“Following all the rules leaves a completed checklist, following your heart achieves a completed you.” –Ray Davis
Yui Yamada is a member of her school’s Gardening Club, and when she entered high school, she’d been quite reserved and shy. She develops feelings for Tomoka Kase, a popular athlete who competes on the school’s track and field team. While Yui becomes worried about being unable to spend as much time with Tomoka as she’d like because Tomoka is so involved, Tomoka reassures her that the feelings between them haven’t changed. It turns out that, while eating lunch on the school rooftop one day, Tomoka had spotted Yui tending to the school’s flower gardens and became entranced by the dedication Yui had exhibited. Over time, Tomoka would look forwards to seeing Yui, and on one occasion, Yui finally turns around and looks at Tomoka. The pair eventually begin going out with one another. In the present, Yui invites Tomoka to her place on an evening where her parents are out, and in the moment, Tomoka asks if Yui would be okay with taking things to the next level. Before anything can happen, Yui’s mother calls her, and Tomoka laughs, promising there’ll be another time. Later, during a class trip to Okinawa, Yui becomes worried about Tomoka seeing her naked and declines to join her in the hot springs. Although Tomoka worries that Yui wants to end the relationship, a heart-to-heart conversation between the pair on a secluded beach clears things up. With the end of high school fast approaching, Yui applies to a local university, but is saddened to learn that Tomoka’s received a recommendation to an atheletic university in Tokyo. Although she struggles with the prospect of separating from Tomoka, she still wishes her well. In the end, Yui decides to follow her heart and applies for a post-secondary in Tokyo, such that she can continue to be by Tomoka’s side. An adaptation of Hiromi Takashima’s manga Kase-san, Kase-san and Morning Glories is a love story set towards the end of high school, when paths begin diverging as people follow their own ambitions for the future. The manga originally ran between 2010 and 2017, and in 2018, an OVA adaptation première in Japanese cinema, bringing the story’s first act to life in an hour-long journey that follows the beginnings of Yui and Tomoka’s romance in a touching and heartwarming journey in which Yui decides to trust in her feelings and pursue a future where she can be with Tomoka, rather than forgoing the opportunity.
Kase-san and Morning Glories is a story that employs the age-old literary device of “following one’s heart”, in which characters will act on their emotions and feelings in the heat of a moment such that they do not have any future regrets. The fact that this theme is so prevalent in fiction speaks to the fact that this is something that people yearn for: all too often, people fail to act, whether it be a consequence of aversion to failure and the unknown, or because of constraints making it impractical to do so. In the realm of fiction, then, being able to follow one’s heart, and tangibly benefit from a personal growth perspective, is to serve as a message of encouragement and suggest that sometimes, one should take the plunge and go for it, if only to give things a go and see what becomes of one’s efforts. The applicability of this particular lesson varies depending on the context, and in the case of Kase-san and Morning Glories, it is a trickier place to apply the message. On one hand, it is commendable that Yui is so committed to her relationship with Tomoka that she’s willing to give up a slot at her local university for a post-secondary in Tokyo that she might not gain admittance to. However, the risk here is that if Yui’s gamble had not succeeded, she’d be separated from Tomoka anyways. Because this is a story, things work out nicely for Yui: she does end up attending a Tokyo post-secondary and majors in horticulture, simultaneously pursuing a field she’s genuinely interested in while at the same time, being close to the person she loves. However, this isn’t something that is always applicable to reality; sometimes, one must make the difficult decision and pick one choice among two owing to certain limitations in their circumstances. In this case, the suggestion that having it all comes across as being ludicrious: making difficult choices is a part of maturing, and a large part of being an adult is owning the consequences of one’s decisions. As a result, I find myself disagreeing with the messages that sometimes are sent with the “following one’s heart” theme on some occasions. Here in Kase-san and Morning Glories, Yui’s decision is admirable, but not always viable in every situation: at the very least, Kase-san and Morning Glories would have benefitted from additional portrayal of Yui reasoning out her decision to change her post-secondary applications at the last minute.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Kase-san and Morning Glories is a departure from the topics I typically write about – it is a yuri anime through and through, and normally, in the moé series I watch, yuri is a tangential element, being secondary to other aspects of said show. However, here in Kase-san and Morning Glories, romance is lies at the heart of things, and therefore is something that will be discussed. I have previously received flak for this approach; some readers hold that all romantic subtext is relevant, and expect that other viewers share their views even when it is plain a work has no intention of going down such a route.
- I focus on romance when it is evident that romance has a nontrivial role in the story. This is why I hold that in something like Amanchu! or The Aquatope on White Sand, there is no need for me to speculate on things. Conversely, to do something like that in Kase-san and Morning Glories would be inappropriate; within moments of the OVA’s opening, it is plain that romance is vital here. The sorts of things that Yui and Tomoka experience is typical of a romance starting out, and initially, even something as simple as a phone call is a cause for awkwardness, although this gives way to warmth and joy once things settle down.
- Kase-san and Morning Glories is very gentle and light-hearted in its presentation. Besides use of an unsaturated palette and clean backgrounds, this series makes use of facial expressions that are right at home in a comedy. The message this sends to viewers is that while things might get serious, the film will never unnecessarily foist drama onto viewers; use of facial expressions to convey shock, surprise or outrage is associated with a more laid-back atmosphere.
- Yui resembles Rifle is Beautiful‘s Hikari and This Art Club Has a Problem‘s Kaori in appearance, but her shy disposition and choice of activity means that from a personality standpoint, she’s more similar to Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina, or perhaps Yama no Susume‘s Aoi. By this point in time, I’ve seen enough anime to notice commonalities amongst characters, but familiar characters and archetypes do nothing to diminish my enjoyment of a given work – in fact, such characters help provide me with grounding.
- Yui’s love interest, Tomoka, reminds me of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform‘s Kei in appearance, but has an athletic background and a sunny disposition; in this way, she’s like Harukana Receive‘s Haruka. Immensely popular amongst the female students, Tomoka is still remarkably kind and returns Yui’s feelings, although her commitments initially make it difficult for her to spend any time with Yui whilst at school. Unlike Tomoka, who exudes a confident air, Yui is a ways more reserved and initially wonders if Tomoka returns her feelings.
- A heart-to-heart talk on the school rooftop removes all ambiguity: this aspect of Kase-san and Morning Glories is one I greatly respect. In some romances, half the series is spent with the characters spinning their wheels, wondering if they should put their feelings into the open or be content to admire their crush from afar. However, while nerves may make this a realistic outcome, indecision is frustrating from a storytelling perspective. Putting everything onto the table means Kase-san and Morning Glories is able to advance its story past this initial stage.
- This is especially important, since Kase-san and Morning Glories only has a runtime of fifty-eight minutes. The OVA is a little jumbled at times, switching constantly between the present day and flash backs, but this also works to the OVA’s advantage in conveying the tumultuous feelings associated with being in love. Unlike the numerous other things I’ve done, where preparedness and adaptivity allows one to plan out next steps and devise backups, romance is very much a touch-and-go pursuit, taken one step at a time.
- After their initial meetings, Tomoko and Yui begin going out shortly after, and one evening, even share a kiss under the sunset whilst waiting at the bus stop. Use of the warm, golden colours of a day’s end creates a timeless quality that speaks to how memorable the moment is. While it might be the end of a day, Yui and Tomoko seem locked in this moment for a tender eternity, blissfully wrapped in their own world. It’s a turning point in their relationship, where the awkwardness transitions into something that becomes more tangible.
- The visuals in Kase-san and Morning Glories are nowhere near the levels seen in Kyoto Animation, Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai’s works, but nonetheless work extremely well given the story Kase-san and Morning Glories seeks to tell. Such moments are referred to as sakuga (作画), when the artwork and animation is particularly outstanding from a visual perspective. From a literary standpoint, especially significant moments correspond to especially beautiful artwork and animation. However, the term has since broadened to refer to good animation and artwork in general, but this definition comes with a caveat: if one is not looking for moments that are standout in the context of a show, then some story-specific elements may be missed.
- This is why when it comes to sakuga, I care about its application in a given work, rather than counting it as a work with above-average visual quality. Back in Kase-san and Morning Glories, things between Yui and Tomoko stablise enough such that Yui becomes confident enough to invite Tomoko over to visit. It marks a first for the pair and shows that spending time with Tomoko has made her a little more confident than she’d been before, enough to take the initiative and have Tomoko over.
- Although Tomoko is presented as being cool, confident and composed, it turns that even she can feel embarrassment. Here, after she lets slip that she was counting on a maps app, she suddenly blushes and falls silent – doubtlessly, Tomoko had been trying to contain her excitement for the moment and appear dependable to Yui. This moment brings to mind the age-old stereotype that men never ask for directions or rely on maps, and as it turns out, this has nothing to do with visual-spatial coordination and is more of a matter of pride for some folks.
- Yui had been quite nervous about Tomoka visiting her, and spends a bit of time cleaning her room up so it looks spotless. This effort impresses Tomoka so thoroughly that her heart flutters. The pair enjoy the cakes that Tomoka’s brought – she yields her strawberry to Yui, who, like K-On!‘s Yui, believes that the strawberry is the heart and soul of a cake. The symbolism here is simple enough; Tomoka loves Yui enough to give her the strawberry as a sign of the extent of her feelings.
- Once the cakes are cleared away, Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ most heart-pounding moment occurs; Tomoka desires to take her relationship with Yui to the next level, and while Yui isn’t sure of what Tomoka means by this, she decides to go forwards. Had things gone all the way through, Kase-san and Morning Glories wouldn’t be family-friendly, although by this point in time, longtime readers will probably have guessed that I would talk about things anyways. Before anything can happen, the phone rings, defusing all of the tension in the moment and releasing it via comedy.
- The next segment of Kase-san and Morning Glories is set on the girls’ class trip to Okinawa. The class trip is a classic part of anime, either taking students to the historical streets of Kyoto or the tropical beaches of Okinawa. The choice seems entirely based on what an anime seeks to convey, and Okinawa appears to provide a very carefree locale for everyone. By comparison, the amount of history in Kyoto makes for a much more introspective experience.
- Yui’s best friend, Mikawa, had initially opposed Yui’s relationship with Tomoka, but over time, came to be quite accepting of things – by the Okinawa trip, she’s more than happy to photograph the happy couple, and accompany them as they shop for souvenirs. Because Kase-san and Morning Glories is an adaptation of the manga, some elements seen the manga are simplified or omitted. Some of these would’ve been helpful in providing viewers with more of a background as to how things between Tomoka and Yui unfolded, but on the whole, I felt that Kase-san and Morning Glories did a satisfactory job of how the pair’s relationship progressed.
- I completely relate to Mikawa here: one of my favourite things about being on vacation is the fact that hotel beds are always so comfortable; having an entire queen-sized bed to oneself is incredible, and it feels as though I’m on a cloud when I sleep. Ever since the move, I’ve been enjoying this particular luxury, and although I tend to sleep on the side of the bed closer to the alarm clock, being able to spread out makes for an especially relaxing sleep. Similarly, while we’ve now had nearly two consecutive weeks’ worth of heat warnings, the presence of air conditioning has been a blessing: home feels like a hotel.
- One subtle cue is that whenever Yui becomes embarrassed, flustered or otherwise excited, a small leaf appears on her head. Here, she enters the baths, but instantly changes her mind after seeing Tomoka’s
smoking hot body; Yui is a little uncomfortable with her own physique and decides against taking the bath. The tension this creates worries Tomoka, who becomes uneasy and wants to level with Yui to ascertain what’s happened. Body acceptance is something I’ve not seen in too many anime, although in reality, it is a major concern for both women and men alike.
- Body acceptance isn’t something I normally talk about: I’ve generally been okay with my physique, and if and when I’m asked, I have no qualms wearing a swimsuit. While I’ve not a model’s physique, I am at peace with my appearance, knowing that as long as I continue to keep up a decent exercise routine, I’ll continue to feel like I’m in good shape. Having said this, social standards have no bearing on how I perceive myself; how comfortable I am in my own skin is largely dictated by how I physically feel, rather than how I look. If I wake up and I feel lively enough to hit the day running, I’m confident I’ll have a good day. On days where I feel sluggish, I will myself out of bed and hit the gym anyways.
- In the end, once Tomoka and Yui hash things out on a beach together, the issue becomes sorted out, and the pair end up frolicking in the warm Okinawan waters. The trip ends on a high note, and the moment shows how Yui and Tomoka’s problems are those that need to be talked out. This segues into the film’s final act; as graduation approaches, and Tomoka’s path begins diverging from Yui’s the strength of their ability to communicate is put to the test. This is where the bulk of Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ conflict and themes come from.
- Yui initially tries to take things in stride and wishes that Tomoka would succeed in her aims; Yui’s own aspirations are a little more humble, and she has decided to apply for a local post-secondary to pursue her interests. However, a side of Yui feels conflicted, unable to imagine life without Tomoka. I have mentioned that this conflict is not one I relate to readily; when I was making the transition away from secondary into post-secondary, my decision was made purely based on what I thought would be best for my career.
- I’ve never been a believer of choosing one’s post-secondary or faculty based on what my friends were doing, simply because university lasts four years, but a career lasts a lifetime, and the costs of returning to education and picking a different career path is a costly one. Even though I wound up being the only person from my secondary school’s graduating year to be admitted into health sciences, I was far from lonely: I made friends with half the people in my graduating class in the first year alone, and still hung out with my old friends during breaks.
- For Yui and Tomoka, however, the pair are in a romantic relationship, and the decision becomes more difficult. Their situation is dramatically different than mine, and so, while I hold my own thoughts on how to choose one’s path, I will not say that my approach is necessarily the correct one. Everyone will have different backgrounds, and what worked for me won’t work for everyone. Spotting this is an essential reason behind why I was able to enjoy Kase-san and Morning Glories even though the stated outcome is so different than what I experienced.
- As such, when Tomoka and Yui struggle to be true to themselves and appear consigned to their chosen paths, even though it means separating, as a viewer, I nonetheless felt compelled to root for Tomoka and Yui, hoping that the pair would find a solution that would work for both of them. This particular aspect of being an anime fan comes as the result of over a decade of watching anime and writing about it to with some level of critical thinking; just because I don’t agree with a message doesn’t mean that a message doesn’t have value.
- Similarly, if something didn’t work for me for this reason, someone who’s lived a completely different set of experiences may, perchance, relate immediately to what’s happening in Kase-san and Morning Glories. Their experiences are no less valid than mine, and in this scenario, my first inclination is to hear them out. This is something I’ve found that some anime critics are lacking: when a work is inconsistent with their own experience, they are swift to deem said work as “mediocre” or “trite”, making no attempt to understand that there are some folks out there who may happen to relate to something. This is why I’m always more cautious when I deal with folks who claim to write from an “objective” perspective.
- Conversely, people who make it clear their perspectives are based on their experiences are always worth hearing out. Back in Kase-san and Morning Glories, the day has finally come for Tomoka to head off for Tokyo. It appears that this is the end, and that Yui has resigned herself to the path she’d previously chosen. Here, I note that Yui is voiced by Minami Takahashi. Takahashi is best known as Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s El Condor Pasa, Machikado Mazoku‘s Lilith and Lucoa of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Conversely, Tomoka’s voice actress is someone that needs no introduction: she’s voiced by the legendary Ayane Sakura (Cocoa of GochiUsa and countless other roles).
- The colours of this sunset, as Tomoka heads off, are much more saturated than they’d been when she’d shared that first kiss with Yui. Previously, I’ve felt that rich colours during a sunset serve to emphasise to viewers the finality of a moment, and from a certain point of view, this sunset marks a sort of turning point in Kase-san and Morning Glories. The old status quo is gone, and Tomoka is fully committed to pursing her career.
- However, it just wouldn’t be a story without a bit of an epiphany: in this moment, Yui decides that her feelings for Tomoka outweigh her wish to attend a local university. The sunset’s vivid colours also could be seen as symbolising that for Yui, she’s also seen the sunset of one part of her life. No longer doubting what she wants with her future, she decides to pursue Tomoka with all her heart. I personally would’ve liked this decision to be spaced out over a few more scenes, showing Yui making the necessary changes and committing to her choice; this is ultimately what I felt to be the biggest omission from Kase-san and Morning Glories.
- Had Kase-san and Morning Glories included this as a part of the story, Yui’s decision would’ve appeared more reasoned, and less impulsive. Small details like these can indeed bridge the gap between scenes and give the characters’ decisions a more rational basis. Because of how I approach things, I have no objections to reading between the lines and interpolating what needs to happen in order to realise a story’s outcome, but in general, I feel that works are more successful at conveying their intended message if they leave fewer elements ambiguous.
- These aspects of Kase-san and Morning Glories notwithstanding, I had a good time watching this film and seeing its portrayals of how love can prevail, and that all it takes from an individual is a little courage to pursue the unknown. From what I gather, Kase-san and Morning Glories represents the beginning of the journey, so folks interested in checking out what happens next, or perhaps to gain a better feel of what happened in the manga’s portrayal of the beginning, would benefit from giving the manga a whirl.
- I am not one to deny characters of a happy ending, and here at Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ conclusion, I am glad that Yui found the courage to do what she feels is right. Overall, Kase-san and Morning Glories earns a B+ in my books; it represents a very optimistic story of how following one’s heart leaves one with no regrets. It would’ve been nice to show in the film that for her decision, Yui manages to find a future route that works for her; this would eliminate any ambiguity as to whether or not Yui scarified her own future for Tomoka’s sake (as a bit of a spoiler, she doesn’t) and yield a more satisfying, definitive ending.
While I do not wholly agree with the message that Kase-san and Morning Glories sends, I nonetheless found this OVA to be enjoyable, as it shows the awkward and uneven progress that often accompanies a relationship where both partners are getting a feel for things. Miscommunications are sorted out without incident after a little bit of rumination, both partners are unsure of how quickly (or slowly) to take things, but the feelings are very much real. For this reason, Kase-san and Morning Glories remains a fantastic film for its portrayal of how a first relationship might unfold. The dichotomy between my response to Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ themes and its execution may prima facie appear contradictory, but in reality, there isn’t anything so unusual about this outcome: I can enjoy something even if the message isn’t one I agree with, as it represents a chance to see how another mind (i.e. the author’s) might approach a problem. Through Kase-san and Morning Glories, Takashima suggests that it’s okay to throw caution to the wind and trust in one’s feelings. In my own experiences, I’ve always weighed my decisions and make them based on what I think to maximise my benefits in the long term. Although I’ve ended up with a few regrets as a result of my choices, on the whole, I tend to make more decisions that leave me satisfied with their outcomes, and moreover, the decisions I’ve come to regret, I’ve also accepted responsibility for. The gap between what I’ve seen and what Takashima indicates through Kase-san and Morning Glories might be at odds, but considering how vast the world is, there are almost certainly situations where, were one to be in Yui’s shoes, her choice would be counted as correct; just because something didn’t work for me does not mean it is universally inapplicable in every situation. This is why I’m able to watch series without disliking them: I understand that an author’s experiences will be dramatically different than my own, and that through their work, I am able to gain a little more insight into a mode of thinking that I otherwise would not consider. The ability to reflect on one’s own biases in the context of an anime is something that I’ve found to make for a good discussion, and this is something I try to apply to other things in my life, as well. This has worked reasonably well for me, allowing me to broaden my horizons; from an anime perspective, this means trying new shows out and being pleasantly surprised by them, and in reality, it means being open to new experiences that enrich my own life and knowledge.