Crying Your True Tears

by eternal on April 14, 2010

In a word, True Tears is spectacular. It’s a well-crafted love story that doesn’t succumb to the common failings of its kind. Be it visual novel or shoujo manga adaptation, romance anime are often hit-or-miss, falling apart at the lack of realism or the unnecessary angst or the uninspired telling of a straightforward plot. It’s rare to find a story that, despite being fairly ordinary, hits every note with such eloquent accuracy. Rather than being a tear-jerker or a personal favourite for various subjective reasons, this is one of the first shows on my favourites list to earn its spot based on sheer competence.

Most bloggers have already written about True Tears and most fans have already settled into their opinions of it, but my second viewing gave me the insight I needed to understand why the show received the praise that it did. This is my attempt at examining the anime that made me remember that, from the viewer’s perspective, there is such thing as the perfect story.

Part 1: Exposition

Inside of me, you’ve always been crying. ‘I want to wipe away your tears’ is what I think, but I do not know what your soft, warm face will look like after the tears are wiped away.

True Tears sets its stage by cramming a lot of relevant information into a very small amount of screentime. The first line of the show reveals something important about the protagonist: he’s in love. Ironically, this bit of information isn’t as obvious as it should be since there are more than a few protagonists of self-proclaimed love stories who show very little emotional attachment until the plot demands it. The very first thing we learn about Shinichiro is that he’s dreaming about a girl that he’s too afraid to reach out to.

The emotional tension between Shinichiro and Hiromi is hinted at in a lot of ways, much less subtly as the series goes on. Even the seemingly generic fanservice scene in episode 1 unfolds differently than you’d expect it to, concluding with genuine embarrassment on Shinichiro’s part and an unreadable expression on Hiromi’s. The scene does more to reveal the tension in their pseudo brother-sister relationship than to reveal Hiromi’s striped panties, although it does both quite well.

Since most of the series is shot from Shinichiro’s perspective, he’s the first character whose heart becomes visible to the audience. He watches Hiromi from afar (sometimes literally); he mulls over the bathroom incident in private, wondering why she never opened herself up to his family, but he distracts himself by building a chicken-shaped tissue box while thinking about Noe. He was already confused about his feelings for Hiromi, but he couldn’t help thinking about the eccentric girl with the chickens who said that he couldn’t fly.

Shinichiro unwittingly finds himself at the center of the love triangle, but his character is believable. His hesitation isn’t the result of poor writing or awkward pacing – it’s the result of his own reasonable feelings as victim of a complicated web of emotions.

Since then, I’ve been unable to cry. Grandma took my tears with her.

The line above is from episode 4, but Noe’s memorable statement that she “lost her tears” at the end of the first episode is probably the most well-recognized quote in the show. That said, most of her character revolves around her own thematic motif, the two chickens – the tears are only there to tie her in with the rest of the cast.

Noe’s eccentricity is established as early as possible. As if her encounter with Shinichiro weren’t unusual enough, there are some visual hints of her unique character in the random shots of her rather memorable boots and her even more unusual song about the cockroach. It takes about a minute to identify her as a strange person.

Unlike Shinichiro’s see-through attempt at hiding his feelings for Hiromi, Noe is a bit more difficult to understand if you’re watching the show for the first time. Her story revolves around the chicken motif: Raigomaru, the chicken that wanted to fly, and Jibeta, the chicken that couldn’t fly. When Raigomaru died, Noe’s attachment to it shifted to Shinichiro, as symbolized by the chicken seeds that she repeatedly sends him. Shinichiro became Raigomaru’s replacement. Amusingly, she really does treat him like a chicken during the early episodes, and like a child, she doesn’t realize that she’s slowly starting to fall for him.

Do you hate snow? I once liked it, but now I hate it.

Hiromi’s character is a bit easier to understand in retrospect because the viewer doesn’t have to wade through her mixed signals. Indeed, I can see why her actions would seem ambiguous if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but it’s interesting to see how many minor hints are dropped early on. The most dramatic one I can think of occurs at the end of episode 3 when Shinichiro overhears her lying to her friend about being interested in Noe’s brother, Jun. It’s a cruel display of dramatic irony because the viewer already knows that Shinichiro and Hiromi are concealing their feelings from one another, but a simple misunderstanding leads both of them off into a downward spiral of denial.

I can’t remember my first viewing of the show clearly enough to specify the moment that the viewer should realize that Hiromi liked Shinichiro all along, but her most revelatory scene is probably the one in episode 5, when Shinichiro enters her room for the first time. The conversation is first shown from his perspective, focusing on his confusion as he’s pushed away for no apparent reason, but the scene is repeated later from Hiromi’s perspective, adding her internal narration above the dialogue. As her narration explains, her only reason for pushing him away was because he was more caught up in her false interest in Jun that in the fact that he had entered her room for the first time.

Once this moment passes, there’s no denying that Hiromi wants Shinichiro to wipe her tears, but he’s left to assume that she’s pushing him away. Only the viewer understands this cruel irony.

Part 2: Development


The major transition in True Tears occurs as Shinichiro gets over his perceived rejection by Hiromi and realizes his feelings for Noe. I didn’t write “feelings” in quotations because I don’t think that he was mistaken – since the beginning of the series, his actions reveal that Noe’s eccentricity had always been on his mind, and she acts as an escape for his problems with Hiromi. His feelings for her are displaced, to some degree, but the ending proves that they aren’t false.

Noe’s effect on his subconscious mind is revealed as early as the first episode, but the scene that stands out the most in my eyes is from his picture book in episode 3. He begins drawing while thinking about Hiromi, but as the symbolic snow begins to fall, it turns into Raigomaru’s red chicken feed. It almost literally shows Noe intruding on his daydream world with him and Hiromi.

Although Noe made her impact near the beginning of the show, Shinichiro’s heart didn’t start to waver until he believed that Hiromi was out of his grasp. At the beginning of episode 4, after she talks to him about her “feelings” for Jun, his personal dream world reveals that the Hiromi he once knew is dying. The Hiromi in reality is not the Hiromi who was “always smiling like a flower,” the one that he thought he knew. His private world drifted even further apart from reality. Later in that episode, Noe is visualized as an angel in his mind, standing in a snow-filled world without any sign of Hiromi’s tears.

Of course, the final blow is Hiromi’s infamous confession in episode 6. The half-way point of the series ends with the revelation that Hiromi and Shinichiro are siblings, and the final scene with Shinichiro’s belt around Noe’s waist hints at her upcoming role.


As per the laws of romance fiction, there is no such thing as the perfect couple until the last half of the last episode. Noe brings the breeze of change to the story as Shinichiro (and Raigomaru) prepare themselves to fly into the sky, with Reflectia playing gloriously in the background. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before the illusion shatters and Noe realizes that the person in Shinichiro’s heart is Yuasa Hiromi.

From here on out, there are many scenes that illustrate the chaos in the main characters’ hearts – Shinichiro’s decision to make Raigomaru the cowardly chicken who was too afraid to fly, Noe’s pitiful attempt at finding the physical record of her relationship with Shinichiro buried under the pile of snow. There’s more evidence than I can ever link to, and it’s all put together masterfully, so I’ll move on to the most important part – the conclusion.

Part 3: Conclusion

Shinichiro, you can fly. You just don’t know it yourself. But… this isn’t the place where you take flight.

Noe’s breakup with Shinichiro is the first step toward revealing the truth behind the chicken motif. As stated in episode 11, Noe wanted to “fly away” from her problems in life. Just like chickens, however, humans are bound to the ground.

I believe that all of Noe’s mentions of Raigomaru and his desire to fly are simply her own way of describing happiness. Flying means accomplishing the impossible and escaping from sorrow; remaining on the ground means the opposite. When Raigomaru died and Noe became attached to Shinichiro, she began to believe that he could fly, and told him to keep looking at the sky. When she broke up with him after realizing that he still loved Hiromi, she said that he could find happiness and escape sorrow, but not with her. The heartbroken Noe at the end of episode 11 is just like Jibeta: a chicken who can never fly. She tried to fly eventually, but as Jibeta proved, it could never work.

Meanwhile, the other half of the chicken motif is developed when Shinichiro laments his own hesitation and indecisiveness. “Raigomaru was just a regular bird in the crowd of cowardly chickens,” as he said. Noe played the role of Jibeta, stuck to the ground, and Shinichiro became a version of Raigomaru that was too afraid to fly.

In the end, the final page of the book is scrapped as Shinichiro confronts Noe one last time. Raigomaru gets to rewrite his own conclusion. When Noe realizes that Shinichiro believes that she can fly too, they both end their short-lived romance in one of the most heart-rending scenes in the show.

Minutes later, Shinichiro leaps off of the cliff and flaps his wings. He flies triumphantly.

People can really obtain tears from those most important to them. If you think about the people most important to you, the tears will flood out.

With the chickens out of the way, only one question remains: what are “true” tears? The only explicit hint in the show is in Noe’s backstory. She was introduced as the girl who couldn’t cry. When her grandmother died and she lost her ability to feel sadness, she had to collect the tears of someone important to her in order to reclaim her own tears. Only those “true” tears could help her regain the right to cry.

In other words, she had to learn the true meaning behind tears: that tears are only meaningful when they genuinely reflect the feelings in one’s heart.

Hiromi is the first to cry her true tears. She spends much of the story lying to herself about her feelings and avoiding her conflict with Shinichiro’s mother. Her decision in the second-last episode to proudly proclaim her love for Shinichiro and tell Noe to back down is her final act in the play – with that, she overcomes her fear and places her faith in Shinichiro.

Shinichiro is the next character to shed his true tears when he says goodbye to Noe in the last episode. His tears are bittersweet because he’s simultaneously announcing the beginning of his relationship with Hiromi and the end of his love for Noe.

Noe is the last character to receive any kind of closure, waiting until the credits to shed her tears. She looks at Jibeta, the chicken who chose not to fly; she turns to the physical remainder of her relationship with Shinichiro; and with her head held high, she cries her true tears.

In reality, the true tears play a similar role to Raigomaru’s flight. When each of the main characters sheds their true tears, they break free of whatever barriers were holding them back and offer their hearts to the person their tears are being shed for. It can be seen as a visual representation of love in that the tears are only shed when the character comes clean with themselves and expresses their feelings without holding back. Whether this means overcoming an obstacle, facing the truth, or finding closure, the tears mark the moment that the clouds part and the character accepts all of their joy and misfortune.

Win or lose, true tears can only be found when the person breaks free of their tangled web of feelings and lays their heart bare. Rather than focusing on the outcome, true tears – and True Tears – is about finding the strength to look oneself in the mirror and challenge love head on.

– – –


At the beginning of this post, I said that True Tears impressed me objectively as well as subjectively. I linked to as many screencaps and specific references as I could, but there are countless examples of clever shots and effective writing scattered throughout the show. When you look for it, you can see that almost every scene, every expression, every line of dialogue is deliberate. The scenes mentioned in this post are only the ones that I found to be the most effective or moving – in reality, every minute of the series is about something, and the spectacular sense of pacing and development is what makes True Tears stand above the rest. The story is masterfully woven, the motifs are visible without being too explicit, and the characters are deep enough to warrant the viewers’ tears when they witness the cast’s true tears. There is no such thing as the perfect work of fiction, but to me, True Tears did everything right and nothing wrong.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that the story of the girl who lost her tears and the love triangle that developed around her is one that I will never forget. Perhaps it’s time for me to cry my own tears since it might be years before another show balances  its story, atmosphere, and symbolism into such an evocative work of surreal, bittersweet romance.


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan A April 14, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Truth and honesty (or the lack of) is definitely one of the underlying themes which drive this story along :)


kluxorious April 14, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Reading this brought back the hate I have for Hiromi because I’m so rooted for Noe. Why? Because I can relate to Noe and I know how heart-wrenching it must have been for her.

Hiromi is just a spoiled brat.


ETERNAL April 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I don’t think it’s possible to get through the entire story without hating at least one of the characters. Aiko took that blow for me :P


ayame May 17, 2010 at 6:27 am

It is possible I may say. I am the proof of it :P I didn’t hate anyone, but there sure where times when each of them gave on my nerves. On the other hand, I also never adored anyone, so…

But I deel the need to express my astonishment about your great analysis. I never made associations -perhaps because the whole crazy thing with the roosters, made me feel weird and the reason I kept watching the episodes were their hangcliffs- and for me the symbolisms are not always a very easy piece of work to deal with. I really loved your explanations about tears and the roosters.
Thank you :D


ETERNAL May 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Thanks! Actually, my main reason for rewatching the show was because I didn’t make most of these connections on my first try, and I kept hearing about how good it was. I still enjoyed it for the storyline, but I knew that I was missing something… and it turns out that I was right :P


relentlessflame April 14, 2010 at 11:48 pm

To this day, I still have serious doubts about claims that Shinichirou truly loved Noe in the same sense/way that he loved Hiromi. Part of this has to do with that dreadfully unfortunate mistranslation of “when your heart wavers” (should have been “flutters”) in the last episode that totally changed the meaning of the farewell scene. That mistranslation makes it *seem* like he had to choose between two girls he loved (that his heart had wavered away from Hiromi and towards Noe), but I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think he mis-characterized his feelings for Noe when faced with the many obstacles between him and Hiromi, and throughout the “development” phase of the story the author was clarifying what those feelings actually were. I guess you might still say that he “loved” Noe, but I don’t think it was in the same romantic sense. She was a very important person in his life, and he felt a huge amount of sympathy towards her, in addition to feeling a huge debt of gratitude for the way she pushed him forward. He cared for her deeply, but I don’t think he ever thought “this is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with”, as he more clearly seemed to think about Hiromi. It’s a different sort of love. If Hiromi hadn’t been in his life, things might have turned out differently, but it was never meant to be.

That aside, great post. Now that the BD-Box is here, I plan to give it a re-watch pretty soon. Certainly one of the greatest romantic shows of the last while.


ETERNAL April 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I was wondering that myself, but I think it’s at least partially left up to interpretation. It’s clear that he loved Hiromi “more” and that he cared for Noe to some degree, but it’s hard to tell where the line should be drawn. Maybe he did fall for Noe, but it was more of a situational thing than genuine affection. Perhaps I just don’t want to think that he was lying to himself, but both readings are reasonable.


Aorii April 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

Great post, really covered just about all the bases~

Probably the only romance/drama anime I’ve seen that tackled the stickyness of love polygon drama successfully without relying upon melodrama. Although I do wish they used a bit more — the series was artistic, but it wasn’t as tearjerking as I would have liked.

Although it might simply be a need to rewatch it marathon style, since dragging it out over 13 weeks lost some impressions.


My Avatar Looks Like Noe April 22, 2010 at 6:07 am

Noe is still the best girl and the right choice.


ETERNAL April 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm

How could you not be enthralled by Hiromi’s delicate appearance and shy expression?! Did the kiss on the snowy beach do nothing for you…?


pdshingo July 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Good Post. I really like this analysis.

As the question does Shin ever love Noe in romantic way, I think everyone could have their own interpretation. But if you want to know what’s the answer of the director/scriptwriter, you can find out it in the fan book, DVD/BD handbooks or the lyrics of character image song.

The scriptwriter said their feeling to each other is a little like philosophical love, she said that’s a kind of feeling that cannot be named. It’s pure and beautiful, but not the love between lovers. It maybe could turn to love, but there’s reason that make it didn’t happened in this show.

She said Shin is attracted by Noe, but he never loves Noe in romantic way. He was confused about his feeling. That’s why in ep7 he tried to convince himself he likes Noe, and looks hesitated in ep9~10.

We can see he is happy to share story with Noe, but he never show the same expression or take the same action to Noe as to Hiromi. Why he cannot do things properly in ep11 is because he doesn’t know how to face Noe would be better, and was guilty. So you’ll see he thinks about Noe in ep11~ep13, but all is about the her encouragement /his promise/worry but no romantic part. And his words in ep12 already shows the order what will he do things properly, dancing -> drawing -> Noe -> Hiromi. There are also some sentences such as ” the line between friendship and love” “there’s only one treasure box” in the lyrics of Shin’s character image song. I think the answer is quite clear.

In the other hand, Noe’s feeling to Shin is not lover’s love, either.( maybe a little in the end) Her emotion is not complete, and her mind is not like a normal 15-year-old girl but more like a 10-year-old girl.

You can see she didn’t know what’s the meaning to a boy eat with a girl alone, and didn’t know Shin’s feeling to Hiromi at the beginning. That makes her confront/punch Hiromi in ep7 when she think it’s Hiromi’s fault that makes Shin’s unhappy and cannot fly, because she didn’t understand what’s the emotion when one really love another in romantic way, and that conflict with how she see this world. ( Raigomaru can fly, Jibeta cannot. Raigomaru should not waste his value because of Jibeta)

But when she goes on with Shin, she begins to change. She started to notice Shin’s feeling to Hiromi is totally different from feeling to her, and found she misunderstand why Shin cannot fly. She looks a little confused after meet Hiromi & Jun in ep12 because what they’ve show her is the unfamiliar feeling that she never know before. She found out that’s different feeling when one love another in romantic way. Therefore she blamed herself that she didn’t see anything before, and questioned herself can she really fly ?( can she have such kind of emotion ? can she cry like them ?)

I think that’s why she cannot be the final winner. She maybe look good in many aspect, but the emotion is different. And what she really needs is to grow up but not the love…


ETERNAL July 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I see what you’re getting at. Indeed, I never checked the song lyrics and I missed the BD preorder, so I’m unfamiliar with the “official” take on the ending. I think we’re all in agreement that ShinxNoe is very different from ShinxHiromi; it just depends on how strict and specific you are with your definition of romantic love. Noe’s childishness definitely shines through in the series, so I can understand why she might have been confused about her feelings. The same goes for Shin running away from his problems with Hiromi. I suppose it’s just a question of how you want to define their “innocent” love; it’s certainly more than friendship or admiration but it’s different than the ideal of the ending. Like you said, she probably only felt true romantic love for Shinichiro at the end when she cried her true tears.

That said, I wonder what the scriptwriter meant by “philosophical love”. I can infer the meaning behind it but I’d enjoy reading a proper explanation from the creators’ perspective.


pdshingo July 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I think Noe’s feeling begins to change about from the time she decided not to watch the dance, but she still went to watch at last. In the beginning she only want Shinichiro to fly, she didn’t think about the relation with Shinichiro , but she cannot control herself at last. Just like Hiromi, Hiromi want to keep the secret about the sibiling issue and keep distance with Shinichiro at first. She think it would be better for Shinichiro , but she could not hold when Shinichiro really go on with others.

As the definition about “philosophical love”, my english is too poor to exlain the meaning of “philosophical love”. I think it’s maybe like the ideal “Philla” in this article , but it’s also a little close to “Platonic love”.


ETERNAL August 1, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Thanks for the link. I’m not used to reading academic writings but I understand the general gist of it, and it’s more or less what we’ve already talked about. I have actually thought (informally) about the meaning of love in this sense before so I’ll keep this in mind when I start learning some philosophy.


aaanable July 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

Waw great post and I agree with everything you, relentlessflame and pdshingo said .Shin didn’t love Noe in a romatic way and neither did she ..

I like how this series divided the cast into a group which can be the antagonists (Hiromi,Shin’s mother ,Jun and Ai ) and group which were honest with themselves (Nobuse,Shin and Noe )..

I personally liked Ai though I know many people don’t like her cuz she did many wrong things but I didn’t mind Hiromi or Noe .


ETERNAL August 1, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I couldn’t bring myself to like Ai, though that’s mostly for personal reasons. Hiromi was honest with herself in the end, though, so she ought to be forgiven :P


aaanable August 2, 2010 at 4:00 am

I didn’t think that Hiromi did anything wrong really. I mean she had reasons to act the way she did .I even thought that Ai made more mistakes than Hiromi but I don’t know why hiromi gets more hate the other two .I guess my like for Ai is because she’s a flawed character .well Hiromi is flawed too but her flawes weren’t as bad as Ai’s ……

so it’s Ai>Hiromi>Noe


bailey August 7, 2010 at 5:21 am

This is the best review of True Tears i found so far. All other review focuses on how they hate Hiromi, they love Noe and how they wished it was Noe/Shinichiro at the end. I think Noe had an important role in Shinichiro’s life not just by helping him how to draw, dance, etc. Noe was instrumental on how Shinichiro little by little was able to take down the barrier he built up over the years between him and Hiromi. I think he always loved Hiromi but he doens’t know how to express it or how to even begin to tell her his feelings. When you live under the same house, you tend to act as if you’re siblings rather than a potential love interest so it was hard for him but when Hiromi moved out, it helped him out a little to sort out his feelings and became more courageous. Shinichiro knows Hiromi is in pain because of her relationship with his mom and that she must be lonely since her parents are dead leaving her all alone. He wanted to release her from the pain and sufferings she feels but he always hesitated, he knows he could do it but always holding back. When he finally broke down the barrier between him and Hiromi, he wanted to make sure she will not feel how his mom must have felt about Hiromi’s mom, always thinking if he would stay by her side, always waiting, always hurting. He knows he will hurt Noe and he will get hurt as well because she is a really an important person in his life. I also think when he asked his dad why he cry’s, it didn’t mean his heart swayed from Hiromi to Noe but it’s a feeling of conviction(it hurts but it has to be done), a deep feeling of relief and pain, closure and of letting go and moving forward. I think Noe knew that Shinichiro loves Hiromi and she had to let him go because even if they got together, he would always think of Hiromi. When he started singing while Noe was walking back to the hospital, he was crying so hard, i think in his heart it was really hard to let her go but it has to be done because he wants to make sure Hiromi won’t worry anymore that he would leave her for Noe. If you love a person, you will make sure all factors that would make them feel uneasy or worry is taken out of the picture. He wanted to stay friends with Noe but he knew it won’t work if he wants to have a relationship with Hiromi. Hiromi is to precious to take a chance. You prioritize what’s important and he made his priority straight. He could have easily let Hiromi go, she moved out to end it all but he realized he’s no good without her. At the end, Noe is an important person and Hiromi is the most important person in his life, the one he loves and the one he wants to be with for the rest of his life. That’s my take :)

Thank you for your review!


ETERNAL August 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm

And thank you for reading :)

I like your point about the “barrier” between Shin and Hiromi: in his heart, Shinichiro found it hard to approach her, and he probably unconsciously settled with leaving her in that distant, untouchable state. Perhaps she was his first love? His experience with Noe distanced him from everything and helped him clear his mind, and that probably helped him come to his final decision.


pdshingo August 8, 2010 at 11:14 am

Um…I have a different opinion about Noe helps Shinichiro taking down the barrier between him and Hiromi. I think the force drives him to face Hiromi is a kind of “pressure”. The reason is about Noe, but not about Noe’s encouragement. We could see he still cannot help Hiromi in ep7, and decide to go on with Noe. He even thinks it’s not bad to be with Noe in ep 8. If without that accident in ep 9, Shinichiro and Hiromi may lose their chance. But each time Hiromi’s leaving him, he could not help but hug her or run after her. He thinks Hiromi likes No.4 and he is going on with Noe. But those become unimportant if he’ll lose Hiromi forever. And why he cannot face Hiromi in ep 11/12 is because he has not settle the relation with Noe yet, but not because there’s still other obstacles between them.

I’m not saying Noe is not important. Noe is the key character of this story and her words in ep 12 makes Shinichiro knows how to face his heart and do everything properly. But I think actually Noe didn’t help Shinichiro and Hiromi’s relation that much.

And I think there’s more reasons that he cannot stay friends with Noe. Breaking up this relation will hurt Noe. How could he ask Noe still be his friend ? It will also hurt Noe more…


Sriram August 23, 2010 at 5:04 am

This has been the best review about true tears….
Excellent job by Eternal!!!

And yeah, the whole animation has been exceptional…
Not to mention cute!!!


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