An unconventional reading of a bit of Sakurasou episode 4

December 7, 2012

(There are some small spoilers here for bits of episode 4.)

For context, we'll start with my tweet to @vuc_: Speaking of Sakurasou, I think there's an interesting unconventional reading of Mashiro's tanabata wish that plays to her theme.

(By Mashiro's theme I meant her empowerment. See the sidebar for more background.)

In episode 4, the group has a little Tanabata festival of their own and everyone writes up their wishes. The next day, Sorata discovers that Mashiro has not wished for anything involving herself (such as for the success of the manga she's working on) but instead that he succeed at what he's doing. In a conventional show, such a non-self-focused wish would be a sign that Mashiro had fairly strong feelings for Sorata, enough so that she'd use her wish for his happiness instead of her own. The unconventional reading is that Mashiro doesn't wish for herself because it's unnecessary; she knows that she doesn't need the help of a wish to get what she wants or for her manga work to be a success. Instead she wishes for Sorata's success because she thinks he needs the help and she cares enough to give him some. She's not being selfless, she's merely being casually generous.

(All the other people's Tanabata wishes were self-focused ones.)

PS: Mashiro is right; Sorata needs all the help he can get. There are even some signs that the show agrees with this.

(The usual cautions about reading things into shows definitely apply to Sakurasou, especially since it's based on a light novel series. On the other hand the director could have decided to do something interesting with the raw materials to hand.)

Sidebar: two readings of Sakurasou

There's two ways to look at Sakurasou. You can read it as a conventional LN based anime with an otaku-bait premise, or you can read it as a disguised, sharp-edged story about things like the true nature of apparent 'genius talent' (ie that it actually involves a huge amount of work). In the second reading, Mashiro is not a cute helpless idiot savant space case but instead a very focused young woman who knows exactly what she wants and works extremely hard for it.

(Naturally the second reading is popular with much of the section of the anisphere that I follow because it makes the show much more interesting and worthwhile. If you follow the first reading, the show is pretty much exploitative cynicism.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2012-12-07 18:55:41:

The first reading you bring up doesn't necessarily equate to exploitative cynicism, I don't know how much you've seen of Honey & Clover but let me try to explain.

H&C was a love polygon amongst a group of talented college students at an art college. One character, Hagu, decides to be with a particular person that caused a lot of grief and consternation amongst the fanbase who were pulling for another pairing to succeed. But the reason why the pair that won out in the end makes more thematic sense for that work, is because all involved in H&C understand the compulsion of artistic expression, and that pairing that won out was the one that would be most conducive to that further compulsive expression. Even if it isn't necessarily the most romantic option.

Shiina wishing for Sorata to succeed is indeed a sign of her wishing for his success, but I also feel it's partly for him to embrace & understand the kind of compulsion that drives her to expression. That's why when Shiina was dropped from the competition and Sorata tried to console her by saying "it didn't really matter", that wounds her more deeply than the loss itself. And Sakurasou being the collection of artists that it is, also chafe at Sorata's "consolation". It's also why Shiina was dead set on Nanami making it to her voice actress auditions despite being in failing health. An artist understands a fellow artist's suffering for their art, and the regret that would have dogged her for not going to the audition would likely have eaten at her soul even more in the long run.

Man, I have a LOT to say about this show...


By cks at 2012-12-07 20:49:09:

On the exploitative cynicism issue: I call the first reading of Sakurasou this not because of its premise (as you note, Honey & Clover shows that the 'spacey artist' premise isn't intrinsically that way) but because of the specific execution. To put it one way, laundering Hagu's underwear was never even on the radar in H&C.

(I've seen most of H&C and I'm quite fond of it, so comparisons came to mind right away. The first draft of the Sakurasou bit in my initial season impressions, written after I'd only seen the first two episodes, contained a slam that basically said 'if the premise sounds attractive to you, go watch H&C instead; it does this much better'.)

I agree with you about general stuff around artistic drive. It seems clear that his housemates are perfectly well aware that Sorata has been half-assing it and coasting for a lot of his time in the house and they're all for this changing. And the show has made it explicit that Sorata coming to understand Mashiro is a major theme.

(The whole Nanami storyline is so multifaceted that I'm not sure if the show has a single message in mind; it feels like the show is making a bunch of points at once and some of them are deliberately at odds with each other. It certainly didn't take the easy way out with the conclusion.)

Written on 07 December 2012.
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Last modified: Fri Dec 7 18:06:46 2012
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