Oh, no!
CAITLIN: … without being too… [Laughs]
MERU: Wait, no!
CAITLIN: Not meaning to scare you for the future! They’re just very good!
DEE: [crosstalk] All downhill from here, kids.
CAITLIN: [Laughs] Well, I mean, they’re my favorite stretch of episodes. It’s where the production hits its stride, but also before they start hitting the really serious production issues. There’s some really iconic moments in it. We meet some really awesome characters and have a lot of fun with them. It is my favorite stretch of episodes.
On the production side, there’s not really a whole lot to note. Not a lot of big ups and downs. We talked about most of the interesting lead-up stuff last episode. I did feel like the animation in general looked a lot better than some of the episodes last time. Or at least it was more consistent. There weren’t any slideshow episodes.
DEE: No, it wasn’t like they had an entire episode that was basically just manga panels with text that moved on screen.
DEE: Although there were definitely a few points in the last couple episodes where they were doing some weird stuff with… I’m not sure what the visual effect is, but it’s where they do live-action cityscapes but in sort of two-toned colors. There was a lot of that that went on just a little too long, and I was like, “Mm. You guys had to fill some space, didn’t ya?”
CAITLIN: Yeah. No, that’s true. Listen, it’s Gainax; their budget issues were legendary. And now they aren’t anymore because Gainax as we knew it no longer exists.
DEE: Right. RIP.
CAITLIN: This stretch of episodes also had one of the most iconic sequences in the whole series, which was Yukino chasing Tsubasa in rage.
MERU: I loved that sequence.
DEE: I thought that looked kind of familiar, but I couldn’t… I was like, “I feel like at least parts of this have been memed. I have to have seen some of this somewhere.” No, it is exquisite.
In some ways, it reminds me of some of the nonsense that KyoAni did with some of their comedy stuff like Nichijou. And obviously this came first, but I think Kare Kano maybe a lot more… I knew it was influential; I think it was even more influential than I realized, now that we’re watching it. But yeah, just that high-octane madcap comedy. It was very well done.
MERU: It was giving me Azumanga Daioh vibes. Which, once again, I know that came after this, but I like to think that Kare Kano absolutely walked so all these other series could fly, because it was a funny scene. I was on the floor.
DEE: There are some really, really funny moments in this stretch. I feel like the comedy hits its stride very well. When we first meet Tsubasa and she’s trolling Yukino… The scene where she hits her with the volleyball cart, I just cackled! Because I was like, “What is she gonna do? What is she gonna do?” And then it’s a whole-ass cart of volleyballs. I’m like, “What?”
DEE: I thought that was exquisite. I thought Asaba going off about how Yukino was going to lose her mind when she saw his naked chest…
DEE: And the rose petals, and the voice actor was really getting into that scene.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, yeah, that’s one of my… I switched over to the dub for that—because I decided I was gonna be good, I was gonna watch the subtitled version so we get both perspectives this time around.
DEE: Appreciate that.
CAITLIN: But for that line, that line delivery, I switched over to the dub because that was one of my favorite line deliveries in any dub ever.
DEE: He’s having such a good time, and bless him for it.
MERU: You know, I did not think I would like Asaba as much as I do, but this poor child. When they realized he needed to go in for the makeup test because he’s like, “Ah. It’s all right. I didn’t pass any of ‘em!” Like, “Wait. You need to go into school. You need to go!” It’s just great! We all knew this kid. We all knew this guy in high school. [Chuckles] It’s great.
CAITLIN: I also think it’s very sweet that he and Arima call each other by their given names. They call each other Soichiro and Hideaki.
DEE: Yeah, I like that— Because most of the show is from… And we get some scenes from Arima’s perspective, but it’s mostly from Yukino’s perspective, so we didn’t really see their friendship build. But every time we cut back to them, they are closer and sillier with each other than they were the last time, and so you do get that sense of them hanging out off-screen frequently.
And doing that thing high schoolers do where they kind of flirt with each other, but not seriously. He gave him a baby photo of him. I’m like, “Asaba, do you have a crush? Do you have a little crush maybe?”
MERU: It’s great. It’s great. And I will say I’m kind of proud that there’s not a lot of jokes about that. They’re just two guys who are very close. They’ve got a great friendship. It’s lovely.
DEE: Yes, it’s cute.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Asaba just sort of shows up at Arima’s house, I’m guessing, and Arima’s parents are like, “I don’t know what’s going on, but Arima has a friend, so that’s cool!”
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, I was gonna say, they’re probably just so happy he has a friend and they’re like, “Yay! You made a friend! You guys have fun.”
MERU: I will tell you, though, since we’re talking about my boy Asaba. Had the most cursed realization who his voice actor was today.
CAITLIN: Oh yeah?
DEE: [crosstalk] Who is it?
MERU: It’s the voice of Gaara from Naruto! [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: Oh yeah!
MERU: And I was just like, “Why does he sound vaguely familiar?” And then I did my little research and I was like, “Gaara?” [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: He’s also Critical Role now, so he doesn’t do very much anime anymore, because Critical Role is a full-time job, I guess.
MERU: Yeah. Yeah.
CAITLIN: But let’s see. He was in the Tiger & Bunny dub.
MERU: Who is he?
CAITLIN: He was the villain character.
MERU: What, Lunatic?
CAITLIN: Yeah, Lunatic. He was Lunatic.
MERU: Okay! Okay!
CAITLIN: Yeah, he’s been in a lot of stuff, and he’s fantastic. He’s Lloyd in Code Geass. Love him as Lloyd! Love him as Lloyd, because he’s having such a good time there. Not his usual voice either. [Chuckles] So yeah, no, Liam O’Brien is great and I miss him doing anime dubs, and if you’re listening to this, Liam O’Brien, come back to anime. We miss you!
MERU: I was gonna say, his last stuff was in 2019. Well, I guess Boruto… Naruto’s son is still getting an ongoing anime.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s like reprising. I guess he does some stuff every so often. None of its stuff that I watch, so it doesn’t count.
CAITLIN: But anyway, so I did watch the sub this time. And I have to admit, Arima’s Japanese voice actor is way better!
DEE: I’ll give Arima some credit. And we should, yeah, not spend too much time on the voice actors, but he is settling into his role more this stretch. He wasn’t as wooden. And part of that is also that the character is livening up, and so I think the actor has a little bit more to work with. But this stretch, he was not noticeably stiff. He was fine.
MERU: He was like a branch in the wind, going with the flow. And I was like, “Okay, yeah,” for Arima.
CAITLIN: And while I miss Lisa Ortiz as Tsubasa, I did enjoy Miyami Shintani. Love Miyami Shintani. Always a treat when she shows up.
DEE: Yes, I also feel that way about Lisa Ortiz, so we both had a good time with Tsubasa, my beautiful trash gremlin.
CAITLIN: Yes. So, let us talk about the actual content of the show.
CAITLIN: So, the first big development is that Arima and Yukino have some sloppy makeouts.
DEE: My prediction from last week came true!
DEE: It wasn’t a very bold prediction, but it came true, so I win.
MERU: I was happy for them. I was like, “You know what? Viva la high school life. Enjoy, kids.”
DEE: I really liked the way— Go ahead, Caitlin.
CAITLIN: It struck me a little bit how he was just like, “Oh, you want to see how much I love you? I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to control myself.” And then they kiss, like two months into their relationship. Like, y’all. Y’all. You know it’s normal to kiss in a relationship. This is just typical relationship development! It was very funny how Yukino was just like, “Oh, my God, are we gonna fuck?”
CAITLIN: And they hadn’t even really—
MERU: She immediately jumped to that, and I was like, “Sis!”
CAITLIN: Well, she hadn’t even really done any of the stuff in between a kiss on the cheek and that!
MERU: It was so funny. She immediately jumped from point A to point Z. It was like, wait, is it going down? And I was like, oh my God! [Chuckles]
DEE: Well, and something that… and Kare Kano does this a couple times this stretch, and we talked about this a little bit last week. It sort of acknowledges that the… I think it does a nice job of acknowledging the concerns that a lot of girls have going into relationships with guys who they’ve just met and have been taught to be wary of boys because “there’s only one thing on their minds.”
And I do like the way the show touches on that without having the guys be creeps, because Yukino goes over and she’s like, “Oh God, we’re gonna be alone by ourselves. I’ve heard about this happening,” like “This is a ploy; should I be worried?” kind of thing.
And then she gets there and Arima’s like, “Yeah, we’re gonna hang out,” and they just read for a bit. And then she is the one who instigates because she’s like, “Yeah, I feel like you don’t really talk to me about your feelings or you don’t really show any affection, and I don’t know what that’s about.”
And I liked that it’s very… It’s very messily handled; they communicate in ways that are kind of messy (again, they’re teenagers), but they still do talk. And so, I appreciate that she said something and then he was like, “Oh, okay, you do want me to… Okay, then let’s do the smooch.” And then they did, and it was a nice, consensual smooch.
And yeah, I appreciate the way… because Kare Kano does that a little bit later, too, when Tsubasa’s thinking about if she and Kazuma start living together and she’s like, “Oh, I’ve seen on TV these stories of these stepsiblings who assault people,” and I’m like, “That is horrifying, actually, Tsubasa.” And Kazuma, as of this point, seems like a nice guy who’s not going to be a sexual predator, which is terrific.
MERU: [crosstalk] Yay.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yay!
DEE: And so I like that Kare Kano touches on that without leaning into something that we’ve talked about on this podcast before, that some shoujo can do, where it does sort of feel like “All men are animals!”
And I hate that shit. I think it’s damaging for everyone, and I hate that girls have to be taught to be wary, because there are terrible people out there, but the majority of guys are not, and so I appreciate Kare Kano acknowledging that while also being like, “They’re just teenage boys! It’s fine!”
CAITLIN: Yeah. I loved their positioning while they were having that chat, too, where she was leaning against him and they were holding hands in a slightly awkward way, but it was just very nice and natural. And it was, yeah, a very lovely little moment of communication where she was clearly feeling kind of awkward trying to make small talk, and he’s such a quiet guy that he’s fine just existing in the same space and reading. And they talked and she sort of addressed that sense of imbalance, and even if he got a little creepy for a second, it was just a really, really nice little intimate moment.
MERU: And I have to say, one of the things I actually really like about them is that they do talk. It’s real good, because I feel like a lot of high school relationships in anime, the characters just never talk and a lot of stuff can be solved if you just talk.
DEE: Yeah, I think it was Fushigi Yugi [where] there were multiple moments where we were just screaming at each other, “One conversation! One conversation and we could have solved six episodes’ worth of drama.” [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: It’s like, “Tamahome, you didn’t like it when Miaka didn’t talk to you about this, and now you’re not talking to her about it…”
DEE: And listen, communication is hard when you’re teenagers, and I think there is a realistic messiness in some… And sometimes they go overboard just for the sake of drama. Sometimes there is a realistic messiness in the lack of communication.
Like, I liked how long it took Yukino to tell Arima she liked him back. That felt like realistic lack of communication. But she got to it and it was within an episode. It wasn’t like they dragged it out forever. Sometimes the pacing in the show is buckwild, but overall I think they’ve done a nice job of handling the conflicts at a reasonable pace.
CAITLIN: And then, after that lovely little episode we get the bullying plotline and the Tsubasa plotline at the same time.
DEE: Oh, actually, can we just backtrack slightly to talk about the half an episode we get of Arima talking about how depressed he was and how you could really—
MERU: [Chuckles] Jesus Christ.
DEE: —really feel Anno pulling from his own personal struggles! I thought that that stretch hit really well and gave me a much better idea of who Arima is.
MERU: And how much he was changed, because he was like, “I want to reach out to this person, and I want to get to know her,” and I was like, “Ah! My sweet baby child!” Oh, so good!
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s the thing about Kare Kano that I think is really interesting as a choice for a follow-up to Evangelion, is because while it is a very, very different series—and Anno said that he wanted to do something very different, that he didn’t want to stagnate creatively—there are some very real common threads.
The sense of isolation and depression that Arima feels has a lot of parallels to Shinji, which is also, as we know, something that Anno has experienced very deeply in his life.
MERU: Is Shinji a depressed boy?
DEE: Oh my God, yes. Oh, Meru.
MERU: Y’all, I haven’t seen it. I don’t know.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No. This is not a spoiler. This is not a spoiler.
DEE: No, not at all. I didn’t know how much you had just sort of absorbed about Evangelion by living in the anime sphere. No, Shinji’s basically entire story arc is about depression and parental neglect.
MERU: Oh, no! Oh, Shinji. Here’s what I know about Evangelion: “Get in the robot.” I know that someone is bisexual. Or maybe they’re all bisexual. I don’t know.
MERU: And I know people really get heated over Asuka and Rei. That’s really all Meru knows.
CAITLIN: Okay. So now you also know that Shinji has The Depression.
MERU: Shinji needs a therapist. Got it.
DEE: [crosstalk] Now you know that the show is a grand metaphor for depression, yes.
MERU: Okay, Shinji needs a therapist and maybe a social worker to help him out from his probably not-great dad.
DEE: Yeah, some hugs.
MERU: Got it.
DEE: All of the above.
MERU: Got it.
DEE: I kind of wanted to ask you guys about this, because I wasn’t sure and I was curious what your feel for it was.
Well, first of all, just as a quick note, I do love that Arima… we find out that the reason he fell for Yukino was because she’s very independent and proactive and driven, and I think that’s cool that he was like, “That’s hot! I am into that.” I’m like, “Arima, I like you.”
And the other thing I wanted to ask you—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] [Chuckles] And it’s also something that didn’t change when he got to know her and her real self. She’s still… Those qualities are kind of inherent to her; they’re not just part of her persona.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, agreed, agreed.
But I wanted to ask you guys how you thought that toed the line of “love fixing depression” versus him just finally making a human connection and being able to move from there? How did you think it handled that? Because I was like, there could be some issues with the way the story works out, but I wanted to get your opinions on that.
CAITLIN: So, I think that depression is one of those things where, depending on the kind you have, it might or might not be affected by external factors. And I think that isolation, that sense of isolation and loneliness that Arima was feeling, is not just a symptom of his depression but also an exacerbating factor.
Because I don’t have clinical depression, but I do get situational depression. There are times when there’s just too much and I just start feeling really depressed, and it’s not something that’s fixed with medication; it is something that is fixed with things getting better.
And so, even if his depression… whether or not it’s clinical or environmental, situational, having an emotional connection to another person, I think, can help, depending on the person. Isolation definitely makes depression worse.
And also, just knowing what I know in going forward in the series, boy is not fixed.
CAITLIN: Boy is still a mess.
DEE: All right. Yeah, I actually appreciate knowing that it’s not like he’s just magically okay now.
CAITLIN: No, not at all. [Chuckles] Arima is not—
DEE: [crosstalk] Okay, so we’ll continue to touch on Arima’s mental health as we go forward.
CAITLIN: Yes. Arima is not and has never been okay.
DEE: Oh, dear!
MERU: I agree with that, because I think so often, especially as Americans, we’re taught the narrative of “If you don’t love yourself, how can you love other people?” And I’ve never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I know that’s something that I think is quoted a lot from it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, every episode.
MERU: And I— Oh, oh, God. Every episode? Jesus Christ. I really want to push back against that, because I think sometimes you do need someone to lean on or to care about in order to learn ways to care about yourself. Yes, that can obviously tip towards not being healthy, but I think that there is a benefit to it.
So, yeah, I’m wholly on the side of, like, I think he made a human connection and he was like, “Now I want to foster it.” Because they don’t really change that dynamic, even in a relationship. In fact, his care grows more and inspires him to care about himself, too. So, yeah! It’s all good.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Fruits Basket actually does a really good job with that sort of…
DEE: I was thinking about that as Meru was talking. There’s a couple really nice scenes in there where they’re like, “But sometimes you need somebody else to also tell you that you’re okay and cared for so that you can realize that you are worthy of that.”
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Exactly.
DEE: Yeah, yeah. Okay, no, I’m basically on the same page with you guys. I just really wanted to get other opinions on that. So, cool. And I’m glad—
MERU: [crosstalk] It’s because we all have great thoughts.
DEE: You are. You’re both so smart!
DEE: So it was good to hear your thoughts on that. And yes, Caitlin, I do kind of like knowing that Arima’s going to continue to work with this going forward, because, you know, he says, “We both decided we wanted to change, and so we’re both trying to change,” and so he’s making friends and things like that. It felt like a process, so I like to know that it is going to continue to be a process. So, great! And now we can move forward. [Chuckles]
CAITLIN: And now we can move on to the bullying plotline and the Tsubasa plotline, which are separate but intersect quite beautifully at the same time because there’s the sense that Yukino is going through just too much. There are these two huge things, and she could handle maybe one of them, but then the two of them… it’s just too much and she snaps.
MERU: This is both the most ‘90s and the most modern bullying plot I have ever witnessed. Because it does still function like this: you do one wrong thing and the entire homeroom freezes you out.
And poor Yukino. Yukino is finally comfortable with herself, is like, “You know what? I’m just gonna be me.” And Maho comes along and is like, “You know what? I don’t like that you’re just you. I’m gonna ruin your day. Whatcha think about that?” [Chuckles] It’s a good little two-arc ep. It’s a good little two-arc episode. I like it a lot.
DEE: I really appreciate (A) that Kare Kano didn’t… because one thing I’m enjoying about Kare Kano… because I’ve seen and read a fair bit of school rom-com anime [and] manga in my day, I like that it’s hitting a lot of familiar beats but it’s not dragging them out into the dirt like a lot of series do.
Like, I was like, “Oh, the bullying arc. Yeah, the bullying arc. I know that one.” But (A) like you said, it’s just a couple episodes and (B) it doesn’t turn into this big, melodramatic… They just… they start ignoring her, right? And it sucks. But Yukino’s like, “Well, I mean, my personality has changed. They probably feel like I deceived them. And that’s fair; I kind of was. So, I’ll just kinda move forward, and hopefully they’ll eventually forgive me.”
And so I appreciated that they didn’t turn it into a big, dramatic to-do. I always have a hard time with these plots where everybody in a class decides to go after somebody, because I think I just went to too big of a school for that to happen. I know it can happen…
MERU: It’s very cultural, too, I will say.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I think that’s more common in Japan, where they’re all in one class together all day.
MERU: Because I would say you see it in Korean dramas a lot as well. But in America, you switch classes so often and you don’t have a set homeroom. So I think, for lack of a better word, the bullying that happens is much more intimate in America, where it’s focused on a very specific group of people who target you, versus a class.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s usually a few people giving somebody shit versus the entire class simultaneously agreeing to exclude somebody. And you know what? But I knew people who went to super small high schools who said that this kind of cliquey, “entire groups against a few people” kind of did happen. So I think it also, yeah, depends on the size of the school and everything.
But I was glad— I thought they handled the arc well. I thought it basically made sense in context, because Yukino has… her personality has done a big shift and I could see the class being like, “What the hell?” So I appreciated the way they did it and that they didn’t drag it out.
MERU: I appreciate it also wasn’t over the top. They just gave her the cold shoulder. And Yukino does have to reckon with “Well, you know, there was this wall between me and the students that no longer exists because I’m not doing that anymore.”
And I think of the scene when she walks to the home ec room and no one’s there, and so she goes to a couple other classrooms and finally finds the other girls, and she walks in and all of the sound just drops out. It’s a very effective bullying arc because that’s kind of just how it is. It’s like sometimes a group of people will just decide not to talk about you and it’s very blatant what they’re doing. And she’s just like, “Well, this sucks. Well, I’m gonna go sit in the back.”
And I think it’s interesting, too, because we get the perspective that not all the girls are really comfortable with this. A lot of them are like, “You know, I still kind of like her,” and Maho is just like, “No. No liking! Only bullying!”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it is very much “going with the group.” Because, yeah, like we discussed, bullying takes a different form often in Japan than what we grew up with in the US. And so, to talk to Miyazawa also when the whole class has decided that they’re ignoring her…
MERU: Gets you ostracized.
CAITLIN: Yeah. You will be ostracized as well.
MERU: I will say, as a former teacher in Japan, what struck me the most was I was like, “Wow, bullying in this anime is a lot less brutal than today.”
MERU: And that was not a good conclusion to come to. I was just like, “Oh, God! That’s not great.”
DEE: It’s relatively mild bullying because like Caitlin—or maybe Meru, you were the one who said it… The girls still do like her. They just feel like, “Oh, but you know what? She has been acting kind of weird. Maybe we should show her what’s up.”
Yeah, it’s an interesting arc. And I really like that Yukino… I like that she… the teacher wants to step in, and Arima… they both want to step in, and she’s like, “No. That is going to make things worse. Please just let me handle this. I promise you I’m not…” And like we’ve said, it sucks to have the entire class give you the silent treatment, but it’s not like she’s being… It’s not like there’s property damage. It’s not like she’s being physically beaten up.
MERU: [crosstalk] There’s no physical aspect, yeah.
CAITLIN: It’s not Boys Over Flowers.
MERU: Oh, geez.
DEE: She’s like, “Guys, I can take care of this. You’re not gonna help. You are not going to help me, so let me do this.” And I do like that she eventually kind of gets help from some of the other girls, but very in a sideways fashion because she just makes friends with Tsubasa’s terrific group of trash people! I love them.
MERU: Oh my gosh, I do love—
CAITLIN: They’re so good.
MERU: I love Short Queen Tsubasa. Best character in the show. Hot mess.
CAITLIN: What a gremlin. What a gremlin.
DEE: My first notes for her were “She sucks, is great.”
MERU: Yeah. Yeah.
DEE: I told Caitlin… I was like, “She’s a trash gremlin. May she reign for 1000 years!”
MERU: I mean, for real. This is the kind of character that I love in anime: characters who are just fully themselves and are also garbage! It’s great! It’s like an Olive Garden, when they crank out the parmesan and they’re like “When?” and I’m like “Never! Don’t ever end it.”
DEE: “I need a mountain.” No, Tsubasa, she’s… Until she steals the photo and rips it up, which is absolutely a shitty thing to do and she crossed a line and Yukino is… I love that when characters do cross a line Yukino finally goes, “Nope! I’m done.” She goes off on Maho and she goes off on Tsubasa this stretch, and I continue to really like Yukino! But otherwise, most of the stuff she does is very ineffective and she has this attitude of “Nobody gets to bully Yukino except me!”
MERU: It’s very good.
DEE: Yeah. She’s very fun. I do love a good trash character.
CAITLIN: It’s very realistic how Maho was just like, “I gotta twist the knife. She’s handling this too well, so I have to twist the knife,” and, in the process, completely exposed herself as the ringleader and just completely ruined her own plan. And it was all just because she was pissed off that Yukino was a higher achiever than her.
DEE: Yeah, well, I mean, she felt like her position was supplanted, right? It was very much a parallel of the way Yukino felt about Arima when they first met and that sense of “I was a big fish in a small pond, and now I’m not the biggest fish.”
And the speed with which they became friends was… I said sometimes the pacing in this show is wild, and that’s what I meant. The face-turns on Tsubasa and Maho this stretch is like “We hate each other!” and then five minutes later “We’re hanging out! We’re going to the pool! It’ll be great!”
MERU: Actually… See, I actually kind of found it a little bit believable because I think in high school things that are really big just blow over really quickly.
DEE: I bought it with Tsubasa especially because she had the long-going friendship with Arima, and Yukino felt kind of bad for her, and then Yukino makes friends with her friends pretty much immediately. They’re like, “No, we think you’re cool. We have no problem with you. Tsubasa’s being ridiculous.” And so, Tsubasa and Yukino becoming friends to me made sense with the kind of squabbly nonsense they were doing.
Maho rounded up the entire class against her, and then they’re just like buddies. And I feel like they could have taken a little more time there for Maho to maybe make amends and empathize, because I do think the two characters… I see how they could be friends because of the fact that, like I said, I think they both entered this very competitive and like “I’m the best. Who does this other person think they are, getting better scores than me?”
So I could totally see them becoming friends, but the speed it happened, I was like, “Oh! Okay, I guess you’re just gonna hang out with the person who made your life hell for a month there. Sure.”
MERU: See, I don’t think Maho’s reckoning has come yet. And I know that’s skipping ahead. I do think Maho is maybe gonna have to go through it a little bit more to actually circle back to “Hey, you did this really horrible, mean thing, and whereas the person you were bullying is chill with you now because they’re kind of a mirror of you and they get why you probably did it, you still gotta make up for it!”
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah, I mean I think it’s pretty in character for… I do think she definitely forgave Maho way too fast. I think it is kind of in character for her because she didn’t look at Maho and go, “What the hell is wrong with you?” She looked at Maho and said, “Oh, you are a lot like me.”
DEE: She did say, “You call me fake, but aren’t you doing the same thing?” Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yes. So she was able to make that connection, and I think Yukino is a very forgiving person and she connects very easily to people when she feels that sort of similarity.
DEE: And she does want to make friends.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, she also really, really needed friends. And with Tsubasa, like you said, it made sense. Tsubasa was not going to win this war. Everyone was in support of Yukino. No one was going to side with her in being shitty to Yukino. There was no point in continuing to fight, so she just kind of accepted it.
And also since Yukino is new, Yukino doesn’t know Tsubasa’s shit, and so she is easy to be like, “All right, I’m gonna make Yukino take me in for a week because none of my other friends are gonna put up with that.”
DEE: Oh, Tsubasa.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Because they know all my tricks.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. And so, also, to say my little bit, I think it was a really clever move of the show—well, of the story—to have Arima leave for a while, because it gave a chance for Yukino to spend time with friends and for her world to continue expanding without him.
DEE: Oh, yeah, I love that story beat. I love that he was like, “Yeah, we’re not gonna be able to spend every single day together this summer because I’m going to be busy, but we’ll be fine and you can hang out with other people.”
And yeah, it was a really good way to move Yukino’s… Because that’s been a background element with both of them: “We want to change. We want to have real relationships.” And so, yeah, it gave the story an opening to not just expand the cast but also allow Yukino to grow in ways that don’t just relate to her boyfriend, and that’s terrific.
CAITLIN: Yeah, because I feel like [in] so many romances, shoujo and otherwise (but I do think it is particularly pronounced in shoujo), the world is so small; the world is just the main character and her boyfriend.
And the story is about Yukino’s world growing and expanding, and so if you’re just going to have Arima there, it can’t do that. If it’s just about her relationship with Arima, her world is going to stay small; it’ll just have one more person in it. And so having these other friends gives her another chance to get to know other people and also to get to know herself.
DEE: Yeah, I really liked when she has that conversation and we get to know all of Tsubasa’s buddies, and Yukino has this revelation of “Wow, you guys all have passions and talents and things you’re really into that’s not just getting good grades in school. I don’t have that. I want that.”
And I thought that was a really nice character beat for her, not just in terms of… It’s great that she’s making friends and expanding her horizons. All of that is terrific. But it also gives her an individual character boost, a direction that maybe they can take her as far as her figuring out what she wants to do, other than just be praised and have the best grades in school and everything.
MERU: Agreed. Yukino’s just such a good kid.
MERU: Just really like this character. Just really love her.
CAITLIN: What do you think of her friends?
MERU: They’re great. [Chuckles] They’re great! They feel like… The one thing I have to give Kare Kano is that it feels very authentic to how it feels to actually be in high school, in a way that I don’t think I was expecting. Mind you, I don’t think I had expectations because I really didn’t know a lot about the show. But it feels like her friend group just… they all feel like a group of just very regular girls. I loved when they went to karaoke. That’s very good.
MERU: That’s very good. That’s when I was like, oh yeah, this is just a group of really great girls to be friends with and would also love to be friends with them if I were still a high schooler. It’s very good. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah, I like them.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah. Seems like they’d be a lot of fun to chill out with.
DEE: I have a question. Is Tsubaki gay? Because she talks about how much she likes cute girls and I was just curious if anybody else read into that.
CAITLIN: [Sighs] So…
MERU: I had— Oh, no, that doesn’t— Does she fall in love with a baby, too?
MERU: Because you said that, “Oh no,” and immediately I had one fear! One fear!
CAITLIN: [weary] No, no. I’m gonna tell you—
DEE: I’m sure she’s not. I’m sure she’ll end up getting a crush on some dude and it’ll be drama.
MERU: Oh! I hate that.
DEE: But I caught that early and I was like, “Huh. That’s interesting. Maybe that’s a background element. Who knows?”
CAITLIN: She is about as gay as Asaba is.
DEE: [deadpan] Okay.
MERU: [disappointed] Okay, so that means not at all.
DEE: So that means extremely.
MERU: For a moment I was like, “Wait a minute,” and then I was like, “You know what? No, this is the ‘90s. I don’t know if that would have happened.” I don’t know if she would actually… Well, you know what? There was Sailor Moon, though. Are they gay?
DEE: [crosstalk] It wasn’t that uncommon for shoujo to have at least subtextual queer characters and elements, at least through the mid-‘00s, so I thought it was a possibility. But I figured it was a long shot, so I just figured I’d ask right off the bat.
MERU: Dang it.
DEE: It’s okay. Yeah, no, I like Tsubasa’s friends. I appreciated when we get, again, that scene of them explaining to Yukino how they all know each other. And then… I forget the two of them. It’s the one who’s a novelist.
CAITLIN: Rika and Aya.
DEE: Yeah. And their friendship kinda sucked when they were younger! Because I was like, oh, this actually sounds sort of exploitative and mean. But I liked how, as they explained it, you sort of get the feeling for how they balance each other out, and I was like, “Okay, so as you grew up you realized that maybe you were taking advantage of her and your relationship has evened out.” So I liked that they didn’t just leave it at that. So that was good.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Aya is… She’s definitely one of the more interesting characters. I did love the moment where she lights up a cigarette and Yukino is just like “What!”
DEE: “Smoking is bad!” Like, screams it on repeat. Yeah.
MERU: That scene felt very of the time.
DEE: It felt very teen.
MERU: She was like, “Cigarettes are bad!” And then it does a triple take, which is my favorite kind of anime cut, a good old triple-take reaction. [Chuckles] It was just very good. It’s very good. I appreciated it a lot.
DEE: Yeah. I had thought they were all going to be just sort of background characters, so I appreciate that we actually got backstories and personalities for all of them, and it feels like we might continue to get more story with them and they’re not just going to be “Tsubasa’s Friends.” So I like that.
MERU: And it’s just great to see… One of the things I really like is that it’s great to see a group of girls be friends without being catty. Because I feel like right now in 2020s anime, there’s still the problem of either a group of friends must want to have sex with the world’s most boring Japanese man or they… and they have to hate each other in that. You very rarely see just a group of girls who are (A) a group of girls without it being telegraphed through a male character and (B) a group of girls that just likes being around each other.
DEE: Yeah, we don’t get enough shoujo adaptations in anime, is what you’re saying, you’re saying without saying!
MERU: [crosstalk] That’s exactly— I was trying to dance around it, but that’s exactly what I’m saying, right?
DEE: Because one of my favorite things about a lot of shoujo, especially the high school rom-com style shoujo—the good ones—is… one of my favorite elements is usually the female friendships. I’ll be like, “Yeah, the romance was fine. But the female friendships, you guys!”
This is starting to remind me of Kimi ni Todoke in a way, in terms of, I am more into… Like, the main relationship is good and nice and sweet and I ship it, but I’m more into the building friendships, and the camaraderie that’s developing between the girls has been really great. I think Fruits Basket does that really well, as well
MERU: Wholeheartedly agree. Yeah, because I’m trying to think of a modern anime that has female friendship, and I guess Komi Can’t Communicate is the one that comes to mind, from fall 2021. But also, it’s not a shoujo; it’s a shounen.
DEE: We just don’t get a lot of shoujo adaptations, which is a damn shame.
CAITLIN: Yeah, there’s just not a lot of shoujo anime these days. It’s really too sad.
MERU: [crosstalk] Anime industry, wake up!
CAITLIN: And then the ones we do get are usually the really yucky ones.
MERU: I was gonna say, you can say “The bad ones.” We get the bad ones. [Chuckles]
MERU: But this is a good one. This is a good one. I’ll say that. It’s a very good one.
CAITLIN: So… And then the final major plot thread that we get for this stretch of episodes is Tsubasa and her family. You can definitely see how Tsubasa ended up how she is: just spoiled rotten. The doting father who feels bad about never being present, so he just lets her get away with everything and treats her like a princess when he can be around. I do love that the reason she was in the hospital was a skateboarding accident.
DEE: Yeah, I was worried that she was secretly dying or something, so I love that it was just something absolutely ridiculous. Like, nope, she was just a klutz and a pile of rocks fell on her and then she went to the hospital.
MERU: She was trapped for like a day!
CAITLIN: 24 hours!
DEE: [crosstalk] She’s such a disaster! She’s such a disaster! I love it.
MERU: [Chuckles] Trapped for like a day. Oh my God. I will admit that was some funny character-building for her.
DEE: It was great, yeah.
MERU: It’s great. Love her.
DEE: Yeah, the family arc, I’m very up and down on it. Like, one, first of all, I get why Tsubasa’s maybe freaking out a little bit because apparently her dad’s been dating this lady for like three months and they’re already talking about getting married. And I’m like, that seems fast! I don’t blame Tsubasa for being like, “Who the hell is this lady who’s suddenly going to be living with us? I’m not cool with this. Take your time, Dad.”
But then at the same time, she’s clearly sort of conflating her… she’s got some possessive feelings about her dad, but she also recently felt snubbed by Arima picking somebody else over her and she’s been lonely, so the conflation of feelings there is very messy.
And as somebody who has parents who remarried, sometimes those storylines, I’m like, “I don’t… This feels weird. Why are you so possessive of your parent?” But I tried to see it from her perspective, and… Go ahead.
MERU: I’ll say, it was kind of also hit and miss for me. My parents never remarried after their divorce, but I was just like… I always never really can connect to these arcs in anime because I’m just… I think part of it is the natural process of aging. At almost 30, I just don’t… I don’t know. It’s hard to connect to how a teenager could potentially feel about that.
But also, I was kinda like, “Tsubasa, sweetie, your dad’s not going anywhere.” Like, yeah, it’s weird that he’s been dating this woman for three months and is like, “I’ma move her in soon!” That’s a lot, Tsubasa. But also, oh, sweet baby angel, Short Queen. It’s gon’ be okay. And yeah, I feel kind of neutral about it.
Did think it was funny she got mistaken for being an elementary school student because she’s so tiny.
DEE: She is tiny. That was a very good example of not animating something and making it funnier, because there’s just an explosion and then it’s a “Please stand by” screen while there’s a bunch of screaming going on. And that was another moment where I just lost it, was just cackling. I was like, this is funnier than if you had shown this on screen.
MERU: [crosstalk] It was very, very good.
DEE: That was very terrific. Yeah, I think what I wish they had done with that Tsubasa arc is… You get a sense that it’s more about her just being afraid of change and, again, also that sense of “Well, I feel like I just got replaced by somebody. And I feel like I’m getting replaced by somebody else.” But again, daughters don’t have that relationship with their dads! It’s a little weird!
CAITLIN: It’s a little weird.
DEE: Yeah. So I wish they had leaned more into her being afraid of change and that sense the whole family changing and “What’s my position in the family going to be?” Because I think that is what’s at the core of it, but…
MERU: I was gonna say, it does feel like this weird relic of the ‘90s, of a daughter having this very intense connection to her father. And yeah, obviously daughters care about their fathers, but I don’t know if it’s to that level in anime, and it’s still used a lot and I never know how to feel.
CAITLIN: I mean, I think also part of it… So, my parents are still married, so I don’t have any experience with parents getting divorced personally. I can’t imagine reacting that way to my dad looking at getting remarried. That seems a little weird.
But I think part of it is also that… I can’t remember her name, the dad’s girlfriend. She is putting up a front around Tsubasa. She is trying to act like the perfect mom. She is trying to act like a respectable lady, and Tsubasa can tell that and it makes her animal instincts uncomfortable, even if she doesn’t know exactly why.
DEE: Yeah… I don’t think we got that as much in her internal monologue as we got the “It’s just been me and my dad and why can’t it just be me and my dad?” and “I do all the domestic work anyway, so why should he need a wife?” And I’m like, [hums with discomfort].
Because I agree with you. I think if it had been like, “I don’t trust her specifically; it’s not just you getting married. This is happening very quickly and she doesn’t seem on the level,” I think that’s a very different story to tell. And I do like that one of the reasons she warms up to her is when she sees her and her kid being more natural and squabbly with each other. That was kind of when Tsubasa went, “Oh, actually, I think I do like this lady.”
But to me, that was not the arc that was being built primarily. It was more this sort of possessive conflation of boyfriend with father, which, yeah, was a lot.
CAITLIN: Right. She did talk about it a little bit, about how this woman is just after her father’s money.
DEE: Yeah, I’m not saying it wasn’t there at all, but the long monologues were not about that.
CAITLIN: And that was also while she was lying in bed listening to Yukino’s family play Uno in an awesome sequence.
CAITLIN: [Chuckles] Family Uno!
DEE: I have to ask, Caitlin. Were they playing Uno in the Japanese version, too? That wasn’t like a weird Rightstuf…?
CAITLIN: Oh, no, Uno’s very popular in Japan.
MERU: I was gonna say. Bust out a pack of Uno in high school English club, and the kids… it’s on. It’s on like Donkey Kong.
DEE: Okay, because that sent me right back to middle school. Right back to middle school, that scene sent me.
CAITLIN: Yeah. [Chuckles] It is just as much of a friendship-ruiner there as it is here!
DEE: Okay, excellent.
DEE: That scene was so perfect. Also—
CAITLIN: People get heated!
DEE: Hey, how did Gainax get the copyright laws for Uno, Haagen-Dazs, and Totoro in the same stretch of episodes? Hey, Caitlin, is that why they run out of money for their budget? Is that why?
MERU: Oh my God, it’s like that meme where it’s all your expenses and then I just see, like, Totoro, $36 million.
DEE: [Chuckles] Totoro for three seconds.
CAITLIN: Budget: animation, $5.
DEE: Somebody help me budget. My animators are dying!
MERU: Oh my God. Just had to take a drink of my Tang.
CAITLIN: [Through laughter] I didn’t encounter any information about that when I was researching.
DEE: Okay, because that’s the tea I need spilled, is: how did they get Totoro in and what did it cost them?
MERU: Oh my God.
CAITLIN: But yeah. But Kazuma’s a sweet boy, too. Love Kazuma and his overly affectionate bandmates.
DEE: Ugh, I found his bandmates creepy.
CAITLIN: With the kissing?
DEE: Tsubasa’s… I mean, here’s the thing. They don’t appear to be in high school. So even if they don’t think she’s super young like he did, they’re still grown-ass adults creeping on a high school freshman, so knock it off.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s fair.
DEE: Yeah, I didn’t care for his bandmates. But I like him. I like that he’s like the opposite of Tsubasa, very chill about his mom dating and more like, “Yeah, I mean, it’s her life and I can get why she’d want to remarry, so it’s fine.”
And he’s excited about having a sibling because he also… I like that moment where they have that sort of connection as latchkey kids who come home and their parents are working late, and so they kinda have to take care of themselves a little bit.
I am really, really, really worried that they’re going to develop a romantic relationship, but…
MERU: Oh— Oh, no.
MERU: God, I had one fear when we started. Now I’ve got like a dozen fears.
DEE: So many more fears.
DEE: Well, one…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Anime does—
MERU: Oh no. I don’t like Caitlin going “mm.” I don’t like that sound. Oh no, no.
CAITLIN: Anime does love romantic relationships between stepsiblings for some reason. No lie.
DEE: [crosstalk] It really does. Yeah. And then her dad said the Forbidden Words at the tail end of the last episode, and I was like, “God, you brought it to life! You spoke it into existence! You monster!”
MERU: And I think the reason why this happens so much is I think people without siblings have this weird fantasy that it’s like, “It’s not blood related.” But I’m like, that doesn’t make it less weird! And I don’t even have siblings and I know that. [Chuckles]
DEE: I mean, part of it is playing in the space of “the forbidden romance,” right? And then I think another part of it is… I don’t know that much about… I know a little bit about divorce and remarriage in Japan. I don’t know how common it is for people to get remarried this quickly and for you to have basically not known your stepsiblings.
By the time my mom remarried, we had been spending time with the stepsibs for years. There was never a moment where it was like, “And suddenly there’s somebody exactly my age in the house who I don’t know at all and we’re both adolescents.” I could see that being weird if you were like, “Oh, shit, this person who I’ve never met before, who is not my family, is cute.” That’s weird. I could see that tension in certain circumstances.
Again, 100,000% not what happened on my end. I’ve never met any stepsiblings who had that kind of tension. But clearly that is what they are playing with. That’s the realm of… And suddenly it’s the “Oops, we’re roommates” vibe. And so, I… [Sighs] I get why it comes up in shows. I just hate it, because, again, as somebody with stepsiblings, no, no! So, I’m worried they’re gonna do that with these two and it’s gonna make my skin crawl out of me and fly away.
MERU: Aw. Yeah, just one fear. Just one fear.
CAITLIN: You know, remember there’s a lot of manga after the anime ends.
DEE: Well, yeah. I mean, I’ve heard some things.
MERU: I don’t know if you said that to make me feel safe. It just made me feel more scared!
DEE: I think at the end of this Caitlin’s gonna give us a little bit of knowhow about the manga, and I think we’re gonna be glad that the anime ended where it did, I suspect.
MERU: I’m starting to get the feeling.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes, that has been part of the plan. I am going to probably end up giving you a rundown of where the manga goes, because it goes places.
MERU: Oh, no.
CAITLIN: Just remember that the reason that there is no season 2 of the Kare Kano anime is because Masami Tsuda was absolutely furious about how it focused on comedy instead of romance and drama.
DEE: Well, okay, that explains why I had it in my head that Kare Kano was a drama. [Chuckles] Because apparently the anime took it [to] a different tone than the manga.
CAITLIN: And even then, the anime has a lot of drama and it does it well. I don’t think it emphasizes comedy over it. It just has both, right?
DEE: Well, yeah. I mean, to me, it is a romantic comedy with serious bits. But it is at its core a romantic comedy. Again, I am likening it more and more to Kimi ni Todoke with every episode—or even My Love Story—than I would to a Hot Gimmick or… I don’t watch a lot of shoujo dramas, so I’m struggling to come up with other titles from that period.
DEE: I usually get bored with those.
CAITLIN: Boys Over Flowers.
DEE: Yeah, that’s another good comparison point. Yeah, I would liken it much more to, yeah, a Lovely Complex, a Kimi ni Todoke, a My Love Story than I would to a Hot Gimmick or a Boys Over Flowers.
CAITLIN: You know, actually I was thinking about My Love Story (this is backtracking a good amount) when it was the big kiss moment. And I was thinking about… because, once again, kissing that far into their relationship feels… And, I mean, every relationship is different. Everyone takes things at their own pace, hopefully.
But it making a big fuss about kissing when they had been dating for that long made me think about, in My Love Story, where there was a whole thing about their first kiss after they had been dating for months, and then Takeo’s friend was just like, “Yeah, we kissed the first night we got together. I don’t know what the deal is.”
DEE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it just depends on the kids, right? Like you said, everyone’s different and everybody… their comfort level varies. So, for sure.
CAITLIN: You know, whatever makes them happy.
DEE: I’m glad they got in a smooch. May they smooch in the future.
CAITLIN: All right, just real quick. Did you guys have any particular favorite moments? My probably was when Yukino licked the picture and then stuck it in her bra.
CAITLIN: That was big, big sibling energy right there! That is someone who is used to keeping things away from other people.
DEE: Once you lick it, it’s yours. That is the law of middle school. You lick it, it’s yours.
MERU: I was particularly fond of Yukino just having none of Tsubasa’s BS. It’s very good.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. And that sequence was either boarded or animated by Imaishi, in case you didn’t know.
DEE: [crosstalk] Of course it was. God, of course it was.
CAITLIN: Of course it was. [Chuckles]
DEE: It’s got that madcap Trigger energy. I love it. Well done, Imaishi. Yeah, I think I’ve covered all my favorite scenes at this point, so, nothing else to add here at the end.
MERU: I was gonna say, I did, too. Yeah, this is a good stretch.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. All right. Any hopes and dreams, predictions?
MERU: I hope that Maho has to actually cope with the fact that she was not a nice person. I hope that swings back through and she actually kind of moves through that a bit more. I’d like a little bit of that.
What I don’t hope for is… I hope— You know, I don’t know if I have anything I don’t hope for. I’m just kinda here for the show. I’m here for the ride. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’m excited. Ooh, you know what, I hope we don’t get recap episodes.
DEE: Oh, the very next episode is a recap episode.
MERU: [crosstalk] Are you kidding me!
DEE: It’s fine, though. We’re gonna take— Peter can cut this part. We’re gonna take a couple weeks off anyway, so it’ll be a useful refresher course before we come back to the podcast!
MERU: [reluctant] Yeah, I guess. I guess so.
CAITLIN: Oh, Meru, I’m sorry. I have some very bad news about recap episodes going forward.
DEE: Oh, no!
MERU: I see. Just don’t tell me, Caitlin. Let me suffer silently and find out. Let me suffer silently.
MERU: Oh, no! Okay, well…
CAITLIN: Which, speaking of, one big surprise for me was how far we’ve gotten without having a recap episode so far.
DEE: Well, they’ve spent the first five minutes of most of the episodes recapping.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Well, I have reasons for saying that. [Chuckles] [Sighs fondly] This is Kare Kano at its absolute peak. Just a wonderful show.
DEE: All right. I’ll brace myself for what’s coming forward.
DEE: Yeah. Hope-wise? I don’t know. I guess I hope that they all just continue to be good kids being friends, and I hope that Kazuma and Tsubasa don’t fall in love.
CAITLIN: All right. Okay!
DEE: So, there we go.
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