Leave it to the Japanese to take a totally weird, off-the-wall concept and turn it into a romance, and that’s the idea behind my next pair of reviews. The two anime are last year’s Mysterious Girlfriend X (which might be subtitled: You can’t get more intimate than this without…kissing), and this summer’s Kokoro Connect (Your body, myself).
Mysterious Girlfriend X is about a high school couple who share their spit, but not in the normal way that I learned to do, sports fans, with a quick game of tonsil-hockey while attempting to steal second base. No, these two pull gobs of spit out of their mouths on their fingers and give them to each other.
Still here? And what does that say about you?
Now, they don’t call it ‘spit’ in the anime. They call it ‘drool’, as in, what runs down your face when you sleep with your mouth open. But we know what it’s really called. The key is, by exchanging spit, they also exchange emotions, even dream content, sometimes actual images. Think of it as a brief, low bandwidth mind meld. Feel better?
Kokoro Connect is about a group of five HS students (three girls and two boys) who, because of outside intervention (exactly who or what is unclear right now), start swapping bodies, giving in to primal urges, and reverting to their younger selves. Each of the students has their own secrets and personal traumas and despite the on/off nature of the changes, these start to come out.
So, what’s the common thread? I’d say it’s trust – how it’s established and how it’s maintained, and how it can break down.
In MGX, the trust part is straightforward — sharing drool, the fact that they can share drool, forms a bond.
The anime starts out with the arrival of transfer student Urabe Mikoto in Tsubaki Akira’s HS freshman class. She’s a standoffish student who spends most of her break time asleep at her desk. One day, Tsubaki comes back to the classroom after the end of school, and finds her still asleep, head on the desk, small puddle of drool by her mouth. He wakes her up and she slopes off home, leaving the drool puddle. And because he’s a male primate of high school age, he sticks his finger in the puddle and tastes it. It’s sweet. A week later, he collapses at school and is taken home with a fever that won’t abate. Urabe comes to visit him, tells him his problem is he’s lovesick and addicted to her drool. She gives him a fingerload, and he recovers immediately. Ever after, they walk home from school together every day, and she gives him a shot of drool.
The rest of the series rings the changes on their relationship, it’s a coming-of-age romance. With spit. Tsubaki is always wondering about their relationship and if it’s working or not. This is a valid question, because it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They evidently don’t talk on the way home until that last moment when he gets his inoculation and they have a 30-second conversation. Now and again, she will let him hold her hand. They never call each other by their first names, it’s always “Tsubake-kun” and “Urabe”. Their first kiss is put off “until they understand each other better”, i.e. not in this season.
Meanwhile, Tsubaki, being a boy of that age, is looking at other girls, buying girlie magazines, fantasizing, and stumbling into a reignited romance with an old flame. Urabe is always pulling him up short. He buys a magazine because the model on the cover looks like Urabe, and she cuts it into ribbons with the scissors she always keeps stuck in her pants. Always.
Whenever she’s suspicious of Tsubaki, she tastes his drool, and right away knows what’s going on. For example, he has a surrealistic dream of having sex with her in a strange carnival city wearing strange costumes. She tastes his drool the next day (he’s been looking at her funny and won’t say why) and says “I may do that with you some day, but when I do I won’t be wearing a silly hat”. On numerous other occasions she, for various reasons, lets him taste her drool when she’s not wearing any pants, or clothes. He immediately gets an anime nosebleed. Other times he finds himself crying afterwards, because something he has done has made her sad.
Despite him being a bumbler, and her being stand-offish, or maybe because of that, this series works very well as a romantic comedy. The trust element here is that they always know each other’s true feelings, and they always can confirm that the relationship still holds. In the last episode, they hold a spit exchange ceremony at his mother’s graveside. Afterwards, Tsubaki says he’s not sure that sort of thing was appropriate, and Urabe says that it’s OK, because they’re going to be doing a lot of inappropriate things in the future.
The hard part about watching anime is accepting the initial conditions. Once you can get past the weird, and the anime logic, then the question is simply one of whether or not the series is true to its concept. Quite aside from the strange base concept in MGX, even the first episode raises all kinds of logical questions. Why does Urabe sleep so much? How does such an inexperienced girl (never had a boyfriend) have such a deep understanding of drool? Why does the drool thing work with so few people (there’s a number of subplots I haven’t mentioned). Don’t look at those questions and you’ll feel much better.
Despite all this, Mysterious Girlfriend X is a romantic comedy worth watching (it’s on Crunchyroll), and worth keeping. I plan to order a copy. UPDATE: Mauser, over at Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas does an excellent ep by ep writeup on this series.