How Does Anime Define True Love?
As expected, Kaguya-sama: Love is War is one of the gems of the current anime season, offering lots of entertainment as we follow the romantic “war” between Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane, who both love each other, but want the other to confess their love first. In a recent episode, Kaguya gets dejected and asks the cynical-but-good-hearted Ishigami about the meaning of love. Here’s the exchange:
Kaguya: Ishigami-kun, have you ever suffered from not being able to obtain true love?
Ishigami: True love? Let’s be a little more realistic. In this day and age, nobody can love another person without any self-interest involved. It’s foolish. Now, realistic love that’s in each person’s heart… Why don’t people realize that’s what true love is?
Something about the exchange bothered me, because I didn’t know the word Ishigami used, and the subtitles didn’t seem to cover the situation appropriately. Investigating further, the phrase he used was 等身大の愛 toushindai no ai, literally meaning “love as tall as your height is,” which is a romantic phrase meaning love without exaggeration or falsehood, with both parties trying just the right amount for the relationship to flourish. J-List’s DVD buyer explained it to me this way: “In this case, each person gives 100%. Not trying too hard by giving 120%, and not being lazy, giving just 80%.” In order words, Ishigami-kun’s advice on love is to find someone you can be comfortable with, with a good balance between what each person puts into the relationship.
Incidentally, Chika also answered Kaguya’s question on the nature of true love.
Chika: It’s simple! True love is the kind of love that can’t be swayed by appearance, like with Beauty and the Beast. Love that cools off just because one person’s appearance changes sucks! It’s fake!
How the Japanese Define Love
Since words create the framework for our thoughts, it might be interesting to look at the words used to express love in Japanese. They are:
- 好き suki. Literally means “like” but also represents the first stages of romantic love.
- 大好き daisuki. “Big like.”
- 恋 koi. The word for romantic love, the “fiery” sexual love you experience in the early years of a relationship before it cools to a longer-term love.
- 愛 ai. The primary word for love is ai, which encompasses the truest love and affection you feel for others. While koi is always a romantic in nature, ai can be the love we feel for family members, our country, or all of mankind. The deepest way to say “I love you” is ai shiteiru, but this is almost “too romantic” to be used. Yasu, J-List’s doujinshi artist contact manager, says it to his wife only once every five years or so, “so when I say it, it will really have an impact.”
- 恋愛 ren’ai. A combination of koi and ai that means romantic love. Sei, no…
- Like, love. English terms are sometimes used for clarity, as in the example below. The word suki essentially means “like” so Madoka had to switch to the English words to finally learn Kyosuke’s feelings for her.
Other Ways Anime Defines True Love
This got me wondering what other ways anime defines true love. Here are some examples!
Of course, it’s fashionable for otaku-focused anime to make jokes about love being a “trap,” as Yamazaki from Welcome to the N.H.K. does.
The pragmatic Ryuunosuke from The Pet Girl of Sakura-sou expressed similar feelings towards the idea of love. Of course, the jokes are on him, since Rita has him in her sights, and is very aggressive about winning him.
According to the cute short anime Love is Like a Cocktail (Japanese title Osake was Fuufu ni Natte Kara, or “Don’t Bring Out the Alcohol Until We’re Together as Husband and Wife”), love is defined by having a cute younger husband who loves to do housework then make exotic cocktails for you before sexy time.
One adorable series was Science Fell in Love, in which two science-types fell in love, but because they couldn’t quantify what love was exactly, they decided to start a series of experiments so they could prove what love was.
The Monogatari series offered this definition of love: if looking at their face makes you want to have their babies, you’re in love with them.
Finally, my preferred definition of love: finding someone who’ll give you half their life in exchange for half of yours. Can’t ask for more than that in life!
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