The next part in my apparent Okada Mari series. Part 1 is here.
With our (my) release of Destructed Wixoss, and Lostorage coming up in a few days, I’ve been thinking more about Okada’s writing, and this is despite her decreased influence in the sequel. I wanted to focus less on specific examples and more on a framework with which to understand the stories she creates. It would definitely help if you read my last post first. I, on the other hand, will not be reading it again, so I apologize if I repeat myself too much.
Just to begin with, I wanted to remake a few assertions, and the most important is the following: Okada does not make use of misunderstandings. And so that you don’t misunderstand me, I’ll be more clear about my definition. A misunderstanding occurs when a person hears or sees an event or conversation and interprets it incorrectly. For instance, a girl spots the boy she likes hugging another girl from afar, when in fact they just tripped into each other, and thinks they must be dating. Or, in a comparable situation, a new girl in the story shows up and starts hanging off the boy’s arm, only to later be revealed as his cousin with no romantic affection whatsoever. It is not: Minchi seeing Ohana and Tohru speaking more and assuming that Tohru has feelings for her (Hanasaku Iroha), because she has all of the correct information available and comes to a reasonable conclusion. It is also not: Hiromi stating aloud that she likes Jun, with Shinichirou correctly concluding that she does (True Tears), because it was an undenied lie. Again, deliberate lies and misdirections are not misunderstandings; only unintended interpretations based on incomplete evidence are.
This is important, because it leads into a theme you will see in everything she writes: communication. Interpersonal interaction is imperfect, and it gets even harder when characters don’t fully understand themselves and are still searching for their place in this world. The way humans generally communicate is through words and nonverbal cues, but the goal of any communication is really to share emotions and worldviews. By removing misunderstandings, Okada cuts right into the heart of the matter, and can examine how we speak and understand each other.
As I mentioned previously, characters in her stories will almost always speak honestly. They’ll put all of their thoughts into words in an attempt to connect with others, but that’s only the first step. Just because you can hear what someone else is saying doesn’t mean you can connect with their feelings behind the words. This is often facilitated by an instigator—a character who forces everyone else to say what’s on their mind in an attempt to get past this step. Obvious examples are Yukiatsu in Ano Hana, Kaname in Nagi Asu, and most recently Sonozaki in Kiznaiver. Some may call this “forced drama”, but what they don’t understand is the importance of this distinction. While most stories are content to end when characters finally admit their feelings aloud, the real difficulty comes after. It’s similar to many romance shows that end when the main couple come together, when that’s in fact the easiest part, and anime like KareKano and Ore Monogatari go beyond that into the real depth and complexity of relationships (I’m not saying that the former are all bad or that the latter are all good; I love Kimi ni Todoke and Honey and Clover too).
Now we can get into what I consider the two goals of communication: to convey ideas, and to convey emotions. Ideas, including factual knowledge, science, and observations, can generally get across through just words. Emotions, broadly speaking, cannot. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering everything else I’ve said about it, but it is in fact the great problem facing people, this inability to truly understand others. By this point, you might have started to realize why one certain motif keeps popping up in the stories Okada writes: bypassing words entirely and directly connecting emotions. Black Rock Shooter, M3, and Kiznaiver are the shining examples of this. But the thing they also share in common is that all these complex systems aren’t necessary—they may help facilitate the emotional connection of people, but it is neither their complicated machinations nor just words themselves that bring people together. It is the will and desire to do so, the openness to accept someone else into your heart, and the courage to bear your own wounds and feelings fully to another that will truly connect you.
So the next time you watch an anime with Okada Mari’s involvement, I hope you’ll be better equipped to understand the message she’s trying to get across, and the methods she’s nearly perfected to do so. And maybe you’ll come to like this style of expressing words versus emotional content as much as I do. It’s in nearly everything she touches, and I can find something I like in every anime she does.
Except Mayoiga. Screw you Mizushima, for tarnishing Okada’s record like that. What a piece of trash. Even the episodes she wrote herself were barely bearable. I don’t care if you made an intentionally shitty B-grade horror flick, leave Okada out of it next time.