Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Sad and Lovely Ache: Sweet Moments in Romance

Recently posted on my main blog:

I am a fan of romance from manga to paperbacks, from classical literature to movies. Generally speaking, I prefer my romances to end on a positive note, which by my definition means "conclusively." So, are they married or what?!

Every now and again, I will encounter a captivating film that ends somewhat inconclusively. Such films leave behind a gentle, sweet sadness or acceptance--mono no aware in Japanese. And that's okay. It isn't the equivalent of some dreadful French drama where I'm asked to acquiesence in the futility of life. Rather, instead, I'm being asked to accept the fleeting beauty and kindness of life.

The two that come to mind are both the product of Japanese artists (slight spoilers):

Only Yesterday: From Studio Ghibli, Only Yesterday ends romantically (if not entirely conclusively). The romance is either the entire point or it is entirely incidental: I'm not quite sure. What brings an ache to the heart is not necessarily Taeko and Toshio meeting on the road but Taeko's decision to leave the train. And what turns that ache into a shout of joy are the children from Taeko's past. They crowd about her, encouraging her, egging her on while they engage in high energy, hilarious romps.

The entire sequence is accompanied by a gorgeous rendition of Amanda McBroom's "The Rose" sung by a Japanese singer. It sounds sappy. It surprisingly isn't. Rather, the song evokes a nostalgia that transcends mealy-mouth nostalgia. Taeko is not remembering her childhood fondly or wishfully, the way people think back to their "glory" days in high school. She is recapturing her youth in order to move forward.

Voices of a Distant Star: One of my all-time favorites, Voices of a Distant Star ends, possibly, with the lovers separated. There are Blade Runner-type hints--especially in the manga--that time and space may collapse, but as with Only Yesterday, that is hardly the point. They have already transcended time and space through the  email messages that eek through what Star Trek fans would call the space-time continuum and what Cat from Red Dwarf would call magic.

In this case, Cat is the closest because the result is magical.
"It's like a miracle to hear from her after all this time."

"Maybe thoughts can overcome time and distance."

"One thought. What would it be?"

"It would be--"
I am here.

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