Thursday, June 16, 2016

Azumanga Analysis -- Kurasawa "Nyamo" Minamo

Y'know, until I started thinking about this analysis, I didn't realize how much Nyamo annoys me.  I don't really like her at all.  That is, of course, a purely subjective opinion.  Kurasawa Sensei is a well-defined character who serves her role in the story perfectly well.  It just so happens that I don't like her.  Something about her rubs me the wrong way, and it took me a while to figure out why.

The trouble with Nyamo is that she's kind of a wimp.  It's not simply a matter of her being steamrollered by Yukari (that is, someone with a steamroller-type personality), but being unable to to cope with anyone not clearly inferior to her in status.  Basically put, she's easily intimidated.  It doesn't take a lot for her to give in to other people's demands.  For example, take when Kimura was trying to watch the girls in the pool.  Any sensible person would have told Kimura to leave the pool immediately or be prepared to spend a very, very long time at the bottom of it.  But because Nyamo has a hard time pushing for her and her students' rights, she ended up allowing a predator to eye up the girls. 

This isn't the only example.  Nyamo can't tell Yukari to stop intruding and napping her apartment, can barely admit to the girls that she can't remember high school math or tie a yukata, and constantly fears any mention of her past.  You'd think that since both she and Yukari know things about each other they wouldn't like revealed, that they would be more or less equal.  But that's not how it works out.  Instead, Nyamo fears the slightest mention of what she's done, while Yukari casually sings "love letter" as she strolls down the hall.  Yukari, while not eager to reveal her own flaws, is able to casually dodge any mention of them.  Nyamo, when threatened in this regard, immediately cringes and screams. 
What's amazing about this is that Nyamo has no particular reason to be afraid of anything.  She's a reasonably successful person who is good at her job, admired by her students, and attractive to men.  She has nothing to really be ashamed of.  I mean, who cares if she used Yukari to learn how to tie a tie?  That's actually pretty adorable.  

Nyamo seems to be under the impression that just because she's in the same place as Yukari and Kimura, that she's only as successful as they are.  That's not true.  Unlike them, Nyamo has upward potential.  She can get married or take up a better job offer at any time she wants, and her only real obstacle is her own uncertainty.  She doesn't have a job just because she has to, and she's not at risk of being arrested.  Anything Nyamo wants she can get, so long as she believes she can.  Instead she surrounds herself with people who are clearly inferior to her, people that need her guidance and understanding.  Remember, she's a single teacher who's going with students on vacation.  They're not even in her class, either.

Minamo is the character who has the most trouble coping with the fact she's in a comedy anime.  The others each have their ways of being funny, while Minamo is usually struggling to keep her spirits up or busily confronting some other character (usually Yukari) for their issues.  We don't get to enjoy Nyamo for being herself.  While she serves her role of straight man just fine, Nyamo would be better served by starring in her own adult drama, something where she has room for depth and age-appropriate conflict. 

And that's why my favorite Nyamo moment is when she's flower watching with Yukari, and a petal lands in her drink.  At that moment, she realizes that she can have what she wants.  And for the whole episode, she's not merely the straight man in Yukari's comedy hour; instead, Yukari is the comic relief in Nyamo's personal drama.  If the two of them weren't supporting characters in a story that hinges primarily around students, Nyamo would clearly be the deeper of the two.

Runner up moment: when Minamo sinks a basketball in the third episode, she does a cool little pose to show off her goal.  It's the only moment where Minamo seems to understand that she really is a competent person, and just because she isn't good at everything doesn't mean she isn't a capable adult who deserves to be proud of her accomplishments. 

And until she realizes that, she'll always get on my nerves. 

Future predictions!  Let's start with some guesses, then I'll go with my official theory.  Minamo --
- Gets married, leaves her job.
- Accepts the offer given to her by her friend in the spring episode
- Accepts some other job.
- Finally gets fed up with Yukari and makes friends who are her true equals. 
- Moves back to her mother's neighborhood, helps her out financially/medically.

In the end, Nyamo is in a position that won't last forever.  She's on the verge of leaving her youngest years behind, and given her behavior in the spring episode, clearly she's thinking about her future and what she wants in life.  She's apparently been delaying answering her major goals, as she seems to fear them.  However, these questions will come to a head sooner rather than later. 

Kurasawa Minamo's ending: ----- Riding into the Sunset ----

Whether or not she accepts the arranged marriage her mother offered, Minamo will get married to a man with a good job.  She's pragmatic, popular, and good-looking, and it's pretty inevitable that she'll fall for someone.  She'll leave her job behind, perhaps a year or two after her wedding while she and her husband figure out their lives together.  She'll work a while in a high-paying company, but after a while will have children of her own, two girls.  After a bit, she'll go back into work, because Minamo enjoys helping others too much to stay at home.  However, her main fate will generally be decided by her husband, who will end up resolving her indecisive nature either by his own goals or by the requirements of his job.  They will probably move away from Minamo's old neighborhood.  From there, it is impossible to predict, other than the fact that Minamo will be helping others, and generally have a content, quiet, and reasonably successful life.

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