Sukitte Ii na yo 03 – Expectations and Attitudes
October 25, 2012 Leave a comment
There are certain expectations of whom or what you are supposed to be that affect your sense of self throughout life. These can be both social and cultural, with a classic example being fashion, where the idealised view of men and women are put up for the whole world to see. Such images of slender women, or well built and toned men can have a significant impact upon ones self esteem with the attitude that you are not good enough becoming potentially damaging. This can have a big impact upon teenagers who are already the focus of immense social pressures, along with notions of what it means to be cool. But obviously they are not the only ones who have to contend with these social and cultural pressures about how you are supposed to appear and act, what you are supposed to like and other attitudes.
Sukitte Ii ya no introduces numerous characters that have all been effected by their circumstances in one way or another, with specific characters succumbing to the social and cultural pressures in more extreme ways than others. Mei as the central character has had to contend with the daily stares of people who view her as gloomy and strange. She has also had to deal with the attitude that everyone and anyone could betray her if she shows the slightest weakness. Her experiences as a young child have effected her ability to interact with others, and the gloomy exterior that she portrays, while partially her own personality is also a form of armour used to deflect anything that might hurt her. She has therefore partially been left out of the social and cultural pressures that effect others because her rejection of human interaction has meant that until recently she didn’t have to worry about her others perceived her.
By meeting Yamato, Mei has started to open herself to others, starting with Asami, and now others, although it remains clear as to how much she really trusts others. It does however seem clear that Mei was never entirely alienated from ideas of fashion and overall appearance as shown in her problems choosing a suitable outfit to wear while seeing Yamato. She is therefore not entirely alienated from society and has a clear interest in fashion, but because of her fear of being betrayed this has not lead her to become controlled by these ideas and attitudes. This was clearly demonstrated in the last episode when she willingly stood up for Asami and was willing to talk to her as a normal human being. Asami as we learn has an immense complex about her large breasts, and really dislikes the constant stares that her body attracts.
Her general way of acting is in part an act designed to keep others from abandoning her since she fears that unless she accepts people’s stares and acts in this way she will once again be abandoned and be alone. By berating Kenji about his attitude towards Asami, Mei helps to show both characters that they can be themselves without worrying about what others think. At the same time, the abuse and bullying that Asami puts up with demonstrates how certain characteristics, while supposedly desirable can make others jealous and vindictive. Asami’s case clear shows that her attitude and body are both desirable in one respect but cause a lot of emotional pain to her, with the notion that no one truly understands of sees the real her, all they see is a pair of breasts. This is very much a mirror of the attitudes that Mei has to deal with, although from a different context and for different reasons. No one ever sees the real Mei, partly because she hides it, but also because no one has ever tried to, instead all they see is a dull, and generally nondescript girl without any distinguishing features.
Her sudden relationship with Yamato brings up some interesting questions about what it means to be desirable and whether or not it is necessary to put in so much effort into an external appearance. Mei is clearly excited about the prospect of a ‘date’ with Yamato, although she attempts to claim that she is only going to get her hair cut with him tagging along. On the other hand Yamato insists that it is a date because they are not going out, and while Mei protests it is half-hearted without any real force or emotion behind it. But, by walking around by his side she becomes conscious of the difference in looks and general presence between them. While Yamato draws numerous admiring glances from other women and girls, and even gets scouted by a talent agency, she is dismissed as a meaningless hanger-on. She questions her current position, wondering whether she truly ‘deserves’ to be with Yamato, once again demonstrating how much power these social and cultural expectations and attitudes have.
On the other hand, the introduction of Aiko further underlines the potentially destructive nature of attitudes when they are taken to their logical conclusion. Her attempts to become the ‘perfect girl’ for her previous boyfriend bordered on the obsessive, and the amount of time, effort and money she put in only served to ruin her skin. Furthermore, her boyfriend evidently got bored, or for some other reason decided to start sleeping around, thus utterly destroying her self-esteem. What is particularly fascinating about Aiko is the importance that she places on meeting Yamato, the first person who ever praised her beauty without her make-up. The importance of this simple comment can be seen when she rushes to Yamato after finding out about her boyfriends cheating ways and insists that if he truly thinks she is beautiful then he would have sex with her.
Aiko clearly learns very little from this experience, and instead of changing her attitude only gets worse after her meeting with Yamato. She goes on a diet for Yamato, losing seventeen kilograms in a mere two months, which is hardly healthy and judging by the pictures has left her stomach scared from the sudden changes in her body. Her current self has been created for, and is entirely devoted to Yamato, but if anything this helps to illustrate how little she has learned and how dangerous social and cultural expectations can be. By being there in her time of need Yamato has become the focal point for Aiko’s sense of self, and she clearly doesn’t understand what he sees in Mei. Aiko is arguably far more beautiful than Mei, at least on face value, and with her slender figure and well kept look she stands out, whereas Mei stands out for her rather scruffy, but arguably far more natural looks.
Her inability to understand what it is about Mei that Yamato likes leads her to demonstrate the kind of relationship that she has shared with him, thus prompting Mei to once again question her position next to him. She continues to question whether it is ‘right’ for her to be near Yamato, and begins to wonder how many others he has either slept with or been kind too. On the other hand, Aiko continues to dismiss Masashi in her blind quest to have Yamato recognise her love for him. She is blind to others affection and has made certain decisions for the wrong reasons, in this respect all that has happened is that Yamato has replaced her old boyfriend as her object for affection. And instead of other makeup she has simply put effort into other areas, but by dismissing Mei as someone who doesn’t put in any ‘effort’ we see how emotionally shallow Aiko is. By simply talking to, and walking with Yamato, along with taking part in bowling, Mei has already put in a significant amount of effort to trust others in some small way.
Through all this we are beginning to see how dangerous and damaging Yamato’s ‘kindness’ can be. He has been kind to Asami and Aiko, and because of his looks and ability to be the centre of attention has forced them into unnatural and potentially physically and emotionally damaging situations. By willingly sleeping with Aiko he has created a misplaced sense of importance, with Aiko going to such extreme lengths to please him regardless of how damaging it can be. He claims that during middle school he was little more than a chameleon, smiling and blending into the surroundings so that he wouldn’t be the target of his classes numerous bullies. This attitude leads to the bullying and eventual disappearance (moved to another school) of his best friend. The whole that he punched in a school wall is symbolic of how empty Yamato was and arguably still is. He may claim that he ‘was’ a chameleon, but judging by his attitude and the way he interacts with others it could be argued that he has never stopped being a chameleon.
Because of his looks he continues to blend into the surroundings by maintaining his position as the centre of attention. The kindness that he has shown Aiko and Asami, while not misplaced is nonetheless damaging and creates misunderstandings about how he views them. In particular, by willingly sleeping with Aiko, Yamato reinforces the notion that he holds in her an important place. By deciding to date Mei, Yamato is therefore dismissing all the hard-work and emotional importance that Aiko has placed on him, and while this simple act is hardly vindictive it is an example of how dangerous kindness can be. Yamato appears to hate himself, and understands how damaging his kindness (or in some respects fake kindness) has been to those who have associated themselves with him.
Mei is arguably the most down-to-earth character in the series and someone who can see the truth that others try to hide. While she is clearly shocked by the revelation that Yamato has slept with Aiko (and by extension other girls as well, although this has not been brought up), Mei understands why others are drawn to him. He may be a social chameleon, but as Mei points out, it is his personality that draws people in. furthermore, she points out that friendship cannot carry on through looks alone and that if it were only because of his external appearance those around him would have left long ago. She argues that to be true friends you need to trust one another, and while there are other reasons involved, Aiko, Asami, Masashi and Kenji wouldn’t hang around with Yamato if they didn’t like him and trust him.
From this simple conversation we now see how much more Mei understands those around her than they understand themselves, and while she still cannot trust others fully, she is at least trying. The effort that Mei puts into getting on with others may seem small, but if far better placed than the effort that Aiko and Asami have put into their external appearances. She understands that it is often what is beneath the external appearances that are far more important. At the same time, the damage that Aiko has inflicted upon herself in order to attain a perceived perfection once again demonstrates the dangerous effect that social and cultural expectations can have. That she continues to ignore Masashi’s obvious affection for her, although she willingly sleeps with him continues to demonstrate that while Yamato has other qualities, his, often misplaced, kindness can be as destructive as it is positive. On the other hand, when he asks Mei if he can kiss her instead of effectively forcing the kiss like in previous episodes demonstrates how he, along with others who have met Mei are slowly beginning to change.