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Thoughts on To-Y

By: Lawrence Eng

JPEG of Niya

[This review was originally published in the Cornell Japanese Animation Society's weekly newsletter on 2/3/96.]

If you don't remember, To-Y is the really cool movie [OAV] we saw at last semester's marathon (you know, the one about the band). I thought it was one of the best movies I've ever seen and it really left an impression on me. Why? It was just too cool! Or maybe I have weird taste (GASP!). Anyhow, since that first showing, a few of us have rewatched the movie several times (6 times, myself).

Near the end of the semester, the executive board of CJAS debated whether or not To-Y should be shown. We moved To-Y from the last meeting of the semester to the marathon due to the fact that no one knew how well it would be accepted by the audience. From the way we were handling the showing of the movie, I was unsure of whether or not I'd like it. But I had also heard good things about the movie, so I had to see it for myself before making a judgement.

I thought it was great! I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it, the slick art, the music, the themes; the overall presentation really impressed me.

One of the story's main themes was the plight of those on the fringe of society and their struggle not to "sell out" to those of the mainstream. I found the movie remarkably effective in its ability to make GASP and its friends and its fans so "real," in that they had depth and a sense of power to them that could not go unnoticed. The mainstream of society, as exemplified by Aikawa Yoji and his followers, was well portrayed as not being necessarily bad, but tainted by being shallow, superficial, and lacking of any real substance. Hence, I found myself much more willing to relate to GASP. In this way, I found myself relating well with the movie, in general.

The artwork meshed very well with the story and the music. The whole movie, its pacing, visual effects, and the transitions between To-Y and Aikawa, gave me the impression that I was watching an extremely complex and well-crafted music video. The music was powerful and a definite plus (I listen to the soundtrack frequently). Like I said, I just really appreciate how well put-together the whole piece was.

One of the things which took me awhile to work out was the relationship between the characters To-Y and Niya (the catgirl). Niya introduced herself to Sonoko (To-Y's cousin) as "To-Y's lover." The first trick was to figure out that Niya was a girl. After that, I've decided that the movie, in addition to being about the fringe of society trying to maintain itself and its identity, was also a portrait of To-Y and Niya's relationship. I think that the relationship between To-Y and Niya was portrayed beautifully, and it moved me unlike many of the so-called "love stories" we see nowadays. Others I have talked to have said that To-Y treats Niya much like a younger sister. Even so, we know that they are not siblings, and their relationship is a very close one. To-Y and Niya are essentially best friends, and even though they do not act like the typical anime couple in love, there is no doubt that they love each other. You see that they share a very special bond, and there is no angst whatsoever in their relationship. To-Y, who according to James often seems like an android, is the most human when he is with Niya, and she shows a strong devotion to him. Niya, like a cat, is highly individualistic, yet she stands by To-Y when he needs her most, as they are the only constants in each other's lives. Their relationship is nothing like that which we normally see in anime and other movies. I found it to be very real and refreshing. Hence, one of the themes is that even if you aren't accepted by the whole of society, if you aren't a "superstar" like Aikawa, as long as you have loyal and devoted friends, that's all you really need in life.

To the mainstream, neither To-Y nor Niya was accepted as being normal, but they provided support for each other in their own world, and the last image of them walking hand in hand will last with me for a long time to come.

To-Y: Live 1998 This article appeared in the 12/5/98 CJAS newsletter.

Last updated on October 9th, 1999
Lawrence Eng