Monday, December 5, 2016

Azumanga Analysis -- Kagura

To me, Kagura is the most real of all the girls.  Despite the fact that Yomi is supposed to be more normal, no real person is 100% normal, and thus Kagura's quirks make her more real rather than less.  Both Yomi and Kagura are characters that serve to emphasize the true weirdness of all the other girls, but Kagura has a stronger almost-arc.  She's also, along with Chiyo, the most likely to succeed of all the girls.  In terms of natural talent and self-will, she has both aspects of success.  Despite not being academically inclined, Kagura is athletic.  Her self-drive is unmatched, so despite being lesser than Sakaki, Kagura knows that working hard on becoming strong will help her achieve her goals.

Unlike the other girls, Kagura both has goals and goes after them.  Kaorin, Yomi, and Osaka don't appear to have any specific future plans, and while Chiyo, Sakaki, and Tomo have some idea, none of them appear to know how they can reach their goals or ever make any direct progress toward them during their time in high school.  As confirmed members of the "Go Home Club", the other Azugirls are taking the time to enjoy their youth as they see fit.

Not Kagura.  Kagura has a greater awareness of her own flaws, and thus pursues what she has with direct action.  She wants to be stronger, so she jogs.  She wants an athletic future, so she joins the swim team and trains hard.  No one has to tell Kagura to do any of these things.  She knows it must be done, and does it.  The second summer vacation discussion on yukatas implies that Kagura even may be making these choices above her family's desires for her to be more feminine.

This also relates to the Kagura vs. Kaorin conflict I mentioned.  Kagura wanted a rivalry/friendship with Sakaki, so she makes it her goal and works toward it.  Since Sakaki never goes out of her way to make friends, Kagura puts in all the effort by repeatedly approaching Sakaki, inviting her to mini-challenges, volunteering to walk home with her, and protecting her from kamineko.  None of the other girls, not even the teachers, has this ability to choose what she wants and then get it.  They lack either the talent or the will. 

This is why, despite all her flaws, Kagura is going to succeed in life.  Barring some horrible accident, Kagura will become a professional athlete.  Actually, since she understands sports better than people, she's probably going to have issues when it comes to dating. 

But let's talk about her flaws for a bit.  As much as Kagura wants to have a rivalry with Sakaki, Sakaki can't fill that role as she doesn't care enough about sports, and cares even less about competition.  So Kagura ends up having a rivalry with Tomo, sort of.  Like Tomo's other rivalries, it's really more about Tomo trying to establish her own ego than a true contest of ability.  At the same time, Kagura really is a goofball, so the two get along very well.  Sakaki and Tomo are Kagura's closest friends. Which is interesting, because these two are the deepest and the shallowest characters respectively.

And as much as Kagura was described as the "constantly running after Sakaki girl", Tomo might as well be the "constantly running after Kagura girl."  In both cases, it's more about one person attempting to get a friendship where none previously existed.  Kagura wants a rivalry with Sakaki and can't have it, and Tomo wants a rivalry with Kagura and can't have it.  In the first case, Sakaki hasn't the will.  In the latter, Tomo hasn't the talent.

Except, of course, in academic matters.  They are more or less equal in that regard, and this is where it becomes obvious that Kagura is relying on her athletic talent to carry her places, as she knows she can't get anywhere with her schoolwork.  She has neither the talent nor the will to succeed in school, as her grades and unwillingness to take notes prove.  This is okay, however, because school isn't the only determinant of success.  In fact, it's not a determinant at all, other than in regard to how certain people perceive you.  A lot of people couldn't care less about your school grades, even people who offer jobs.  Kagura already has enough self-resources to get what she wants, so even getting a 30 on an english test can only have minimal affect on her, particularly when she has friends to share her poor performance with. 

God bless the bonkuras.  They're so great.

One of the things that makes Kagura feel more realistic than the other girls, besides the fact her conflicts are usually more on the ordinary side, is her sensitivity.  My absolute favorite Kagura moment is when she and Tomo are goofing around before a sports fest, but Kagura bumps into the tent the other girls are setting up and knocks it down.  It's so sweet, and realistic, how this brings Kagura to tears.  Instead of blaming Tomo for it, she accepts responsibility. 

Also, her question "Why am I such an oaf?" indicates pain.  In her past, Kagura has likely done clumsy, insensitive things.  Noticing her aggressive behavior in her interactions with Sakaki and the neighborhood cats, it's pretty easy to see that Kagura doesn't always notice how her behavior affects others.  She's just a small bit oblivious, and it takes moments like knocking down the tent for her to suddenly realize what she's done.  Kagura never wants to hurt anyone, and disappointing others tends to bring her to tears (see: end of first sports fest).  Kagura, despite her socially clumsy behavior, feels things very deeply.  Unlike with someone like Yukari, Kagura's confidence is not a defense mechanism, it's just genuine belief in her own abilities, with perhaps a measure of naivety.  It does not shield her ego, particularly not when the fault lies with her, or she feels it does.

Runner up favorite moment is when Kagura defends Sakaki from the cats.  Sakaki is ordinarily the defender of all things cute, but Kagura takes the role of defender for her.  It's also great to see Kagura offer her own perspective on cats, because as much as Sakaki loves them, she also lets them walk all over her.  Kagura's more disciplined, "punish the offender" approach presents an option that Sakaki never before seemed to know existed.  It's pretty awesome how Kagura is the only girl to put kamineko in its place.

I also like how in this moment Sakaki reacts by speaking to Kagura in a way she'll know Kagura will understand -- that is, Sakaki says she wants Kagura to stop protecting her so she can face her fear, when really Sakaki would rather have violent cats around her than no cats at all.  But of course heavily guarded Sakaki would never actually say the latter out loud.  Still, Kagura's persistence got behind Sakaki's shields, making her person #2 to do so (the first being Chiyo). 

And that's what characterizes the relationship between the two.  While Kagura attempted to start a friendship on the athletics they have in common, it's really their differences that make them work out as friends.  They appreciate each other's perspectives.  Kagura respects Sakaki's dedication, and Sakaki, so far as I can tell, seems to appreciate Kagura's dependability.  Kagura is social and goal-driven, as opposed to Sakaki's reticience and stability.  Their individuality is respected in the end.

Probably my favorite aspect of Kagura is that she sees rivalry as a form of friendship, rather than the more common idea of rivalry being based on having a kind-of, sort of enemy.  Kagura's "we're rivals, so we must be friends!" approach is hilarious, dense, and sweet.  Despite her ability to set and fulfil goals, Kagura retains a certain childishness which keeps her interactions with Tomo ridiculous and prevents her from understanding Sakaki's lack of competition.

Honestly, with Kagura I don't need to analyze much.  She's a "what you see is what you get" sort of person.  While her sensitivity shows when she feels guilty about something, ordinarily her skill and will combine to keep her in a good place.  Kagura is the most emotionally healthy person on the show, even including Chiyo, the close second.  While her ability to be provoked by someone like Tomo, along with her indifference to intellectual pursuits, is her downside, she has enough athletic skill, concern for others, pragmatism, and self-knowledge to cope with her flaws. 

What are some potentials for Kagura?  Well, Kagura -
- becomes a high school PE teacher.
- suffers an accident which destroys her athletic career and confidence, forcing her to completely rethink her life.
- ....

Okay, I can't think of any potentials that are worth a flip.  Let's just get on with the real one.

Kagura arrives at her college already with a reputation for being a star athlete.  She fulfills this reputation with flying colors, quickly being picked up by a coach who prepares her for Olympian level competition.  Kagura spends ten years traveling around the world and competing, and becomes a famous Japanese figure who participates in two separate summer Olympics.  She even visits her old school and speaks in front of the current swim team on three different occasions.

During her career she marries her coach, and her career is only interrupted once by childbirth, a son.  After some debate on the matter and agonizing decision making, Kagura finally decides she wants to try being a little more domestic.  She gives birth to one more child, a girl, and her older son takes a role in caring for his younger sister.  During this time her husband is still coaching and training, and he cheats on her with another athlete.  After a brief struggle with trying to hold things together, they divorce.  Kagura plunges into obscurity as she tries to reconfigure her life.

Still, sports are a world that Kagura never fully departs.  She "trains" her children, who share her love of sports, and when they're both in school Kagura returns to training other athletes and picking them for future sporting events.  She ends up being a scout for the Giants baseball team, partly due to her son's interest in baseball. 

Kagura remains friends with the Azugirls, and her friendship with Yomi deepens after the birth of her daughter, as the two bond over losing weight after having children.  Her relationship with Tomo weakens, due more to distance, as well as the fact that the things they had in common arose mostly from immaturity and schoolwork.  Since schoolwork is gone and Kagura matures pretty quickly, their old friendship changes dynamic.

All in all, Kagura has a happy life, despite some marital troubles and not really being that much help when her kids struggle with schoolwork.  She remains attached to sports for the rest of her life, through both her own and her children's activities, and she's especially close to her son.  He walked her down the aisle for the second marriage, to an assistant coach of the Giants.  She adopted his two sons, but they had no children together.  They remained married for the rest of their lives.

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