No, I was not a cute loli shrine maiden. Yes, I did spend most of my time talking to a bear. His name was Teddy. We even went to the bathroom together. (So sorry about that time I dropped you in the toilet, Teddy…)
Kuma Miko has made me realize something that’s missing from most anime. A community. Here is the entire social circle of your typical school anime main character:
- A couple of classmates.
- One or two teachers.
- Four or five clubmates.
- The immediate family (often limited to a single imouto, the parents are mysteriously absent).
- The immediate next-door neighbors (but not the family two doors down).
And that’s it. Do anime characters never get out? For comparison, here’s a subset of the people I interacted with regularly in high school:
- My entire class(es), we had different classmates for each individual class.
- Various students I was friends with in other classes.
- Tons and tons of people in the band, in the science club, in the robotics club, and in the math club. Spent a ton of time with them, especially the band.
- My immediate family.
- My extended family.
- Multiple neighbors (knew all the families on the block, at least).
- Tons of people from my church (was closer to them than to my extended family).
- My boy scout troop (spent lots of time camping together).
- All my parents’ friends and their families.
- All my friends from another state (not going to go into the details, but we were really close) and the two previous states we lived in.
It’s been a long time and this is the list I came up with without even trying. I don’t understand how these anime characters can possibly survive with such a non-existent civic infrastructure. I would definitely go insane without the church, for example.
Yes, I realize that anime have limited time to introduce people and hence they tend to leave it out. Which is why I appreciate Kuma Miko. Maki and Natsu actually live in a community. They talk to their neighbors. They live together, as a village. Even if Kuma Miko doesn’t have the time to introduce every single character in the village, you can feel their presence. You can see the efforts of the woman’s association. We meet the children. We see all the old people coming to the shrine ceremonies. In most other anime, each of the characters knows the name of a maximum of ten other people. (Typically, they can’t even name all the people in their class at school…)
By the way, two other anime that do a good job at portraying a community are Hourou Musuko and Tamako Market.
Yes, I was / am Maki. I have a crippling fear of interacting with strangers. I was too shy to go buy clothes in the town nearby.
Kuma Miko portrays this fear perfectly. It’s not logical and you realize that. But you spend lengthy amounts of time planning out exactly how the interaction will go, and work yourself into a mental panic.
And of course things never go as planned…
On the bright side, I have learned to cope with it, and I imagine Maki will as well. Note that I don’t say I’ve gotten over it. I still tend to get knots in my stomach when I talk to strangers. My greatest fear is parties, I will never understand why people willingly subject themselves to torture and seem to enjoy it. But I’ve gotten good at acting and at least portraying a facade of a socially well-adjusted person. I’m so good at it that most people think I’m an extrovert. When I tell them I’m actually an introvert who’s really shy with a crippling fear of strangers they won’t believe me and will laugh and say I’m an extrovert who could never understand shy people. Which really pisses me off but that’s another story…