You are Ninomai Kisaragi. She is the school’s Chemistry teacher. She may seem like a loner, but, she just actually locks herself in her lab most of the time. She is kind, quiet and calm. She likes to try out her experiments on Chitose. She works her hardest to try and be a good mother for Chitose. She’s not weird, just extermely cool if you put it that way!
Take this quiz!
Hands up everyone who was surprised by this result. Of course, Kisuragi has a fabulous wardrobe, and all I have is this old kimono and a minisukarto that’s totally old school. I can’t be seen in those! I just can’t! (Bursts into tears.)
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about the folks on Happy Lesson, especially my two favorite teachers. The most favorite, of course, is Kisaragi, so I’m really glad I’m her. I feel that I have a lot in common with her. Now, don’t get your hopes up, I’m not a genius and can’t invent anything (though I can take things apart with élan) but I feel uncomfortable among people, have difficulty expressing emotion properly, and tend to keep apart.
Unlike me, though, everything Kisaragi does raises questions. Why doesn’t she eat with the others? Why is she seen in profile so often? (In the OVA end credits, all the teachers look at us, while Chitose is turned away—except Kisaragi. She’s seen from the side again.) Steven Den Beste left an informative comment in my last Happy Lesson post, so I considered asking him some more about Kisaragi, but that email remained unsent. Most of the questions about her are probably unanswerable. After all, and this is key, she’s not real.
How is it that some characters take hold of our imaginations and continue to live on, long after the vehicle that “holds” them is over? What makes one character “gel,” while another remains interesting but uninvolving? Especially someone who’s not a real someone, but is a combination of pencil, ink, computer data, and film, wrought before us by hands, camera, microphone and voice.
Part of it, I think, is that life is messy and unfair. We live day to day, in chaos and uncertainty. What happens today may matter, or it may not. Whereas the world of our chosen entertainments have an order and even a grace to them. Things wrap up. Things get resolved. Questions may remain, but the main arc, what is important to the characters—and to our entertainment, and thus, us-—that gets solved. And that’s what we care about when we plop a disk into the player. We want closure, we want the folks dangled before us to have the happy lives that we cannot. When they do, we’re happy for them and, by extension, ourselves for backing the winning team.
And if we’re lucky, and open, the folks dangled before us are released, while we watch. And they go on to their own appointed lives, without us.
But we can’t stop thinking about them. What are they doing now? (Ed’s note: this is probably where “fan fiction” comes from.)
It’s long been my opinion that creating such a character is the greatest achievement for a storyteller. There are, after all only a limited number of plots around—problems are myriad, but solutions tend to be of a type–and while these plots can be embellished and fleshed in the details, and made sort of new, it’s the characters that drive these plots. People who’ve never read Cervantes know who Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are, even if they’ve no idea of what sort of things the two of them faced. (A vague idea about windmills would be a best hope.) But we know how Don Quixote and Sancho Panza would face a problem, how they would react in a given circumstance, even, again, if it’s only a vague notion that Don Quixote would charge on in while Sancho Panza would wearily try to save his master’s face.
It’s my hope that they’ll also know, someday, who Kisaragi was, and is. And maybe, at some point, they’ll know who I was. In a way, I’m a form of entertainment after all. A not very entertaining bit of entertainment, yeah, but stranger things have happened. Some day there might a contest to look like me! (Stop scowling.) And the losers would be losers, and the winners…well, they’d be losers too. Be fair.
PostScript: My second favorite teacher was…Satsuki. Yeah, the jock. In contrast to Kisuragi, with whom I do share some characteristics, I’m not really anything like Satsuki. So, what’s her appeal? Well, various factors. One, I’ve always had a thing for women who could beat the daylights out of me at a moment’s notice. Dr. Who’s Leela, Futurama’s Leela, Emma Peel, Mireille Bouquet, Lyar Von Ertiana, Filthy Rotten Angel, Misato, Ryoko…the list goes on, farther than I, well, really ought to be admitting in public.
Secondly, in the English language OVA Christmas episode, she gives this wonderfully exuberant cry of “Let’s get drunk!” that just sounds perfect and has a great echo. And it is a hobby I share with her! All right! Let’s get drunk!
Finally and most importantly, I think it’s her introduction in the TV opening credits. She’s swimming underwater directly toward the camera, in an incredibly gorgeous shot. It really is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. Over and above the character itself, that shot shows that the makers of Happy Lesson know how to present their creations. I keep thinking, I can swim like that, but the chlorine would kill my eyes.
But then I remember, she’s not real either. No matter. She can arm-wrestle me any day!