“Just write down where you want to go, be it a place where you can work towards your dream job or a school where you can indulge your hobbies. Some even pick the school that’s closest to home. Any reason is fine.”
-teacher to Cocona, Flip Flappers, Episode 1
The bane of any high school anime character’s existence — which encompasses the vast majority of anime characters — is surely the dreaded career survey. I never had to fill out one myself, but I do know that my choices would have been different for each of the four years of high school: marine biologist, veterinarian, designer, and finally a journalist, the latter of which is my actual career. A career survey is often used to show an uncertain future for an anime protagonist, underline their indecisiveness, or draw out what their true passion might be, the unprofitable one that radiates disappointment when written in the career survey response box. Flip Flappers takes this one step further and adds a veneer of existential dread.
When Cocona is questioned on her inability to choose an answer for her career survey, Cocona responds, “I don’t know which is the best choice.” Not that she doesn’t know where she wants to be — although this is also proven to be true throughout the series’ first four episodes — but she doesn’t know which is the best choice. Rather than concern herself with what she actually wants or where she wants to be, she’s most concerned with making the correct decision, presumably the choice that others will deem the correct one. Any reason is fine, but Cocona doesn’t have a reason. Furthermore, she seeks perfection, not passion. (more…)
When Puella Magi Madoka Magica initially aired in 2011, watching it was an experience. Following up on my experience with Star Driver, Madoka was the second water cooler series that I participated in, eagerly vomiting my thoughts into the ether, and chatting with various people on Twitter about the show. When the final two episodes were released, I was one of the eager fans continuously refreshing their browser while waiting for translations. Watching the finale as soon as I possibly could following the fansubbed releases, I jumped into the fray that was unpacking the entire series with vigor.
Mari Maya is an idol by day, and a magical girl by night. Does this sound familiar?
If forced to settle on only one profession for young girls to dream of and aspire to become, anime would surely choose that of the idol. I’m not speaking of idol-specific anime – Love Live!, AKB0048, Aikatsu!, The Idolm@ster, Pretty Rhythm, Natsuiro Kiseki, and to some extent the entire Macross franchise – but rather the ubiquitous presence of idols in anime, specifically as paragons of success. I’m speaking of characters like Himari Takakura in Mawaru Penguindrum, who dreamed of becoming an idol, and watches as her two childhood friends end up living her dream. In my own first anime experience, Sailor Moon, Usagi Tsukino or as I knew her, Serena, attempts to enter an idol competition by the fourth episode. The localized title of that episode says it all, “So You Want to be a Superstar.” Anime tells us that being an idol isn’t just a dream, but The Dream.
What interests me about Mari is not simply that she became Flamenco Girl, but that she was an idol first. She was already living The Dream, but not her dream.