Koi to Yobu Kimochi Warui: The line between romantic and disturbing relationships.

People fall in love in the most mysterious of ways. This statement seems to be especially true for the affluent genius playboy Ryou Amakusa. When he nearly falls off the stairs one rainy morning, a girl named Ichika Arima saves him. As if by fate, Ryou encounters Ichika again later that night; she happens to be the best friend of his little sister, Rio.

Wanting to “thank” her, Ryou attempts to woo Ichika by employing his usual flirtatious tactics only to be immediately shot down, his target creeped out by his behavior. Rather than being discouraged, Ryou instead becomes more enthralled by her, and he begins to do everything he can to steal Ichika’s heart despite receiving disgusted reactions each time. However, as time passes by, will Ichika remain repulsed by Ryou’s creepy yet dedicated advances?

Myanimelist Synopsis

Nomad animation studios released Koi to Yobu or Koimoi April 2021 as a romantic comedy between an adult business man Ryou and a high school girl Ichika. I’ve read plenty of age-gap shoujo romance before. There is a wrong way and a right way to handle these types of stories, just like any other type of relationship.

I first read Koi to Yobu Ni Wa about four or so years ago when there were only 6 or so chapters out. I felt, like the main girl character Ichika, Ryou was creepy but not a bad person. I didn’t think much about the story until I saw a few months ago, by some miracle, there was an anime.

I couldn’t believe anyone would want to animate this story. Not because I hated it or anything. I didn’t think it had much substance or merit. It was a forgettable, strange romance.

What I wondered is what kind of romance Koimoi is trying to be and how audiences should react to it.

Abuse and Lust are NOT Love

Some age-gap romances sugar-coat alarming relationships by making an abuser beautiful and misunderstood. These types of characters exhibit abusive and manipulative tactics to seduce a younger person. Usually, this is painted romantically by writers and directors and, oftentimes, the younger person “changes” or changes for the abuser, abandoning their morals and dreams. It’s Beauty and the Beast‘s toxic, wily twin. 

One example is Naomi Novik‘s novel Uprooted (2015). In my review of the book I surmised,

The central relationship between the ‘dragon’ and heroine Agnieszka is one of the worst examples of toxic attraction I’ve been unfortunate enough to read.

Let me clear, how the Dragon treats Agnieszka is horrendous. He was constantly angry and annoyed at her for no reason. He verbally abuses her from the moment he meets her, calling her an astonishing amount of cruel names. He physically abuses her in his lessons during sudden spurts of anger. He mocks how she looks, calling her ‘horse-faced’ and ‘dirty,’ and makes her change her appearance to conform to his tastes. When Agnieszka defends herself when a prince attempts to rape her, he screams at her, asserting her virtue is not worth the price of an angered prince. 

I could talk about the moments he works her till she is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted, or the many times she breaks down in tears because of things he’s said or done to her. I could also talk about how terrified she was in the first half of the book because she thought he would rape her. He never apologizes. He barely gets better. Not to mention, he starts a sexual relationship with her near the end of the book when he is almost 130 years older than her. This relationship is acceptable because he looks young and handsome. . .

The real issue is some readers buy that this is a romantic and healthy love story. It’s not. It’s incredibly dangerous. Those who have suffered through abusive situations similar to those illustrated in this book wouldn’t find this story so sensational.

Taken from March Book Madness! Day 2, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted (2015) 2/5 (Emphasis added)

There are many other examples I could name like Vladimir Nabokov‘s novel Lolita or director Christophe Gans‘s film La Belle et la Bête (2014). It is easy to “fall in love” with these type of stories because they contain just enough backstory to help you empathize with twisted individuals. In other words, viewers and readers rationalize toxic behavior because the character suffered.

On paper it seems to work out great. In real life, it never does.

Respect and Sacrifice in Age-Gap Romances Make All the Difference

The main difference between corrosive and healthy age-gap romances are the characters’ intentions. In every great romance I’ve read where the main characters had a larger age gap, their relationship was defined by respect and sacrifice.

Take for example Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet by Yamamori, Mika. Akatsuki and Fumi have a twelve-year age gap between them. They live in the same house together for almost two years. There is no parental supervision whatsoever. Usually, this becomes the breeding ground for unhealthy relationships. Yet, Yamamori didn’t take that approach.

Just because they were in love didn’t mean their relationship had to or should have been primarily sexual. Akatsuki tells Fumi several times he would respect her age and wait for her to grow older. Once Fumi’s father comes back, Akatsuki explains to him that he and Fumi have feelings for each other. They wait five or so years and marry. Their relationship was grounded in respect and sacrifice.

The same can be said about Kouchi, Kaede‘s manga Love So Life. Matsunaga and Shiharu had a 9-year age gap. Both fell in love with the other. Though there were many times where he could have given in to his feelings or used her feelings to his advantage, he respected her age and waited till she was in college before they started a relationship. What was truly remarkable about this story was how they not only respected and sacrificed for each other, but they also respected their own feelings.

So What Type of Romance is Koimoi?

Koimoi should feel really romantic, but it doesn’t. It feels incomplete. It wants to be a heart-warming romantic story between a good natured high school girl and and misguided adult, but it comes across as immature and confusing at times. That doesn’t mean it portrays a toxic relationship.

I’ve thought a lot about this story these past few months. I finally figured out why. I was curious to know what type of person Ryou REALLY was, and the depth and scope of his intentions. I wanted to see if his relationship with Ichika would be any different from his previous flings.

I paid attention and waited to see if this story would surprise me.

Ryou-san Acted Like a Middle Schooler with a Crush. Not a Pedophile

The whole time I watched the show, It never occurred to me Ryou had bad intentions. I wondered why, I mean. . . he wanted to take the toothpick Ichika used as souvenir. Then it hit me. He had never actually experienced being in love with someone before. So, he reacted and pushed himself on her through phone calls and gifts to try and figure out why he was feeling the way he was.

Watching Ryou shower Ichika with gifts and attention brought back memories from middle school, when I was young and didn’t understand how to properly convey my feelings. That said, Middle Schoolers are rarely the best examples of how to maintain a good relationship. It’s not okay to force your feelings on someone or ignore them when they tell you they are not interested.

In all his encounters with Ichika after their first initial conversation, he never made sexual overtures at her. Not once. He changed for the better, albeit in a strange and immature way.

Do I think this romance is disturbing? No. Ryou respected Ichika and her decisions. In fact, there even comes a point where he truly starts to understand how she could potentially suffer being in a relationship with him. His feelings were genuine, yet immature. All in all, I think their relationship needed a better foundation. They needed moments to develop trust and know more about each other.

What about Ichika’s Feelings?

Ichika’s feelings mattered. Just because Ryou was in love with her, didn’t mean she should feel obligated to accept him. That’s not how love works. She saw him change and in due course developed feelings for him. She didn’t ask him to get rid of his bad habits. He just did. And his feelings were sincere and evolved throughout their “courtship”.

I believe it was his sincerity that won her over. She could tell he was serious, even though she had little confidence in herself because of her age and looks.

I wasn’t necessarily rooting for her to fall in love with him. Honestly, if she had fallen for her classmate Tamaru instead it would have been fine. But I didn’t mind seeing her finally accept and reflect Ryou feelings. I needed more substantial evidence of her feelings.

I just wonder if she should have fallen in love with Ryou. Even if he was not a bad person, that doesn’t mean she needed, for the sake of a story, to like him back. Again, it’s not bad that she fell for him. It’s just. . . she could have done ANYTHING. The story didn’t give her time to blossom in different ways.

I Still Have SO Many Unanswered Questions

The story had a lot of plot-holes regarding the characters and their motivations.

I had countless other questions:

What happened in Ryou and Ichika’s relationship? Did they get married? How did they get there?

Were Ryou and his father able to resolve their differences? How did they even develop such a harsh relationship? Did Ryou rebel or was his father simply too strict on him?

What happened to Tamaru and Arie? Were they just random love interests to progress the story?

Why did Ichika fall in love with Ryou? What was it about him?

What is the main message this story is trying to convey? etc. . . . etc. . . . . etc. . .

Though it felt like the story had resolved itself, I still had the most questions and misconceptions about Ryou as a character. Ryou had a really strenuous relationship with his father which caused him to detach and not seek meaningful relationships. But there was no time dedicated to this part of his character.

I didn’t feel like he went LOOKING for ways to rebel. He just accepted trouble when it came to him. For example, whenever it showed women fawning all over him he looked completely detached, like he couldn’t care less if they slept with him or not. It was as if he was stuck in the Doldrums, falling in and out of bad relationships because he didn’t have the will to fight it.

However, this was all speculation on my part. The author and the show never talked about this. If they had explored this part of his character, I think it would have given readers and the audience more clarity concerning his character and development.

This Could Be a Revolutionary Story in the Hands of a Better Storyteller

With all its missing pieces, Koimoi feels incomplete. Not only that, but the animation in the show was clunky and lazy.

People are complicated. That is why I kept watching this show. I had a feeling it was different than people said it was. I also wanted to see if the storytellers could evolve this type of romance in ways I’d never seen before. If they did that, the characters and their relationships could BLOSSOM.

But that didn’t happen, unfortunately. I’m still confused and wondering why the original author wrote this story.

In the future, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more English chapters. Perhaps the anime is a watered down version of the manga.

My Score for the Anime:

Animation: 6/10

Story: 7/10

Characters: 6/10

Overall Score: 6.3/10

DAY 9- Month of Movie Quotes: The Man Who Laughs (1928)

The Man Who Laughs   See my original review. 

1.God closed my eyes so I could see the real Gywplaine.

2.A king made me a clown, a queen made me a lord, but God made me first a man!

I decided to write to quotes because I believe they are connected. The first is the moment when Gwyplaine realizes Dea, despite his fears of losing her, loves him even knowing his face is deformed.

The second is the moment he proclaims from the depths of his soul the essence of who he really is. There is power knowing who we really are. And there is power in truly living and being loved by others.

DAY 3- Month of Movie Quotes: Cinderella (2015)

King: Oh, you’ve come. Good.
Kit: Oh, Father. Don’t go.
King: I must. You needn’t be alone. Take a bride. The Princess Chelina. What if I commanded you to do so?
Kit: I love and respect you, but I will not. I believe that we need not look outside of our borders for strength or guidance. What we need is right before us. And we need only have courage and be kind to see it.
King: Just so. You’ve become your own man. Good. And perhaps, in the little time left to me, I can become the father you deserve. You must not marry for advantage. You must marry for love. Find that girl. Find her. The one they’re all talking about. The forgetful one who loses her shoes…loses her shoes.
(BOTH CHUCKLING)
King: Oh, be cheerful, boy.
Kit: Thank you, Father.
King: Thank you, Kit. I love you, son.
Kit: I love you, Father.
(PRINCE SOBBING)

When I watched Cinderella in theaters, I loved the relationships shared between parents and children. I especially loved the scene where this quote takes place. I thought how much his father loved him, to tell him to marry for love and make his own choices.

I liked the romance in this movie, but this was by far my favorite scene because it spoke of real love only a family can share.

I also loved how human it made the Prince feel as he cried by his father’s bedside. I would love to see more loving relationships between fathers and sons in stories like this one.

DAY 2-Month of Movie Quotes: Sabrina (1995)

Linus Larrabee: Listen, I work in the real world with real responsibilities.

Sabrina: I know you work in the real world and you’re very good at it. But that’s work. Where do you live, Linus?

I watched this movie again the other day and reflected on how so often love comes unexpectedly. In fact, much of the time it comes when we least expect it. For those who have not seen it, I would recommend it if you love subtle romantic films.

This quote has always reminded me how there are so many in the world who are not living in it. I feel there is so much we can be, do and dream. Yet, I wonder if too often we get caught in the “real world” and forget to experience life.

For the characters, I believe Sabrina told Linus this out of experience: because she had lived for so long chasing an illusionary love and not living for herself. Linus himself had always worked and that became his life. But I think it is tragic if we don’t allow ourselves to live outside the bonds of work for a time.

Book Quote: Miss Burton Unmasks a Prince (2015)

The correct relationship​ will make a person bloom. He becomes more himself, his talents deepen, his personality grows, and he thrives. But the wrong relationship will produce the opposite. The things that were once so vital no longer matter. His talents disappear, his individuality fades, and he wilts. -Jennifer Moore

Book Quote of the Day: Unraveled-A Tale of True Love 

       

‘I’ve been thinking,’ he said. ‘Maybe I’m ready to settle down. I’ll take you home, then find myself a nice girl to marry.’ He looked thoughtful as he considered his future. ‘Maybe there is a family somewhere who needs a good, strong man. A family with an available daughter. But she must also be a lady. And someone who will be a good friend.’ He brushed a leftover straw from her hair, never taking his eyes off here. ‘Someone who is both beautiful and strong.’ 

Did he mean her? She glanced over her shoulder as if some exquisite maiden might emerge from the trees. That seemed more likely than Rhys meaning her. He knew she was lame. 

The Gwyllion’s words came to her mind. Stars do not shine on dreamers but only on those who see the truth. 

She had been a dreamer; that was truth. To think she had honestly believed she would marry the king’s son. No girl had dreamed bigger. She’d thought Urien’s love for her was truth. She had been altogether wrong. Urien had not loved her; that was Urien’s truth.

What was Rhys’s truth?

A dozen scenes played through her mind. Rhys, sitting at her bedside through the night, trying to bring down her fever. Rhys, rubbing her feet with salve, working to get some strength back into them. Rhys, carrying her up the mountain to see the snow lilies in bloom. Rhys, facing Urien in the water of battle, giving up everything- to save her. 

He’d done more for her than any other man alive. That had to count for something. 

That had to count for everything. 

The truth hit her softly yet utterly and completely. She cared for Rhys more than she’d ever cared for anyone. 

She lowered her eyes and stared at her ruined legs.

But no.

It couldn’t be. 

She was mistaken. 

With barely a whisper, she repeated the question she had asked herself for eight, long years. ‘Who would want a crippled wife?’

Rhys took a step toward her. With a rough and calloused finger, he wiped a tear from her eye, then reached out, pulling her close. ‘I think I might know someone.’ 

Unraveled: A Tale of True Love, Julie Daines, 2014

Gigi (1958)

stanley2345I watched Gigi when I was seventeen years old. It actually came in a case with two other classics “Singing In the Rain” and “My Fair Lady”. I found it surprising that it would be included with such masterpieces and I believed that it would be average at best. However, my admiration of the film has grown over the years and after watching it yesterday (January 23, 2014) my first impression of the film has been thrown away and labeled as a moment of naivete.

gigi21

PLOT: 5/5

The film takes place in Paris during the turn of the 20th century and centers on the high society, or more accurately on the culture that had developed there among the elite. This film shows impressively the intricate relationships between men and their mistresses and the effects of living such a lifestyle. As the film opens with Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” I was both charmed and intrigued by the message that lay there. Men needed women, however a woman’s worth depended on the man’s perspective on what was socially acceptable and what they could gain from them. A woman’s image was intricately connected to the role she played in a man’s mind. For me, the film showed what happened to women who were mistresses to the elegant “lovers” of high society. They were expected to be feminine, charming, graceful, knowledgeable on jewelry and quality and subject to their patron. Those in that world (both men and women) lived what they called a truly romantic lifestyle, in the springtime that all lovers aspire for without limitations made by marriage and family. They went to cultured events, threw elegant parties and traveled the world. However, when their springtime ended and they grew tired of each other they moved on. The film masterfully shows not only that such a lifestyle is detrimental but also that true love is found differently and much longer than the short time given in springtime. I think this idea is shown best when Gigi’s grandmother and Gaston’s uncle reflect on their own romance in “I Remember it Well”. Though he claimed to be such a romantic he barely remembered anything about their relationship together. It truly was only a passing fancy.

gigi iii

CHARACTERS: 5/5

I found all of the characters in this movie enjoyable to watch and study. None of them were boring, and to me they all contributed something essential in understanding the meaning of the film. I will talk about the two main characters the most because I believe they embody the movie’s ideals the best.

Gigi is the character who, in my mind, represents innocence and genuine self-awareness. I found it fascinating to watch her as she sang “The Parisans”, and mock “the art of love-making” that her aunt and so many around her believed in so thoroughly. I believe that she saw it as fake. She wanted something more genuine in her life. She wanted to laugh, play games, and most importantly be herself. When it came to love she wanted something long-lasting and a relationship that didn’t have to follow all the silly rules her aunt showed her. To her, “The art of love” that so many followed was a mere counterfeit. I found it amazing that though she loved Gaston she could still see what fate awaited her if she were to accept his offer and become his mistress. Despite this, she still decided to accept because she couldn’t bear to be apart from him.

Gaston (Louis Jourdan) was a victim of that counterfeit lifestyle. He was bored and empty and he found all the wonders that his uncle reveled in to be unfulfilling. His uncle, who had followed that lifestyle till old age, fought to persuade his nephew throughout the entire film that he would be happiest following his footsteps. However, The things that Gaston enjoyed the most weren’t all that glamorous at all. He was happiest when he visited Gigi and her grandmother at their small apartment. When he realized that he loved Gigi, making her has mistress was the only way he knew to show his affection. It was what he had been taught and how he had lived most of his life. However, when he saw her in that environment I can imagine the revulsion he felt by bringing her there and having her change into what she hated. When he pulled her away from the restaurant and left her at her apartment, I could see the wheels in his head turning. As he walked ,along the same path he had taken when he realized he loved her, he realized his feelings had not changed but his perspective had. He could not force Gigi to live a lifestyle that would ruin her and bring her unhappiness and yet he could not part from her. When he asked her to marry him I thought the same thing as her grandmother. Thank Heaven that they were able to find each other and realize that true happiness came from long-lasting commitments and not short term fantasies.

gigi-1

MUSIC: 3.5/5

I don’t believe that the music in this film is that spectacular. In fact, I think the film would be able to progress just as well without it.  Each of the songs follow the same pattern and they lack diversity and individual charm. I don’t mean that the songs aren’t charming or fun to listen to. They are just average. I have to say though I enjoy listening to “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”. Often I find myself humming it when I remember this film or I watch “The Aristocats”.

CINEMATOGRAPHY: 4/5

The film isn’t boring it is just simple. It doesn’t give you anything extraordinary but I don’t believe that it is meant to. The message is simple and so is its visuals. I would have given it a 5 if it had shown me something I wasn’t expecting. However, it’s purpose is to charm through its characters and story not through anything visually glamorous.

still-of-leslie-caron-and-louis-jourdan-in-gigi-(1958)-large-picture

PERSONAL ENJOYMENT: 5/5

As I said before, this has become one of my favorite films. Not because of the music or anything fancy but because it leaves me with a feeling of relief and respect for its creators. It isn’t often that you find a film that endorses marriage and shows the emptiness that comes from engaging in counterfeit relationships. This isn’t a romantic film meant to glamorize love but to show true love and the happiness it brings to those willing to look for it and commit their life to another person.

OVERALL SCORE: 4.5/5

FAVORITE QUOTE:

[last lines]

[after a long while, Gaston  returns to Madame Alvarez’s apartment]

Gaston Lachaille: May I come in?

[Gigi shrinks into a corner, hoping to be spared]

Madame Alvarez: Please, Gaston… no papers… no scandal.

Gaston Lachaille: Madame, will you do me the honor, the favor… give me the infinite joy of bestowing on me… Gigi’s hand in marriage?

[Gigi, filled with relief and joy, draws to Gaston’s side]

Madame Alvarez: [smiles] Thank Heaven!

[“Thank Heaven for Little Girls” plays again]