I’ve just spent the last 15 hours reading a downloaded archive or Ai Yori Aoshi. It’s a cheesy romantic story about family, soul mates, boarding houses, crazy Americans, and purple hair. There are lots of good visuals, including repetitive scenes of the crazy American sussing out the ladies … assets. The crazy American is a girl by the way, so yeah.
I’ve never read full length manga. Usually I just watch random clips or drool over googled images online. There’s something about those sparkly eyes and crazy coloured hair that just totally does it for me. So I decided to go all the way and see what the deal is.
First, I stayed up all night watching the complete First Season of Full Metal Panic in Japanese, with English subtitles. It’s a futuristic military drama, and I didn’t like it much. The females were hot and manipulative, the guys were cute and clueless, and everybody was sixteen. I found Kaname frightfully loud. She has that Rachel-factor that totally drives me nuts. Mao is even more Rachelly, and she can shoot, so yeah. Testarossa-san … well … she’s a study. At first I didn’t like her, because she’s frail and girly, even though she wields a lot of power. After a while I realised she’s a lot like me, and that I simply hated watching my weaknesses play out. I like the greyish-purple hair though.
So yesterday when I started reading AYA, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I suppose I was already biased, because for the first few chapters, I was stressed and upset. Manga is too much like a soap [which, by the way, I don’t watch because soaps are sadistic and they make me cry. My aversion has nothing to do with sappy plots, evil twins, or Alejandro de la Whoever. Mexican soaps are predicatble so they’re not too bad, but Filipino soaps are the pits! Every time I start to like a character, she goes and kicks a puppy or steals someone else’s spouse. The evil nemesis then adopts a pet donkey and buys it Mercedes Benz, proving he truly has a heart. It’s impossible choosing someone to root for, because you can’t thell the good guys from the bad ! ]
Anyway, manga twists my insides because I get into the plot and there’s just too much emotion involved. I have a 10 gig library of the stuff, but I doubt I’ll read anymore. It makes me ask myself questions that have really nasty answers, and I don’t always want to do that.
I was curious enough about Aoi-Chan that I read the story right up to its happy ending, so that was okay. I took a lot away from it. Aoi is a lot like me, so naturally, I didn’t like her at first. I have a habit of magnifying my faults when they appear in someone else, then crying when I recognise my reflection.
Aoi is emotional. She cries for half the story and says sappy things that would make any soap diva gag. She’s ashamed of her amazing body and apologetic about her earthmoving love for Kaoru. I was so busy hating on these qualities that I failed to see her kindness, her strength, her bravery, and just how much everyone loves her. She’s the only character in the story who is sincere throughout. She doesn’t try be mean, take advantage, or con anyone, which at some point, everyone else in the series does.
Aoi has to pretend to be the landlady to her fiancé, so she ends up turning their love nest into a boarding house, where she has to watch her tenants grope, seduce and woo her man. She can’t say anything because as a mere landlady, she has no right to mess with his ‘lovelife’, and the guy himself is too nice to protest. I mean if a hot naked chick arrives in your lap, bath, or bed, how do you turn her away without hurting her feelings? So instead, you try to sleep, warn Junior to stay down and hope Aoi doesn’t find out.
Aoi watches this, silently seethes, makes horrified expressions, and cries when no one can see. Just like me. Aoi wishes she was more like Tina, the crazy American, because she drinks like a fish and can knock out friends and foes alike. In so many different ways. Sometimes, I wish I was more like that too.
But reading AYA helped me to accept myself. I saw how the other characters looked at Aoi, and I thought maybe I’m not so bad. I also realised for the first time that I don’t like myself very much. I’ve always had esteem issues, but they’ve never been as clear as they were last night, when I loathed a fictional character for being just like me. She even has the short purple hair!
Aoi had a lot of problems and a lot of insecurities, but she was never of ashamed of who she was. She’d apologise for being a pest, then work herself sick trying to help others. She gave cooking lessons to a brat who was after her man, and gave lodging to three more rivals. The entire time she didn’t show any malice at all, but cared for each girl like family, even as she sat in her room sighing when they hogged all her man’s time.
My approach has always been to try and change myself, to try to be less judgemental or opinionated, to try unsuccessfully to hide my opinions, to be more of something he likes, to make love in the dark just to hide my flaws. No, I have no intention of suddenly turning exhibitionist. But I do want to be more like Aoi.
I want to be comfy in my skin, to cry when I need to cry, to say sappy stuff when the moment strikes, to gush in embarrassing ways and not feel shameful afterwards. I wish to accept myself with all my scars, warts, flaws, everything. I want to say I’m an idealist and a romantic without apologising afterward, or disclaiming the statement with a sheepish grin. I want to believe like Mariposa or Barbie Liah that it’s okay to be me. And I want to recognise and accept my strengths, because I know I have a lot of those.
Probably, more than anything, I want to learn the difference between san, chan, chin, and kun. Because it’s really quite confusing.
♫ My own worst enemy ♫ Lit ♫