Sunday, April 14, 2013

Otona Joshi no Anime - Life's Best Ten (Jinsei Best Ten)

Year: 2013
Studio: Bones
Director: Yo Miura
Script: Reiko Yoshida

If Yuge is a simple love story, then Jinsei Best Ten is a sophisticated life story. We've got ourselves quite the gem here hailing from the ever so prominent studio Bones and once again I'm left with nothing but gratitude towards the Otona Joshi project as a whole. Jinsei Best Ten interweaves lighthearted humor with weighty discussion of growing up and losing touch with the untainted enthusiasm of one's youth. It's a fine example of achieving perfect balance between entertainment and food for thought. I'm not anywhere near the heroin's age, but even I with the experience I have thus far, can relate to the feelings of getting bogged down by a sense of insecurity and consequently turning to past memories for comfort. In the end, we always come back to the same question: what makes us happy?

Hatoko is a business woman with her fortieth birthday just around the corner. Curiously, for a woman with a successful career and seemingly healthy social life, she doesn't feel fulfilled or accomplished. Whenever she recounts the best ten moments of her life, which she mockingly calls a masochistic hobby, she regrettably finds all of them have happened before age eighteen and sitting on the top of the list is her first romantic encounter. On the cusp of her birthday, Hatoko receives an invitation to her middle school reunion and Kishida, the name of the boy she dated for three weeks in the summer shows up on the invitation card as one of the organizers of the event. With much anticipation, she dresses up for the occasion and even rehearses her introduction in three different ways, all which she dismissed as not being herself (I'm sure all of us have done this at some point). At the reunion, she meets various people from her school, but to her disappointment, Kishida's presence was no where to be found, that is, until she half-drunkenly bumps into him in front of the washroom. Well, after seeing no ring to indicate marital status, Hatoko practically tells him, "you are the reason I'm here". I'm sure all that alcohol must've helped. What do you know, Kishida appears to share the same sentiment of wanting to rekindle the romance between them and invites her to a two people after-party that landed them in a love hotel thereafter. What happened from here on is nothing like I expected and I don't want to spoil the fun part that makes this chapter of Otona Joshi so brilliant. So it turns out Kishida isn't what he claims, but by the encounter, Hatoko comes to a firm realization that her thirteen year old self is indeed her truest self, and thanks to him, she was able to rediscover the connection. 

The visuals didn't seem special in the beginning, but it really grew on me overtime. The whole thing has a picture book feel, employing a subdued, slightly wash-out color scheme that I find rather refreshing. Similar to Yuge's visual style, the lines are quite simple and shading is mostly absent on characters, creating a look that emphasizes form more than details, but being Bones, everything is animated with a lot of subtlety once you take a closer look.

Quirky, witty and laced with emotional maturity, I can't praise Jinsei Best Ten enough. The man Hatoko wants to renew the bond with is the Kishida in her memory, not necessarily the Kishida in present time. But in the end, she got her wish through an ironic twist of event that's not all that different from an odd, mystifying dream. We often look at the past – especially the moments that mark our firsts – through rose-coloured glasses that makes it appear more romantic that it actually is. Many people find fulfillment at age 40, but for someone like Hatoko who has missed many chances at life for one reason or another, the future may seem uncertain and intimidating. She confesses about not wanting to pretend to protect things she didn't have, but maybe she has been too afraid of getting hurt to make make a grab for those things in the first place, having strayed away from her thirteen-year-old self who had the courage and aspiration to take on the world. Growing up has its consequences – the dreams and fantasies we indulge in as children gradually get buried under the weight of reality, and sometimes we give up and lose sight of what makes life worth living. Hatoko's struggles are realistic and heartfelt, so much so that I feel like this is one of those rare pieces that I will come to appreciate more many years down the road.

Overall: 10/10

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