The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Ayaka Sunohara

Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.” —Juliette Binoche

Aki Shiina is often mistaken as a girl for his looks, so he decides to move to Tokyo and enrol in a school here so he can learn to be more manly. When he lodges at the Sunohara Dormitory, he meets its caretaker, Ayaka Sunohara, and the other residents, including Yuzu Yukimoto, Sumire Yamanashi and Yuri Kazami, who are on the student council, and Nana, Ayaka’s younger sister. Aki begins acclimatising to life at the Sunohara Dormitory, but his efforts to become more manly are often met with gentle failure, and all the while dealing with the eccentricities of the Sunohara Dormitory’s other residents. In spite of this, Aki grows accustomed to life at Sunohara Dormitory, and over time, develops a bit of a crush on Ayaka. The original manga has been running since 2014, and Silver Link’s adaptation brings Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō to life. While its setup presents numerous opportunities for awkward moments, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō‘s presentation is also surprisingly relaxing and heart-warming, focusing on the ordinary events of everyday life that many take for granted, well beyond the fanservice the series outwardly seems to focus on.

By making outrageous situations out of common activities, audiences are able to see the sort of turbulence in Aki’s life at Sunohara dorm. His attempts at normalcy typically end up unsuccessful, although even with the sort of disruptions that Ayaka, Yuzu, Sumire, Yuri and Nana bring to the table, Aki handles the chaos as well as can be expected of anyone in his position. Over time, however, Aki begins to adjust, and, appreciative of the help that Ayaka has given him, seeks ways of expressing his gratitude, whether it be offering to help Ayaka with household activities or else looking after her when she catches a cold. While initially irritated from being treated as a girl at the hands of Sunohara Dormitory’s residents, Aki begins to regard everyone as friends; a year after his arrival at Sunohara Dormitory, Aki expresses that the past year was not so bad, being quite livelier than before. The appreciation for the energetic is a common theme in many series: The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi’s Kyon ultimately prefers a world where things are lively when confronted with a choice, despite vocally voicing a want for an ordinary life, for instance, and in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, it would appear that, in spite of his reluctance to say so, the rowdy life at Sunohara Dormitory is something that Aki would now see as being something to enjoy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While substance and a strong narrative is what compels people to watch fiction, there remains a large amount of fiction where the focus is not in a particularly cohesive or well-defined journey. Various slice-of-life and comedies do just this, preferring to subject characters to various misadventures; despite their being counted as unnecessary by some, I’ve long felt that such stories can be relaxing in their own right.

  • Ayaka is the star of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, and is voiced by Rina Satō (Gundula Rall of Brave Witches and Kaede Kagayama of Non Non Biyori). With her maternal mannerisms, Ayaka is likely simply acting in the interests of those living at the Sunohara Dormitory, although how aware Ayaka is of the feelings (and embarrassment) of those around her remains open to speculation.

  • Small in stature, assertive and loud, Yuzu is the student council president who wears a small chicklet hairband with the aim of boosting her height. Despite her professed disapproval of Aki, she occasionally will try to get closer to Aki in a manner of speaking.

  • Besides Yuzu, Sumire and Yuri (left and right, respectively) also reside at the Sunohara Dormitory. Sumire is tall, aloof and has feelings for Yuzu, while Yuri enjoys various questionable activities. Their presence in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō do much to liven the show up, and while the dynamic between Aki and Ayaka acts as the basis for the show, the addition of three characters provides additional insights into Ayaka’s character, namely, that she treats everyone similarly.

  • While Aki is initially unsuccessful with helping Ayaka run Sunohara Dormitory, his efforts are not for naught; as time wears on, he is able to contribute here and there. On one occasion, Aki attempts to help Ayaka cook. While there is a common stereotype that men are ill-suited for cooking, the reality is that this is largely used for comedy: I’ve seen men and women cook equally well, the same way that men and women can write software equally well.

  • While Aki’s first and foremost desire is to be recognised as a man, he is definitely lacking in confidence and a take-charge mindset: situations tend to sweep Aki off his feet early on, and he finds himself at the mercy of everyone at Sunohara Dormitory. One of the joys of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, then, is watching Aki slowly find his own approach as he becomes accustomed to life here with Ayaka and the others.

  • After a minor accident with a ladder strands Ayaka and Aki on the roof while they are trying to patch it, the situation is compounded with a sudden downpour. While Aki occasionally entertains the notion of marrying Ayaka one day, he also feels conflicted about these feelings and becomes quite embarrassed whenever Ayaka seizes the moment. However, Aki also comes to treasure these moments: when not embarrassed, he feels warm and at ease with Ayaka, allowing him to live in the moment.

  • While in Japan last year, I was visiting during May, the time of year when temperatures are very pleasant. I’ve heard that during the summer, the heat can be quite intense. I’ve experienced the full force of summer in Hong Kong, during which it feels like standing in a furnace whenever one is directly outside, and because of the intense air conditioning Hong Kong uses, the temperature contrast between the outdoors and indoors is even more pronounced. Having experienced the heat and humidity of Hong Kong, I thus wonder whether the apparent temperature in Japan’s summers are more strongly-felt than even those of Hong Kong’s.

  • Watermelon is a fruit to be enjoyed during the summer: while I bemoaned the lack of summer this year on account of the forest fire smoke blanketing this side of the world in a thick haze and for being out of town for a better part of it, I did enjoy watermelon on many a summer evening, on those days where the refreshing cool of a watermelon was precisely what was needed to beat back the heat lingering from the day.

  • I was quite surprised to learn that Ayane Sakura, of GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto fame, would be playing as Nana, Ayaka’s younger sister. Despite her outward appearance as a gyaru (Japanese slang referring to a fashion-conscious girl), Nana is perceptive and is well-rounded, being sociable, capable with her schoolwork and also has a diverse array of interests, including old-school video games. From Nana’s remarks, Ayaka is not approving of video games and attempts to enforce a time limit for Nana.

  • After an evening spent watching horror movies, unsettling sounds keep Aki and Yuzu up. When they make to investigate, it turns out that Nana is using an empty storeroom as a personal gym of sorts. Her choice of equipment suggests exercises to slim down and tone up – she remarks it’s necessary to maintain her figure. Outside of shonen anime, it’s rare to see characters exercise regularly, and as someone who hits the gym with some frequency, a question on my mind is how many of my readers also are lifters or otherwise do regular exercise.

  • Channelling Cocoa’s spirit of competition, Nana’s first course of action whenever a conflict arises is to compete with the other party. She typically tramples Yuzu in a competition of smarts and physicality, but Yuzu later turns the table with a test of endurance. I vividly recall that when I was in my final year of primary school, I could still hang from monkey bars and swing around like nobody’s business; during a party with friends in the time since, where we visited a playground for fun, my shoulders ached after swinging across once.

  • After looking for ways to thank Ayaka for her efforts at the Sunohara Dormitory, Aki wonders if a massage might be the way to go: Yuri forces Sumire to be a test subject of sorts and asks Aki to use her for practise. Taken out of context, the various moments in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō might raise a few eyebrows, but on the whole, once folks get into the show, it becomes clear that much of the humour comes from Aki’s innocence.

  • Ear-cleaning is featured in anime as a means for expressing closeness between two people: anime typically presupposes that everyone has the dry earwax that does not form easy-to-remove globs. Left to accumulate, it can impact hearing, and North American remedies are not so effective, leaving manual extraction as one way of removing it. While the reality is that my ear canals are rather sensitive, and it does hurt a little for me, anime portrays this as a very quiet experience to signify familial-like bonds between those involved.

  • A recurring joke in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō is that despite his constant efforts to be more manly, Aki ends up being treated akin to a cat or dog, instead: he often finds the older ladies familiar with him to treat him like a plaything and becomes frustrated. During a summer festival, he runs off and becomes lost, but is eventually found.

  • Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō covers the flow of events over the course of a year, so things like Halloween and Christmas are invariably covered. Unlike anime such as Non Non Biyori or GochiUsa, where the flow of seasons is very distinct, the weather patterns in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō are much less varied. Instead, viewers are given a sense of what time of year it is based on the presence of certain events. Such series show they are very strongly character-centric, counting on characters and their experiences to drive the flow of events, while series that feature the natural environment more strongly aim to show the unique impact a setting can have on the flow of events.

  • Aki’s older sister, Matsuri, appears late in the season and comes across as an aloof, but loving older sister who wishes nothing more than to keep Aki sheltered. Intent on taking Aki back home, she challenges Ayaka to a series of tests to assess her capability in looking after Aki – despite Matsuri’s intent to fail Ayaka, Ayaka manages to exceed all of her expectations and she relents, allowing Aki to stay.

  • Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō ultimately ends up being a fun ride: while thematic elements and conflicts are not at the forefront of the series, what Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō does excel at doing is managing to create amusing situations that utilise ecchi elements without crossing over the line. I was quite surprised the series was as disciplined as it was, and in the end, the cast of characters and their mannerisms is what convinced me to finish this series.

  • One aspect of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō that I paid little mind to was the soundtrack: above average in its execution and application as incidental music, the music serves to accentuate the mood of a moment in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō despite being nothing remarkable. The ending song, Sonna no Boku ja nai, is an upbeat song that starts off with a somewhat melancholy opening, befitting of Aki’s improving experience as the series progresses.

  • In the end, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō earns a B- (7.5 on the 10 point scale, or 3.0 of 4 on a 4-point scale). While nothing particularly groundbreaking, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō never tries to be something it’s not, and ends up being entertaining by sticking to its guns. If there were a continuation, I would count it as a series worth watching, although I confess that it would be quite difficult to write about.

While Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō is unlikely to be counted as a highly moving or thought-provoking series, it does offer consistent comedy throughout its run. The situations that Aki finds himself in are amusing, as are his reactions to some of the more embarrassing moments. With its cast of familiar, yet dynamic characters, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō manages to avoid the trap of falling upon tired and family-unfriendly elements, instead, presenting a story of a young boy who would like nothing more than to be regarded as a man: confident, reliable and dependable. As he continues to live at Sunohara Dormitory, his actions demonstrate a commitment to this, and he gradually begins to be counted upon more. However, there are moments where Ayaka and the other residents will continue to dote on or tease him, reminding audiences that appearances can be a little hard to overcome, even if the spirit is present. With this being said, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō ends up being a modestly fun watch that surprises with its disciplined fanservice and interesting portrayal of Aki’s time in a dormitory where normalcy is very quickly disrupted.