The other day I just finished watching this shoujo anime called “Special A.” It follows Hanazono Hikari,* a high-schooler who is nearly at the top of her class–emphasis on the nearly. She’d have the number one spot if it weren’t for Takishima Kei, her rival (and friend), the only one ever to beat her at anything. But is there more to their relationship than just rivalry?
Of course there is!
But I’ll get to that in a minute, first I’m going to ‘splain you a bit more. Being at the top of their class, both Hikari and Kei are part of a class called Special A (SA), the highest ranking class in the school (classes being ranked from A through F), composed of the seven top-scoring students. Most of them happen to be rich (all except Hikari, really), and the seven of them have pretty much complete freedom–they skip class, bring animals to school, use sketchpads to communicate, do whatever they want–and a conservatory to spend time in, to boot.
The show touches on themes of friendship and romantic love, not delving into anything too deeply, but doing so in a (usually) pleasant way. Probably the most objectionable content (or problematic for viewing depending on age) would be one character’s “dark side.” Jun, who’s normally a shy guy, turns into a real Casanova if girls outside of SA touch or kiss him. He also kisses Kei full on the lips (which Kei is absolutely NOT thrilled about–he’s definitely not into guys).
One other topic in the show is that of being different: those in the SA have, to a degree, been shunned because they are rich, or befriended only because they are rich, Hikari being the exception. Thus SA is their sanctuary and refuge, a place where they have friends. The saddest thing, I think, is that their homes are not such places for them as well. Tsuji Ryu, the animal-lover, often takes care of Yamamoto Jun and his twin sister Megumi, because their renowned, musical parents are abroad. Kei’s father relies on him to help run the business–in fact, it seems like Kei runs it most of the time. Toudou Akira and Ryu’s parents are nowhere to be seen. The only parents we see (besides Kei’s father) are Karino Tadashi’s mother (the head of their school) and Hikari’s parents. I think that this says something about how society in general operates, as the neglected child and the busy parent appear in all cultures.
The most annoying thing about the show, I think, is Hikari’s obliviousness. In a way, she’s kind of like a female Naruto, just not obnoxious or pervy. Like Naruto is unaware of Hinata’s affection, Hikari is completely blind to Kei’s feelings. Even when he’s totally obvious. To be fair, most of the time he’s snarky and teases her about always being in second place, but for the most part even that is gentle. He even goes out of his way to defend her verbally and physically. AND Hikari is the only person he shows much emotion around or about, though (probably in part because of her) throughout the show he opens up a bit to the other SA members as well. That’s what Episode 4 is actually about: Kei’s seeming coldness to his brother Sui.
There’s one other character who I think is interesting and could’ve been developed a bit more: Saiga Yahiro. He’s also a bit problematic, because he really is a good person on the inside, and wants to help his friends, but he does so in a way that causes problems. For instance, oh, I don’t know, he’s unkind and sadistic and lies about things? He does all this to keep others from being hurt but only ends up hurting them more. The fact that he and Megumi begin a relationship of sorts pleases me greatly–I think she might be just the right person to encourage him to be nicer and gentler (and I also like his line when Tadashi is on the motorcycle in Episode 24). I see him as problematic only if one accepts his meanness as OK: one can sympathize with him while recognizing that he does indeed need to change
I do like the fact that Kei and Hikari and Akira and Tadashi are friends before they become couples. I think we often forget that falling in love isn’t the only, or even the most important, component of romantic relationships: getting to know the other person, finding that you can learn and choose to love them, encourage their strengths, accept and correct their faults, like being around them, and might even be able to spend the rest of your life with them, are important things. It focuses more on the other and less on the self, while still allowing for all the (reasonable) flights of fancy and feeling that heart could desire.
It’s complete and total fluff (while having some good things to say about friendship and even love), but I enjoyed it. What can I say? I’m a romantic. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, because I’ve only watched it once, but it was certainly enjoyable to watch when I was feeling brain-dead. If you want to watch it you can find it on Hulu. I should warn you, it’s subs only, so if you want dubs you’re out of luck.
Content to be aware of: “Dark Jun,” who acts like Casanova toward the girls, suggestively unbuttons his shirt, and kisses Kei on the mouth. Also for the beach episode, the girls are of course wearing bikinis, some more revealing than others.
*I decided to write the names the way the Japanese say them. Because I wanted to and I think it’s cool.