My new pocket pc seems to have revived my interest in watching anime, and I’ve been using it to watch the series Windy Tales (風人物語) which I downloaded a long time ago, but then never got past the first episode. Windy Tales is unusual as it doesn’t look like anime: it has a very simple graphic style, and the characters actually look Japanese! (No big round eyes or brightly coloured hair.)
Today I finally finished it. Although it started out being a supernatural tale of people who can manipulate the wind, this quickly becomes little more than a motif for what is reall a slice of life story consisting of a series of vignettes about growing up and the difficulties of being an adult. I thought that the final episode would bring the original tale of mysterious wind users back into focus but it didn't really. In fact I didn't really understand the ending at all! (I'll have to watch it a couple more times I think.)
But right now I’m going to talk about episode 12, Cherry Blossom Time (櫻のころ) which I found struck a chord with me due to the time of year and the recent weather, and which had lots of inspirational quotes in it.
As I said in a previous post, the blossom is starting to appear on the trees here, but it's been hard to enjoy it because of the wind and rain. In Windy Tales it’s the same. It starts with the heroine Nao photographing the cherry blossom in the rain. She gets wet through and as a result catches a cold (hoary old cliché that anime stories love to trot out despite it being complete nonsense). Anyhow, this gives her an excuse to lie around in the school infirmary, which by now we know is a favourite hideout for some of the school's misfit teachers, who enjoy chatting up the school nurse.
Taiki-sensei, maths teacher and (secretly) master wind user, arrives to share some sakura mochi (桜餅 - pink rice cake wrapped in cherry leaves) with the nurse, and Nao (showing her photographer’s eye, perhaps) asks him if the colour of the cherry blossom changes every year. His response is, “The colour of the blossom reflects the heart of the observer.” When Nao says he should raise a wind to blow the rain away so they can enjoy the cherry blossom properly, he quotes a famous (so it says here) passage from Essays in Idleness by Kenko:
Should we only appreciate flowers at their peak,
and the Moon when it is full? Nay.
To yearn for the Moon through the rain,
or fail to observe the Spring’s passing from being shut indoors,
arouses even deeper feelings.
Budding boughs just before they burst into blossom,
and gardens strewn with wilted flowers,
are by far more worthy of notice.
Anyhow, inspired by another poem about the beauty of cherry blossom at dawn, Nao ends up getting up before sunrise (along with her long-suffering sidekick, Miki) to photograph the trees in the pink-purple light of dawn.
The best thing in Spring is the dawn.
The sky, dyed in the morning light, slowly brightens
and purple clouds stretch across the mountains.
(from the Pillow Book
by Sei Shonagon).
Anyhow, even though it wasn’t the story I thought it was going to be, I’ve enjoyed watching Windy Tales (and especially being able to watch it whilst sat in the kitchen or lying in bed at night, thanks to my cute little pocket pc! There's something more intimate about having anime on a little screen in your hand or on your pillow.)
The quotes about viewing cherry blossom in less than ideal conditions inspired me to go out today to look for blossom on the trees despite the dull and threatening skies. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much where I live. I found one hawthorn tree with white blossom, but the setting was poor. Later I found a tree with pink cherry blossom in a supermarket carpark just as it started to rain. In the end I didn't manage to photograph anything, but will try again soon, I'm sure there will be blossom on the trees in one of the parks near here.