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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Stories of the Top 80 Anime: Da Capo

18. I've covered Da Capo before:

"So much can be said about Da Capo, because it's such a long and successful series. The art gets progressively better every iteration. The music was simply extraordinary by the end. And the tears never stop flowing no matter what season it is. Love and magical cherry trees just don't mix very well."

But perhaps I can say more about this series I treasure so highly. The longer I think back on Da Capo, the higher esteem I hold for it. The series currently stands at 81 episodes, so for once it isn't restricted by being too short. It also has proper conclusions to its stories, unlike so many other stories. Da Capo is the story of tragic romances that defy their fates and, in the end, prevail. Love conquers all is the theme, but the enemies this time aren't just rival girls and long distance -- though those are included -- but magic that struggles to tear apart the loving couple in order to grant the unconscious wishes of all the thwarted girls' hearts. Watching these people prevail over not only romantic issues that ruin normal relationships, but even supernatural obstacles that would easily crush normal relationships, makes you so happy and so sad, simultaneously. It's sad how much they have to go through, but it's so pleasing to see them triumph anyway. If everyone loved as much as the heroes from Da Capo did, there wouldn't be any broken homes in the world. I wish people would learn from them, and take after them, lovers who defied fate itself for the sake of their feelings.

In the first series, Jun'ichi has to overcome peer pressure and his own upbringing, all of which says incest is wrong, in order to admit his feelings for his ADOPTED sister, and accept her feelings for him. There's a powerful scene where Nemu breaks down into tears and starts telling Jun'ichi that he's "unfair," over and over, as Jun'ichi feigns innocence, feigns not to notice Nemu's feelings for him, and feigns that they're just family. Nemu is left vulnerable all on her own, having to face all that pressure of being a 'rebel against society and a naughty, impure deviant,' because Jun'ichi won't stand with her, and stand up for their love. Leaving her alone to face the disapproval of the world, because she simply can't stop loving him no matter how many people hate her for it, is unfair. It's unfair because he loves her too, he was just too much of a coward to step forward and act on it, like she was. But his cowardice doesn't change the problem, it just diverts all the pain onto the girl he loves. The only way to defeat the issue is to stop caring about what the world thinks and do what you know is right. His cowardice paralyzes him for half the series, but he finally announces his intentions before the world, and to hell with the consequences.

That's when the cherry tree strikes, making Nemu ill unto death, willing Nemu dead so long as Jun'ichi insists on loving her. Herculean efforts are made to stop the cherry tree from killing Nemu, but Sakura is conflicted, because in her heart of hearts, she wishes Nemu were dead so that she could have Jun'ichi to herself. This conflict keeps her from having the magic power necessary to stop the tree's curse, until Jun'ichi hugs her and tells her it's okay if she fails, and he understands. With the knowledge that Jun'ichi loves her too, just less than Nemu, Sakura accepts in her heart the ability to coexist with Nemu, and therefore defeats the tree. Jun'ichi's refusal to blame and hate Sakura for her role in killing Nemu becomes the salvation of Nemu, and Sakura, who would never forgive herself if she did kill Nemu. It's just a wonderful decision on his part to pursue forgiveness and understanding, instead of blame and vengeance.

In the second season, Nemu has moved away to go to nursing school, and it's been two years since Jun'ichi had any contact with her. Nemu never had the heart to write to Jun'ichi, instead just writing letters to him and sealing them away in her own cabinet, because she was afraid he wouldn't forgive her for deciding to leave on her own. Both of them struggle to maintain their love for each other amidst the isolation, loneliness, and mistrust. Meanwhile, a new girl, Ayesia, has entered the scene and moved in to Jun'ichi's house. There she gradually falls in love with Jun'ichi, not knowing that he's 'taken.' When Nemu returns to Jun'ichi's side, and they start dating again, Ayesia is hurt and feels cheated. Her life with Jun'ichi had been so fun, hanging out with all sorts of girl friends who all enjoyed his company, and having most of him to herself at home. Now this girl from nowhere moves in and steals her away, so Ayesia decides to cast a spell on Nemu, that will have Jun'ichi and Nemu forget their love for each other entirely, so that he'll start hanging out with everyone (specifically with her) again.

Sakura tells Ayesia she understands her motivations, because the same jealousy had been her bugbear in the past, but that she has to let it go. There is no happy ending, not everyone can have Jun'ichi to herself. Nemu and Jun'ichi truly love each other, they deserve to actually gain the fruits of their sacrifice to be with each other, and not be magically torn apart. Anything other than letting nature take its course is just selfishness, no matter how well its dressed up as 'fairness' and 'sharing.' Nemu and Jun'ichi are both seen struggling against the spell, unwilling to forget their love for each other, and its just tear-jerking watching them struggle like hooked fish against fate. Eventually Ayesia relents, canceling the spell, and leaving the lovebirds to themselves. The love they showed for each other was just too genuine for Ayesia to pretend she had a right to Jun'ichi any more.

Da Capo II starts over, with a new main character and new heroines. This time it's Yoshiyuki, a boy who was wished into existence by Sakura's magic, and the magic of the cherry trees, to be her son. Yoshiyuki is good friends with his neighbors, literally the girls next door, Yume and Otome, who are granddaughters of Nemu and Jun'ichi. But he spends time with a lot of other girls before that comes to the fore. One of them is a robot who plots revenge on mankind, because of how poorly they treat sentient robots, who should have equal rights to humans but don't. Yoshiyuki convinces her by the end that not all humans are bad, and perhaps it would be possible to coexist. But soon enough these problems are replaced by a more pressing issue, the fact that the magic of the cherry trees has become erratic, and is threatening the peace and well-being of the entire community. Sakura faces a terrible choice -- either kill the tree, whose magic supports the existence of her son, or let the tree wreak havoc on innocent civilians. She decides to sacrifice her own life in the hopes of saving both groups, but her effort fails. The cherry tree is stopped, and therefore Yoshiyuki slowly ceases to exist.

He ceases to exist in the worst possible way, by erasing himself from the memories of people who know him, starting with those who cared least, and ending with those who cared most. It's terrible, maybe the most terrible thing in the world, to watch the people who care for you struggle to remember you, but eventually fail to the magic and the next day act like you've never met before. Yoshiyuki has to watch this happen over and over again, with closer and closer friends, even girls he used to date, but the final blow never lands. Yume and Otome refuse to forget him. They spend every second of the day thinking about him, remembering him, not letting their hearts go. And you grow in wonder at the splendor of their love. Not just one girl loved him this much. They both did. They both fight to the very end. It's so beautiful. Yoshiyuki disappears, dead for lack of magic, but even then their fight goes on. They write his name over and over in their diary, and they cry, and they cry, and they cry, clutching to their painful memories as their dearest treasure, not even their happy memories, just the pain of losing him is better than not knowing he's been lost.

Eventually even fate takes mercy on them, and can't handle their suffering any longer. For whatever reason, the cherry tree relents, admitting the girls will never give up, and Yoshiyuki can't be forgotten, so he just has to exist after all. The story ends with him reincarnating, and the tearful faces of these incredible heroines changing to smiles. You cry with them, and you're elated with them, every step of the way. Da Capo showed what true love looks like. Almost as well as Clannad.

Da Capo is the best romance story not done by Key. *grins* Thank goodness for key, who already has three stories ranked ahead of Da Capo, and will probably have more (once Little Busters gets an anime, which it surely must), but it's good to know that even without Key, there would have been an amazing tragic romance coming out from Japan to wow the world. if not for Key, everyone would be amazed at Circus and Da Capo, as the greatest love story ever told. It's sort of like Raphael being outshined by Michelangelo. Da Capo easily would have been the best, in any other time. But so it goes.

Da Capo didn't have much of a budget in its first runs, but by the end of the series it has beautiful visuals, and great, fitting music. The same singer does all the opening songs, giving a 'da capo is starting' mood whenever her voice begins. But her final opening, to the best part of the entire Da Capo series, D.C. II S.S., is one of the most beautiful songs in history. I've listened to it thousands of times and I could listen to it thousands more. Da Capo becomes a thing of pure beauty, a perfect gem, at the very end. Yume is one of the most beautiful girls in anime.

Romance and war don't need reasons to be watched. They're the two subjects mankind always finds interesting. But a good romance story is so different from a bad one, they're worlds apart. Da Capo takes the best subject in history and treats it with the reverence and sophistication it deserves. Stories like Da Capo and Clannad are so different from 'Days of Our Lives' and 'Dawson's Creek,' that the world doesn't really know romance until they watch the romances from Japan. Maybe then, romance outside of Japan will be as pure and enduring as the real life romances IN Japan. In that country, sex is restricted to only a few partners at most in a lifetime, and marriage is forever. Almost every kid grows up in a two parent home. And they produce romances like Da Capo, which reinforces all of these values. Meanwhile we make Dawson's Creek. We have so much to learn. So very, very much to change.

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