Sweet Things are a Reflection of One’s Self-Image: Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori

Like Gakuen Babysitters, Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori likes having men indulge in what are considered stereotypically feminine pursuits…

Has Tsubaki always been this tsundere...? (Source: Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori ep 5)

Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori (henceforth referred to by only the first word, because that title’s a pain…) is a show that’s been flying under the radar this spring season, but it’s held up surprisingly well against its competition. That’s why when it brought up a chance to discuss the idea of gender stereotyping on guys in a series oriented at a female audience (which I gave Gakuen Babysitters a similar treatment for previously), I couldn’t pass it up.

The character of the day in episode 5, Isago, is a burly man with a face that resembles Pokémon’s Giovanni, and to top that all off, he’s a magazine writer in a department full of women! This contrast to both the Rokuhoudou boys and the relative youth of most of the previous characters of the day not only makes for great humour and creates an episodic conflict, but it makes a good talking point, since some of the ideas addressed in this episode have already shown up in this show before.

(Before I begin discussing further, something that might clear up some of the later points is that even though eating sweet things isn’t really a gendered thing per se, it’s been established in anime such as Ranma Half that it has more of a nuance of femininity in Japan.)

In Isago’s case, he keeps calling himself an “old man” and this is his main reason to not enter cafés alone. However, this could be more a defence mechanism rather than a problem of his – after all, he praises Tsubaki for doing what he couldn’t, and notes seniors go into Rokuhoudou without inhibitions. Even still, he’s happy to get the series he’s been hoping to get for a while and is clearly happy when his senior colleague Hayashi praises his work on said series, which demonstrates his passion for these sorts of cafés. To top that all off, the last 9 minutes or so of the episode is dedicated to a daydream of his where he’s portrayed as a woman, as if the show is acknowledging how Isago has come to peace with his pursuit of waffles and other sweets, even though they hold negative connotations for his image.

Isago’s reactions also notably present some implications about the four men who make Rokuhoudou the place it is. Rokuhoudou has been presented from the beginning as being a place for seniors and women, but episode 3’s Tsunozaki is a turning point in this regard, because it is after his appearance that the show gets more used to presenting men pursuing sweets, no matter what their motives are. Also, after Tsunozaki appears, there is more diversity within Rokuhoudou’s walls as a whole, since even young punks – or at least guys that look like punks in Isago’s eyes – aren’t afraid of going into the café while he is.

Sidebar: Interestingly, Sui and Gure are quite gender-neutral in how their tasks (cat-crazy café owner and latte artist, respectively) are stereotyped. Tokitaka, on the other hand, specialises in cooking (which, admittedly, isn’t as stereotypically feminine as it used to be) and he’s often shown catering to elderly Rokuhoudou patrons, to the point of heading out to restaurants with them. Yet in episode 4, Tokitaka’s presented by those elderly people as some kind of guy straight out of a period drama. Even if that was their collective imagination, that still makes it hard to argue about Tokitaka here…

Just to illustrate what I mean by “straight out of a period drama”, here you go. Or maybe I’m just too predictable, and that was actually an excuse to have more images of hot guys on this blog… (Source: Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori ep 4)

In fact, in episode 5 Tsubaki shows his tsundere side more than usual, a trait which is more commonly associated with female characters. This, tied with his job and skill as a maker of desserts and sweets – which implicitly declares him a lover of sweet things – portrays him as the most direct parallel to Isago even before the two get saddled together for their trip to Café Haru. The reason for this is despite Tsubaki having similar traits to Isago’s, he also has the confidence to pull them off without having the show needing to examine them.

No matter whether you’re concerned of whether your choice of sweet things reflects on your image or not, I think it’s best to keep in mind Tsubaki’s quote to Isago: “Just be who you are, the way you are now”.

I still haven’t discussed the idea of tradition vs. modernity that was presented in episodes 1 and 2, so we may be able to visit Rokuhoudou again if the content allows us to. So with that out of the way, what are your thoughts on Rokuhoudou so far? For those whose haven’t seen the show, do you think it would be possible to do an argument for Tokitaka like the one I’ve done for Tsubaki, based on the information I gave in the sidebar?

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