Hmm…this is a bit of a tricky one.
Hello, hello. If you’re new around here, this is the Spellbook and I’m the one who runs it, Aria. You’re probably here because of the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, who aim to celebrate people from all walks of life – regardless of their sexuality, race, nationality, ability or religion – through pop culture (although most of us, like myself, are anime bloggers). For June 2019, we’re looking at vulnerability:
In the month of June, we will be discussing what it means to be vulnerable. To some individuals, being vulnerable could be seen as a sign of weakness, but in fact, vulnerability is actually a sign of strength. In this month’s posts, we will explore what it means to be vulnerable and how certain characters in pop culture glamorize vulnerability. When do we show our vulnerability? How do we express vulnerability? Why should we show vulnerability? These are questions that we will be discussing in our posts featuring characters that show vulnerability and/or sensitivity and what we can learn from them or even our own personal stories.
Lyn says she made this prompt to fit Pride Month and that’s one possible interpretation…however, I see it as an entry point to writing about shoujo. Shoujo is full of discussion about what it means to be vulnerable, what with how it focuses on emotions (while using a kabedon or two), and this show I’ve picked – Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (literally Even Still, the World is Beautiful) is a reminder that defining “vulnerable” means defining what it means to be “strong”.
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii defines its protagonist first in order to define everyone else – Nike may have the talent to summon the wind and rain, but that and her being a princess are the two aspects that make her so valuable to everyone. Nonetheless, she doesn’t allow these things to define her by kicking butts and taking names where necessary from the moment she lands in the Sun Kingdom. Specifically, she gets kidnapped by thugs, also showing that she’s headstrong and determined and this makes it believable that others would gravitate towards her. She never loses her sentimentality though, so she’s always willing to jump to someone’s aid if the one being slandered isn’t her…if they wait long enough for her to help, that is. This rashness is portrayed as negative, but it just shows Nike goes with the flow (and you have to admit it makes for an interesting narrative).
Protip: The protagonist’s name is pronounced “ni-keh” and not one syllable like the brand. It took me a bit to get used to it.
Livi, too, doesn’t like to show his weakness, but the fact he has a strong attachment to his old servant Sheila can be exploited if it is known. His strength lies in military tactics and general running of a nation, but because he tries to do as much of his work himself, he has to rely on his staff and all-nighters really often. He uses the titles of “Sun King” and “King of the World” as a defence, both in the way of avoiding seeing Nike and to disguise the fact he is what he is – a teenager who uses adults’ work to dodge his sorrows.
This is a shoujo though, so it can’t be complete without romantic obstacles. For Nike, it’s the playboy (and also uncle) Bard and perfect queen-to-be Luna while for Livi, it’s Nike’s cousin and fellow failed rain summoner Kitora. These characters contain some of the main couple’s traits but exaggerated – for example, Kitora is a serious guy who’s overprotective of Nike – but interestingly, Luna is played off as a parallel to the couple while the others are otherwise hindered in romance by their own personalities (Bard’s playboy tendencies and Kitora’s dour disposition), which suggests different genders have different kinds of vulnerability.
So that I don’t blab on too much, I’ll cap this post with an observation: the show is called “Even Still, the World is Beautiful” because despite the romance, it could be argued the main conflict is getting Livi to see the world in a better light because in the beginning, he didn’t even see the beauty in his everyday life – the example given in the anime to prove this is how he ignores Cape of Sharon flowers (which only bloom in a certain colour in his kingdom), but he also ignored how he was helping the people of his nation and the relationships he had with the people who hadn’t already passed away. Therefore, trying to not be vulnerable by facing issues alone may just end up making someone more vulnerable as they box themselves in.
“You own the world, but you’ve never looked at any of it.” – Nike to Livi
I was going to argue something regarding Livi’s age, but apparently he could be 12 (?!) or 15 while Nike herself could be a more acceptable 16 or 18. Well, no matter – apparently my parents had a 17 year age gap when they married, so a 6 year difference is no big deal to me. (Can we please not talk about it though…? The age difference is one of the anime’s shortcomings and I’ve never read the manga, so I don’t know if it’s carried over.)
So, how’s your Pride Month been? I just write what I want to when I want to, so I never had anything scheduled for it, but certainly there are people doing things to celebrate somewhere…