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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The other forbidden love:

The female equivalent of imouto/musumi-ai is yuri/shimai-ai.  Just like the previous post, it's about non-sexual love, but this time between two girls as opposed to strictly between a boy and a girl.  Like usual, though, a tinge of sexuality seems to run through it like an electric wire all the same.  Platonic love is just too weak sauce to leave it entirely up to 'peace on Earth and good will to men.'  That sort of cheap, throwaway devotion can be picked up and discarded anywhere.  Only the love that carries weight with it, including jealousy, possessiveness, passion, a wish for eternity, skinship, and daydreaming can really be classified as yuri or shimai-ai.  Maybe this sort of love is more damaging to one's health, maybe it's a forbidden and immoral act, maybe all it can ever do is make you miserable, but all the same it's the better form of love compared to its dull and passive alternative.

Love is one of the three good things about life, about the universe, about this existence God gifted us with.  Beauty and Truth are the other two, but today is about love.  If love is one of the greatest things in this world, between a person who feels love passionately and powerfully, and some sort of buddhist who calmly goes through life professing love for everyone but never being swayed by it in the least, who is genuinely closer to God's original intent upon His act of creation?

If a family member can coast through life with his family as just a roommate, never caring what happens to them or where they go, never even noticing when they all separate to the four corners of the globe, is he really showing the love we want out of life?

Likewise, if two girl friends are 'best friends,' but they coast through life together without a care in the world, make tons of other friends, are constantly seeing other people, and then drift apart without any remorse as their jobs or boyfriends take them away from each other, is this really the ideal female friendship we should aspire towards?

Does it really matter if these good natured 'family' and 'friends' stay in touch with each other with occasional phone calls or Christmas get togethers?  They never think about them for the majority of the year, but are conscientious enough to write them a New Year's Day Greeting when the season comes along.  Splendid, right?  Love at its highest height, right?

If God had meant for love to be such a lukewarm thing, he wouldn't have given us such strong feelings in the first place.  If you're going to love someone, then don't just play at it, go ahead and boil in it.  Die for it.  Anything less is just a disgrace and a disappointment to the God who made us with jealousy, possessiveness, devotion and lust to begin with.  Love should be an explosion.  Not a freaking retirement home where we all wait around to enter our graves while drinking soothing iced tea together.

But how do we separate a passionately embraced, a dangerously addictive, a heart pounding adventure, a complete fusion of two souls and a ripping apart at ourselves to leave an opening for someone else to come inside of us, from the base desire to reproduce with an evolutionarily desirable mate from the opposite sex?

There's nothing less pathetic than ravishing your soul because your partner happens to have good smelling pheromones because your immune systems are good matches for each other.  There's no point dying for someone who has bulging muscles or big breasts.  Love is not something we share with the damned lizards and cows we eat.  That's just instinct.  That's just auto-pilot.  Unless we can point to something we're doing that's different from the animal kingdom, unless we can distinguish our love from their love, then we should just fold the whole shop up and quit while we still can.

Love is better, stronger, and more thorough because of lust.  But love is nothing if it relies on lust to form.  What is one to do?  The answer is yuri -- or shimai-ai.  (Or imouto-ai, but I already wrote that post.)  You start with people who love each other a little, and grow it bit by bit until it's a lot.  You start as shimai (sisters), but you realize you're spending more and more time thinking about that sister until she's become your whole world.  You want to snuggle up to her always, but you're too embarrassed to actually put that into practice, so you take solace with any slight fortunate occasions that come your way.  You harbor secret obsessive feelings for your sister, but she's too innocently young or easy going to even notice, so you always wait for her to approach you and take what you can get, reveling in it in your heart like a supernova even as your partner doesn't notice it's happening in the least.  This is the high level technique known as yuri/shimai-ai.  Naturally, there are a hundred variations and this is just one example, but that should put your mind into the right frame.  You're best friends, but somehow you still want to be more.  You can't imagine losing your friend to anyone else, whether a new girl or boy.  If too much time passes without seeing her face and hearing her voice, you begin to feel abandoned and the world seems to spiral away to some far off place at the other end of a tunnel, not even real anymore even as you walk around inside of it.  When she enters the room, your voice goes higher and your eyes widen just trying to take in as much light from her body as can possibly reflect into your pupils at a time.  The very idea that she might sit next to you on the couch, or that your shoulders might touch each other when you gather to watch TV, sends your heart racing and your stomach clenching.  All of this while still knowing you're just friends and there's nothing you can end up doing together, but still, but still the bittersweet feelings don't end no matter how long a voice of reason might lecture you about them!

Even if the love can last another ten minutes, even if I can gather a few more seconds of memories before we part forever, I will throw myself at the girl I love and cling to her like a mast in the storm.  Take no thought to tomorrow.  A tomorrow without the girl I love doesn't matter anyway, it's all one what happens after the end of the world.

Why is yuri a forbidden love?  It's not because society cracks down on lesbianism.  That era has passed, and everyone is quite permissive these days.  Yuri is forbidden because even though you have such passionate, fierce feelings for your friend, you're still straight all the same, and it's just 'not like that.'  You don't want to have sex with women, you just want to touch your friend.  You're her-oriented, nothing else.  The paradox leaves you confused and helpless.  And worst of all, no matter how strong your feelings for her, you know she's not a lesbian either, so it's forbidden all the same because rape, at least, is still frowned upon in this era, as regrettable as that might be.  As for shimai-ai, you just add on top of all that the fact that incest is still frowned upon, even though same-sex incest has absolutely no negative externalities anyone can possibly point to, making the taboo even more ridiculous than it already was.  Are the two girls going to give birth to a genetically deformed child together or something?  No?  Then what exactly are people condemning them for?  Who knows.  Like usual, there's never any rational reason behind the taboos of society, handed down to us over thousands of years ago by the same people who thought human sacrifice was a good idea.

But best of all, you didn't fall in love with the object of your attention at first sight, first smell, or first hearing.  There were no instincts that propelled you to reproduce with this person.  In fact, being straight, and never once wanting to do those sorts of things, makes the first time you want to be with your special someone the first proof one can lay down at God's feet that you are not in fact emulating the lizards or the cows outside.  You just love and love that person until you can't bear it anymore.  That's the whole of it, there are no ulterior motives, and no bodily impulse tricked you into the feelings you now are too fragile and weak to bottle up any longer.  Sentience led you to these golden gates, and passion pushed its way through the lock.  And now that you've entered the forbidden paradise, you're in a delirium of love no other portion of mankind can possibly match.  The intensity of the most in-heat ape, but without a single purpose other than to be close to the person you care for.

Not a buddha who loves all creatures great and small while meditating with his eyes closed.  Not a monk who prays for sinners to rejoin the fold.  Not a charity worker who strives daily to feed the hungry.  Not a social worker who helps abused children find new foster homes.  Not a billionaire who founds a chain of libraries for the middle class of his nation to read from.  Not the inventor who cures cancer or doubles wheat yields with a new synthesized genome.  Not a mother goo-gaa-ing over how cute her baby is.  Not the princess swept off her feet by the strongest warlord of a barbarian raid.  Not a doughty farmer couple that lean on each other for support and sit at dinner with their children after a hard day's work every evening.  No, no no no no.  Love is an explosion.  Love is violence.  Love is a rending, miserable, desperate and deadly adventure.  Love is something to write poems about.  Love is yuri.  Love is shimai-ai.  Love is doting.  Love is cuddling.  Love is upturned shining eyes.  Love is sleeping together.  Love is waiting by a phone.  Love is getting absent minded.  Love is directionless.  Love is a swamp.  Love is drowning.  Love is a pitfall.  Love is fire.  Love is song.

There are a lot of good romance stories, straight out heterosexual couples who meet, fall in love, and marry like any normal human being.  It's tough to show why they're so distinct from the banal average couple, but I would say that their bonds were stronger and overcame more than what most people ever have to deal with.  The truth is, most couples break up.  Even if they don't, it's easy to see when or where they would have broken up if any little thing had gone wrong.  A lot of couples are fighting so often, or so silent between each other, that it's obvious to anyone that love went away a long time ago, even though the shed cicada shell still stands upright and keeps on pretending right before your eyes.  A heterosexual romance story has to prove itself better than these examples, by including a wide variety of options (like both the girl and boy are popular and have reasonable alternative suitors), deaths, misunderstandings, sudden conflicts of interest or personality flaw reveals, outward pressure on them to break up, etc.  If they can withstand all the waves that attempt to topple them, then I'll grant that there was something holy there to speak of.  One of the best 'tests' of heterosexual love is when the boy and the girl are at first in love with someone else, but end up learning to love each other instead through prolonged exposure.  Toradora, or Full Moon o Sagashite.  The strength of their original love is now the greatest enemy to their new love, and the more loving they are, the better they are as people, the larger the hurdle this becomes.  When your new love is even stronger than your old one, then and only then can I trust that this is a holy union, not a base longing of the loins.

But Yuri and shimai-ai can skip all that.  The moment a yuri bond of any type is formed, it's already at the pinnacle of heavenly grace.  The same is true between close sisters.  They can skip all the hurdles and immediately just go collect $200.  Since there was never any instinct in the equation to begin with, I know how much they must have meant their feelings from the very start.  This is why so many good stories are based around yuri/shimai-ai.  Since they have the best imaginable bond to work with, it's easy to write a moving or interesting story from there.  It's like a cook who's given a giant ham to cook with.  You already can't go wrong.

Just look at how many shows have flourished via embracing the girl-girl bond:

4.  Pretty Cure (Cure Blossom and Cure Marine)
5.  Sword Art Online (Asuna and Yuuki)
6. Clannad (Ryou and Kyou)
8. Higurashi (Satoko and Rika)
9. Fate/Etc (Miyu and Illyasviel, Kuro and Illyasviel)
12.  Little Busters! (Komari and Rin, Kudryavka and Kuragaya, Haruka and Kanata)
13.  Kanon (Sayuri and Mai)
14.  Nanoha (Fate and Nanoha, Hayate and Vita)
16.  Bleach (Soi Feng and Yoruichi)
17.  K-On! (Yui and Azusa, Yui and Ui, Ritsu and Mio)
20.  Shinsekai Yori (Maria and Saki)
21.  Oreimo (Ayase and Kirino)
24.  PapaKiki (Miu, Hina, and Sora)
25.  Railgun (Kuroko and Misaka)
30.  Saki (Saki and Nodoka.)
33.  Haganai (Sena and Kobato)
34.  The Idolm@ster (Ami and Mami)
40.  Maria-sama ga Miteru (Yumi and Sachiko, Yumi and Touko, Rei and Yoshino, Yumi and Yoshino, Shimako and Noriko, Noriko and Touko)
44.  Strike Witches (Lynette and Miyafuji, Sanya and Eila, Perrine and Mio)
52.  Kiniro Mosaic (Shinobu and Alice, Aya and Yoko)
53.  Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Homura and Madoka)
59.  Yuru Yuri (Himawari and Sakurako, Akari and Chinatsu, Yui and Chinatsu, Yui and Kyouko, Kyouko and Chinatsu, Kyouko and Ayano, Akari and Akane)
62.  Non Non Biyori (Hotaru and Komari)
69.  Vividred Operation (Akane and Momo)
74.  Rocket Girls (Yukari and Matsuri)
81.  Sakura Trick (Yuu and Haruka, Shizuka and Kotone, Haruka and Mitsuki)
88.  Myself;Yourself (Shuri and Asami)
98.  Baccano/Durarara (Mairu and Kururi)
100.  Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru (Washio and Yuuna, Fu and Itsuki, Yuuna and Karin, Washio and Sonoko)
102.  To Love-ru (Nana and Momo, Mikan and Yami)
103.  Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku (Karin and Botan, Karin and Claire, Sakura and Botan)
104.  Grisaia no Kajitsu (Kazuki and Amane, Michiru and Suicide Girl)
105.  Valvrave (Shoko and Akira)
108.  Sailor Moon (Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune)
119.  Mikakunin de Shinkoukei (Benio and Kobeni, Benio and Mashiro)
127.  Binbou Shimai Monogatari (Asu and Kyou)
137.  Kokoro Toshokan (Iina and Kokoro)
147.  Yama no Susume (Aoi and Hinata)
148.  Hanayamata (Naru and Hana)
149.  Locodol (Nanako and Yukari)
155.  Negima! (Nodoka and Yue, Setsuna and Konoka)
156.  Card Captor Sakura (Sakura and Tomoyo)
160.  Battle Athletes (Kris and Akari)

43 shows where the girls care for each other an abnormal amount, in a territory that goes beyond 'has fun with' or 'admires' or 'thinks is cute' or 'has a sense of responsibility for.'  These girls genuinely love each other, or one girl has an unrequited love that's as heavy as you could wish for.  43 out of 170 is basically 1/4 of all great anime has had yuri/shimai-ai elements or been entirely about it.  That's a huge proportion, half again as large as the number of shows with imouto-ai.  The power of yuri is indeed fearsome.  If you combine the number of shows with either imouto-ai or yuri/shimai-ai in them versus the ones that don't, you get 20 additional shows, or 62/170, or 36% of great anime is based off of forbidden love.  That's over 1/3.  Talk about an important feeling!  And yet most of us are too embarrassed to notice or name it, and so it slinks about in the shadows, providing 1/3 of all the beauty in the world, without anyone even thanking it for its service.  What a ridiculous taboo to respect any longer, when the results that stand before us, the results of breaking that taboo, speak for themselves.

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