Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reaching Out

So lately I’ve been watching an anime series called Negima. The premise can probably best be called “insane”, but hardly in a bad way. Ten-year-old Negi Springfield, the main character, is an aspiring wizard (or “Magister Magi”, if you prefer the anime’s title for them) and is in training to achieve that end. But this latest phase of his training involves the young English boy becoming a teacher at an all-girls school in Japan, and as far as I’m concerned, the challenges to Negi’s magical skills are nothing compared to the task of keeping the girls of class 2-A under control, especially when it seems like half of them are in love with Negi.

One of those girls that can’t seem to take her eyes off of Negi is possibly one of the most unlikely candidates ever: Nodoka Miyazaki. I call her an unlikely candidate because at the beginning of the series, she’s all but terrified of men, period. When Negi saves her from a hard fall off a stairway, her reflections later on center around being touched by a boy (Negi, obviously), and she seems to be confused as to why she doesn’t hate or fear the idea.

Nodoka proceeds to spend a good portion of the series trying to work up the courage to even admit to what she’s feeling, much less tell Negi about it. (Well, as far as I’ve seen, anyway; I’ve seen 18 out of the 26 episodes.) Since, after all, Nodoka seems to be just cripplingly shy with everyone, this ends up taking quite a while, even when they do end up on a date in episode 17 by the machinations of Nodoka’s friends.

And yet, out of all the characters in the anime, I find myself rooting for Nodoka and sympathizing with her more than anyone. Even over Negi himself or Asuna Kagurazaka, who practically seems like the second main character of the show sometimes, I want to see Nodoka be successful.

…I guess that makes me one of those crazy fans that goes on and on about the relationships he wants to see in the different shows that he watches. At least I haven’t created any little combinations of their names, like… wait, never mind, where was I?

Anyway, I can see why Nodoka might take some criticism for her general attitude. I know people who would likely tell her to stop cringing and speak her mind clearly. (They’d probably also tell her to cut her hair, especially since she practically hides behind her bangs when talking to someone directly, but that isn’t as important.) And I think that’s emblematic of society as a whole. As a general rule from my own experience, people don’t really sympathize with the shy introverts; they simply tell them not to be shy.

See, part of the reason why I sympathize with Nodoka over the rest of the cast is because I think I’m the same kind of person. As far as I’m concerned, the hardest thing I did this afternoon was to call someone that I didn’t know, looking for a job. It shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do by any measure, and yet I was agonizing over it for a good ten minutes before I actually made the call.

For people like Nodoka and myself, even reaching out is hard to do. Nodoka seemed to be practically terrified of talking to Negi even after she finally told him about her feelings at the end of her little date in episode 17, avoiding Negi for much of episode 18. And I? I didn’t want to feel like an idiot, which as far as that little voice in my head is concerned happens every time I try to do something I’m unsure about.

As a side note, that same little voice is stridently protesting what I’m about to write... it can be quite insistent sometimes. And yet, my more logical side can’t find a hole in it.

Simply put, though, sometimes it has to be done. Nodoka had to get around to the admission of her love for Negi eventually, and I had to make the attempt to find a job. Practically the hardest thing either of us does on a day to day basis is to actually break away from the books (Nodoka) or anime/games (myself) and interact with other people. (I am assuming on Nodoka’s part, but I don’t think I’m far wrong.)

There are miscues, sure. Sadly, my call was one of them. Not that it went badly, simply that I did indeed feel like I should have expected the negative result that I got. Logically, nothing really happened, but I still spent a minute or two after the call feeling like I was an idiot. (I finally decided to write something about to take my mind off it. This is the end result.)

Thankfully, Nodoka had it better off. A side effect of having your entire fate decided by writers that like happy endings, I suppose. While Negi didn’t exactly leap into her arms, they’re now much better friends than they were before, and Nodoka seems to have fully taken in the lesson here about courage when it comes to reaching out. If nothing else, she got her symbolic “I’m not hiding anymore” moment when she brushed her bangs away from her face and looked Negi straight in the eye, something she had had severe difficulty with before.

When all is said and done, reaching out is rarely something that you regret after the fact. And maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll actually learn that one of these days.

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