Lately I read a book that told the story of ordinary people doing radical things. They are not unlike you and I, with exception of their earnest belief that they are here to change the world in their ordinary capacity.
The fact that you and your neighboring commuter are traveling to work does not separate him or her from any other person commuting to work in the car or seat also next to you. What is different is beyond the ordinary–traveling to work–from the normal–that someone can tell all about you just by your commute. After all, if you’re reading this blog odds are you’re some crazy ass anime fanboy nut compared to the average person within a 50 meter radius of you. It’s not something you can easily discern usually. Yet,the cling to normalcy is a complex of an entire identity. A normal person is just that, normal. An ordinary person, however, doesn’t have to be.
Granted the distinction between ordinary and normal is nonsensical semantically, but it does serve to highlight the difference between something commonly seen versus the institution of conformity.
Ponder the following scenarios:
- In Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu, a girl who is fascinated with modern fairy tales of aliens, time travelers and ESPers, actually finds them hidden in plain sight, conforming to not just normal behaviors but stereotypes of aliens, time travelers and ESPers. Craziness ensues when male lead enters into the picture as a stereotypical, jaded audience of these modern fairy tales.
- In ef – a tale of memories, the high school film club presses onward to produce a quality production, aiming to win a prize at a film competition. The main cameraman is seen as a person with some skill in the shots he take, perhaps impressionist, perhaps postmodern, but nonetheless draw fans and set the cameraman’s films apart from the common crop. However, rather than to be characterized through such distinctive streaks, the film club wanted to produce a popular hit with a film that conforms (realist?) to people’s sense of what is ordinary but yet captures the spark the star cameraman gives to his subjects. They are aiming for the grand prize, not one set for special but different films.
- In Honey & Clover, an art prodigy escapes into secondary education to blossom under the care of her uncle in a university. She befriends a group of ordinary youth in a similar place in life looking for direction, for love, and for themselves.
- In Kimikiss Pure Rouge, a 16 year old boy finds romance along with his wingman, a 17 year old girl, with another boy. Oh, the boy’s good male friend also finds his sister’s new friend somewhat cute? There be karaoke and giggles.
- In Kamichu, an ordinary middle schooler is a Shinto deity in the flesh.
It’s ordinary, yet somewhat extraordinary. It feels attainable, its lure just within our grasp. For me it’s irresistible (at least when it’s done right).
There’s a thin line between what’s ordinarily extraordinary and what is just normal. I’m not sure where the line is, but you can tell when it stops being ordinary either by being just plain out there, or being just … a normal anime.
Capturing the tension that exists in the abnormal ordinary is a key element of a compelling storytelling style. Perhaps the biggest problem for the ef anime right now is that it is too odd to be ordinary, even if it is rooted so.