Scattered Thoughts – Koi wa Ameagari no You ni and Rashomon

     For any anime lover Koi wa Ameagari no You ni should be a known thing this season regardless of how you perceive a possibility of a romance between people with such a huge age gap. Even if you aren’t cool with the premise, I think the way the story evolves is far more enjoyable than an average anime and I probably don’t even need to mention the quality of visual storytelling – at least for me the show is always a joy to watch. Rashomon on the other hand may have escaped your radar, because it’s a short story written in 1915 by the acclaimed Japanese writer Ryuunosuke Akutagawa. You may ask what that has to do with this anime, and I can answer that actually quite a lot. So much that I wouldn’t be surprised if Koi wa Ameagari no You ni itself had been named Rashomon. Bear with me for a little while and let’s find out why.


     It’s probably best to start chronologically. A while ago I wrote something about Aoi Bungaku, and that was an episodic show adapting various stories written by famous Japanese authors. Ryuunosuke Akutagawa deservedly got some spotlight with two of his stories animated by none other than Atsuko Ishizuka, currently praised for Sora yori mo Tooi Basho. Aoi Bungaku itself wasn’t amazing most of times, but it did achieve its purpose by making me (and probably others) delve deeper into Japanese literature. Now I can say I understand why Akutagawa is praised so much and why he is sort of a big deal. I’ve always enjoyed short stories a la Chekhov that are surprisingly brief but are able to communicate some fundamental human emotions and give lots of food for thought. And Akutagawa’s works are just like that.

 Reconstruction of Rashomon Gate

     Rashomon has some medieval influences (a usual thing for Akutagawa), in fact it portrays a brief moment of life of a fired servant in medieval Kyoto. As it’s raining, he decides to shelter under the roof of Rashumon, one of the gates of Kyoto, at the time pretty much ruined. People had been saying that in Rashomon dead bodies may be found because at the time Kyoto experienced war and other calamities. The man finds that there’re some bodies, and an old woman is stealing their hair in order to make wigs. She says that it’s no big deal because she needs to do that to be able to survive. Even more, the dead woman whose hair is being cut supposedly had been selling snake meat saying it was fish, so she basically was doing the same thing. After hearing that, the man then robs the old woman of her robe and leaves. Basically Rashomon is a story about different perspectives – all three characters did something they normally shouldn’t have, but they all did that in order to survive. One who was robbed and one who robbed can be the same person in different situations, so where’s the truth then?

     So where’s Rashomon in Koi wa Ameagari no You ni? Keener-eyed viewers might remember that in ep. 4 there was a scene when Akira had a literature class. All the attention probably went to her fateful doodling, but what was happening in the background? Yep, someone was reading Rashomon aloud. It’s a pretty obvious connection, but that’s not all. You might’ve been mildly confused when Kondou was talking to himself in ep. 3 – mentioning Suzaku Avenue and stuff. What is this Avenue, what does it have to do with everything? Well, now you can guess correctly – in the beginning of Rashomon in order to escape the rain the man goes to the gate from the same Avenue. It can be thought that Kondou feels similarly – his usual life is interrupted by Akira’s confession which like the encounter in the gate is the point of no return. The final (so far) appearance of Rashomon (sort of) is in ep. 5 when Akira peeks inside Kondou’s study and among other things sees a book. The author? Yep, Akutagawa.

     At this point you should start thinking that Rashomon appears everywhere not without a reason. Actually, many of the relationships between Akira and various characters can be viewed in the light of this short story. Knowing it might not improve your understanding of the anime a lot, but it can help you appreciate the craft and be assured that perspective is a very important thing in Koi wa Ameagari no You ni. Let’s take for example Akira’s scenes with her friends at the track and field club. All the girls treat Akira as if she was just taking a short break from running and might return to the team at any moment. Akira knows that it isn’t the case and therefore it’s very painful for her to watch her friends do what they love while she is unable to participate in that together. Thus actions that from one perspective are a simple manifestation of friendship from another are a source of suffering.

     Of course, the main source of Rashomon-ness is Akira’s relationship with Kondou. Especially when Kase intrudes. Remember these two dates that Akira had with both men – it’s generally the same idea of Rashomon, with as little make-up as possible. Akira serves as the old women of the short story – one time she is the victim of Kase’s aggressive behavior and after some time it’s Akira herself who is being forceful. The two dates were incredibly similar in the first place – same places, same camera angles, same character movements, and all that is even more fulfilling when you know from where these ideas originally came from. Still not enough? How about the fact that in the beginning of the show Akira got her leg trauma and quit the track and field club before getting attached to Kondou – just as the man of Rashomon was fired before the story?

     Akira realized her feelings only when she ran from the rain into the restaurant and  there Kondou was very gentle to her – it’s a very similar encounter to Rashomon because it was evoked by someone trying to find a shelter from the rain. Once Akira’s and Kondou’s relationship started moving from being strictly business-like, you can’t not notice the theme of different perspectives. Both of our leads are considering a possibility of a relationship but Kondou has dismissed everything for various reasons – his age, Akira’s age, social norms, unlikeliness of Akira’s feelings being true and so on. He sees Akira more of an overpowering daughter who actually can do what she likes with such a pushover as he is. At the same time Kondou feels like Akira may be an opportunity to sort of rejuvenate himself by becoming his younger partner, though I doubt he understands that a younger partner also means that looking at her he’ll feel old all the time. In Akira’s perspective she isn’t so tyrannical, she’s just persistent to get what she wants. She probably doesn’t know that her love may as well be only an infatuation, bolstered by a hole in her life when she quit her club. At this stage she doesn’t know what characteristics of men she likes – she says she likes specifically these things that can be attributed to Kondou. Akira sees him as someone from her dreams, and he isn’t precisely like that in reality. There’s probably a reason why his wife left him, so even if I may root for Akira, in the long term she may have to learn a hard lesson that she not only forced Kondou to accept her but also projected her dreams on him and forgot the real person behind them.

     The story of Rashomon ends when the man leaves, and the rain still keeps falling. The anime on the other hand is called After the Rain, so that implies going beyond the original ideas. What is going to happen can be only speculated, but if I may assume that the short story will continue to be relevant to Koi wa Ameagari no You ni, it doesn’t look very likely that Akira ad Kondou will be able to form a lasting relationship. Don’t quote me on that though.

     I’m sure Rashomon will still have an impact on the series as the season goes on. The overwhelming power of simplicity of the short story seems to be a very compelling source of future developments. Akutagawa was able to capture that special emotional something – the depressing atmosphere of the rain, encounter of unlikely people in an unlikely place and the outcome that at least morally had a huge impact. The power of Rashomon wasn’t limited to the short story – Akira Kurosawa used the idea, hell, even Bungou Stray Dogs gave a special power to Akutagawa called Rashomon. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni on the other hand seems to be entirely built on Rashomon as a foundation – it uses various elements of the short story sometimes very literally, and the core idea that perspective may change the situation entirely is implemented over and over again in various forms. It’s great to see that classic pieces of art are still useful and are able to rebirth into other pieces of art sometimes in a form that may not be too obvious but after some research becoming something really rewarding. So next time you watch Koi wa Ameagari no You ni pay attention to various perspectives and try to unravel the thematic thread that is bound to appear again and again.

What are your general thought about the show? Do you think I missed some connections? What’s your favorite anime that has some ties to apparently totally unrelated pieces of art?

 

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20 Comments

  1. Interesting stuff. I’m filling my backlog with books to read — Japanese ones — so this was a great place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Anyways, Koiame is great. I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet (thus explains why I’m not covering it) but it’s one of the anime that I first watch every week.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Roshomon is only a few pages long, as many of Akutagawa’s short stories. But if you need a recommendation, yeah – you get it.
        I also can barely wait for Thursdays – this show and Violet Evergarden make a very strong tandem.
        Would love to hear your thoughts about the show once you are ready.

        Like

        Reply
  2. wow, what a fantastic post! Loved this a lot! 🙂 I’m a bit behond on Koi Ame, but it’s definitely my favorite of the season. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Thanks! I’m a bit envious because that means you have more episodes left to watch.
      Wit Studio can make decent anime but this one turned out to be unexpectedly good. All the better!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. This was super informative! Makes me want to go read Rashomon right now. I should totally have looked it up when I got to that part of the manga, but I never ended up doing that. You’re definitely getting more Rashomon in KoiAme, that I can tell you. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Thanks! I just randomly got a feeling I had to research that 😀
      Rashomon is very short so you can read in a few minutes.
      Sounds very interesting. Can’t wait for the next episode. Though to be frank even without these connections I’d say pretty much the same.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. Wonderful post. It’s an anime that I currently don’t have access to (yet), but I like the background you provided for this. It sounds like an interesting series to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. Oihane

     /  February 22, 2018

    I read the manga, till the fucking rain falling chapter 80. ……

    Like

    Reply
    • Is the manga worth reading after watching the anime?

      Like

      Reply
      • Oihane

         /  February 23, 2018

        UHM………………………. so if you wanna cry, …. I mean, bad ending, it’s really beautifull, filled with tones of emotions, but right now I’m hating myself for doing it, really, crying. Two chapters left and the author made us all the SPOILERS

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
      • Oihane

         /  February 23, 2018

        It hasn’t ended yet, but it’s sad… too sad for me to read,actually and it was cool, too coool that’s y I’m dying. All of us are T*^T

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        • Yeah, I saw the news about the manga coming to the end. Looks like it’s pretty powerful and moving. Do you think the anime will manage to cover all the manga? If not, I’m definitely checking it out.

          Like

          Reply
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