Reviewby Justin Freeman,
His and Her Circumstances
DVD 5: Alterations and News Perspectives
As the Culture Fest approaches, Yukino and company finally decide to perform Aya's play. With deadlines looming, kinks to work out, and a love-hate relationship forming between Tonami and Tsubaki, Yukino has finally begun to find peace with her self and her environment, through the support of her friends and family. Meanwhile, with Yukino happily busy, Arima begins to show signs of frustration as he reveals just how dependent on her he really is.
It is easy to wonder, after four volumes and twenty-one episodes as a sometimes joyful, sometimes sullen portrait of teenage life and love, just how His and Her Circumstances might choose to conclude. This is a show that does not concern itself with weaving a tight, meaningful narrative. It has little concept of cohesion, never seeming for a second to build towards a meaningful resolution. Instead one can imagine these characters forever dancing around the concept of adolescence, happily lost amidst the specter of day to day teenage existence….
What, then, should we expect from this, the final volume?
Rather than search for an appreciable beginning or end, for meaning to slowly reveal itself over the course of a defined arc, it is best to approach this show as if it were a painting, appreciating its subtleties and themes at once, as a whole, through the perspective of its presentation.
So what do we have so far? What is His and Her Circumstances about? What does it try to accomplish? Anyone familiar with the show knows it is essentially about love. As a shoujo romance, it revolves around the messy logic and playful overreactions associated with understanding the emotion. Its characters are conflicted, prone to mood swings, and always full of the joy and confusion one would expect of young teenagers placed in their situations. With the emphasis on understanding, all the courtship is relatively straightforward, occurring within the first few episodes and never looked back on. Were we to stop here, there would be little to separate His and Her Circumstances from the masses of similar shoujo titles, but doing so would shortchange the efforts of director Hideaki Anno (and mangaka Masami Tsuda). As the show moves forward, the focus slowly begins to shift from love to the much broader idea of teenage life as a whole. Through the strength provided by their bond, Yukino and Arima begin to mature, searching for meaning in friendship and family. They start to establish independent personalities, leaving behind the facades they used to maintain for misguided confidence.
The strength of the show, then, is in how it graciously demonstrates the effects of love. How its complications can shed light on the depths of adult life.
But as the show moves forward, it loses sight of its ideals, becoming bogged down in the non essential experiences of secondary characters and contrived exploits at school. It leaves love a little too far behind, grinding the growth of its characters to a near halt. The friends and family of the protagonists, earlier used so skillfully to build Yukino and Arima's characters instead become the focus, much to the show's discredit.
As this final volume begins, it is clear that His and Her Circumstances is a show looking to rediscover its meaning. Where it started with a clear focus on the love developing between two people, and expanded into a commentary on its impact on the characters lives, the show now attempts to come full circle. Their characters firmly developed, Yukino and Arima look to contextualize their relationship by filtering it through their respective lives. They begin to take stock of how they have developed over the course of the show. Each must decide the role the other plays in their lives—what shape their mutual investment might take. This is an essential development, one that finally gives meaning to the entire scope of the show, while demonstrating to the viewer just how far these characters have come. Always dependent on the mindset of others, Yukino, for all her brashness, starts the show timid and insecure, looking for praise as a confirmation of her existence. By the time the credits roll on the final episode, she is confident, open and free. Love is all the confirmation she needs. Arima initially comes off as a bit of a loner, living deeply within himself while leveraging his success as a means of thanking the kindness of his (adoptive) parents. He ironically ends up finding himself through Yukino, discovering a sense of satisfaction through her understanding. Their love lies at the core of his being.
And so this is the show, thematically. Yukino and Arima are fascinating characters to watch, and this volume adds the final bit of necessary depth to their perspectives. Where we run into trouble is in the narrative structuring these revelations are based off. While the play Yukino and her friends are working on is no doubt to be an extended metaphor for their lives, we'll never know for sure: the show ends before we even get to see it. Tonami and Tsubaki might make an interesting couple, but it'll hardly matter to those that don't reach for the manga. Coming so late in the game, their development seems contrived. The only scenes involving a secondary character that seem truly relevant are those with Asaba. His few subdued moments with Arima offer a candid look at a friendship that has developed mostly behind the scenes.
This is a good show, then, built around a superb core of characters, yet unapologetically rough around the edges. Those willing to work for their enjoyment will be rewarded for their loyalty.
This same sentiment applies to His and Her Circumstances' aesthetics as well. Those following the series are no doubt aware of its low budget nature, with many scenes being reduced to little more than colored manga stills with overlaid voice work. To make up for its lack of clean, fluid animation, Gainax has thrown in a lot of variety. Full of dramatic close-ups, frantic chibi action, and tons of descriptive onscreen text, the show's look is similar to the classic Kodomo no Omocha. Some may find a few of the scenes on this disc to be a bit much, however, with their penchant for not coloring the less important characters in any given scene, and a bizarre bit of stick figure hijinks later on. All told this is mostly standard shoujo fare, with a bit of extra personality and some nice character designs to sweeten the deal.
Bringing the entire package together is TRSI's typical excellent localization. Those that prefer to stick to subs will find options to either sub merely the dialogue, or every little thing that appears on the screen. Dub fans are once again treated well with TRSI going so far as to redo the episode previews with the English voice actresses for Tsukino and Kano. Some may have problems with Arima's voice sounding slightly too deep and mature, but the overall energy of the show is well preserved.
Now finally over, His and Her Circumstances goes out on a frustrating, yet appropriate note. Thematically complete, the show ends as more of a transition than a conclusion for Yukino and Arima. Messy and abrupt, these last few episodes mirror the paths of their characters, incomplete yet altogether loveable.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : C
Art : B
+ Excellent conclusion to the protagonists character arcs
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