“I could be myself. I’m very shy and awkward. I think the best thing is to embrace it.” —Hunter Hayes
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou (The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior) is an offering from the Spring 2014 season: when this anime’s original run ended, I was working on transitioning between different scenes for the Giant Walkthrough Brain in Unity3D; at the time, I was working with the Unity free license, rather than Unity Pro, so some features, such as camera blur, had not been implemented yet. I was also catching up on Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? during this time, and so, didn’t really consider watching Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, at least until one of our readers made the recommendation. The anime’s premise seems familiar enough: Usa is a high school freshman who moves to live in a dormitory (in this case, the Kawai Complex) and falls in love with one of the residents, Ritsu Kawai. Initially, Usa is unaccustomed to the whacky life there, and over time, he gradually adapts, all the while doing his utmost to impress Ritsu and win her heart. Throughout Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, Usa demonstrates the lengths to which he is willing to go once he’s committed to something; this leads to much of the comedy in Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, as well as the more touching moments between Ritsu and Usa. With its over-the-top cast, including Mayumi, Sayaka, Shiro and Sumiko, the dynamics between everyone means that there are no dull moments at the Kawai complex (typically, Shiro tends to find means of breaking the calm), and correspondingly, there are no dull moments in Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou.
- The most noticable thing about Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is the ever-present light shafts that permeate many outdoor environments. Ritsu Kawai is, in many ways, reminiscent of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s Yuki Nagato; books are her passion, and she reads with the same passion as Nagato. Despite her quiet character, she pulls no punches and speaks truthfully, leading to some of the more dramatic moments in the anime.
- Mayumi Nishikino is one of the residents at the Kawai complex, and has a propensity to date boorish men that subsequently leave her heart-broken and resentful of happy couples. Her jokes are made typically at Usa’s expense, involving the pristine state of his subsystems.
- As viewers will soon discover, Ritsu does express more emotions than her typical neutral expression whilst reading a book. Such moments are typically done to either draw out the ridiculousness of a situation, such as whenever Usa says something unusual, or else when things get serious.
- The anime’s title in Japanese translates literally to “We’re all residents of the Kawai Complex”, but in Japanese, this is a pun, as the phrase approximates to “We are pitiful”. The anime does tend to spare no expense in dumping the characters into a variety of insane situations. However, instead of giving in, Usa tends to roll with things, and as the series progresses, he comes to accept and even enjoy the unique environment at the Kawai Complex.
- Because Shiro spends most of his time at the complex when not performing odd jobs, he has a lot of time to produce things that seem extraordinary, contrasting his masochistic tendencies. Early in the series, he and Mayumi play with large soap bubbles, eventually convincing Ritsu to join in. Ritsu’s actions here somehow manage to put Usa in that kind of a mindset, much to her disgust. Later in the episode, the crew watch horror movies, leading me to wonder…why does no one ever try to take on an onryou using the M60 and its 7.62 x 51 mm rounds.
- Sayaka’s meddling leads Usa to be a little too considerate towards Ritsu, leading her to state that she is not appreciative of this extra attention. While Ritsu is trying to point something out, she is unaccustomed to being subtle and as such, does things forcibly. This translates to a misunderstanding between her and Usa, although as time progresses, Usa learns to interpret this side of Ritsu and begins understanding what her intents are.
- Here is a screenshot that showcases the art style found in Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou. While it is gorgeous and befitting of the setting and atmospherics, comparing it to Five Centimeters Per Second is a bit of a stretch mainly because Makoto Shinkai’s settings aim to really capture the human feel through clutter and detail. I do not necessarily find that the artwork here is comparable in terms of detail, but in terms of effectiveness, the art style does contribute to Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou‘s mood; the latter is more important for anime.
- Contrasting Usa’s imagination, Ritsu dons a full-on raincoat when participating in a water fight, reflecting on her down-to-earth, practical personality. Originally, I watched this anime on recommendation from one of the site’s readers via Facebook (yes, we do have a Facebook page), and was wondering whether or not to create a “Terrible Anime Challenge” à la Matimi0’s Terrible Weapon Challenge series. The premise would be simple: readers would pick an anime for me to watch, and I would finish the anime, then I would give it a full reflection and see if I couldn’t try to find good things to say about it.
- In Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, I have good things to say about the anime, and even despite some of the more risqué moments, the show manages to keep things safe. I probably won’t be doing Terrible Anime Challenges all of the time, since that would allow readers to recommend me nightmarish anime, and that just won’t fly. Owing to the spread of images I took while watching Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, I only found one good image of Shiro, and here he is, to the right.
- Chinatsu is introduced in the middle of the series: she befriends Shiro after fighting with her friends, and Shiro manages to help her out (against all odds). This storyline was quite welcoming to watch, and introduces Chinatsu as a character who makes a few more appearances later on.
The visual elements in Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is going to form the main body of this talk, since the recommendation was made on the basis that Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou would be similar to Five Centimetres per Second. This is a particularly bold claim, and from a personal perspective, this does not really hold true. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou does have a vivid colour palette, and places emphasis on lighting in numerous scenes; light shafts are frequently seen in landscape shots, and particularly touching moments are usually set under a sky of most azure or a sunset. These details contribute substantially to the anime’s atmospherics, but the colours chosen seem to be intended to allow different elements within the scenery and the characters to stand out from one another. This is done to emphasise that while the landscape can be filled with great beauty, it continues about its business regardless of what the characters are up to. Similarly, the cast is often focused on their own matters, so they tend not to notice just how spectacular things in their world is. This disconnect is particularly noticeable in Ritsu, whose surroundings fade to oblivion whenever she’s engrossed by a good book. In choosing to go with this sort of art style, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou subtly hints that as people go about their lives, the things around them may be (unintentionally) ignored, and quite similarly, Ritsu is not fully aware that Usa has a crush of sorts on her. Thus, when the characters are relatively oblivious to things in their environment by default, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is able to focus on how Usa and Ritsu’s friendship helps them become more aware of the things around them.
- I’ve seen these in several anime now, with the last time being Stella Women’s Academy. This particular contraption was fashioned by Shiro in a similar manner as a Rube Goldberg machine that ultimately powers Nagashi Soumen (lit. “flowing noodles”). A specialty originating from Tousenkyou, Nagashi Soumen involve making use of chopsticks to catch noodles flowing through a bamboo flume that carries icy water. Captured noodles are then dipped in a sauce known as tsuyu.
- Ritsu finds Usa’s situation particularly amusing, sufficiently so to distract her from even her books. Usa’s past is one that’s somewhat embarrassing: in junior high, Hayashi, one of his classmates, had a crush on him of sorts and led to the impression that Usa was a walking ‘freakshow’ for Hayashi’s interest in the occult. Usa moved to the Kawai complex with the hope of moving past it, but nonetheless finds himself being dragged back to unusual settings.
- Usa decides to accept a job offer to work at a unique cafe owing to how enamored Ritsu appears with his costume. The only sort of work I’m presently engaged in is teaching, and as of today, I’m done my first session as a TA for introductory computer science; the last day was fittingly set to be the deadline for an assignment, and I spent all morning answering questions from students who were finalising their assignments before the submission deadline at twelve noon.
- Some of Hayashi’s friends join in on bullying him after Hayashi insists that it is Usa who was weird, and while he silently allows the abuse to continue, the combined forces from Mayumi, Sayaka and Ritsu manage to surprise the others into stopping long enough for Usa to excuse himself from the crowd. Usa’s tenacity is impressive, although this scene was probably the toughest to watch in Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou thus far.
- Apparently, centipedes are so horrifying that Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is forced to censor them. After Ritsu encounters such inside the complex, this episode turned out to be a wild comedy-fest that lent itself to all sorts of laughs, but also reinforced Usa’s concern for Ritsu.
- A little more than a week ago, things were hectic as I attended a Chancellor’s Club event by evening to help present my lab’s research, including the Giant Walkthrough Brain and the Zygote Body Atlas. It was quite rewarding to see interest in our research (virtual, interactive anatomy and visualisations of biological systems); the presentations were followed by a formal dinner. Admittedly, as I was one of the two representatives for the lab that evening, I was quite nervous, but the event proceeded smoothly.
- I’m like this whenever I get new books. After the Chancellor’s Club event, the winter anime convention, Otafest Aurora followed. Strictly speaking, I did not officially attend this event, and as such, there won’t be a formal write-up on how it was. Unofficially, I attended briefly to trade away the pins I acquired during the Japanese Omatsuri back in August and obtain the rare pins that were revealed after the Otafest 2014 event. These pins were supposed to be only accessible at concerts and by nightfall, and at Aurora 2014, were only obtainable at a pin-trading panel by 20:00. However, by a curious turn of fate, I was able to acquire both outside of those parameters. This weekend will be a little more laid-back, as I focus on grading assignments and finishing my term project.
- Ritsu and Usa, though far from being a couple by the end of Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou‘s run, do form a closer friendship with one another. Usa greatly enjoys walking with her to and from school, and later on, helps her get around whenever she’s engrossed in a good book. Usa also begins to develop an interest in reading to keep up with Ritsu, although he finds that some of his opinions on a book differ from those of Ritsu’s. Later on, when Ritsu goes on a group event with other readers, she defends the idea that reading is supposed to be for everyone after one of the participants openly looks down on novices for their practises, knowing full well that Usa happens to be a novice, too.
- Quite truthfully, in any given hobby, I tend to value the enjoyment aspect over doing things in a structured, formal manner. As such, when I partake in my hobbies, having fun is the single most important aspect, above all others. As such, it’s mostly live-and-let-live as far as different interpretations of anime go: people can enjoy anime in the many ways that they do so as long as it does not interfere with someone else’s enjoyment of anime.
- As this post began with a screenshot of Ritsu, so it shall end with a screenshot of Ritsu smiling, a decidedly rare sight indeed. Whenever these quiet, stoic characters smile, one is immediately aware that something big has just happened (notable examples include Yuki Nagato in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi and Sora no Woto‘s Noël. As I am wont to do now at the end of my posts, it’s speculation time, and with the manga still going, it is possible that a second season could be released somewhere in the future. For now, though, an OVA is set to be released on Boxing Day. I’ll have a talk out for that whenever time permits, as this winter holiday season will be different from every other winter holiday season I’ve had thus far.
By comparison, in Five Centimetres per Second, Makoto Shinkai chooses colours that are more similar in hue to one another. By making use of shading and gradients, these colours allow elements in the environment to blend in seamlessly with one another to give the impression that the characters are very much a part of and aware of their surroundings. Besides the art style, and its general focus on comedy (especially where Shiro, Mayumi and Sayaka are concerned), some more serious details are considered (including stalking, harassment and bullying): romances hardly ever proceed smoothly as they do in most anime, and Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is one of the few anime I’ve seen to show the impulses and incidents associated with romances: even if Usa and Ritsu do hold feelings for one another, various hang-ups, whether it be Usa’s clingy tendencies or Ritsu’s propensity to bottle things up and nail others with the truth after being pressured, as well as Mayumi and Sayaka’s meddling, seem to play a substantial role in slowing things down. This is something I am quite familiar with (albeit at a smaller scale), and represents a refreshing take on the whole notion of romance in anime. Despite a solid showing, entertaining situations and well-balanced characters, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is probably not suitable for all audiences; some humour is particularly risqué (especially where Mayumi is concerned), and those looking for a conclusive love story won’t find one here. From a personal perspective, these were relatively minor faults, and as such, individuals looking for a different type of coming-of-age story would find an enjoyable one in Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou.