Sukitte Ii na yo 04 – Superficial Appearances
October 31, 2012 Leave a comment
Throughout Sukitte Ii ya no Mei has remained the one point of consistency, and that despite her obvious issues with social interaction has also been the character that helps others regardless of the situation. She continues to demonstrate a straightforward approach to life, although her attitudes and ways of dealing other people have subtly changed due to her relationship with Yamato. Mei continues to demonstrate that she a character who doesn’t need a ‘prince on a white horse’ to rescue her from tricky situations, exhibiting an element of self-respect and self-determination that other Shoujo female characters often lack. Furthermore, her strong will and ability to stand up for what she believes in partly shows up the more traditional and arguably out of date thinking that Yamato shows in this episode. Through the eyes of Mei we are beginning to see the complex nature of school and broader social interaction. Many of the characters are considered popular or beautiful, but they also suffer from similar problems to Mei, and regardless of how popular they may be there is the notion that they are as alienated, if not more so than Mei once was.
As the story progresses there are expectations and prevailing attitudes of how to act, who to interact with and how to look which can cause an immense amount of stress. Mei, while opening up slowly, continues to be viewed as an oddity, with rumours about her going out with Yamato adding an element of mystery to her character. She is now noticed, and rather than being the gloomy, almost invisible character in the school she is now noticed and recognised. This change in particular demonstrates the power of those who are viewed favourably within social circles, by getting close to Yamato Mei has acquired a certain presence, although it is still questionable how much of this is positive. To suddenly be the centre of attention can be damaging, particularly to those who have struggled with social interaction and making friends. However, as we see throughout this and previous episodes, Mei remains a strong willed individual who is willing to stand up for others regardless of the consequences.
It is the newest introduction to the cast that helps to demonstrate certain problems with people’s attitudes towards their bodies and the notion of what it means to be popular. Hayakawa is the other very popular boy in school, but, unlike Yamato who is very distant, Hayakawa is quite clearly someone who freely and willingly sleeps around with anyone who would approach him. His attitude towards women in particular and people in general is rather shallow, with the apparent notion that the best way to make acquaintances is to sleep with them. We also see an element of jealousy towards Yamato, a character that has apparently created a significant social network without much effort. His sudden interest in Mei can therefore be viewed as a way for Hayakawa to be one step ahead of Yamato and potentially destroy him. He views women, and in this particular case, Mei, as pawns to be freely used and then thrown away. Something we can clearly see by his schedule, which is full of women’s names, along with his willingness to simply cancel one engagement so that he can meet Mei properly.
His attitude that men should always pay for dates or meals demonstrates his lack of understanding and old fashioned values. He doesn’t see women as equals, and questions the idea that Yamato and Mei always split the bill when they go out to eat. What is particularly interesting is his bored appearance and body language when Yamato begins talking about Mei and all her eccentricities and little problems. Throughout this conversation we see how Mei has subtly changed and grown as a person who can now meet with other strangers, although we also see that she eats a lot when nervous and around unfamiliar people. She has therefore yet to fully get over her feelings of distrust for others, and in many respects it is easy to see why. But, because she is willing to meet others even when nervous it is obvious that Mei is making an effort to move on from her past self.
This particular scene does however she Yamato’s apparent inability to judge someone’s character, along with his old-fashioned and slightly curious attitude towards friendship and Mei as a person. He suggests that Mei ‘needs’ more friends and that by being his girlfriend she can meet new people and get more friends through him. His attitude is rather naïve to say the least, especially when we consider that he appears to view Hayakawa as someone worth being friends with. However, Mei is able to see through the lies and as soon as Yamato leaves to answer his phone she deletes Hayakawa’s number and leaves. This one scene quickly and easily demonstrates Mei’s ability to read the situation and understand those around her. It also helps to demonstrate how shallow and arguably out of touch with reality Hayakawa is. He clearly cannot understand Mei’s actions and seems to think that by simply being himself he can get any women or girl to sleep with him. At the same time, Yamato’s assertion that Mei is his also helps to demonstrate his attitude towards Mei, and while he is clearly serious about her, the idea that she belongs to him is arguably old fashioned and denies Mei freedom to choose who she associates with.
On the other hand Aiko clearly doesn’t understand the appeal of Mei, showing that she continues to be stuck in the superficial past. She is not a superficial character, and is someone who has been deeply scarred by her past; however, she has yet to truly learn from it and continues to grasp hold of her connections with Yamato. What is particularly interesting about Aiko is the continued importance that she places on meeting Yamato, along with the emotional stability that his praise created for her. On the other hand it also shows the danger of Yamato’s chameleon like personality, with a simple comment resulting in Aiko scarring her stomach in an attempt to become thinner and sexier. 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.
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. By hanging out with Hayakawa it almost appears that Aiko has yet to fully learn her lesson or understand that there are those who are willing to use men, or women and throw them away when they get bored. Hayakawa is willing to bring up the past and ridicule Aiko about her past self, suggesting that she continues to be hideous than that Yamato could never love her. The interjection by Mei, along with her willingness to stand up for Aiko while simultaneously talking down to Hayakawa once again demonstrates her willingness to help others.
Mei is willing to change, to grow, to look forward instead of staying in the past, her interactions with Aiko, Yamato and Asami all help to demonstrate how shallow and hollow public perceptions can be. During this episode we see further proof at how hollow Hayakawa is, along with how hollow and shallow a view of the world Aiko continues to hold and to chase after. Instead of being herself Aiko tries to chase an imaginary perfection, something that only exists in magazines and can never truly work in the real world. She puts effort into becoming the perfect girl for her boyfriend and then the perfect girl for Yamato, but none of this works. Aiko has missed the point entirely and her conversation with Mei clearly demonstrates this. For all of her faults Mei is astonishingly perceptive, almost seeing into peoples inner thoughts that they wish to hide away. Her meeting with Yamato has changed her, but instead of trying to change for Yamato she wants to change for herself. Her new friendship with Asami and introduction to new social circles and new experiences were all facilitated by her meeting with Yamato, but they were also part of her own decision to change and stop living in the last.
She continues to acknowledge the importance of her meeting and ongoing relationship with Yamato but isn’t bound by it. Instead Mei has used it as a means with which to change and grow as a person, something that Aiko has not done. Her words clearly shock Aiko, but there is a clear change in her behaviour and a hint of something changing within her, as if Mei’s little speech has finally opened Aiko’s eyes to her own stupidity. Furthermore, while Mei has yet to fully trust everyone, she is willing to give others a chance, something that the old Mei would have never done. Mei recognises that everyone has their own scares, their own problems and pasts, through this she has realised that her own issues are not unique but are part of a wider pattern. However, it is her ability to acknowledge them and move forward that allows her to stand out from the crowd. She accepts Yamato’s apology and wants to know more about him, but once again does it for her own needs, rather than trying to change for Yamato’s sake. Through Mei we see how damaging it can be to rely on others in order to maintain your space within social groups. The characters that she encounters all have their own problems, but instead of trying to change them for themselves, they instead do it for another, which only causes more problems in the long run.