One of the most popular anime being shown at CJAS this semester (if the volume of the laughter, the requests for ways to acquire personal copies on the email list, and the applause are any indicator) is Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou -- which is directed by Anno Hideaki, the same person who directed one of the canonical works of anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Despite the fact that both series fall into starkly different groups of anime (one a yet-another-mecha-type anime where big robots go around punching each other, and the other a yet-another-high-school-romance), there are actually a lot of thematic similarities between the two series. Although the topics addressed are different, both follow the same basic scheme: deeper questions hidden behind the shallow surface of a stereotype.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, which was shown in informals last year with the final episodes being shown at the marathon, contains four primary characters whose interactions form the basis of the series. Perhaps one of the most important scenes in the entire series occurs near the end of one of the episodes, where, the bad guys having been defeated, the heroes regroup for some ramen, and Misato asks the three Children why they pilot their Evangelions, despite the risks and the trials. While this may seem just an idle conversation piece, it is asking an important existential question, more or less: "Why do you keep living?" The basic idea of existentialism is that life is inherently meaningless, and that each person must make their own meaning, their own final goals. The way each character responds tells us how that character defines him or herself. Rei says that she pilots Eva because that is what is expected of her by society. Shinji claims that he does so in order to try and impress his father. Asuka's response, that she pilots Eva because she wants the entire world to see her abilities and praise her, sounds all too similar to another character we have seen more recently...
This is not the only parallel between Asuka and Miyazawa, but it is probably the most notable one. Both of them are what C.G. Jung (the father of modern psychology, not to be confused with Freud, who is just the father of psychology in general) would describe as "extroverts", people who for the most part define themselves by the judgments of others. The opposite of these are "introverts", who are more concerned with their own judgment of themselves, and Arima falls into this category quite nicely. It is apparent from his dialogue that he is not so much afraid of what his foster parents will think of him, but rather he is more afraid of what he might be if he does not keep up his fašade of perfection. Both characters hide behind a similar shield of apparent flawlessness to keep themselves happy.
In an existentialistic sense, they both found these masks a useful way of accomplishing their goals: Miyazawa, to acquire all the praise that she feels is due to her, and Arima, to keep away from the idea that he is genetically flawed. The oddity is that they both choose to abandon these masks in favor of showing the world who they really are, in essence abandoning their hopes and dreams for something else. This could be attributed to the lunacy that is generally called romantic love, which remains the point of the series. It seems a little ludicrous that both of them would make such a great sacrifice, potentially destroying the images of perfection that they have created, all for the sake of being more honest -- but then again, that's how romantic love generally is. If you care to doubt this, there is an infinity of other series (i.e. Marmalade Boy), and in some cases, personal experience has shown that it is not a bad generalization. One possible interpretation of Miyazawa's and Arima's sacrifices of image is that they are a symbol of their commitment to the relationship. The scene in which Arima catches Miyazawa slipping back into her old ways, hiding manga behind a Salinger cover, supports this, as it is evidence of her fear of committing, which is demonstrated more directly not long afterward in her avoidance of Arima's direct questioning. Like Evangelion, which indirectly asks the viewer the question "why would you pilot Eva?", Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou prods the audience into examining their own parallels with the characters depicted. Miyazawa's personality can be taken as comical, but it is funny simply because it is realistic, if a bit extreme. There is a little bit of Miyazawa or Asuka in everyone, humans recalling animal instincts and the pack mentality, the desire to be "alpha wolf" by showing superiority and receiving the adoration of others. There is also a little of Rei, the desire to follow what society demands of you in order to be considered just one of the humans (which is fitting, considering that Rei is anything but just another human), and to be accepted by society. As well as the acceptance of society, there is also the need to be accepted by family, and by yourself, like Shinji or Arima. Finally, there is the desire to not have some of the Suzuhara in each of us, "I piloted Eva and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."