Review: Oniisama e…, “The Christmas Candles” and “The Assembly”

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oniisama e…,
Episodes 28 and 29: “The Christmas Candles” and “The Assembly”
Original airdates: Mar. 1 and Mar. 8, 1992

It’s been clear for a while, if not since the start of the series, that the Sorority is a major problem in Seiran. They control a great deal of the school (a sort of spin on the anime and manga trope of an Absurdly Powerful Student Council), and most members of the student body want in. Even older girls resent it when freshmen manage to get in (you think they’d have time to let it go, but noooo). It’s a major step up, a way to market oneself as desirable to other schools, businesses, and husbands (leave behind your sapphic love, ladies). And it drives people to do horrible things.

“The Christmas Candles” marks the end of the mini-arc of Mariko’s parents’ divorce, but the arc has also served as prelude to show’s final arc: the abolishing of the Sorority. While Misaki faded away from the narrative for an extended period of time, her reemergence provided the show the necessary foundation on which to return to the poison of the Sorority. It returned us to the world of bullying and the drastic consequences that it can have on a person, and the lengths teens will go to carry a grudge. If the bulk of the series is this deep interrogation of corrupted love, then the series is book-ending itself with a look at how to construct a better environment for school-going teens.

Mariko, suspended from Seiran for three months and expelled from Sorority, begins to clear herself of (some) toxins associated with Seiran. Certainly her struggle to come to grips with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s passive acceptance, and her father’s callous disregard for them have all driven a lot of her actions over the past few episodes, but even after a few days out of Seiran, she’s seeing things about her life there with more clarity. She acknowledges the pointlessness of the bitterness between her and Misaki because they’re so much alike, something I don’t think Mariko would’ve been able to grasp is she were still immersed in the toxicity of Seiran.

Misaki seems to have come to similar conclusions, albeit without as much of an escape. But the stabbing was a wake-up call, a realization that her actions have consequences, and that if she’s going to continue to perpetuate those things, she’s putting someone else’s life at risk as well. It’s no surprise then that she takes Kaoru’s words to heart and goes to stop her little flunkies from fighting Tomoko (who could’ve easily taken them both, let’s be honest). She’s changed as much as Mariko has, and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Misaki plays a large part in this crusade to eliminate the Sorority from Seiran.

Escaping Seiran’s grasp in some way appears to be the key to all this. Kaoru, prior to the show’s start, missed a year and was not only outside the enclosed world of Seiran but also survived a life-threatening illness that seems to be resurfacing. This perspective has always given Kaoru a kindness and understanding that everyone else in the series (save, perhaps, for Tomoko) has lacked. It’s no surprise, then, when she decides to uproot the thing that she sees as most responsible for ruining so many otherwise perfectly happy lives in “The Assembly.”

It remains to be seen, of course, how much of an impact all this will have. Certainly Rei’s surprise motion for Miya-sama to removed as the student body representative is a shocking one, but I think it comes from love and the same impulse that’s driven the past few episodes: freeing one’s self from the burden of Seiran. Rei is looking for a way to keep Miya-sama’s pride and dignity intact, and decides that the best way to do that is to help make sure the Sorority is abolished. It’s an paradox, destroying the one remaining thing that Miya-sama has left in an effort to save her, but nothing on this show is ever easy.

***

We’re closing in on the home stretch of Oniisama e…, so I wanted to get the gears churning about what’s next. There’s five weeks of coverage left, which will close out my things in mid-December (if I’m doing the math right). After that, I plan to take two weeks off, and then starting on Jan. 1, 2013, I’ll devote a month’s worth of coverage to the original Astro Boy, in honor of the show’s 50th anniversary.

In addition to the episode reviews, I’m going to read Fred Ladd’s Astro Boy and Anime Comes to the Americas and Frederik L. Schodt’s The Astro Boy Essays. Feel free to read along with me, but I want your input about which seven episodes to cover over the course of January (the first episode is a no-brainer). I’ve seen a small chunk of the series a number of years ago, but not all of it, so I want some assistance. You can offer terrible episodes, interesting episodes, favorite episodes, whatever. I just want some suggestions.

And speaking of suggestions, also let me know what you’d be interested in reading about starting in February. It needs to be animated, but it doesn’t have to be anime. It does have to be legally and readily available in the United States, and I would prefer streaming, but that’s not a deal breaker.  Leave suggests for the future show, and the Astro Boy episodes, in the comments, or tweet them to me on Twitter.

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