Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unspoken, Understood, Unrequited: Polite Rejection in Acchi Kocchi

Or, Making  Acchi Kocchi Fans Mad

The appropriately named Acchi Kocchi makes a simple offer to its viewership: easy-going, conversational humor spiced with a healthy dose of slap-stick, not unlike the many shows of this nature that have come before it. Despite the similarity of its content to other such laid-back comedies, Acchi Kocchi provides an extra element that, while seen elsewhere, may not been seen in such a specific manner; that is, the romantic entanglements of the cast. Most often this is found in a blossoming relationship between a shy, straight-man male lead and his various archetypal female companions, an element played for laughs as the male lead flounders about, put off-balance by his situation and his suitors react with certain levels of indignation at each other’s perceived advances according to their temperament. Ultimately, the truly dramatic developments of these relationships are isolated in single episodes towards the back-half of the series, or a scene or two throughout its run.
            This is where Acchi Kocchi stands apart. It is most apparent in that the aforementioned straight-man male lead is really put in a supporting position to his primary suitor, and that this suitor is really the primary focus of the show. In dramatic elements we are provided her introspection rather than that the male, and more often than not she is the focus of dramatic turns of events as well as the shots in which they occur. This is due primarily to the fact that the entirety of the cast considers the figurative ‘deal’ between the two ‘sealed.’ So rather than seeing a span of events where the girls make comedic attempts to win the male lead, we see the cast make comedic attempts to have the female lead win the object of her affections.
            Beyond that, Acchi Kocchi finds its dissimilarity from its genre in its structural differences. As denoted by its name – literally, ‘here and there’ – each episode is split down the middle between two different, unrelated skits depicting the cast at their daily routines, be it lunch time conversations or after school activities. While this ‘sketch comedy’ structure is nothing new alone, it is how the romantic elements of the story are interspersed throughout these skits that differentiates the show from other, primarily comedic plots. Romance between the romancers is often the source of the humor in each segment, and these segments themselves become sources of romantic development further cemented in primarily developmental scenes that frame the episodes.
            This all being said, the focus of this venture into the depths of Acchi Kocchi is less concerned with the show on a technical level, but more on a content level. Specifically, with the nature of that focus the show itself dwells so heavily upon: the nature of the relationship between our lead Tsumiki Miniwa, and the one for whom she longs, Io Otonashi.

More like Tsunmiki, right guys? Guys?

            As she is the first we are introduced to in the show, let’s turn to Tsumiki. Tsumiki is a highly intelligent and yet aloof girl. Despite being the top student in her class, her lack of communication skills keeps her from doing simple things like helping her friends with their studies. This difficulty with socialization manifests in most other scenes in small ways, as rarely is Tsumiki the one to begin a conversation, and it is just as rare that she contributes very much to it.
This facet of her character seems to be very well paired with an air of asociality she exhibits both aesthetically and in her actions. Aesthetically speaking, the basic design of her character presents her as disinterested or unconcerned, with a flat expression being her default. In terms of her actions, this shows in her involvement or refusal to be involved in the group, such as when she is invited to play after school (Tsukamaetai), or her unsociability in various conversations mirroring the one which occurs at the arcade in episode one (Acchi).
But any viewer of this show will point at that this asociality is merely an air, and they would be correct. Despite her lack of social skills, Tsumiki very much wants to be involved with group. This is abundantly apparent in that she continues to associate and spend time with them consistently, and in her own way pushes to be involved – something I will get to a little later. So, rather than outright distaste for socializing, it would be best to write Tsumiki’s behavior down as shyness or unfamiliarity with socializing – something that continuously comes up in her wild reactions to teasing and jokes, and her tendency to be easily flustered.
Her desire to be involved goes beyond simple friendship, as my introduction has thoroughly indicated. What stands as Tsumiki’s greatest motivation in being a part of the group, being social despite her inclination towards asociality, to put true heart into endeavors she might otherwise have completely ignored, is Io.
Now, Tsumiki’s feelings for Io are so abundantly apparent that I don’t think they need justifying – matter of fact, you can’t read a synopsis for the show without them getting mentioned. It goes beyond mere attraction, however, as Tsumiki takes to activities like kick the can (Tsukamaetai), cooking (Mujōnaru), watching fireworks (Shukudai), volleyball (Atakku!), walking to school (Kuma), wearing clothing (Puru)...
I think you get the point. Tsumiki’s feelings for Io are intense enough that she finds motivation and drive for otherwise mundane routines. Matter of fact, her fanciful, romantic daydreams about Io are a contrast for her normally blasé attitude.
So, in short, Tsumiki is a love-struck girl with newly blossoming romantic thoughts who is attempting to overcome her shyness and social awkwardness, while simultaneously using her normally disinterested outward appearance to compensate for those negative traits.
In so many words, Tsumiki is a tsundere. But, again, we’ll get back to the full implications of this a little later. For now, let’s turn to Io.

As evidenced by his guest appearance on the school’s morning broadcast (Tsukamaetai), Io stands in a position of quasi-celebrity. His peers know him and respect him. Guys want to be him, and girls want to be with him. He’s the kind of person you may never have actually met properly in high school, but always knew the name of. But, unlike many other common portrayals of the popular, perfect guy, you can’t help but like Io, because that one time you talked to him in passing he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
Ultimately, a number of characteristics pull together to make Io what he is – namely, desirable. Primarily he is reserved, in a calm, collected manner, but still carries a quick wit. This wit is benign, however, tempered as it is by Io’s politeness and perceptiveness of others.  What ultimately keeps Io from being worthy of resent for all of this is that these things come to him honestly. He does not put on airs to appear a certain way for anyone; he is comfortable with himself.
Just to add to it all, where other such characters might take advantage of their perfect suaveness, Io would never even consider it. This is because, at heart, Io is a classic romantic through and through, with a warm, emotional philosophy for what other boys might consider crassly. Though surrounded by more common gentleman and admiring ladies, Io consistently exhibits a sort of white-knight, chivalric view of love, romance, and social obligation. In this he becomes the pinnacle of Japanese social consideration and European courtship, tempered by a modern sensibility – the product of the proudest traditions of etiquette and romance. 
I mean, how could you not love him?
These are the chief players of Acchi Kocchi, the love-struck tsundere and her perfect guy she can’t quite build up the strength to be honest with. To make matters worse, Io just can’t seem to read between the lines and see Tsumiki’s sledge-hammer-obvious hints.
So it goes, with Tsumiki struggling with her shyness, getting flustered as an inherently romantic Io continues to be utterly clueless. Their relationship awkwardly treads the line between friendship and romance, as their friends cheer Tsumiki on and enjoy the show. Throw in a healthy dose of slapstick comedy and you’ve got a winning recipe.
By now I’m sure, my perceptive reader, that you’ve noticed this venture has served as no more than an extended summary of a show you’ve likely already seen. That being said, let’s take a closer look at a claim in the premise of the show I consider to be a little dubious. A portion of the comedy of this show and a larger portion of the drama relies upon something I stated a moment ago: Tsumiki can’t be honest and Io isn’t perceptive.
That… doesn’t exactly make sense to me, which should be evidenced in that my earlier description of Io’s character contradicts my own statements about the show. That is, Io is in fact highly perceptive. If there is one thing Io truly excels at – beyond all the other things he excels at oh so well – it would be socialization. Considering it is basically a stated fact of the show that he is not perceptive, let me take a moment to justify my view of the poor boy.
Io’s supposed lack of perceptiveness is evidenced by his inability to understand nonverbal communication in key instances involving Tsumiki’s romantic advancements. Besides his sheer social niceness and adherence to proper etiquette, however, there are indeed multiple occasions during which Io displays social prowess and perceptiveness. Firstly, when Tsumiki longingly considers a toy in a claw game at the arcade in the first episode, Io understands implicitly that she wants it (Acchi). This occurs in spite of her explicit objections. In this scene, Io understands Tsumiki’s overt nonverbal cues and acts on them, regardless of her verbal denials.
This may not be enough to convince you, so I will continue on. When, in the second episode, Miiko Inui comments that it was a “good thing I had spare uniforms made,” (Oishii), Io perceives just as quickly as Sakaki that Miiko is luring Tsumiki and Mayoi into working for her. This may seem just as incidental as the previous example, but I think it’s unfair to write these instances off as solely comedic – if that were the case, much of the characterization and drama would have to be ignored.
Moving forward again, Tsumiki first has an opportunity to be alone in Io’s room during episode six, when they agree to study together. As soon as the door closes, Tsumiki guiltily considers going through his belongings, a natural part of the situation. Immediately, Io reopens the door, warning her, “don’t even think about it” (Puru). Here, though again in a comedic instance, Io demonstrates understanding and perceptiveness. He perceives that a female friend alone in his room will be heavily tempted to mess with his things. This intuition ultimately proves to be correct as, despite his warning, Tsumiki proceeds to smell his shirt – in the least creepy, most adorable way possible, I assure you.
These specific instances outline Io’s perceptiveness on a general level. He does, in fact, understand non-verbal communication and how people think, what they feel and what they want. There are a number of smaller instances throughout the show that may come across as inconsequential where Io interprets what it is that a person wants and delivers it, be it compliments or physical affection. This comes down to an aspect of Io’s character that is key to understanding my forthcoming perspective.
Io is an honest-to-goodness, genuinely nice guy. To reinforce this, allow me to take a moment to go back to Io’s character. Again, Io is honest. He has a tendency to offer his truest feelings on subjects, such as when asked for his reasons on jumping off the train after Tsumiki in episode seven (Yama) – an important instance I will return to again later. Not only does his embarrassment evidence the genuine nature of his response, but his willingness to admit embarrassment seems itself due to his honesty.
In another instance, Io responds to Sakaki’s jokes about breasts developing by providing the following gem of a monologue: “Rather, since it’s referring to girls, it probably means that the pure feelings they hold within their hearts grow larger as they spend more time with their loved ones. The meaning must’ve gotten twisted along the way” (Puru). This all being a discussion on boobs, Io is appropriately embarrassed afterwards, but again this outlines Io’s quickness to be honest.
Furthermore, he is quick to admit when he dislikes something, such as Sakaki’s inability to takes things serious during their broadcast (Tsukamaetai) and after their Christmas shift (Kuma), or when Mayoi teases Tsumiki about her feelings for him in the first episode and later instances (Acchi).
Finally, Io himself announces a preference for honesty, when advising girls that “if you just act naturally with good intentions,” they’ll win the favor of their loved one. I think this is especially important, considering this has implications for Io’s rather strong view of love. More on that later.
Following this honesty, Io is honestly romantic. His ability to spin out the perfect lines to woo a girl should denote at least his awareness of romanticism, as no one ignorant to such things could perform so affectively. Furthermore, Io’s affinity for compliments demonstrates his understanding of how people want to be spoken to, and what to say to make them feel all warm inside – something also shown in his distaste for insults. Also, his previously quoted opinion on boobs is so romantic it almost has a fairy-tale ring to it. Again, in a discussion on boobs, Io claims his favorite part of a girl is their “smile,” (Puru). His subversion of the horny male archetype embodied by his friends suggests that something else is on his mind – namely, the happiness of a romantic partner.
Again, Io displays politeness to chivalric levels. His opinion on insults has already been mentioned, but beyond that he is always quick with an apology when appropriate. So too is he quick with his compliments, when he perceives them to be polite. Specifically speaking, however, Io exhibits his chivalrousness in the many courtesies he pays those around him, like stopping in his ride to school to walk with Tsumiki (Acchi), or covering her with his umbrella when it rains (Puru). I also find Io’s concern with fair play shown during the snow ball and air hockey fights indicative of his chivalry.
I mean, he pats everone's heads!
The bottom line of Io is this: he is conscious of those around him, socially speaking. He is concerned with the small things – courtesies, compliments, or a smile or two – that make people happy. But in that, the audience should begin to see that Io’s treatment of Tsumiki is really… not special, at all.
Besides the small things that are just normal behavior for Io, one could turn to a few places to justify his feelings for her. So let’s look at those.
Io spends time with Tsumiki, be it walking to and from school, or hanging out with her outside of school. Surely, if Io makes a point of spending his time with this girl, it must at least me he enjoys her company. Well, I won’t say he doesn’t – yet – but I will point out that Io also makes a point of being inclusive with others. In episode one, he explicitly asks Hime to join in on a game of air hockey (Acchi). These attempts to facilitate Hime’s involvedness with the group continue throughout the show. In other instances, Io is the one to suggest that the whole group go to the summer festival (Shukudai), or that Tsumiki and Mayoi join him on his Christmas shift (Kuma). Ultimately the point of this is that Io, in his niceness, goes out of his way in helping people to be involved and feel welcome in small ways.
Another potential indicator of Io’s feelings for Tsumiki is his continued, gooey comments to her, a sampling of which might include:
“Meeting you here was payment enough.” (Oishii)
“Any man fortunate enough to have you as his bride would be the happiest man in the world.” (Mujonaru)
“Your smile is worth more than any prize.” (Shukudai)
And so on. But if you look at it a little closer, you’ll notice none of those were strictly a communication from Io to Tsumiki. In the first case, Io was making a cute comment to all the girls as he served them cake at the restaurant (Oishii). In the second, a classmate prompted him to compliment Tsumiki on her cooking – further than he already had, I might add (Mujonaru). The third really comes across more like an off-handed comment, really par for course considering Io’s love for making others happy.
If that isn’t enough, one might also recall that these sort of comments aren’t reserved for Tsumiki. He informs the whole school that “I’m sure that tomorrow you’ll be even more beautiful than you were today,” (Tsukamaetai) a comment that feels all too similar to those previously cited. Finally, perhaps his most affective line may not have been to Tsumiki in particular. Io informs the girls that, “the instant when you smile is more beautiful than any firework could ever be. I’ll cherish it forever” (Yama). Not only had Sakaki just prompted Io to say something of this nature – a request Io off-handedly acquiesced to – it is clear from the preceding frame that Io had delivered it to no one in particular. It is only the following frame with Tsumiki as its focus that could lead the viewer to believe that it was ever meant for her. 
So not only is the time Io chooses to spend with her not particularly special inherently, neither are the romantic lines he feeds her. Well, let’s keep going.

 We’ll finally come back to the train issue now. For the sake of emphasis, I will recap the events in question. During episode seven, the cast boards a train to visit a summer house Sakaki’s family owns, which makes me wonder how massively successful their business must be. Perhaps it’s a franchise? Anyhow, Hime detrains at a stop, and Tsumiki goes to look for her. Ultimately, the train leaves with Hime aboard, and Tsumiki looking like a lost kitten at the station. So, as any sane man would do, Io signals for Sakaki to throw open the window, and Io dives from a moving train to wait with Tsumiki for the next.
It would be fairly reasonable to take Io’s rash, quick reaction as an indication of his attraction to Tsumiki. Matter of fact, it would be slightly unrealistic to expect a man who was not attracted to Tsumiki to dive from a train simply so she wouldn’t be lonely. There are, however, a few points I believe can justify this train of thought (I swear to God that pun was not intended, and I hate myself for typing faster than I can think).
 Primarily, this will come back to Io’s issue with chivalry. He has a firm, honest belief in his heart of the way boys should treat girls, and that involves protecting them when necessary. This may beggar belief, but for one, Io twice stated his reasoning for the action being that he could not “leave a girl alone” (Yama). Furthermore, as when he had earlier explained his opinion on breasts, he blushed when he realized that he had said something embarrassing. The reason it is embarrassing is because he honestly, truly believes what he said. Considering Io is not one to lie about his opinions, I think this simply goes to show he holds honest, deeply-rooted convictions concerning chivalry.
Furthermore, on the other side of this issue is Sakaki, with whom Io shared a nonverbal second of perfect understanding where they acted in unison. In that moment, Sakaki understood Io’s intention and motivation, which I believe is understandable considering their serious status as bros. Regardless, back on the train, Hime and Mayoi ask Sakaki why Io had rapidly detrained, and his explanation perfectly matched Io’s. Now, it may be acceptable to suggest that Io was lying to Tsumiki out of shyness concerning his own feelings, but why would Sakaki provide a cover-up explanation when his only companions are his co-conspirators in facilitating the relationship in question?
So, considering Io’s serious conviction for chivalry, tendency for strict honesty, and Sakaki’s corresponding explanation, it is reasonable to explain this situation not as the spur of the moment actions of a lover, but the sworn duty of a gentleman. And if you don’t consider it reasonable, then consider for a moment the hyperbolic nature of the comedy in this show, where cats uppercut people and gallons of blood are lost every episode via nose. Considering how wild and overstated this show is by nature, Io’s actions are truly par for course.
Ultimately, when one tries to infer Io’s requited feelings for Tsumiki, they would turn to his special treatment of her in the time he spends with her, the compliments her pays her, the romantic monologues, and the romantic actions. It seems to me, however, that none of things were particularly special actions to Io, and therefore not indicative of any feelings whatsoever on his part towards the girl.
Matter of fact, on the most basic level, Io and Tsumiki do not exhibit that great a rapport with one another. In scenes such as that when they first arrive at the arcade in episode one (Acchi), Tsumiki barely says a word while Io carries on with the others. This is the image of Io’s interactions with Tsumiki for the run of the show: a line or two of dialogue between them in one or two scenes. This is important to note considering Io’s fairly good rapport with… just about everyone else.
If for some reason you’re still reading, I’ll finally introduce my theory concerning Acchi Kocchi, which, if you’ve been paying attention, you might already know by now: Io doesn’t really like Tsumiki. At all.
The first point where this began to sink in with me was when, during the first episode, the cast was sat down for lunch. While the girls chattered on, Sakaki struck up conversation with Io, commenting on what occurs when three girls get together. Io responds thusly.

This little, off-handed comment never occurred to me in my first viewing, but after obsessively scouring this show for quotes I can misuse with mean intentions, I noticed it. Now, Io delivers this line rather flatly, a manner dissimilar from his light witticisms seen on the broadcast in episode four (Tsukamaetai). Beyond his delivery, the line itself has a sort of annoyed undertone to it. If isolated it could be forgettable, but really this subtle attitude of annoyance is highly important to note as it continues throughout the show.
Another particular instance that would be good to turn to occurs in episode one, at the arcade. As mentioned much earlier in a different capacity, Tsumiki lays eyes on a toy she desires within a claw game. Seeing her basically palpable want for the thing, Io offers to win it. Tsumiki being as she is, refuses. At this point, it is clear that Io is annoyed. He tries to clearly reason with her, but she continues her charade. When he wins it anyways, this happens.
“I told you I didn’t want it.” – Tsumiki
“Here.” – Io
Bitches get toys, Io gets pissed.
This sounds less to me like the subtle romance between a shy girl and her clueless but equally attracted counterpart, than a fellow regretting performing a nice gesture for an annoying friend. This is, again, another small instance that due to the earlier stated premise of the show could simply be ignored as comedic, but with Io’s tone in mind it paints the interaction in a different light.
Again, in episode five, Io’s annoyance becomes apparent when they are split into teams to play volleyball. When Tsumiki, slow to jump on the opportunity due to her shyness, is split from Io, she throws a little cat-fit, something viewers will be very aware of (Attaku!). If you notice Io in this scene, he appears less than pleased with Tsumiki’s outburst. If you continue to notice Io in such situations, he continues to look that way. What is at least sold to the audience as a cute play on Tsumiki’s cat aesthetic seems to grate on Io more than endear the girl to him.
Another aspect of this situation is the issue of being split into teams, something that bothers Tsumiki on other occasions. In episode one, Sakaki explicitly pairs Io and Tsumiki as a team for air hockey. Mayoi goes on to describe how their “bond” will aide them. This is something that Io explicitly denies, in annoyance (Acchi). The next time Io and Tsumiki are paired, Io clearly adds “Hime should be on our side, then,” (Mujonaru). While his reasoning for this was not clear – it was implied to be a matter of balancing the teams, though I can’t see how this accomplished that – one is forced to wonder, in this context, if it was not some sort of playground mentality manifesting from Io’s general annoyance.
Then again in episode four, Io comments that the groups were “divided… pretty well” (Tsukamaetai) when he is split from Tsumiki for the rest of the game – a game that will of course come up again later. And again, when playing volleyball in episode five, Tsumiki throws a bit of a fit when split again from Io, while Io doesn’t seem to care in the slightest (Atakku!).
Io’s attitude towards Tsumiki seems to be generally applicable to associating with her social circle, as well. In another small instance in episode one, Hime mentions that “birds of a feather flock together” (Acchi), and Io responds by wittily asking her if she’s “saying you’re crazy, too?” (Acchi). Again, while this may appear inconsequential, it is apparent from his wording that Io does not include himself as a part of that group. While Hime is commenting on the group as a whole, Io reacts to the comment as non-inclusive, reflecting his feelings on the group.
Later, in episode four, Io refuses to partake in the afterschool activities before he even knows what they are (Tsukamaetai). You may be thinking that I used this same action on Tsumiki’s part as indicative of her asociality, but Io is clearly not asocial. As indicated above, Io reacts with annoyance when confronted with what I will refer to as ‘the goofery’ of the group, and is not receptive to it. This further cements his opinion on them.
Considering I’ve spent a fairly significant amount of time developing Io’s lack of feelings for – if not complete disdain towards – Tsumiki, one must wonder why it is that Io dislikes such a horribly cute thing. Rather, you may be wondering what I have against Tsumiki, and for that I’ll take a moment to provide my alternative interpretation of the girl to correspond with my equally alternative interpretation of Io.
To begin, remember that Io has a professed respect and preference for honesty and honest people – appropriate, considering honesty is something he himself displays and is a value that goes to the core of his character. Unfortunately for Tsumiki, at the very core of her character she is dishonest, and not merely in terms of her inability to admit her feelings to the people around her, an excusable and ultimately acceptable character flaw. Rather, it’s Tsumiki’s willingness to manipulate and take advantage of others that Io would find distasteful. For instance, in episode eight, the group considers messing with Io as he sleeps, something Hime advises against (Shukudai). Tsumiki goes so far as to take the advantage to kiss him – something she ultimately is turned away from doing by the others. Regardless, her intent was clear, and this moment is very much contrary to Io’s opinions on privacy and respect he exhibited when Sakaki suggested peeping on the girls while they bathed in episode seven (Yama).
            In another instance, Mayoi brings a love potion she has concocted to school in episode two (Oishii). While Hime verbally struggles with the ethical implications versus personal gains, Tsumiki silently decides she would be willing to use it on Io. Again, this is highly contrary to Io’s opinions on emotional manipulation as seen in episode nine, where Mayoi and Sakaki try to guilt Tsumiki into wearing the mascot outfit (Watashi). Io denies what they are saying, and does not play along with their attempts even though he knows Tsumiki will not wear it otherwise. Io demonstrates an unwillingness to manipulate someone’s feelings even on the most basic level, while Tsumiki confesses a willingness to utterly control a person’s feelings for her own gain. In this and the aforementioned example, Tsumiki and Io’s opinions on key ethical issues are shown to be drastically opposed.
            But again, this dishonesty affects Tsumiki on a behavioral level. Going back to the scene at the claw game, Tsumiki blatantly lies about something trivial, much to Io’s annoyance. This continues at various other points, where Tsumiki denies wanting certain things in a knee-jerk reaction. Ultimately, it is implied that Tsumiki had blatantly lied about having organized her morning meetings with Io to appear spontaneous (Kuma). This could be understandable considering the embarrassing implications, but consider Io’s take on similar situations. Despite the embarrassing nature of some of his earlier pronouncements, Io was honest. Again, Tsumiki and Io’s behavior and values are at odds – Tsumiki will lie about the smallest things to avoid feeling embarrassed, while Io is honest about everything even if it means public embarrassment.
            Beyond Tsumiki’s consistent issue with honesty – something fairly standard for her character type – Tsumiki displays other behaviors that could be construed as distasteful or annoying. For one, Tsumiki is a sort of tag-along for Io. When Sakaki and Io decide to go to the arcade in episode one, the girls invite themselves, something the boys don’t have an entirely positive reaction to (Acchi). Tsumiki goes on to pressure Mayoi with her signature cat-glare into suggesting an unannounced trip to Io’s house (Shukudai) – again, an issue with honesty as well as the matter at hand. Even on the most basic level, we can always see that Tsumiki is at Io’s side – when they sit together, when they’re walking, and even in groups.
            I am willing to admit that Io doesn’t necessarily have a demonstrable negative reaction to the previous matter, but it is construable as something he might find annoying, or not to his liking. Anyhow, let’s keep moving forward.

Just run Hime, there's no saving her.
            Considering her inability to be honest about her feelings, Tsumiki displays a sometimes concerning level of intensity and territorialism for Io. This begins in episode three, where Tsumiki glares intently at Io while he socializes with his cooking team (Mujonaru). Seeing the sheer intensity Tsumiki displays clearly disturbs her group-mates. More instances of this occur in episode four, where Tsumiki first cat-splodes at her female friends at the prospect of others dating Io (Tsumakaetai), a clearly territorial response even at a joking comment. Later in the episode, Tsumiki denies wanting to move closer to the screen to see Io, but then glares intently at him in a manner that scares Hime (Tsukamaetai). Again in episode eight, Tsumiki uses her intense cast-stare to pressure Mayoi into a trip to Io’s house, an issue both with honesty and how Tsumiki’s intensity for Io intimidates others. Yet again, this issue arises in episode nine, where Tsumiki blows Hime away with a wave of envy for having tasted Io’s crepes – something reasonably explained by the fact that they work together. Later, Tsumiki physically attacks and bites Io for complimenting Hime and Mayoi’s outfits – this in particular is of issue to me, as not only is this indicative of Tsumiki’s intensity and jealousness, but her irrationality in punishing Io when she doesn’t even believe he would be perceptive enough to realize he has done something wrong. Finally, Tsumiki goes so far as to glare at Io and his customers while they enjoy a simple exchange at the cash register.  
            Ultimately a deeper look into Tsumiki’s character is less than positive. Beyond her initial traits of shyness, social awkwardness, and a refreshingly fantastic sense of romance, Tsumiki is someone who seems to always be around even when not invited, a person who is intense and territorial to a level that concerns her friends, and is willing to be slightly manipulative in the pursuit of that fantastical romance. Consider this image, not merely of a comedic tsundere getting cutely flustered as she tries to reconcile her feelings against her unfamiliarity with social situations, but rather a persistent, scarily intense girl laying claims to a boy she won’t even admit her feelings for.
All for the sake of that childish sense of romance. This in itself is a disturbing yet harmless take on the character, but I believe it could thoroughly justify Io’s distaste for the girl.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, you might be bewildered by the frankly contrary image I’ve painted of this simple, light, romantic comedy. Conceptually the ideas may follow but when compared to the show itself it just seems too far-fetched. If this is the case, allow me to sum up my points in a manner that may make it more palatable.
Yes, Tsumiki loves Io. Tsumiki is struggling to reconcile her personality against her romantic intentions, and occasionally using her aloof exterior to avoid an issue her shyness prevents her from being honest about. Unfortunately, this ultimately manifest as Tsumiki following Io hither and thither, annoyingly defaulting to an uninterested front and acting territorial. Unfortunately for Io, who has no interest in pursuing a romance with this character, he’s a really nice guy. Ultimately, Io perfectly perceives and understands Tsumiki’s advances and cues, but furthermore he understands Tsumiki’s character – the tsundere. He knows that her issues with socialization will keep her from ever actually pursuing a relationship in any concrete sense, which means he won’t ever need to explicitly reject her – that is,  if she never does anything about it, it would simply be mean to tell her off. So at that rate, Io is simply putting up with Tsumiki’s behavior. Because really, it’s just a harmless crush.
I mean, I don't know how they could make it more awkward for the guy.
The issue becomes more complicated, though, when this perception of cluelessness that Tsumiki holds stays true in everyone else’s minds. Io is surrounded by people who don’t think he has any idea what is going on, and therefore see no reason against facilitating Tsumiki’s advances, cheering her on as she flusters forward, and encouraging Io to drop a compliment here or a romantic line there.
We see Io become flustered or annoyed when other people make jokes or drop hints about the relationship. While in the photo booth in episode one, Io is clearly annoyed when Mayoi comments upon how “lovey-dovey” they look together (Acchi), and again in episode seven Io responds with annoyance at Mayoi’s “love-rhythm” comment (Yama).
Now that's just unhealthy for everyone.
 I don’t know how anyone could blame Io for his annoyance, considering the impossibility of his situation. Io believes in making others happy and has a romantic view of love, and therefore he doesn’t want to do anything overt to hurt Tsumiki. The trouble is, none of his friends understand his situation and therefore continuously force him into difficult situations with her.
As indicated in the discussion of strawberries in episode two (Oishii), Io is a peace-maker. Io is willing to set aside his feelings or entitlements so others can get what they want – an extension of his will to please others – and make a more peaceful environment. This, while a simple comment concerning cakes, reflects Io’s treatment of his circle of friends. His friends may put him in a difficult position with a girl he doesn’t like, but if it keeps things moving smoothly he’s willing to avoid the issue.
            That is to say, Io is never outright dishonest concerning his circumstances with Tsumiki, as that would be very contrary to his beliefs. As in episode ten, he’d rather not get “into whether that’s true or not” (Kuma). If he simply lets the issue go, Io can avoid having to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Allegorically speaking, I feel Io’s circumstances are best presented during the game of kick the can. Tsumiki pursues Io with purely romantic motivations – she wants to catch him with a good excuse to hug him, if not for that she probably wouldn’t even be playing. When Tsumiki comes upon Io, she dives into the air, preparing for glorious physical ecstasy. Io simply responds “not so fast,” and side-steps her. Tsumiki skids to a halt down the hall, overcome by gloom at missing her opportunity. Io, ostensibly confused, asks “the object of the game is not to be caught… right?”
This small instance very well ties up my view of Io and Tsumiki’s relationship. Tsumiki pursues Io with an intense vigor, and then makes overt attempts to “catch” him. Io, knowing full well what is occurring, dodges them succinctly, to Tsumiki’s dismay. Tsumiki simply believes he doesn’t know that she’s playing a different game, but in reality Io is aware and elects to stay uninvolved, outlining his own prerogative, “not to be caught.” To make it even better, their friends put them on separate teams, giving Tsumiki her opportunity.
That, all in all, is my perspective on Acchi Kocchi, a light and fluffy comedy about a supporting character covertly trying to escape the romantic clutches of the main character, while maintaining a careful air of cluelessness. Really, where Tsumiki believes she has everyone fooled, Io is the only one with a secret.
            As a final treat, allow me to heavily risk the possibility that I will be canonically proven wrong by asserting my view of the final scene. It will be entirely in shot / counter shot between Tsumiki and Io as they walk home after school. Having earlier gathered the conviction to reveal her feelings, Tsumiki will begin to stutter off a confession. We’ll see Io look down at her from over her cat-ear adorned head. We’ll return to a view of a flustered Tsumiki, as Io calls her name.
Her train of thought interrupted, Tsumiki looks upwards. Again, a shot of Io over Tsumiki’s head. Io will be blankly considering something far off in the manner he is wont to do.
Now, Io will say something – doesn’t matter what – obtusely romantic, but unrelated to their situation. I think, if you’ve known Io, you know what I mean. Mid-sentence, we’ll cut back to Tsumiki with signature look of Io-awe.
Then, rather than explosively losing blood via her nose, Tsumiki will simply grab his arm. Silently, Tsumiki has internally decided that there is no need to confess, be it that she’s content with their relationship as it is, or that she has accepted that Io accepts her for all her faults.
Either way, we’ll see a zoomed out shot as they walk home arm in arm. Pan up to sky. End card fades in.
Roll credits.
Now, ultimately, what does that accomplish from a romantic perspective? Absolutely nothing. I firmly believe, even if it should not end exactly like this, that Acchi Kocchi will go the way of so many half-season adaptations of vaguely popular romantic comedy light novels or manga: the vague, pseudo-romantic ending.
Which is fine with me, as it completely supports my theory. Either way, I won’t be changing this if I’m wrong. Also, ignore the horrid formatting in my forthcoming works cited section, formatting on a blog is simply wonky.

Works Cited

“AcchiKocchi.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Atakku! ⇔ Nyanbā Nyan!.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Kuma Enkaunto ⇔ Raburimasu.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Mujōnaru Yukigassen VS ⇔ Chōri Jisshū (Moe).” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Oishii Kēki to ⇔ Barentain Rippu.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Pūru to Y-Shatsu to ⇔ Shukudai.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Shukudai no Natsu ⇔ Matsuri no Natsu.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Tsukamaetai no ⇔ Koi no Dona Dona.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Watashi o Tsutsunde! ⇔ Koi to Roman no Gakuensai.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

“Yama da! Kawa da! ⇔ Bābekyū!.” Commie Fansub’s Acchi Kocchi. Writ. Ishiki. Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki. Studio AIC, 2012.

Influential men who were tragically assassinated


  1. I'm not sure if I should love you for your insight or hate you for ruining such a warm and fuzzy show. Does the manga support your theory?

    1. Then my mission is accomplished! But no, I doubt the manga supports my theory. In equal measure, however, I doubt it outright disproves it either. I will point out that I wrote this before the last two episodes of the show, even, which introduce a few specific incidents that I don't think could be reconciled with my theory - but then, I intended to write this crazy theory out and make clear the last two episodes weren't a factor in my thought processes when I wrote it.

  2. So since the series' conclusion, do you feel your hypothesis still holds merit/is as well supported? What kind of revisions (if any) would you make to it? I'm especially interested in your thoughts on (as you probably can guess) the scene at the end of Episode 11. I find myself wondering if perhaps the story is in fact some sort of middle-ground between your ideas and the standard view-point...
    (To elaborate, the "standard view-point" for the show is that Tsumiki likes Io, who is unaware of her feelings, so things never progress; yours is that Tsumiki like Io, who is in fact VERY aware of her feelings, and is for all intents and purposes rejecting her. This intermediate would be something along the lines of: Io is in fact aware of Tsumiki's feelings for him, as you suggest, but is oblivious to his own feelings rather than out-right rejecting hers.) Your thoughts?

    Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, very nicely done. It was a detailed, well thought-out, and enlightening argument that I found quite thought-provoking; kudos!

    1. I pretty firmly believe the scene in question is all but explicitly in irreconcilable opposition with the above laid out theory. My interpretation of said scene is slightly distinct from your own, however. Io has a very immersed, unconscious moment of infatuation for Tsumiki. When it ends, he realizes what has happened, and suddenly is forced to realize the nature of Tsumiki's feelings for him - though I would not go so far as to suggest he fully understands his own feelings for her at that moment.

      That is to say, I believe the show in that scene is entirely rejecting my theory in favor of what the clearly established premise was beforehand - Tsumiki is helplessly/comically in love with Io, who is helplessly/comically clueless to her feelings.

      In the end, however, I fully expected this to be the case. This article was intended more as a crack fic/off the deep end interpretation of this show based on my lens in reality. Acchi Kocchi's idea is fairly typical for anime - indeed entertainment media on the whole - in being a relatively baseless fantasy. This was sort of my way of looking at the show from a perspective of, 'how do these situations play out in reality?' Of course, this isn't to suggest I think fantasy should be based in reality, merely that I was having a little fun with the whole thing.

      So, I actually made a point out of publishing this before episode 11 came out because I suspected my theory would take a hard blow then. By striking preemptively I have a sort of pass, I think.

      Anyways, I'm very glad you enjoyed the piece. Thank you for your time! I've been horribly inactive on this blog - months without any new work - but with the release of the Lain blu ray set I may motivate myself to do an episode by episode breakdown of that, if that is of any interest to you.