Thursday, December 29, 2016

Azumanga Analysis -- Mizuhara Koyomi

Yomi is the "boring" one.  She is, in every possible way, the most normal of all the girls.  She has no wild fantasies, social repressions, or unnatural goals.  Not a flying orange cat or sentient pigtail to be seen.  Indeed, all of her character conflicts hinge on really normal things: losing weight, getting left out of a group trip, and getting into college.  This is of course due to her role as straight man, bearing the brunt of the weirdness of the others.  It's her job to react to them as only a normal girl would. Granted, Yomi clings too tightly to normalcy, and she would really benefit from loosening up.  Fortunately, Yomi never seems that bad about it.  She's got a dose of nonsense about her, like how she immaturely brags about her trip to Hokkaido, follows along when Tomo suggests a "victory parade", and allows Chiyo to "put her energy" into a good luck charm. 

As for Yomi's will, it's of questionable strength.  At times it seems like she's got an iron will, and at others, particularly when she's talking about food, her willpower wimps out, and Yomi finds some excuse to eat what she wants.  Strangely enough, her will hinges on normalcy.  That is, she knows Tomo is fully of nonsense, so she's strong enough not to budge an inch when Tomo starts telling a story about mold monsters.  

Basically, if Yomi knows that something is the normal, cultural way to do things, she's pretty confident because she knows what to do.  Where she loses confidence is in areas that are more open ended.  What is the best way to diet?  Who knows?  Therefore, Yomi struggles.  However, I will give Yomi points for actually deciding to lose weight.  Despite not reaching her goal, Yomi has at least picked one out.  Which is more than can be said for most of the girls. 
The unfortunate reality of Yomi being the normal one is that she doesn't have a much to talk about.  That is, I want to talk about her talents, and yet we don't really know them.  She's a reasonably good athlete and reasonably good scholar, but not remarkable in either category.  Because she's stuck on normality, she doesn't really show any special interests that give her a special aspiration.  The only thing she's shown to be genuinely good at is being flexible, and I can't say a large number of jobs that hinge on physical flexibility, or that Yomi would want the few that do.  Koyomi-san, pole dancer?  Not likely.  The only specific thing that Yomi seems to like is cheerleading.  There's not even any proof that that's something she wants enough to pursue.

On the other hand, like Kaorin, she's a generally friendly, competent person.  Chances are she'll turn out alright.  She needs to think harder about her options.  As much as she comes across as a J in Myers-Briggs terms, she also doesn't seem to know what she wants.  She seems like the person who is better at saying "no" to things she doesn't want than at saying "yes" to anything. 

Like Chiyo, Yomi's outworld role in Azumanga prevents her from being as well known as the others.  However, what we get to see in the little hints and in the Hokkaido/Magical Land episode, Yomi seems like she's hiding a bit of herself too.  We know about it a little more because Tomo brings out a lot of Yomi's hidden side, but Yomi rarely expresses her desire to lose weight directly.  In fact, when she takes personally innocent remarks about food or weight, the others seem a bit astounded, as though they don't know that Yomi's insecure about it.  Note that she never is shown discussing career options with the girls either.  All the other Azugirls state their desires or lack of desires, but Yomi never brings up the topic.

Yomi is afraid of being strange.  She does give in to her silly side here and there, but normally it takes some sort of desperate situation for her to get in that position.  She wants to lose weight, so she's willing to write to a radio show about it.  She's the only one not earmarked for a college, and if Chiyo-chan's "power" can get even Tomo and Osaka into school, then she'll take it.  But under normal circumstances, she can't tolerate much in the way of nonsense.  No joining the yawning dojo or allowing herself to be associate with Osaka's hunt for Tokyo earthworms.

One thing I love about Yomi is her tough side.  She's not going to sit there and let anyone steamroller her.  Granted, Tomo takes this as a sort of challenge, but hey, Yomi decks Tomo twice.  The bigger the intrusion, the bigger the reaction.  It's sort of like how Sakaki guards herself with a shell, except while Sakaki receeds into herself, Yomi insists on making it clear to any offender (or "offender") that their behavior is unacceptable.  Yomi's extroverted self-defense is likewise a shell, one that paints Yomi as a supporter of rationality -- and just like Sakaki's shell, it's not the core of who she is. 

Actually, I think Sakaki's shell is more a part of her genuine nature than Yomi's is of hers.  Yomi isn't nearly as uptight as her shell makes her look.  On the inside, she's a normal, vulnerable teenager with normal hopes and normal immaturity.  Yomi's desire to protect herself is extremely strange, because nothing about her inner self seems odd enough to need protecting, particularly since she's far less weird than anyone else in the group.

When people get all pair-y with the Azumanga characters, they pair up Tomo and Yomi.  They never seem to realize how horrible an idea this is.  Tomo is poison for Yomi.  In Tomo's presense, Yomi becomes violent, angry, and impatient.  Tomo's buffoonery is both selfish and hurtful.  Being continually exposed to that, not to mention in combination with Yomi's general sense of normalcy, results in a Yomi who can never have anything good.

All of this is laid out explicitly in the Hokkaido episode.  Yomi is trying to express her happiness at getting to go to Hokkaido, and while yes, she was bragging, she also wasn't being all that bad.  Tomo, however, is so jealous of Yomi, she screams in jealously when she hears of it on the phone, she tries to stop Yomi from telling the others, accuses Yomi of getting fatter, gets upset when a drink dispenser "favors" Yomi, and attacks Yomi in the lunchroom.  This kind of extreme behavior in the face of a simple family trip is a sign of extreme emotional depravity, the kind of thing that renders Tomo unlikely to be a good pair for anyone.

For Yomi in particular, it's even worse.  Yomi tends to inadvertently encourage Tomo to be an idiot by trying to change Tomo's behavior.  This is the exact wrong thing to do, as Tomo appears to take it as a challenge.  When Yomi tries to guilt Tomo into feeling bad for not recording her favorite show, Tomo refuses to take the bait.  This kind of thing, in turn, causes Yomi to become more harsh.  Because Tomo is capable of taking a great deal of crap without getting upset -- seriously, she takes a punch from Yomi in the final episode and is fully cheerful immediately afterwards --  Yomi is encouraged to be more aggressive and defensive in situations where neither reaction is warranted.

In other words, Tomo is the source of Yomi's defensive shell.  Her influence makes Yomi a worse, less happy person.

Let's get back to the Hokkaido episode.  Here, Yomi is shown with a guide to Magical Land, trying to plan out their day at the theme park.  Chiyo finds and approaches her, only for Yomi to get nervous and pretend that she has to go do some shopping for her mother.  This is a confusing moment, as there's no reason for Yomi to want to avoid Chiyo.  Chiyo was going out to buy the guidebook too, so they probably could have just went to a cafe and planned things out together.  Chiyo would never have made fun of her for being excited to go to Magical Land.

But Tomo would.  And did.  Tomo acted as though Yomi was being childish for being excited to go to Magical Land, mocking her for showing even the slightest emotion.  Everyone else would just realize that Tomo is an idiot and there's no real point in caring about her mockery.  Yomi, however, has been beaten down so much by Tomo over the years that she can't help but be affected by it.  And so she reacts irrationally to Chiyo and ends up getting sick. 

Not to mention that Tomo's immaturity provokes reactions in Yomi even inappropriate for defense against Tomo herself.  In the Christmas episode, just prior to the Hokkaido one, Yomi reacts with sarcrasm to Tomo's honest inquiry about a Christmas present.  There was no need for this sarcasm, but Yomi has been so scarred by Tomo's annoyance over the years, that she always treats Tomo like she's up to something stupid.  To make it worse, Tomo receives this treatment and is only encouraged to continue to be more immature and irrational, as a way of punishing Yomi for trying to control her behavior.

Thus, while the two of them work well for a comedy show, they're a sinister cycle for one another, poisoning each other's perspectives.  Tomo continues to be too entertained by stupid things, and Yomi continues to shield her inner self from everyone unnecessarily.  The ironic thing is that this shield was formed because of Tomo, and yet does not protect Yomi at all from Tomo's negative influence.

In other words, if you're a pairing fanfiction writer and you pair these two, for shame.  Every time Yomi tries to have something nice, Tomo mocks her or gets mad.  Everything Yomi likes is just another vulnerability to be exploited by Tomo's teasing.  I suspect that the main reason Yomi hasn't talked about her future career is because she knows Tomo will either make fun of it, or attempt to join her.

Some people compare Tomo and Yomi to Nyamo and Yukari.  I don't know how much I agree with that.  While it's certainly a case of two friendships that consist of a crackhead and a normal person, their reasons for being friends don't seem that similar.  For one thing, Yomi has a far stronger will than Nyamo does.  Yomi also seems to realize more that her crackhead friend is indeed a crackhead, and would never group herself as "childish" along with Tomo. 

They also seem to be friends for different reasons.  Nyamo hangs out with Yukari as a way of delaying adult decisions.  Yomi seems more like she's just accustomed to Tomo, and can't get away from her because they're in the same class.  And while the adults' friendship is worse for Yukari than it is for Nyamo, the Tomo-Yomi friendship is more mutually destructive.

One of the very few flaws in this show is that the Tomo-Yomi friendship seems artificial.  The only time Yomi is shown really appreciating Tomo for who she is takes place in the end credits song.  Well, that, and in the two scenes where Tomo is shown fighting crowds to buy food at school.  Other than that, Tomo does nothing but bug Yomi all the time.  Tomo relentlessly mocks everything Yomi likes, and can't even let her enjoy a trip to Hokkaido in peace. 

So it's really up to fan theory as to why they're friends.  Probably it has something to do with Yomi's mean streak.  She wanted Osaka to try the spicy food despite Osaka's intolerance for hot stuff, and seems to take pleasure in bragging about Hokkaido.  In fact, she seems to like bragging about it as much as Tomo would had she been the one to go instead.  Their bragging is different, but it's all bragging.  In other words, it may be the case that Yomi is secretly a lot more like Tomo than Nyamo is like Yukari.

Another possible explanation for this friendship with Tomo is her friendship with Chiyo, who is second closest to her.  I just watched one of those "look forward to next week" bits that they have at the end of the ending themes, and it's the one right before the Chiyo episode.  In this bit, Yomi is announcing the episode, and she seems inordinately passionate about Chiyo's future.  She's talking about Rome, and ten years being an epoch, and other such over-important silliness. 

Yomi has always seemed to take Chiyo under her wing.  She tries to keep Chiyo away from nonsense and spends time in class studying with her.  The extent of their friendship is hard to tell because neither character gets lots of focus, nor is either character funny enough to support many scenes on their own on a comedy show.  They're also the most smart and sensible people in the group, so writing a scene with them together wouldn't produce any interesting reactions. 

In any case, Yomi seems to take to heart her elder status over Chiyo.  None of the other characters can have that relationship with Chiyo to the same extent.  Osaka is Chiyo's sort-of-equal, Kagura isn't academic or mature enough, Tomo really isn't mature enough (though at times she pretends to be), and Sakaki's friendship with her is based on different standards.  As the most mother-y person in the group, Yomi feels like she can guide the young and impressionable Chiyo to more sensible ways.  This is especially apparent when second-year Chiyo protests being doted on by the first years.  Yomi gets all "older sister" on her, explaining life to Chiyo when all Chiyo really wants is validation of her feelings. 

And that's why she pals with Tomo.  Yomi knows firmly that she is superior to Tomo in terms of maturity and responsibility, so she can treat Tomo like a child in much the same way she can treat Chiyo like a child -- they both "need" her guidance. 

There's a real ugliness to her relationship with Tomo, and part of me suspects that Yomi would be happier if she just hung out with Kaorin and Chihiro instead of the Azugirls.  These two, particularly Chihiro, are far more sensible and practical than her current group -- Osaka and Sakaki are introverted weirdos, Kagura doesn't appear to share any interests with her, and Tomo is Tomo.  Chiyo is the only one practical enough to have the potential for a close friendship. 

At the same time, Yomi does seem to take a perverse pleasure in dealing with Tomo.  She gets to exercise her irrational side when she deals with Tomo -- as much as her shell insists on normalcy, it's something of a relief to her to have a crazy person to drain her of her desire to do anything crazy herself.  It's a thing that happens.  Sometimes people want to be immature, and yet when someone encourages them to give in to their immaturity, they balk and return to sanity.  I don't have an explanation for this phenomenon, I can only say that I've seen it happen.  It's like the vague desire of something crazy is more entertaining than actually doing that thing.  Since Yomi is friends with Tomo, she can both have her crazy and not get blamed for it. 

My favorite Yomi moment is when she's bragging about Hokkaido.  Ordinarily Yomi is long suffering, having to put up with the immaturities of the bonkuras as well as the challenges of high school.  We rarely get to see her having nice things.  I like the idea of her being the subject of Azumanga's goofy happenings.  Her episode is one of my favorites of the entire series, despite the fact that she's not one of my favorite characters.  It's just so great to see the reality behind the "normal girl" and the "straight man."  It's also hilarious to see how badly she misjudges their souvenirs -- bear stew for Sakaki and "white friend black" for easily confused Osaka is hilarious as all get out.  It gives the feeling that Yomi isn't nearly as aware of reality as she thinks she is. 

Actually, a tie for this favorite is near the end of the same episode, where Yomi has just traced the Magical Land mascot on the window, and Chiyo gave her a souvenir snow globe of the mascot.  That moment is just so nice, illustrating both Yomi's maturity and the one time her storyline really gets to be magical -- it's almost as if the snow globe is causing it to snow for real. 

Despite the fact Yomi is a pillar of support for the other characters, she's also a deep, rich character herself.  I wish we could have seen more of this, but the fact that we're left wanting more is only proof that Azuma did his job well.

My second favorite Yomi moment is when she kicks the mascot drawing from Kimura's hands.  Y'know, at the part where he's trying to show off a costume design he wants the girls to wear for the sports fest.  I like that side of Yomi.  It's the part of her that keeps others from taking advantage of her or her friends.  It's the part of her that earns the right to protect Chiyo, and is the perfect partner for Tomo.  Y'know, it's kinda like Gon and Killua from Hunter X Hunter.  Gon (Tomo) is the one with low patience and wild ideas, while Killua (Yomi) is the pragmatic, tough one that talks him out of the dumber ones.  Tomo and Yomi should totally be magical girls together.

Potentials time!  Yomi --
- gets an office job in which she does well but unremarkably.
- gets married, has kids, that's about it.
- becomes a news anchor.
- becomes roomies with Tomo because Tomo can't get a place of her own. 
- ends up working alongside Tomo.
- gets some other career that the audience doesn't know about because we never really knew her personal interests.

No matter what else happens, I don't at all think Yomi will end up like Nyamo.  She may have less athletic talent, but she's also a hard worker and strong-willed.  Yomi will certainly make decisions in her life before she reaches Nyamo's age, and while she'll still be friends with Tomo, she won't be so emotionally dependent on her nutjob friend, and she'll have other people to hang out around.

Mizuhara Koyomi's ending: ----- In Every Way a Normal Girl -----

Yomi has always represented normalcy.  Thus, her future isn't going to involve any weirdness that doesn't come from the other girls.  She goes to college for general studies, and there meets the man who becomes her husband.  She becomes a mother and a newspaper columnist, having four children -- two boys and two girls.  Concerned about her weight gain as always, Yomi goes back to school to become a nutritionist, then eventually owns her own gym.  Along the way she writes articles for health magazines, and uses her friendship with Kagura to get interviews with the pro athlete.  Not to mention gives Kagura lots of health advice. 

Yomi is a good mother, and instructs her children well.  She encourages them to have constructive interests, and all four of them are good, diligent students.  Though it does take Yomi time to get them in order again every time Aunt Tomo comes to visit.

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