Written a lot about this — Korra and Korrasami with Makorra

I  actually posted a lot about this on Tumblr as fans are well, indignant or disappointed. Many are fans who are gay or who intensely love or ship gay pairings were offended by Bryan’s statement of “hetero-lens” due to its widespread spectrum implicit in the arena of homophobia. I, on the other hand, thought the comment was meh to  me because it didn’t really  feel I was in that category. This reviewer who has spent the majority of 2014 being indoctrinated into queer or even heteronormative homosexuality to the point that TPAB actually thought that all I watch is otome or queer animes is pretty much salient with the fact that I am/never was homophobic. I enjoyed some of the pairings in the otome show, saw potency in them and actually critiqued the execution of those shows.

I even wrote one of the longest reviews on this blog on critiquing and also praising Sekaiichi Hatsukoi which is a gay anime which pulled no punches.  I really liked Queen’s Blade which is a lesbian anime, though a bit directed towards guys, had all the lesbianism, no holds barred, in its glory for the whole series. I loved Maria Watches Over Us which is a lesbian anime directed towards girls. I loved Cardcaptor Sakura and thought that Tomoyo loving Sakura or even Touya loving Yukito to be very well handled. I wanted Touya ending up with his teacher not because she was female but because I liked teacher-student pairings at that time but really hated the other character liking her teacher and marrying him after her high-school graduation :/ though it was a totally heterosexual pairing. Because though it was not illegal it wasn’t to me tastefully written. I actually like Domoki liking Watanuki in xxxHolic and don’t like those other girls who fancy/like Watanuki aside Yuko Ichihara. And even that after layers of interactions and understandings comes about.  One of my favourite anime, also directed towards girls is Revolutionary Girl Utena which shows Utena and Anthy as bisexual characters and mostly lesbians, full frontal, in the animated movie retelling Adolescence Apocalypse.

So, this opinion and article will articulate most of my feelings on the series and also on the pairings that survived. It will be long, span paragraphs and I decided after half-writing it I should also push this through some pages so please bear with me. Thank you if you read all throughout the way  and Thank you for reading a bit. Honestly, this article took a long time to write — I was exposed to more material, got tired and procrastinated or cogitated a bit more. Yet I wanted this to be a comprehensive read of what I thought about Korra the series, the character and also Korrasami and Makorra. I will put briefly that I had higher hopes for the series but they were not met and as you will see this is more than any shipping or anything else.

It has to do with how  TLA was handled and how LOK was handled: both  are different shows and may deal with different things but have some core elements. It is the same way  you might judge a reboot or even the different installments  of the Final Fantasy series. It  was mostly how  LOK was written independently in itself. How  it  was budget cut a lot by both Nick and how Bryke had many problems with Nick that eventual made this an internet only show that was also facing cancellations. So much so that Book 3 and Book 4 followed one after the other. Also, though  I personally have nothing against Bryke I do think as writers and creators who were facing a lot of pressure that they did do some mistakes and mess up. Also Nick initially did not like that Korra was a girl and wanted her to be a guy because the Aang formula was pretty much potent still and in these series people  for some stupid marketing reason and cultural biases want the main protagonist being a male and not female.

The TLA team was larger, had more writers and obviously many discussions amongst Bryke and those other people so many more ideas and expansions of concepts  were apparently plausible  and executed. Bryke originally wanted Toph and Azula to be guys and also wanted a love triangle between Katara, Aang and Toph so obviously that idea was scrapped by many  others pitching in their ideas. Asami was initially also meant to be a villain I wouldn’t have minded if that happened because I think Spysami is pretty more interesting than thinly written Korrasami. Or, she may have been a double agent that would  have proved volumes about her dexterity in general. Makorra was, as I read from Tumblr,  described as the perfect pairing by Bryke themselves and how Korra and Mako were right for each other and “soulmates” — so I think Bryke’s Korrasami was done almost like a last minute thing. In fact, I don’t think they did away with Makorra either which is telling in the  finale episode. I think they were confused at what to do really and thought that keeping both pairings open but focusing a bit more on Korrasami was the only thing they could do to “salvage”  the series because before this finale  many people had heavily, explicitly, inexorably critiqued Legend of Korra both critics and fans alike.  So, LOK had a lot of problems since Book 1 that had  to do and nothing to do with Makorra and pairings and stuff.

I won’t  lie that I fast-forwarded to  the last scene in LOK to see what happens because by this time I was kinda bored and wanted to know what happens to Korra and by Book 3 and 4 the hints of Makorra were pretty high I wanted to see if they patch up, after some time of course because  some time even passed for Kataraang to happen. I was impressed with the spirit portal which became like the equatorial region of their world and that was awesome.I loved the  last scene music and ambience but the pairing made me very unhappy because it was just too rushed and scatterbrained to be a beautiful buildup.

So to continue, though some fans of Makorra are homophobic; most of us  aren’t. This is due to the fact we come to this show after years of watching anime shows from its infancy dealing with heteronormativity, queer sexualities (both straight and gay), performativity, and also the construction/reconstruction of identities. So, as most of us  are in our late teens and twenties or even forties we are already nonplussed by homosexuality rather accepting it wholeheartedly as a romantic-sexual outcome. We have relegated our “hetero-lens” a long time ago even before The Legend of Korra or The Legend of Aang/The Last Airbender premiered. I have criticised Korra on numerous occasions and none of them were solely on ships. As listed below:

Legend of Korra, Book 3: “Change”  Criticism

Korra Season 3 Comes to An End

I am not partial. I have enjoyed gay pairings and straight pairings with equal zeal. I am not infected with “hetero-lens” — also I have accused Korrasami of a “hetero-lens” too. That one is that of heteronormativity. As a friend of mine stated gender or a critique of gender was not established in Korra. Korra is, as Anime Live Reactions put it eloquently, stereotyped as a strong woman/person of colour becoming bisexual and lesbian to validate her strong, “tomboy” existence. Asami’s sexuality has always been a game. She is a doll, a feminine debacle, and having Korra, a masculine, pair up with her reinforces a heteronormative way of looking at things. It essentialises that the  avatar spirit is  a “male” spirit with or without past lives because Wan, the first avatar, pretty much is shown to be in a relationship with Raava, a female spirit.  Lesbianism, gayness or even straight-on  heterosexuality is not about binary images but heteronormativity and performativity does reduce it to such.

Korra cannot be alone or be in a heterosexual relationship because that also incinerates the  heteronormative way of looking at heterosexual relationships. Makorra ending in a bad note now encapsulates and also mediates on the fixation that strong men and women cannot mix. This stereotype is nothing new. If Mako and Korra could end better we would not point fingers at this rather Bolin and Korra’s chaotic end was foreseen on a lack of attraction on Korra’s part and even Bolin does not date Eska due to her domineering and inhospitable personality. Korra and Bolin are strong and do have chemistry but they end amicably, on good terms, there is hardly any name-calling and finger-pointing between them. Bolin does not  ever bring up that Korra broke his heart by kissing her brother nor that he wanted Korra to apologise much because they went through things that allowed forgiveness and friendship to happen. Ironically, even Bolin and Eska’s breakup  and later encounter seemed both comic but also reasonable and realistic. It was apparent that they both have considerably, without a doubt moved on. The way Mako and Korra interact are still as lovers even by the end of Book  4  breakup or no breakup  they just do, both context and subtext affirms it as a romance with mutually concerted feelings — it’s pretty confusing.

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Watching Kuroko no Basket

Yes, finally watching another basketball anime 😀 My favourite is obviously Slam Dunk 🙂

It’s a discombobulated watching though. I decided to skim a bit because there are like 40 episodes and there is gonna be a 3rd TV series soon and I need to watch all of this in a short time it feels. Though as soon as I can I am gonna marathon all of it because I am bit busy right now with studies so marathoning is quite not happening at the moment.

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I think 2nd TV series is where Kuroko no Basket really starts shining. I really like Kuroko. Tetsu is this strange, deadpan character. What;s cool is that of all the characters he is the most unique and I can actually feel it palpitate in him, around him and out of him. I really love that his actions are a bit unpredictable and that he is a very ghostly character. No one detects him until like he is 2 inches or 2 seconds away which is a good running gag XD

A complaint I have of Kuroko no Basket is that it has some very glaring flaws. I think I give the mangaka props for making a lead hero as passive to a certain extent to an otome heroine: I can actually imagine this guy being pushed around by a Tsundere love interest prior to any interaction (that does happen in the anime). Yet he does have that virtuoso quality of being inconspicuous and super fast reflexes so that’s pretty awesome. Yet Kuroko steals the show pretty much. I am noticing that none of the other characters are given that much introspection. Yes, they have distinct traits some of them but most of them don’t.

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Even out of the Miracle 5 only Seijuro Akashi is the one that is both enigmatic and shares an aura similar to Kuroko’s. That guy screams Yandere which is interesting. This is the first Yandere character I saw in a sports anime not to mention a guy. There are many layers to this guy so I hope they do focus on him a lot.

It's nice to show an African American player in a Japanese anime. This is Papa Nboye Siki they just call him Dad LOL
It’s nice to show an African American player in a Japanese anime. This is Papa Nboye Siki they just call him Dad LOL

I guess this is also the fault of adapting animes early from manga. I notice that before people use to wait a bit more for manga to progress a lot before they made them animations. Nowadays, anything that sells well will be turned out very quickly. This makes an anime weak in layers which is also Shingeki no Kyojin suffered from to a certain extent. Compared to Slam Dunk this anime also suffers from that. Also Slam Dunk also focused a lot on training the protagonist Hanamichi Sakuragi to become an A class basketball player. Those practice sessions are detailed making me involved with the characters. This is not done as much in this anime. I would also like to see the players on daily life interactions. In Slam Dunk each character even minor was shown a lot outside the court doing well what normal adolescents/young adults do and that made a fulfilling experience. In this aspect  Kuroko no Basket is detached. You want to invest on all the characters so it would be nice to see them out of their comfort zones.

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Especially this can be shown about Seijuro. Apparently, he is both an academic and athletic prodigy which is like the Leonardo Da Vinci in this anime. However, Seijuro is also very disembodied person because his genius alienates him from even himself. His father pushes him a lot to be the best and he comes from wealth and privilege. It would be great to know what his thoughts on are about different things. I remember in Jigoku Shoujo or Hell Girl live action series the very first episode showed a rich girl who thought that the poor or less financially fortunate should work and that they deserved no privilege. I know this anime is about basketball but all characters have a wide range of interests especially this guy I would want to know what he thought about, his state of thinking of his self and society. After all, what do prodigies like him think on.

The character designs, well at times they are repetitive, they are not so clean and distinguished as they should be but the level of detail to anatomy is priceless. The flexibility of muscles and body movements are beautifully choreographed:

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This looks like martial artists: ABOSLUTELY BEAUTIFUL
This looks like martial artists: ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL

At this moment I do think Slam Dunk is a more variegated anime as in still top notch and Kuroko no Basket has a lot of strong points. However, I do think it needs to pull up more to match against that anime. Yes, Kuroko no Basket does have some great moments especially in game play but I do want it to also focus on character depth and study. In the 2nd TV series the introduction of Aomine actually show deep insecurities and vulnerabilities on Tetsuya Kuroko and there were some beautiful expressions and emotions related. If the anime can retain such dimensions it is definitely a great piece of animation and story with spectacular execution.

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So, what do you think of this anime? What do you think of both Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket, the pros and cons of both series?

Haruka Nanase’s breakdown: a critical part in Free! Eternal Summer (Episode 9)

Was this predictable?

I think the warning signs were there.

The entire 2nd TV series was building up to this moment. The moment Haruka would snap. It wasn’t easy to watch. Yet, also the entire episode was geared on it exponentially. This was episode 9.

It made me really sad. It was cathartic as a visual medium and storytelling apparatus. I was really engrossed by his mental exhaustion. So much so that I actually didn’t want to see the stretch. I decided to wait and pull into what I saw disaster coming this way and it was awful.

Like Haruka I too stared in completely amazement, as he limpidly stared into the glossy lights of the swimming arena blankly as though caught in an asphyxiating tremor, not weakness but not strength, just numbness. I knew it — he can’t take pressure. That is a flaw but not to deride him: it is the most human thing elaborated with both visuals and Haruka’s face hanging in defeat (as rinsbae in Tumblr also noted). Haruka had a mental breakdown. It was cleanly understood. He just couldn’t take the pressure. Everyone was down on his throat about his freestyle swimming and it got to him. The propensity of the pressure they gave him was too much. From his school principal, to Rin and his teammates, to teachers to random scouts — everyone was thinking that Haru was a swimming machine and they just wanted to see him perform. And it got to Haruka. He always stated that “free” even short for his style and short for “freedom” was the way he swam. It is not that in competitions he didn’t feel pressure it was still amicable pressure. It was when his entire existence was just bounded, as in being defined by others as only a thing he had to do nor else it made no sense, to his “freestyle” then it lost its freedom. It became really corrupted to him. It became something vicarious and not something that he himself understood as his own, as his self, it became a projection alone as a trick. Haruka never swam for that. To him swimming was both aesthetic, talent but also empathy and a portion of his soul transmuted. It just lost that integrity when the pressure to perform came in.

rinsbae’s image accompanied with these words: “Because the clear stream under his eye seems to not be dripping like the rest but what do I know. Every time I see pictures of him like this and he looks so defeated, I want to cry and my heart feels like its bleeding.”

Even the genius hurts and gets defeated when encountered with such negative social icons of perfection.

Such pressure to perform to an angle that is “full” not “fullest” but rather typed on as something like technical, technicality and reduced to the methodology of technique alone made Haruka lose it. Everyone felt that he could succeed and that success is very well, only defined, by the scouts’s eyes beholding that image of excellence rather than all the emotions, efforts, energy and sweet exhaustion that prepares and is parcel to the entirety of the art. Haruka felt reduced to a mechanical image. Like a wind-up doll he felt meaning castigated, chastised his soul made into a minimal binary of “performing well” and “not performing well” — in that moment, swimming lost meaning to him as something he bonded and became bonded to; it just became  a game, a series of performances. Ironically, Judith Butler would call this “performativity” and I go with that theoretical and philosophical practice. It became difficult for Haruka to process his feelings, all his life, from the first season he had a tenacity, a firmness, to love water but also be ordinary. It was crucial to him not to be determined as a prodigy. Maybe, one will say he is a loser but to him the prodigious title was encapsulated with problems. It did not make an appealing gesture, it brought an attention to him, a mechanical and detached attention rather than an enormous empathetic one. To him competition was an event that made him win affection, bonds and a sense of camaraderie-ship with his friends. Swimming was always that to him and competitions expanded that sequence of events, perhaps not chronologically yet astute and enabled his need to breathe and be calm and live a full life.

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Makoto and Nagisa explaining the relevance of timing accuracy for the relay. The risk is disqualification if they move before the other person as issued by their teacher but they explain to her that even with that risk they need to work on their timing as best as they can. Part pressure but a weight shared by all.
Makoto and Nagisa explaining the relevance of timing accuracy for the relay. The risk is disqualification if they move before the other person as issued by their teacher but they explain to her that even with that risk they need to work on their timing as best as they can. Part pressure but a weight shared by all.
The principal and guidance counselor; just the tip of Haru's problems.
The principal and guidance counselor; just the tip of Haru’s problems.

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And the pressure to perform begins
And the pressure to perform begins

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From his face you can see his distress.

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This excursion adds to the pressure as a scout eagerly tells Haruka how wonderful his talent is and should not be wasted.
This excursion adds to the pressure as a scout eagerly tells Haruka how wonderful his talent is and should not be wasted.

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Only Makoto Tachibana gets an inkling of what this might feel for Haru. Though, I think this is really a whimsical element that he never discussing this with Haru when it is plainly there that he needs to.
Only Makoto Tachibana gets an inkling of what this might feel for Haru. Though, I think this is really a whimsical element that he never discussing this with Haru when it is plainly there that he needs to.

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Swimming had lost that when it became only a sport. Only something that just defined him as an athlete but not a person. It became a lose and cheap term for him. He also got horribly afraid. This was not something he wanted. Not something he was prepared for; the territory and the way it was expressed was not him. He got naturally afraid and did not know this water, this water of only being a sporty person or oriented only in sports. His prodigy is not limited only to performances. So, he got tired and stopped. He was afraid and also this scouting thing made him feel less of what he was. It just made him sad.

Running, it is painfully obvious how this is getting to him:

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So, he stopped.

The nightmare that Haruka had was equally terrifying and expressive of performance and what is integral. Like overactive enthusiasm and logical theory it makes him feel claustrophobic and feel wooden. It was very nicely done to explain his psychological state:

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This is how it is. Backed into a corner. This is how Haruka Nanase really feels.
This is how it is. Backed into a corner. This is how Haruka Nanase really feels.

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Too bright Indeed.
Too bright Indeed.

 

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All the pressure made everything empty. No water or solace found even with people. Can you receive from those from puppets anyway?

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Haruka is very scared.

 

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I don’t think anyone seen Haruka this bothered and close to collapse.

 

This part was a very good development of a character. It was both telling of him and telling of socio-economic and socio-cultural norms that are and should be open to critique. Is an athlete only a name, a performance and a title? To Haruka it was not. Water and understanding water is a large part of his life in fact from the Free! Wiki you can read the director say that water is a vehicle of expression for him. It was a way he communicates. He did not want his communication to be only treated as something like this; something just as a race to determine fastest or slowest. That is why he communicated a breakdown. He stood still. His watery tongue was dry and could not reach his kinesis and state of being.

Haruka Nanase had a mental breakdown.

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Haruka’s beloved water became a foreign entity that his immuno-psychological state just rejected. The beautiful bond he had with water caved in due to his stress and mental bereavement.

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It does look he is crying. It was too much for him. As everyone looks in shock Haruka Nanase breaks down.

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Was it necessary? Yeah clean as day and night it was. Everyone was so excited that Haruka was a dream of potential success. No one asked if Haruka wanted that kind of success and that kind of exposure. Makoto never asked directly and sure as hell Rin didn’t either. Haruka is subtle — his face in silence makes small ripples and in those silent ripples his body language also moves and wrinkles what he feels. Haruka did not know what to feel because everyone is counting on him to make an impression. But to Haruka he doesn’t want to make one. It is tiring doing that.

In Tumblr many had made gifs, graphics out of this and I remember lingering on a set of images showing Haruka stopping and Rin blinking and interspersed with the confrontation they have at the end. It was heartbreaking to watch a genius, a human character to lose in something that he so passionately loved all because of pressure and apathetic views and intentions of treating him as a performance. It really got me.

With this I think the story wants to question if someone’s love for a sport is just a fancy consumption? Shouldn’t people ask what and why they do so elegantly  a sport or an art or a science and actually be understood as whole individuals whose success is not truly always a title but rather also a universe of their own, sacred God-given right to explore and know themselves and others. It is the human element that seems to be askew or replaced by just a perfunctory need to consume brilliance. This brilliance lives short. Like a firefly or butterfly destines to die with so many probabilities of feeling incomplete coerced brilliance makes a beauty into a capital, a taxation of exhaustion and defeat. The Tumblr user yannychigi also beautifully wrote on this:

Can I just give my two cents on this one.

To Haruka, he and the water share a bond no person can ever hope to understand- intimate but based on respect.

What I’ve noticed is that the water is like some sort of mirror. It shapes into form based on the feelings of whoever enters it’s territory.

In this case. Haru.

When Haru’s mind was clear and free of any doubts or insecurities, the water danced with him. Every swish, every splash collided with Haru’s movements.

And it was beautiful.

But during the regionals…

Haru was in darkness. So the water mirrored his heart.

Because there was hesitation and fear…the water hesitated as well.

Instead of syncing with Haru’s swimming, it became the chains that binded Haru to a hault.

And so Haru stopped.

And the chains were no more.

It was almost like the water itself wanted to tell Haru…

“You’re heart is not Free”

“That’s enough, Haru”

“Don’t struggle anymore”

In the entire series, both Free! Iwatobi Swim Club and Free!Eternal Summer, you have never seen Haruka break this badly. Or get mad so furiously. When Rin wants an answer, when Rin wants to know how could he just throw away his future — Haruka just snaps some more and becomes volatile. He just can’t take this impending question of future and a potency of what might be termed as “prodigious future” because to him it feels lifeless, antagonizing and thoroughly not him.

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First time in show: an enraged Haruka Nanase
First time in show: an enraged Haruka Nanase


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Still feeling backed against  a wall.
Still feeling backed against a wall.

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It seems Haruka is very sad at what happened. He looks pretty repenting as well to a certain degree. I think this is because he thinks he let his friends down. But then assures them he won’t do this at the relay.
It seems Haruka is very sad at what happened. He looks pretty repenting as well to a certain degree. I think this is because he thinks he let his friends down. But then assures them he won’t do this at the relay.

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Getting your crap together now huh Makoto? I want to slap you a bit for your late reaction to Haruka's cumulative breakdown.
Getting your crap together now huh Makoto? I want to slap you a bit for your late reaction to Haruka’s cumulative breakdown.
The imagery is full of walls. Haruka's own personal wall and also maybe how communication between him and his friends had encountered a wall.
The imagery is full of walls. Haruka’s own personal wall and also maybe how communication between him and his friends had encountered a wall.

 

Though we are very close to the end. This was riveting. It was very hard to watch but also very important to the narratives of everything. What do these young men want? What do they need? Rin was at failure to understand that he had trained for this challenge and this moment for almost all of his life. Haruka hadn’t. Haruka may be a genius but his life has run along pretty smoothly till now. What so-called ordinary people may not find challenging prodigies can find frustrating, bothersome and many a times defeating. Haruka did things with ease so a challenge like this was also something he never faced before. Things came to him easily enough just not this. It was very difficult  for him to understand this. It was him reaching a point he didn’t before. It was scary, confusing and he didn’t know who to ask to help him. It just happens to be something that he couldn’t overcome at the moment.

It might be pathetic but it’s real. Haruka may be using a bit of escapism but I understand him. Humans are not trained for perfection. They are more inclined for error. It was egregious for everyone to heap all their little toxic bag of expectations on Haruka it was also a limit on him and a non-skill in him to not be dexterous about this. He could have just swam and not care about if he came second or third — he could have swam at his own pace and be happy that what he was feeling regularly or the feelings most intimate to him: loving the feel, heart, texture and mobility of water. But of course he did not know that. Haruka is not really prominent troubleshooter. We have seen this earlier when  Nagisa showed up and he couldn’t do much or even recognise that Nagisa is feeling troubled. It is good that by showing this Haruka may have broken the “Mary Sue/Gary Stu” position he had with most people who knew him (audience included). Not to mention he seems a bit repenting about the situation as he feels he let his friends down. Maybe, he also feels he let himself down too. A situation like this is very painful.

Will Haruka get out of this? Maybe, but I had said earlier that even if Haruka did nor fully get into swimming competitively it did not mean anything because he will still be a great, prodigious athletic swimmer. In fact, he could get into professional swimming and also leave it after he felt it satisfied his cravings and be a chief or something else as the chief avatar we see him in the ending theme “Future Fish”.

What matters is that we are being broken out of the idyllic for and of Haruka’s character. All of this has made him more human and more relatable and more of a person than a frigid character. It added layers to other distinct parts of him.

For that I am happy that they took this route — it was very sad and empathetic, very heartbreaking seeing him like that vulnerable and tired and I respected that he did what was honest of him.

Haruka Nanase is growing up. Maturing into a more substantial personal character.

* I know I said I might do an episode by episode summary and analysis but it is getting difficult. I might just do a full review. However, I was writing about episode 2 individually so I might put that up. I am sorry if I disappointed anyone though.