In 1996, Anno Domini, the most beloved animation studios of the West and the Far East met across the table of business negotiation. At stake were half a dozen animated movies, product of perhaps the greatest animator of his generation. Despite the outcry of the fans and the misgivings of the great man himself, the deal that gave Disney comprehensive distribution rights to Miyazaki Hayao's movies was signed by Tokuma Shoten, parent company of Studio Ghibli. Shortly thereafter, perhaps in an attempt to give Ghibli's works one final moment of glory in their original state, the Ghibli ga Ippai collection of all of Ghibli's major works was released on laserdisc. Its liner notes contain the commentary of luminaries from throughout the anime industry, and for the postscript, a piece had been solicited from a former student of Miyazaki, a young man whose shadow over the industry was already as long as it was black. In it, Anno Hideaki writes:
There are too many painful things for people to go on living in reality. Thus, humans run and hide in dreams. They watch films as entertainment. Animation, as a means to enjoy everything in a pure, fake world, is a realization of dreams and has become entrenched in film. In short, it is a thing where even coincidences are arranged and everything judged cinematically unnecessary can be excised. The negative feelings of the real world are no exception. If the director so desires, even malice toward others could be introduced straight into film. I guess that's one of the attractive things about anime. Changing the tribulation of reality into dreams, and conveying that to the people... is that what our work is? For the sake of people who forget reality until the bill comes due, who want to devote themselves to happy fallacies. I guess that's our job in the entertainment and service sector.
One of the distinctive features of Studio Ghibli's works is that, even if there are obsessive actions, there are things which appear to have not forfeited their goal. Forfeiting one's goal leads to despair, and is a sickness that can prove fatal. I wonder if Miya-san and his people are familiar with that feeling of despair. Perhaps they don't want to show that anguish to other people. I think they specifically don't want to display the negative things called "self-loathing" and "complexes" to others. That's why Studio Ghibli's works can't show anything but superficial happiness and a reproduction of reality with all of the dirty things omitted. A fiction that imitates reality, and nothing more than a single dream. I suppose that is the governance of entertainment. And I think that that is one of the reasons that Studio Ghibli's works are safely watchable, brand name creations. I have no intention of denying that. All of Studio Ghibli's works are top-level creations. But, I can't help but feel that something is missing. This is because, although the technique is there, I can no longer feel "blood", the "blood" that is surely flowing within everyone. I wonder when that happened? Studio Ghibli's works have, for me, become things that don't possess the image of "Anime", but rather of the so-called Japanese cinema, in other words, the Japanese movies that have now lost all of their energy. That may be the reason that I feel that something is missing. By the way, Mr. Miyazaki Hayao and Mr. Itano Ichirou are those I consider my teachers. I brag and say that I'm probably the only one in the world with that combination. I was greatly influenced, not just in the technical points of the animation craft, but in the mental portion of filmmaking. My posture on filmmaking is nothing more than an attempt to hang on to the things I learned from the two of them. I have nothing but words of gratitude for both of them.
Watching the Gainax works that Anno has been involved with, one may perhaps gain some sense of the "blood" to which he refers above. His characters have uncertainties and fears, passions that sculpt who they are and how well they can survive in their environment. Shinji, Nadia, Noriko -- antiheroes one and all whose successes and failures are determined by who they are as people and not by any foreordained destiny (save perhaps the hand of the staff itself). It is the heat of their anger, the sharpness of their joy, and the chill of their fear, the depths of their despair that determine their fate. In short, they win or lose as people, and as people instead of as archetypes they become relevant to us, the audience.
And now we have Miyazawa Yukino and Arima Souichirou, two people enmeshed in two of the greatest problems common to all mankind: love and self-worth. The two have passed a great turning point in their lives in episode 18, and enter into a new phase of self-searching and mutual self-expression in the final story arc of the anime: 14 Days. Until that point, the two had been climbing a mountain; now, having reached the top, they must learn to build a home for themselves amidst the brilliant sunshine and thin air. And they must do so in the face of the unrelenting pressures of the real world and the threat (real or perceived) of others climbing the same mountain to intrude.
14 Days is also marked by the introduction of a new character, Tonami Takefumi. A boy with a checkered past with Tsubaki, his presence will help shed more light on the dynamics of Yukino's interactions with her friends and with Arima, and will also bring forward more of the emotions Arima had sought to bury deep within. It is a sad fact that the 14 Days story arc was not completed in the manga by the time KareKano finished, so the primary problem confronting Tonami is not brought to a total resolution. Instead, like life, it is a work in progress, as ultimately are the lives of all the cast.
Look forward to the rest of the show, to seeing more of the lives of the characters not that different from you and me. And see if you can feel their blood pulsing.