This really isn’t something I should be getting offended by, to be honest. I should really just ignore it, and move on with my day. After all, everyone has opinions—potentially stupid ones that involve sullying the value of not just anime, but all works of fiction as a whole. But still just opinions—and who am I, really, to be burning someone at the stake simply because they’re an ignoramus? I really shouldn’t make a scene. I should just let it slide, go on with my day, ignore the ridiculous claims of some random supporting character in an anime too blind to acknowledge the many benefits works of fiction have to society…
But I can’t. I can’t, because the concepts she’s trying to pass off as truth are, ultimately, a personal affront to the ideas and values that make up the very foundation of this blog. Because in the thirteenth episode of Hyouka, disgraceful manga club member Ayako Kouchi starts running her mouth about how ‘all manga are the same’ and, to be frank, I feel insulted.
So what do I do? I return fire, of course. I take personal offense to what she says. I refute the claims of a (rather unimportant) fictional character in a work of fiction—
And try my hardest not to feel ridiculous in the process.
To begin, I’d like to attempt not to accuse her of any flaws of character while pointing out a few things we can see apparent in the way she interacts with other members of the club. For one, she very clearly stands out among the other club members—from the very beginning of the scene, her posture and demeanor are much more defiant than those of anyone else in the room. In addition, the rather loud manner in which she speaks, compared to the quieter voices of other club members speaking to her, expresses that she possesses a sort of superiority—one that seems to draw mostly on the idea that the others are actually afraid of her. Lastly, in mocking Ibara, she seems to take a great deal of enjoyment from being able to get a rise out of her—which quickly disappears the moment she starts to be put in her place, leaving her to back out of the confrontation while losing as little face as possible. In short, she’s pretty much a standard bully. And obnoxious, and snobby, and—well. I should probably leave direct opinions out of this.
Moving on from there, we come to one of her first major claims, and the first I’m forced to waste time and (admittedly, very little) effort disputing: the idea that each and every person simply has a ‘long or short antenna’ for what is interesting. Now, this concept could, actually, hold some weight in a logical discussion—if we assume that she understands that the antenna metaphor simply means they have different wavelengths, instead of greater and lesser ones. Which she doesn’t. Because she’s an idiot. Anyway, her claim is that those people with short antennas simply don’t find anything interesting…And we’re supposed to accept that as logical? The idea that any person could just not be at all interested in anything—moreover, that this criterion offers us a useful method for classifying which works of fiction would interest which people—is absolutely absurd.
It’s her second major claim, however, that really irks me; more specifically, not just the concept itself, but the way in which it combines with her first claim to end up making absolutely no logical sense. When questioned as to what makes a manga a masterpiece, she simply responds that it’s ‘any manga that has survived the test of time.’ Which is interesting, because if we take into account everything she’s said so far—about antennas for the interesting, manga reviews being pointless, and any manga being just as entertaining as any other—she’s implying that which works of fiction become masterpieces is, essentially, left to random chance. And if that’s true, then what the Hell is the point of calling it a ‘masterpiece’, anyway?
As I’m so very fond of preaching, works of fiction, in being created by humans, are always indicative of the human experience. Because they’re imagined and shaped by living people, they embody what it is to be alive, and allow us to connect interpersonally with other living people. So, bearing in mind that the ultimate goal of any story is to recreate that, we can come to the conclusion that the quintessential representation of life and the human experience is life itself. Therefore, a masterful work of fiction is one that fully embodies at least one aspect of existence—the characters, plot, conflicts and themes of that aspect. As Ibara says, a masterpiece is born a masterpiece—when it hits you with that feeling of ‘this is it!’ you’ve been given the chance to relate to something, heart and soul, and are able to connect with other people because of that experience.
Now, while Kouchi’s theoretical interpretation of the concept of ‘long and short antennas’ for the interesting is completely absurd, the concept itself does actually raise an interesting point. If people have these differing tastes and ideas of what’s interesting—which they obviously do—then what becomes of a work of fiction that fully represents a portion of human existence, but only really delivers that feeling to a small number of readers, viewers, etc.? Is it still considered a masterpiece? Ultimately, I’d say yes. In addition to having different tastes and interests, people all have different backgrounds and personalities—and as such, they’re all going to really resonate with something different. Some different segment of what it is to be alive. As such, it’s important to recognize that what makes a masterpiece thus is not necessarily the number of people who really get that feeling when they experience it, but the extent to which that work of fiction fully embodies every angle of the aspect of human existence it represents—as though it were really just cut straight from the cloth, instead of being pieced together haphazardly. Quality over quantity, as it were.
To wrap things up, I’d like to point out just how goddamn awesome Mayaka was in this episode. Not only does she stand up and accomplish what I so desperately wished I could do by putting the bitch in her place, for which I am eternally thankful, but she also shows us a tremendously interesting side to her character. She’s a huge manga fan—more than I think we could’ve guessed at before. She understands and appreciates the ability of a work of fiction to excite and incite tremendous emotion. We get to see her room, full of so very many books, and we watch as she skims through a manga and is, within seconds, completely and entirely engrossed within and fascinated by the world it shows her.
From the very beginning of this series, there’s been something about her character that really interested me—and I’m glad that I finally got to find out just what it was. I’m not going to go so far as to start throwing around claims of ‘waifu material’; not yet, at least. But she does what very, very few anime characters ever accomplish: she makes me wish she was actually a real person—someone I had the honor of knowing in real life.