Friday, February 15, 2008

In My View: Why I love and hate romance shows

So this here is a Valentine's day piece. One day late.

And I've said it before, I have a soft spot for romance in shows. As much as I pick apart RahXephon, what keeps pulling me back to the show is the love story between Ayato and Haruka. (And Futagami, that guy kicks ass). Even with the fact that it tried to do too much in too little time, I really enjoy the central relationship in Paradise Kiss. And even with its meandering, Kare Kano is an excellent show.

If you're noticing a trend here, I wouldn't be surprised. I like shows about human relationships. Call it the literati in me. Call it the politics wonk in me. Hell, you can call me a sissy, right-wing, gun-toting hippie if you want. But there's something fascinating in watching how people relate to each other. How they judge each others foibles and are either doomed by them or uplifted by them or both.

But I hate courting.

Okay, so I don't hate it. But courting offers such a limited range of emotions and reactions. In essence, the ending is already written in the audience's mind. The hero gets the girl/guy and they ride off into the sunset. The problem is that much like that first blush of love, we're not presented with fully developed characters in a relationship. In fact, I'd go as far to say the average show that takes twenty-six or so episodes for the hero and the girl to get together is really the same four episodes repeated again and again.

First, hero meets girl/guy. Second, hero and girl/guy figure out that they like each other. Third, hero and girl/guy have a complication in their budding relationship. Fourth, hero and girl/guy resolve the complication. If you repeat steps three and four about 20 more times you have the average plot of any anime romantic comedy I've ever seen. The fact is that the two characters never have a relationship. What they have is a stunted farce of a first date again and again and again.

And that's why I actually like ef-tale of memories. It actually assumes that courting itself is a relationship. And that even with the false starts and occasional overuse of tension, the characters change and adapt to their partners. It doesn't introduce new possible love interests so it can keep a tired storyline afloat. Because let's face it, that went out of style with Ozzie and Harriet. And if they didn't smother it with enough nuclear family love, than the Cosby show most certainly did. It doesn't try to stretch it out, so it can drag every possible ounce of tension from it. (I'm looking at you Ranma.) The storylines start where they should. They end where they should.

And now if only every romance could do that.

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