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Who said TV specials - counted as OVA's to some - aren't worth watching?
What can I say? If it weren't for all of those Spring Preview charts floating around I wouldn't have known about this 4-episode josei special. In fact, it was only one episode in 2010 but received an additional 3 this past month. Truth is we don't see much "pure" josei anime
Each of these four episodes is something unique. They each deal with the hardships and psychologies of four, different and modern women. Everything from unhappy marriages, divorce, first loves and much more. Truly thought-provoking and a rare insight into the point of view of women in these situations.
Otona Joshi no Anime Time - 1
The first of these four specials focuses on a woman on the road to divorce, moving back to her home town. She comes back after leaving it as soon as she could with a kid and the determination to divorce her husband. There's also the case of her regrets involving an old flame, and a defining moment in her life.
Technically this aired back in 2010, but it's still quite the sad story. I personally can appreciate the feeling of only wanting to move forward, and to reach levels beyond our expectations as we see from the woman's youth. To be ambitious and driven to leave humble origins is rarely seen as anything but positive, however if one looks only ahead, they miss out on so much without even realising it.
The moral of the story is, be happy. Our lead clearly had her regrets, choosing to move on with her life and marry someone who wasn't right for her and at the same time, giving up what could have been the happy life. Now she feels she must face her own burdens and not bother those who could have given her a better life.
I'll say it again: quite a sad story. It really makes you think about how you live your life and the choices you makes along the way. We may periodically examine our lives, but it takes time to get perspective on whether or not our actions were mistakes. The ending to this story really was something else, tugging on my emotional heartstrings. Not a bad way to start off a 4-episode set of OVA's about women and their lives.
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Otona Joshi no Anime Time - 2
Episode one started off on a very emotionally taxing note, so luckily for us the second episode gave us a happy ending to ta story of love.
This time our heroine is a woman in her late 20's/early 30's who left her husband - should be made clear, they are still legally married - for a garbage man. If you believe that love is blind, you should find some joy in seeing the story of how the two met and eventually came to live together.
The episode spent time alternating time between real-life footage of cooking and the animated version; cooking was at the centre of the story. I wasn't a huge fan of this. As nice an idea as it wast it just didn't add much to a plot-driven episode - each of the four episodes is very much plot-driven. That said, I liked that most of the monologue that came from her as she was cooking and it became a tool for her storytelling.
Calling this a feel good episode isn't quite accurate. It was certainly touching, and a lovely romantic story with a happy ending. There wasn't nearly as much drama like in the previous episode, but it was still more of a serious story than a feel good one.
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Otona Joshi no Anime Time - 3
I mentioned that the second episode, whilst touching, wasn't exactly the feel good episode of the series; this one is. An uplifting story about a middle-aged woman looking back at the best moments of her life, which of course means a rehash of first love experiences.
Along with this strangely adorable story and character came a complete change in tone. We went from a lovely yet ultimately trying romance to an upbeat, not-so-serious mid-life adventure and a yearning for the good old days. A nice change that allowed us to unwind a bit after watching two heavy episodes centred around very unfortunate women.
Technically our heroine in this episode was also wronged in some way, but it's not viewed in that way. It's a young, young romance that fell apart - what romance before the age of 14 even has a shot? - and taught a girl about heartbreak for the first time. Personally, I loved how the character put her most devastating moment as one of the best moments in her life because it goes to show that some of the better moments in our life aren't necessarily the happiest. That, and the fact that first loves always leave a little sting but remain as one of the most memorable life experiences.
Accompanying the light and fluffy story was lovely and subtle jazz background music. A fine finishing touch on the "prettiest" of the episodes as it gave the spirit a dose of happiness before we got to the final and heavier episode of the lot.
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Otona Joshi no Anime Time - 4
The last of the bunch was by far the hardest to sit through. Not because of quality, just the sheer unpleasantness of the story. Whilst it was the least happy one, it didn't fall behind the other three in quality.
Henry David Thoreau famously said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Ignoring the part about "men," you could perfectly sum up the episode with just that quote. Here we have a story about a middle-aged woman living a life of emotional hardship.
Under-appreciated, over-extended and ignored by her children, it speaks to the suffering a woman with no career feels when everything in her life goes wrong; husband loses his job, daughter stays out all night and the overbearing mother remains the chief presence in her life. If you thought your life was hard, then watch this episode.
What I appreciate about this episode is, again, the western concepts it brings. In particular, the part of the story involving the younger man who preys on women going through mid-life crises, which ultimately ends in the heroine not succumbing to the flow of events.
Eventually, the story ends in empowerment. Perhaps a good lesson to those around the same age who feel they may stray from their marriage or just let life at home remain unbearable. An unconventional happy ending to a story of desperation.