Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Sakurasou and When Dreams Don't Come True

Watching Sakurasou's finale caused a few thoughts to go in and out of the transom of my mind (Do people even know what transoms are anymore?  Not that it matters, Google knows all anyway):

- Is Mashiro somewhere on the autism spectrum?  Or are all artists a little crazy and not completely well-rounded because if they were normal, well, they wouldn't be artists?

- Is it better to keep plugging away at a dream, or to realize the odds are so against you that you should quit?

On the first question, I think you can look at it either way, really - Mashiro not being able to dress herself would certainly be seen as a cause for alarm from a pediatrician even at ten years younger, but at the same time it's not like she's physically incapable of doing it, it's just not in her top thousand priorities.  I still think she's an interesting character, although the whole "pet" metaphor you could argue says a lot about what's wrong with Japan's treatment of women in general.

The second question's more interesting, and I think the anime's ending seems to be sending the message that you should keep trying - Nanami worked her butt off for two years and failed to become a voice actress, but she's going to try again.  Sorata's game idea may have crashed and burned, but going the indie game route, which gives him a better chance of success, and the message there is also he's going to keep chasing his dream.

That's fine, but it'd be a different story if they were out of high school, out of college, and still trying - what if at 35 Nanami is still desperately applying to voice acting schools, no boyfriend, no family, just a single-minded obsession with following a dream that may never happen?  At the end of her life, would a Nanami who spent it all pursuing a career she never got to do look back and regret not throwing in the towel earlier?

It's OK for young people to have dreams, because they have the time to pursue them - we tell our children "you can be whatever you want when you grow up" and "if you work hard, anything is possible" but as adults, we know this is not really true.  If your child wants to be an astronaut, say, that's nice, but the odds are one-in-a-million against them - all the hard work in the world won't guarantee success.  Anime often has a "you can do anything if you try" message, but Sakurasou explores the other side of that a little, that not everyone can realize all their dreams.  Making a hit computer game and being a voice actor are just not the kind of thing anyone can do if they just work hard, since you have hundreds of thousands of people trying to do something only a fraction of those people will be successful at.

The anime's message of not giving up on dreams is still a good one, since you don't want to give up too early, or not even try to follow your dream, and then regret it later.  And if a 15 year old, say, wants to be a manga-ka, despite the huge odds against them, it's not going to ruin their life to work hard at drawing and send manuscripts off to publishers - even in failure, chasing your dream can still be a lot of fun, when you look back on it later.  The trick is just chasing a dream long enough, but not too long - if that aspiring manga-ka skips college to draw and draw but never makes it, finds themselves 30 and living off the Bank of Mommy and Daddy while his or her friends have jobs, families, etc., there's going to be regret on that side of things too.

In some ways, Sakurasou took the easy way out - it doesn't show us that "know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em" decision point that many of us face in young adulthood, where we have to choose between chasing a dream and moving on to reality.  And I think as we get older, we realize more and more that "what do you want to be when you grow up?" isn't as important as who you are when you grow up, your family, your friends, how good a parent you are, what your hobbies and interests are - all those things make up who you are more than what you do from 8 to 5 for a paycheck twice a month.

It'd be interesting to see the cast of Sakurasou make that transition - maybe Sorata makes a few indie games but doesn't become a star of the gaming world and goes on to find a job teaching programming and game design, which is fun enough and he gets to go home to Mashiro and their kids every night so he's satisfied.  Maybe Nanami doesn't get into voice acting even after a third year of effort, but she meets a nice guy who isn't as emo as Sorata and they start an okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka.  Life takes us places we'd never have thought it would when we're teenagers, after all.

Which brings me to the point of this post, which...well, there really isn't one.  I guess you could say I'm a little disappointed Sakurasou didn't take the dreams vs reality theme a little further, and maybe in a future season it will.  But honestly, I think it should have ended with episode 23, tack on a better Mashiro x Sorata epilogue, and call it done - anything from here, especially if they keep up the love triangle even longer, it's just going to feel like the story's drawn out for too long.