When Subjectivity and Objectivity Clash: Looking Back on Hatsukoi Limited

by eternal on August 26, 2009

Hatsukoi Limited (2)

When 99% of the population consumes some form of creative media, we do it from our own perspective. When we think about what we liked or what we didn’t like, our own personal opinions are likely to hold more sway over the quality of the work itself, and our final opinion is usually somewhere in between the two extremes. Since anime bloggers are not professional critics trained to ignore their opinions for work, we usually do the same.

As you can figure, though, this can lead to trouble. J.C Staff’s Hatsukoi Limited was praised quite a bit while it was airing in the Spring, and I don’t deny that it has its own unique charms, but try as I might,  I can’t seem to change my opinion that something didn’t work for me.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the show was praised for, but it seems to strike a solid balance between two of the main elements of shounen romance: comedy and drama, and realistic and unrealistic. I admit, it was a pretty comfortable balance. The characters never felt unauthentic to me, and the serious moments weren’t jarring; instead, it all fit together naturally, almost like Toradora. However, that’s where my praise ends: not because I believe the show got worse, but because it started sinking in that I wouldn’t like it no matter what it did.

Hatsukoi Limited (3)“Why did he have to fall for me?”

From the moment Misao – or Beast-kun, your call – showed up in the beginning, I had a feeling that something was going wrong. It reminded me slightly of Toradora, where Ryuuji’s literal ugliness hits you before you realize that it’s a plot device. Of course, the difference here is that the main characters never really thought of Ryuuji as ugly, and the device slowly fell into the background as something that should be there but hardly ever drawn upon. I suppose you could call that a waste, but at any rate, I was glad that he didn’t spend the entire show complaining about looking like a yakuza member.

Unfortunately for Misao, though, he wasn’t born into such a pretty world series.

Misao makes up only a fraction of my point, but I think he’s my best bet at explaining myself. How did the girls react when they found out that the Beast was interested in Ayumi? They reacted like they would have in the real world, plain and simple. Kei went on to talk about how looks are the “main thing” in relationships, and the issue disappeared without much consideration.

Now, before you say it, I’m not mixing up the characters’ intent with the writer’s intent: Kei changed over the course of the series, and despite the fact that Misao never really came back, he was no longer quite as frowned upon. However, if the opening episodes didn’t prove anything about the themes of the show, they did prove something about the cast of characters – it proved that they were as shallow and inexperienced as they ought to be.

Hatsukoi LimitedFor a soul-searching journey, there was a disappointing lack of internal conflict and dramatic realizations.

Basically, my problem with Hatsukoi is that it makes too much sense. All of the characters’ first loves are ordinary, realistic, just like things were for me and everyone else out there. Some end with success and others with failure, but by and large, they’re all plausible. The thing is, realism has its ups and down. The argument is always used in the world of gaming: does it really matter if Mario is as tall as a human being should be? On the other hand, I doubt many people would want a cartoon version of Master Chief (although that brings this to mind).

At any rate, there are times in which I don’t care about realism in anime. For romance, I divide the genre into two basic categories: realistic/unrealistic, and relationships/feelings. The former is self-explanatory, and I stand very little chance at explaining the latter properly, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Let’s look at Misaki’s problem on Valentine’s Day, when she was conflicted between her feelings for Arihara and the fact that two other boys were interested in her. Which aspect of the problem gets more attention, the practical consequences of her decision or the emotional consequences? Seeing as the entire dilemma occurred in less than an episode, it actually wasn’t much of either, and that can be a problem in itself. Whenever a certain problem was given enough attention, though, they were more practical than emotional.

Digression aside, I don’t mix well with love stories that are about practicality. This usually refers to soap-opera-like dramas, but from time to time, it refers to normal anime as well.Visual novel adaptations are unrealistic, but they’re about feelings – false feelings, maybe, but still feelings. Shows like Honey and Clover are realistic but are also about feelings. Most shoujo manga seem to be somewhere in between both categories, which is nice. Hatsukoi Limited, though, while still gaining points for being realistic, lost my subjective interest for being too practical. I wanted to watch something that explores the feelings of first love, not something that follows a bunch of (stereo)typical teenagers around and documents their first loves.

Hatsukoi Limited (1)I admit, it had its moments.

As I neared the end of the show, I was almost looking forward to saying that it left a bitter taste in my mouth, but in reality it was quite the opposite. Ayumi’s final decision was pleasing in that it was the only ending that wouldn’t have caused me to bang my head against a wall, and her closing monologue was nice. The series definitely had its share of sweet moments, too, and the story does a good job of capturing the ups and downs of love as it’s experienced by the cast for the first time. As I said, it’s not a “bad” show.

But it didn’t work on me. The problems between characters like Kei and Kusuda were eye-rollingly frustrating despite being realistic, and the love triangle(s) weren’t developed beyond the basic premise. Being different isn’t the same as being good. Incidentally, when I say that I liked Ayumi’s arc in H&C because it goes farther than other works of fiction with the premise of unrequited love, it’s things like this that I’m comparing it to, and it’s things like this that bother me. Hatsukoi only scratched the surface of the characters’ feelings, leaving the viewer as clueless as the characters’ friends and family would be. One of the benefits of watching people though a TV is that the narration and monologues can let you see into their hearts, but that wasn’t the case here. Most of the issues consisted of things that are literally visible in the real world, and there was nothing to go beyond the basic complaints of “he has a Kappa face,” or “my breasts are too big.”

In the end, I can honestly say that Hatsukoi was a realistic portrayal of first love from different angles, but I can’t say that I gained anything from it because it only told me what I already knew.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

ghostlightning August 26, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Basically, my problem with Hatsukoi is that it makes too much sense. All of the characters’ first loves are ordinary, realistic, just like things were for me and everyone else out there. Some end with success and others with failure, but by and large, they’re all plausible.

Noooooooooo. Ordinary yes. Realistic? No.

I don’t understand what makes these situations realistic for you. Enomoto falling for Kappa-face is a fantasy. Enomoto chasing after kappa-face is a delusion.

Onii-chan obsession/stalking/borderline raep is… a fantasy of people who don’t have imoutos (like me).

There’s nothing wrong with these things being fantasies or delusions. They’re rather cute and funny for being so. These aren’t my problems with this show. My problem is the last two episodes. As a 10-ep anime this show is a very very pretty, lighthearted romp.


digitalboy August 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm

I avoided Hatsukoi Limited because it’s a show that wants you to think it’s realistic but isn’t, and because I could tell the show would really piss me off if I watched it.

The title of this post is misleading. and you still need to work on your goddamn tldr.


Sorrow-kun August 26, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Sounds like you wanted more introspection, which I think is a fair call. I liked Hatsukoi, but I’d be the first to admit that the characters are anything but deep. I’d say it was a consequence of the fact that there were so many characters, and not a great deal of time to truly explore any of them to a great degree. Does it make the show a failure? No. Does it make it pale in comparison with other character-driven anime dramas? Definitely. I’d say it was an enjoyable distraction, but it’s not the kind of anime that lingers, like Honey and Clover.


relentlessflame August 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm

I think what you’re trying to say is that the series didn’t work for you because it was neither fantastical nor highly-involving; that the relationships and issues portrayed were rather mundane and straightforward. But I’m not sure what the perceived “clash” between objectivity and subjectivity is; your main point seems to be “the show did what it was trying to do just fine, but it just wasn’t all that entertaining to me”. Within lies the realization that most anime bloggers completely fail to grasp: your enjoyment is not objective, and whether something is a Good Show(TM) or a Bad Show(TM) has rarely anything to do with anything of real importance. It mostly serves as a way for people on the blogosphere to prove to others that they have Good Taste, which is completely irrelevant on a personal level. You like what you like, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Your time is valuable; you arguably stand to lose more by watching something you don’t enjoy because others say it’s Good than you do by just watching whatever you feel like even if it’s “Bad”.

Anyway, all that being said, I think a certain part of the appeal of Hatsukoi Limited is precisely because it doesn’t attempt to bite off more than it can chew. The conflicts are simple and straightforward because most of them are only given one or two episodes, and need to wrap up cleanly within that time. It’s more like a collection of short stories centered around a common theme, and isn’t necessarily trying to be overly ambitious in that regard. So certainly, this type of storytelling approach won’t appeal to everyone, “good” or “bad” aside. Apparently, it’s just not your sort of show; fair enough. I would say, personally, it isn’t necessarily my favourite type of show either (I too tend to favour romantic dramas and shows with a bit more conflict and introspection), but at the same time I was able to enjoy it within the scope it gave itself. It’s one of the few times where the 12-episode length felt like the right amount of time for the content, and things just seemed to “click”.

So, anyway… the good part of the experience is that you now have a better sense of what shows to gravitate towards and to avoid going forward, and that’s always a good thing.


0rion August 27, 2009 at 12:15 am

I agree with you in the feeling that Hatsukoi Limited was decidedly middle of the road. Realistic though? I don’t know that I would call it that.

@ digitalboy


This is only like 1000 words! And I certainly don’t feel like he was wasting them; I think rather would’ve been disappointed if he didn’t explain himself as well as he did.


omo August 27, 2009 at 6:17 am

What Relentless said. I mean I’m not sure what you’re saying IRT your own preferences. I guess I can think about it and try to see what you imply by calling Hatsukoi Limited as “realistic.” There’s definitely both fantasy and realistic elements in the relationships…or perhaps just a lot of comical exaggerations. At the same time I think there is humor in the almost-truisms in the show. The world is a big place–there are people who are like Koyoi out there.


ETERNAL August 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm

@ ghostlightning: Fantasy or not my point stays the same, but when I said that the problems were the same as in real life, I think I was referring to the characters’ thought processes. As in, Kei x Kappa is implausible in the real world, but their reactions to one another seemed believable. Kusuda was tsundere for Kei right from the start, pretending to not be interested even though he obviously was; Kei said that he was ugly and that she would never like him, because she’s attractive enough to find a more attractive guy. The end result was “fantasy” fulfilling – in quotations because it doesn’t fulfill any fantasy of mine – but the whole issue of looks vs. personality is something that everyone goes through IRL, to the point that you don’t want to see it in fiction. Or at least I don’t.

Don’t forget, though, the show would only lose more points with me if it were painted as a typical fantasy-fulfilling shounen romance. It doesn’t change the fact that the serious issues were either frustrating or pointless.

@ digitalboy: As I was writing this, I was thinking of your tweet on True Tears and realized that this was basically the same thing. It’s technically not a bad show, but for lack of a better word, it pissed me off.

I don’t see what’s misleading about the post title though. It’s a little vague, I guess, but I didn’t want anyone thinking that I was accusing the show of being bad – or worse yet, that I was using personal opinion as a legitimate argument for accusing the show of being bad. This one was tl;dr’d more than necessary because I was talking about a vague opinion that I still can’t word properly, but I’m trying to stay just under 1000 words unless I have something very specific and meaty to talk about.
(heh, how’s that for a needlessly tl;dr reply?)

@ Sorrow-kun: That sounds about right. My enjoyment was decreased on top of that because it clashed with my taste in romance – as opposed to an average shounen-romance which isn’t good but is still fun to watch – but it had a few entertaining moments. Considering the nature of the characters’ relationships with each other, I’m not sure if spending more time observing them would have deepened the show much, but at least a bit of introspection would have been nice.

@ relentlessflame: I guess I was vague in wording the post title, but when I said that objectivity and subjectivity clashed, I was referring to my own interests (which is why I used that intro paragraph). I’m saying that the show is objectively “not bad” – maybe not Good, but definitely not Bad – but my enjoyment of it was closer to being Bad, because of everything I said. Taste has little to do with it since I was focusing on why I didn’t like it, not why a person should or shouldn’t like it.

Anyway, shows like this would usually appeal to me, even if they’re not particularly deep, but Hatsukoi felt more like a clumsy teenager talking about love than anything else. I don’t mind over-the-top cheesiness and fantasy-fulfillment, but Hatsukoi at least pretends to be real, and the “real” aspects of it are 80% annoying little details about life that I outgrew years ago, with maybe 20% truth and/or relateability.

@ orion: I talked about the realism aspect in my other replies, but long story short, my dislike of it wasn’t because it was fantasy fulfilling or not fantasy fulfilling. Thanks for saying that the post was the right length though; I always get paranoid when breaking the 1k barrier because I know I tend to ramble, but it would be even worse if I wrote too little and left holes everywhere.

@ omo: Yeah, that was probably just careless wording on my part. Like I said in response to relentless, it was in relation to my own enjoyment. For the “realistic” aspect, I suppose half of that was because the show deals with extremely ordinary things (as opposed to the typical Sudden Girlfriend Appearance, etc), and the other half was that the fantasy-fulfillment just didn’t work for me. You see, if it were an ordinary shounen romance with a shallow but entertaining plot, I would have watched it, not thought much about it, finished it, and not posted on it. It wouldn’t have been that great, but I wouldn’t bother saying anything because it was mediocre for the obvious reasons.

For me, Hatsukoi was mediocre for unobvious reasons, somewhat like what digiboy said in reference to being “pissed off.” If you’re going to give us a cheesy fantasy-fulfilling story of first love, then sure, why not. If you’re going to give us a realistic look at the joy and hardship of first love, then better yet. But all the show did was introduce stereotypical love triangles, unrequited love, etc etc, and the issues were, for lack of a better word, shallow. It works pretty well as a comedy and if it didn’t take itself seriously, but in trying to be realistic, it ended up frustrating me with insecurities about things like looks and breast size instead of talking about what it was supposed to be about: first love.


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