Shojo and Tell Podcast: House of the Sun Part 1 (with Kelly Quinn Chiu)
This is a transcription of the Shojo and Tell podcast episode covering volumes 1–7 of House of the Sun by Taamo. You can listen to the original podcast and find the show notes here.
Ashley: Welcome to Shojo & Tell, where we discuss shojo manga, tell who is hot,and who is not, talk about themes, and just generally geek out. Today, October 20th, 2018, we’ll be shojo and telling about volumes one through seven of House of the Sun by Taamo. I’m your host Ashley McDonnell, and I’m joined by Kelly Quinn Chiu.
Ashley: Hello Kelly. Okay, Kelly, who are you?
Kelly: So, who am I?
Kelly: So, yeah, my name is Kelly. Thanks, Ashley. I am a librarian at large. I am a children’s librarian. I’m also the co-host One Panel Later, where me and my co-host Angela duke it out over manga versus American comics. I also am known around the internet, because I write about manga for Barnes & Noble, and tor.com, and some other places. So, I’m a librarian out in the world talking about manga.
Ashley: Yeah, and every time I listen to One Panel Later I’m just like, hard agree with Kelly! Disagree with Angela!
Kelly: That is the right position to take.
Ashley: I know.
Kelly: You’re nailing it.
Ashley: It’s so good. Everybody should listen to One Panel Later, because you learn stuff about manga, or it just reconfirms your biases about manga, and that’s fine.
Kelly: Yeah. You can reconfirm all your biases about how manga far superior to western comics, in almost every way.
Ashley: 100%. Okay, but we are talking about House of the Sun, which is one of the two or three manga that you gave me as an option to do with you.
Kelly: Yes, and you hadn’t read this one at all, right?
Ashley: No, I had not read this one. I actually didn’t even realize at first that it was a digital-only release, so I was confused. But yeah, so Kelly, why did you want to talk about this? And what is it about?
Kelly: So, House of the Sun by Taamo, I really like this manga. I have read it a few times. So, just to be perfectly honest, I read the first time as scanlations, ’cause we’ve all been there, like long ago. And I was like, this is so cute! I wish someone would pick it up, and then no one ever did. And then Kodansha like, surprise digital licensed it. I don’t know when, like a while back, and so I reread it, and then I read it again while I was getting ready to record for this podcast.
Kelly: I feel like this manga … Ashley, you do a lot of really iconic shojo manga on your podcast. I don’t mind. You do like Fruits Basket, and Magic Knight Rayearth, and stuff that’s really seminal, but I feel like House of the Sun is a super, under-the-radar, underrated pick. I’m excited to talk about it, ’cause it needs more love.
Kelly: This is a mange about a girl, Mao, who her father has remarried, and she has a new stepmom, and a new little sister, and she just doesn’t feel at home in her own house anymore, and doesn’t feel like she belongs there. Then meanwhile, she has this childhood friend who she grew up with, who is a few years older, and his family is also kind of a mess, but it’s for different reasons. It’s because his parents sadly died, and his siblings were split up. She’s kind of a lonely person, and he’s kind of a lonely person. And she ends up going to live at his house, while she’s kind of feuding with her family, and he’s kind of just alone.
Kelly: It’s just like a super fluffy, nice read. I just love it so much. It’s almost like a comfort read to me. Reading it again I was like, aw, and I think that the art style definitely contributes to the comfiness. Right? Taamo has a very fluffy style.
Ashley: Yeah, it’s very fluffy, and certain things you’re like, that’s a little weird, that she just scribbles in their eyes half the time.
Kelly: Yeah! She just scribbles their eyes in. So, for me, this is like a manga about two lonely people. It has a nice slow build romance, and it’s a gentle soft manga, but it’s also not like a shallow manga. I’m sure we’re gonna get into this, but it deals with a lot of baggage about family, and guilt, and relationships. I feel like it has a lot of meat under its fluffy exterior, and I just want people to experience this manga.
Ashley: Yeah. How would you assuage anybody who is a little squicked out about like age gap romances?
Kelly: So … that is the thing. Okay, so obviously, this is a shojo manga podcast. So, age gap romances are not anathema to this audience, but I do think that is one of the things that people are like, “Oh.” Well, she’s like 17, and he’s like what, 23? Or 24?
Ashley: He’s 23. Yeah, something like that. He has a birthday, I think.
Kelly: Yeah, so she’s like a junior in high school, and he’s a working person. I don’t know. For me, this ones just not that big of a deal to me. I mean, let’s all remember that Sailor Moon … Usagi is literally in eighth grade.
Ashley: Yeah, right?
Kelly: Right! And legit, he is in college. Tuxedo Mask like is in college. He is a college student. So, hello. So, Mao is like 17, she’s almost an adult, but also I feel like the romance in this one is so slow burning, and kind of gentle. They don’t ignore the age gap thing, right? He’s kind of like, “Oh, she’s still in high school,” and so, I feel like it’s kind of acceptable. Like, it doesn’t squick me out, but I also really liked Takane & Hana, and that one doesn’t squick me out either.
Ashley: Oh, yeah, I’ve definitely been reading Takane & Hana, and being like, I like this more than I intellectually want to.
Kelly: Right? You’re like, “She’s in high school,” but you’re like, “eh, but they’re cute.”
Ashley: But they’re cute.
Kelly: And I also think that, because they have this childhood friend relationship, in House of the Sun, it kind of mitigates some of the ick factor. Where it’s less that he’s preying on this young girl, and more that they have this really long history together, and have kind of found solace in each other. And so, that naturally leads to romance.
Ashley: Everything leads to romance. You see a dude, and they’re like, “But do you like him?” Like, alright.
Kelly: They’re like, “Yes!”
Ashley: Yes, 100%. Yeah. So, do you have just a general favorite aspect of the series, or no?
Kelly: Oh my gosh.
Ashley: You have five, I know.
Kelly: So many! Well, okay, I do. I really just want to plug the art style of this manga for a second … and Ashley since you had fresh eyes on this, so you’re a total fresh perspective, but I love the art style of this manga. I feel like Taamo’s style it’s like kind of undone, and she uses these lines that are just thin lines of like uniform weight, but they’re so cute, and so fluffy. And like we said, she squiggles some of the eyes, and sometimes she draws in little stars, instead of using tone. I just feel like it has this looser, kind of more naïve style, that I just really enjoy, but also I really like the animals.
Kelly: So, they have two pets. They have a little turtle. His name is Wakaba-chan. And then they have a dog, Croquette.
Ashley: Yes, but every time I see that turtle I’m like, do you guys just let that turtle poop around the house, like it’s always loose —
Kelly: I know! The turtle just like roams.
Ashley: Yes, the turtle is just roaming around, like being whatever.
Kelly: You never see like a terrarium or any kind of turtle habitat that this turtle could live in.
Ashley: No. Like does it ever go in water? I don’t know. I don’t know.
Kelly: I like them, and I also love Taamo’s fashion. Like Mao is supposed to be a tomboy, but I don’t know if she’s a believable tomboy because all of her clothes are so cute.
Ashley: No. I know. Oh yeah, when she told that story about how she’s like, “I didn’t relate to girls, ’cause they like girly things, and I don’t,” I was like, I relate to the sentiment, but I definitely don’t dress as fashionably as you do.
Kelly: I know, she’s like wearing little rompers, with printed tights, and little kitten heels. I’m like, you’re so cute, what do you mean? But, yeah, I think on a deeper level besides like their squiggly eyes, and their fashion, and the cute dog … I think that my favorite part of the manga is the slow build of their relationships. I think this one has a really nice, like naturalistic growth.
Ashley: Yeah, ’cause sometimes it feels like it’s going really fast, like they suddenly confessed their feelings, and then it’s kind of like, “Oh, that didn’t massively alter anything,” ’cause they’ll be like, “Just kidding, I didn’t mean it!”
Kelly: Yeah, “I take it back,” classic shojo move, right, “Just kidding,” or like a firework goes off, they’re like, “I didn’t hear you.”
Ashley: Yeah, “What? What’d you say?” Ah, so good. But yeah, so this was the spoiler free section of this podcast.
Kelly: I know. Although, we did spoil that they have a cute dog, so.
Ashley: Oh, whatever, that’s key to selling this. Like, you want to smoosh that dog’s face.
Kelly: You do! Also, Croquette like grows up throughout the manga.
Ashley: And it’s great! Yeah.
Kelly: She’s like really small when they get her, ’cause she’s just a little Shiba puppy, and then she actually gets bigger. I was kind of impressed.
Ashley: Yeah, you were like, “Wow, Taamo’s paying attention to those details.”
Kelly: Right? And look how much time has passed, Croquette is so big now.
Ashley: But yeah, so, as we have perhaps mentioned, House of the Sun is a digital-only release, from Kodansha USA. If you want Kodansha USA to print more of those things, you have to go read their digital releases, or just bug them a lot in their surveys.
Kelly: Yes, you do. Although, given that we still don’t have physical release of Chihayafuru, I’m not sure if this actually works.
Ashley: Just keep trying. It’s the only way we have.
Kelly: Yeah. Although, we did get Tokyo Tarareba Girls in print. So, go out and buy House of the Sun.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay, Kelly, maybe this is a very specific question, to me, but you are a librarian.
Ashley: Since I was confused that this was a digital-only release at first, I looked for this. I live in San Francisco. So I looked at the San Francisco Public Library, and I was like, why do they only have it in Japanese? I’m very confused, and then I was like, oh, it’s a digital one.
Kelly: Oh, yeah.
Ashley: But why do libraries not normally, in my experience, carry digital manga?
Kelly: Well, so I can tell you the reason that I don’t buy digital manga as a librarian.
Ashley: Okay, yes, tell me.
Kelly: I don’t know if I can speak for all librarians, but I’ll try. So, for me, like I don’t have that much of a digital budget, and so deciding what I’m gonna buy on digital … I don’t buy any manga digitally, actually, in my library, ’cause I’m not even in charge of our eBook budget. So, different librarians are in charge of different purchase areas, different selection areas, and I don’t even touch the eBooks.
Kelly: So, that one’s not up to me, but also I think there’s just … with limited digital budgets, and the people really in demand for best sellers, like the latest James Patterson book in E, I think a lot of digital budgets go more to that. And then, the other piece of it, I think, is that there are some services that offer digital comics, but none of them offer good digital manga. I don’t know. Do you have Hoopla at your library?
Kelly: So, Hoopla has like a lot of really good digital comics offerings. I think Marvel comics are on there now, but their manga selection is like real bad. It is so lame. I think a lot of libraries think, “Oh, we’ve got it covered. We have Hoopla, or we have this OverDrive library,” and really the manga offerings on there are not very good. It is something that I have definitely looked into as a librarian, and I have like personally assaulted Kodansha people about this. At Comic-con, I’m like, “Why don’t you make this more available,” because as a librarian, I actually want things in print. I want to be able to put things on my shelf, so that people can see them, and find them.
Kelly: ’Cause digital is a little tougher, because people usually search in a digital catalog. They don’t browse a digital catalog, right?
Ashley: Oh, I’m highly aware. Yeah.
Kelly: Right? You’re not like, “What manga can I get?” You’re like, “I need to read House of the Sun, do they have it?” So, it presents a little bit more of a challenge when it’s not a best seller, or something like that. I would like to see more digital manga, but I understand why libraries aren’t buying it. And I think it sucks, ’cause a lot of really good stuff is coming out in digital only. Especially from Kodansha, and then you have to purchase it, because your library doesn’t have it.
Ashley: Yeah, exactly. I was like, well then, they’re just never gonna have House of the Sun, like nobody’s gonna be … So, it’s a self-reinforcing thing.
Kelly: Right. Some libraries you can request … Like some libraries have a digital eBook systems, where you can request the book, and then they’ll buy it, because they know that someone’s like actually gonna go read it.
Ashley: I mean, that makes sense, but I was just like, I have never seen a digital manga at the library, so I just assume this is a thing that people don’t do.
Kelly: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, as digital budgets expand in libraries, and as people … Also, like the apps and stuff are getting better to read digital library content. Like Libby, and Hoopla, and those kind of ones, I think are getting more user friendly, then we might see more, and more digital offerings from libraries.
Ashley: Okay, glad to know that this is a budget thing. Anyway. So now we’re gonna spoil stuff.
Ashley: Be prepared. First we will do a general character walkthrough, I guess. Because there are many characters, they’re all in love triangles.
Kelly: They are. It’s a shojo romance, what do we expect? You expect a character not to be in a love triangle?
Ashley: You know, I’m always pleasantly surprised when it’s just like, “Yeah, these two just like each other,” and that’s fine.
Kelly: And that’s it, and no one else likes them.
Ashley: Yeah, and they’re fighting with each other.
Kelly: And they’ve never liked anyone else.
Ashley: Yeah. And they’ll get married, and live happily forever and ever.
Kelly: Yeah, in the last volume she will be wearing a wedding dress, and this manga is only two volumes long, because it was so easy.
Ashley: Yeah, easy peasy. But okay, so our main character is Mao.
Kelly: Yeah, so Mao is our protagonist. Like we said, she’s like 17. She’s a second year in high school. I really liked how Hiro describes her in his head, he always thought of her as a girl holding back tears. I thought that was really sad.
Ashley: So poetic.
Kelly: It is, it’s very poetic, and it’s also super depressing.
Ashley: I think what I like, watching Mao, is how everybody falls in love with her, but she’s like kind of objectively not very good at things. And everybody knows this is because she wasn’t taught how to do stuff, and they’re like, “Well, if you teach her how to cook, she’s fine,” but like —
Kelly: I know! Except they do teach her how to cook, and she’s still not fine. She still sucks at it.
Ashley: Well, it kind of seems like her friend is trolling her a little? I don’t know.
Kelly: I know, yeah, Chi-chan is like, “I got this! I’ll teach you how to cook,” but then like when anyone else eats the stuff that Chi-chan teaches her to cook, they’re like, “This is terrible,” and I’m like … Can Chi-chan cook?
Ashley: Yeah, exactly. I’m like, I don’t know what level is happening here, but I think Chi-chan is like trolling her, is what’s happening.
Kelly: Yeah, but I think … Well, so Mao, she’s supposed to be a tomboy, and then in flashbacks, when she has short hair, and she’s like a little kid, I see that more.
Ashley: Oh, yeah definitely, then I get confused. I’m like, this is a boy? Oh, no.
Kelly: Yeah, and I’m like okay, this is why she was kind of like a weird kid. But, I think she’s actually a really sympathetic protagonist, ’cause she’s just very lonely. Once you learn her family situation, you’re like, “Yeah, that sucks, no wonder you are such a sad and lonely person.”
Ashley: Yeah, because Mao’s family is … So, her mom is, her biological mom … is somewhere.
Kelly: Yeah, her mom left with her hot boyfriend, I guess.
Ashley: And she gave Mao a choice to go with her, and Mao was like, “I’m gonna stay with my dad,” for some reason.
Kelly: Right. She stays with her dad, and her dad like hates her. I don’t understand this man. He is so mean.
Ashley: I mean, I tried to really, really understand. So, there’s a chapter in which you get Mao’s dad’s perspective, and it’s also about the divorce, and the mom leaving, and everything. It’s there that you see that the mom was cheating on him, and so he has the question of like, “Is Mao even my child,” and the mom posts her reply, is like, “Yeah, totally, why would you question that?” But clearly this question weights on him, heavily.
Kelly: Yeah, that is a rough one. That is kind of my question about Mao’s dad, and he kind of deserves his own segment, but is he a redeemable character? Because he is so awful to her, and then Taamo, she shows you like he has this whole backstory with her mom, and Mao was a little kid. So, she doesn’t really know, or understand everything that happens between her parents, but his behavior towards Mao is really inexcusable.
Ashley: I mean, yes. That’s why I tried to be like … is that a good enough reason for him to be this terrible? And it’s like, no, because his actions so completely go against what he internally says, at least.
Kelly: Right. He’s also … I think there’s an element of him feeling like Mao betrayed him, because it’s like, “Your mother left me, and now so did you by leaving this house to go live with your childhood friend. Everyone leaves me, and I’m the real victim here.” And I’m like … but you’re the parent, so you need to step up.
Ashley: He is the parent. It’s definitely a situation where it’s like he was testing Mao’s love or something, and then Mao did the thing that’s most logical based on her feelings of being like, “Well you rejected me, so I’m gonna go over here, and not be so sad and lonely, and try to win your love in some weird way,” and he’s like, “See you failed. You failed my test.”
Kelly: Yeah, and he’s like, “You left me, just like your mother did! You can stay out of this house forever!” I don’t know. So, Mao’s situation is tough, but she’s kind of a little weirdo. She has really cute clothes, but she likes really uncute things, so it’s like kind of her character type.
Ashley: What is with this phallic thing that she’s really obsessed with?
Kelly: She’s really obsessed with this character, that’s like this … I don’t even know how to describe it … it’s like this weird squishy piece —
Ashley: It’s a penis!
Kelly: Peen person, with like a top-knot. I don’t know, she thinks it’s adorable.
Ashley: And I’m like, it’s just a penis.
Kelly: Yeah, and she has kind of this shojo girl helplessness. Where she’s kind of like bad at housework, and bad at cooking, like we said, but it’s really because no one has ever taken the time with her, you know?
Ashley: Yeah. She means well.
Kelly: Yeah, she means well, and she’s also like a girl who really holds her feelings in, probably because she grew up in such a cold and unloving household.
Ashley: Yeah, a little bit. Yeah, no. My favorite scene, definitely, was the Mao goes home for the brief period of time, ’cause like … The thing that I also don’t understand is the step-mom’s position on anything, but we can get there.
Kelly: Ugh, the step-mom.
Ashley: But, my favorite scene is when Mao goes back for a brief period of time, and has the text exchange with Hiro of just her being like, “You suck, Hiro,” and he’s like, “You suck at holding in your feelings,” and then she’s just crying. I’m like, aw.
Kelly: You know what? They are so cute. I love their interactions. I love that she’s like, “You suck”, and he’s just like, “You suck more!” You guys are adorable. Or when they’re in the restaurant, and he’s like, “I got to see your stupid face,” and she’s like, “Your face is the most stupid!” This feels real to me.
Ashley: Pique, like when people make fun of you, they actually are still hella in love with you.
Kelly: Yeah, exactly. Well it’s like they’re so familiar with each other, and they do kind of treat each other like they grew up together. They have that like brother-sister vibe, which is totally becoming not a sibling vibe.
Ashley: Mao is fun.
Kelly: Yeah, she’s kind of a straightforward protagonist. Her biggest battle, in this manga, is really with herself.
Ashley: Yeah, right.
Kelly: Right? Like trying to figure out what her feelings are, and trying to get them across to other people. Which in her … we should mention her novel, because the manga is named after her blog.
Ashley: Oh yeah. I really thought that that was gonna play a more prominent role throughout, but it’s kind of a backseat thing. I mean, I’m waiting for it to buildup.
Kelly: It is, yeah. ’Cause she writes this cellphone novel, and it’s called House of the Sun. It’s like a fictionalized version of her life, and it kind of connects several characters, in the manga, but really it’s like a diary. It’s kind of just how she gets her little feelings out.
Ashley: Little feelings.
Kelly: Yeah. It’s like all of her wish fulfillment / all the stuff that she can’t say to people in real life, kind of goes into her blog.
Ashley: Yeah, and they name their dog after the dog in the novel.
Kelly: Yeah, after the dog, it’s kind of like inception.
Ashley: It’s coming full circle, see, right?
Kelly: Inside the manga, inside the blog. Yeah, so I feel like that is her biggest hurdle. It’s like there is the romance plot, and obviously that is always like an uphill battle for our characters to have their feelings returned, but with Mao I feel like a lot of it is internal. It’s like being able to express herself to the people who are important to her.
Ashley: Yeah, I feel like that’s a struggle for most of these characters. Except, maybe her friends, who we have on this list.
Kelly: Yeah! Okay, so Chi-chan and Oda are her school friends. And, yeah, they are probably the most straightforward characters in the manga. Oda, the boy who has a crush on her, he has this spectacular confession scene, where he’s just like, “I like you,” and she’s like, “What?”
Ashley: I know, “I didn’t see this coming,” and he’s like, “What? How did you not see it coming? I’m a straightforward person.”
Kelly: Yeah, it’s a powerful confession, and the thing that … I mean, this is not a rare thing in shojo romance manga … but the powerfulness, and confidence of his confession, kind of galvanizes Mao to be more straightforward about her own feelings, even though she doesn’t return his.
Ashley: I really like that. Yeah, because I’m like oh, this could have been like, “This is a disaster, Oda likes me too, what do I do? Now I have to reject him,” and she’s just like, “Thanks Oda, I like you in a different way.”
Kelly: Yeah, and she was like, “That was really inspiring, but I’m super not into you.” But I like him as a character. He’s totally like that alt love interest, who is a good guy. You can’t help but be like, oh my god, I hope he finds happiness.
Ashley: Yeah. I mean, he’s definitely my least favorite of the romantic interests for Mao, I guess.
Kelly: I like his little backstory, because he comes from a house with a bunch of sisters, and when you see him out with his sister, like when they see each other in that movie theater?
Kelly: His sister is like super overbearing. I’m like oh, okay, this is like his life. I get it.
Ashley: He knows girls, man.
Kelly: I know. He just gets girls.
Ashley: Yeah. He also has the really stupid hair, where it crosses in front, or whatever.
Kelly: Oh, yeah.
Ashley: I’m like oh, you’re trying so hard to be a hot shojo manga protagonist.
Kelly: He’s so hot, and all the girls like him so much, but he likes Mao, the tomboy, who wears the cutest dresses in the world.
Ashley: Of course he does.
Kelly: He’s like one of those characters that you’re like, “I just hope that you find something that makes you happy by the end of this, because you’re so straightforward, and sincere.” Mao totally plays him, like going to him for advice about her mom.
Ashley: Okay, yeah. I was like, this is super weird, Mao, like what is happening?
Kelly: And then she’s like, “Actually, psych. It was about the guy I like,” and he’s like, “Oh my god, what? That’s totally different.”
Ashley: I don’t know how he didn’t hear those questions and be like, “This is weird.” … I mean, I guess he was like, “This is weird. This doesn’t seem right.”
Kelly: Yeah, he’s like, “It sounds like you’re falling in love with your mom?”
Ashley: Yeah, and he just goes with it though. He’s just like, “Okay.”
Kelly: I know, he’s like, “But I’m gonna be here for you, if you need to talk about it, you come to me,” and I was like, you are a good confidant Oda, I like you. But then, the whole thing is, by confiding in Oda, she is neglecting her other friend, Chi-chan.
Ashley: Who teaches her how to cook, badly.
Kelly: Who teaches her how to cook, badly. Yeah, Chi, is like one of those friend characters, you know who … I feel like this is an obligatory arc for friends in a lot of manga, where they’re like, “I didn’t want to burden you by telling you my problems,” and then they’re like, “You idiot, I’m your friend. You’re supposed to tell me your problems.”
Ashley: That’s what we’re friends for.
Kelly: Right? That’s what friendship is, it’s like I want to worry about you, and so she kind of goes with that with Chi-chan. But, there’s the little love triangle there, right? ’Cause Chi likes Oda, and Oda likes Mao.
Ashley: Yeah. That’s difficult.
Kelly: I know.
Ashley: They handle it pretty well.
Kelly: I know, they’re pretty graceful for like 17 year olds.
Ashley: Yeah, exactly. They’re a little bit awkward, but mostly like, “We are civil to each other. We do not blow up at school about it or anything.”
Kelly: Yeah! Like, Chi-chan has to go in the bushes and cry, once or twice.
Ashley: It’s fine.
Kelly: Other than that … Oda is a good guy, he’s like, “I can’t return your feelings, but I’m not a dick,” but also Chi-chan has like the dirtiest mind.
Ashley: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: In the manga, everything is like oh, so innocent, and then Chi-chan is like, “Dude, are you guys having sex,” and Mao is like, “What?”
Ashley: “Did you go buy condoms? Surely Hiro has condoms?”
Kelly: I know, I was like whoa! Chi-chan, what is going on?
Ashley: She’s gotta look at the phallic nonsense that Mao is into all the time. She’s like, “Yeah, Mao, what are you into?”
Kelly: Well, I also feel like Chi-chan is like the real 17 year old girl, because she’s the one who is like actually curious about dating, and sex, and like, “Oh, have you kissed,” and she’s like all into it, and Mao is kind of like, “Derp. What is romance? Go away.”
Ashley: “I’m just trying to be friends and not be lonely.”
Kelly: Right? She is like, “I just have this dog, and like weird stuff,” and Chi-chan is like, “So how far have you gone? Did you make it to second base?”
Ashley: What about third base?
Kelly: Yeah. So, I feel like, I like Chi-chan. She’s a nice straightforward friend.
Kelly: Yeah. Oh, so they have one more age-mate, who doesn’t come in until later, but Daiki is also their classmate. Ashley, I feel like you have gravitated toward Daiki, like based on the outline you wrote.
Ashley: I really have. I love him. I’m like, I did not expect this, ’cause he’s kind of like a mean, glasses-wearing dork in the beginning, who is not good at video games, and I’m like, whatever, Daiki. He’s just mean. And then, he became a hot warrior after a job, who does his hair all nice, and wears contacts, and stuff. And I was like, oh.
Kelly: I know, he has kind of a look, like at work. I’m like, oh.
Ashley: I was like, oh, you’re like a hottie under there. Where were you hiding that? And then, slowly, I just feel like his feelings for Mao were pretty genuine. He can be a little mean, but in a totally loving way. And I’m like, oh no! I don’t know which of these brothers —
Kelly: I’m torn!
Ashley: I’m torn! I’m not normally torn in the love triangles. I’m like, oh no.
Kelly: Daiki is that character who is like … yeah, he comes on as totally the like tsundere, glasses boy. He’s like, “I disapprove of this. Mao shouldn’t live there.”
Ashley: “Mao shouldn’t live there, definitely shouldn’t fall in love with you!”
Kelly: Yeah, and then he becomes the kind of rival, against his own brother, which is tough.
Ashley: Tough stuff.
Kelly: But, I agree, he’s a very sincere character.
Ashley: Yeah, and he’s trying.
Kelly: Well he has his kind of own … ’cause a lot of the manga is focused on Mao’s family situation, and then Hiro’s family situation, and Daiki’s perspective on the Nakamura family situation, I think is different and interesting.
Ashley: Yeah, from Hiro. It’s like all these Nakamuras have their own little … I guess, we haven’t really explored Hina’s yet … but they all seem to have different takes on what happened with their parents, and I liked Daiki when he was like, “I now have two homes,” because he was living with his Aunt and Uncle, in Kobe. And now he’s come back to Hiro.
Kelly: And they were, obviously, a very loving family, that totally welcomed him, and took him in.
Ashley: Yeah, but now he’s like, “Oh, I’m conflicted, ’cause I do want to go back with Hiro, I guess.” Like he seems sincere, and I think he’s kind of like, “Hiro needs more help than I do. Hiro is still struggling more.”
Kelly: I feel like Daiki is one of those very perceptive characters. He comes in and like immediately sees all the love triangles.
Ashley: He’s like, “Ah, it’s so clear to me, written all over all y’all’s faces.”
Kelly: He’s like, “You guys think you’re so sneaky, but you’re crying in the bushes, and you’re blushing. So, I know everything that’s happening.” But, he also, I think, has a clear-eyed look at Hiro’s feelings, than Hiro himself does. So, I kind of agree, I feel like, he feels like Hiro needs him there, more than he needs to be at his Aunt and Uncle’s house, where he was perfectly comfortable, and could have stayed.
Ashley: I think he still thinks that Hiro has never actually come to seriously grapple with the grief that he feels, ’cause he’s like, “This boy never cried.” He was just like, well, now I’m the head, and so here’s X, Y and Z thing I need to do. I think he’s like, “Hiro is like a robot,” basically.
Kelly: Yeah, Daiki kind of cuts through all the BS, and he’s just like, “You obviously need therapy,” or like, “You just need to deal with this.”
Ashley: You need more than a turtle!
Kelly: You need more than a turtle and a dog to feel whole, and then yeah, eventually he becomes conflicted with his feelings for Mao. But, I feel like a lot of age-gap romances do this, where they kind of offer more age appropriate romantic alternatives.
Ashley: Yeah, but I just don’t expect to fall for it so hard.
Kelly: But, I mean like Daiki is one, and then Oda is one. So, Mao has all these age-appropriate romantic partners, but she’s not going for it.
Ashley: But, Hiro though.
Kelly: But, Hiro, yeah. Then, yeah, you brought up Hina, so the Nakamura family is complex. Hina’s position in the manga is really interesting to me, because she’s barely in it. At least up to volume seven, she’s made very few appearances, but I feel like Taamo really sets Hina up as kind of like a foil to Mao. Partly because, Mao is living in her room.
Ashley: Oh yeah, right. Symbolism. Okay, yes.
Kelly: Hiro got the room ready for Hina, because he thought that Hina was gonna come back and live with him. Then that didn’t pan out, and so that’s why Mao had a room to live in, is she literally took Hina’s place. He also pretends to his coworkers that Mao is his little sister, so he doesn’t have to have the awkward conversation. So, he’s kind of treating her as Hina’s replacement, in that way. I think Mao also has this awareness that if Hina comes back to the house, she’s really not gonna have a place there.
Ashley: I mean, it makes sense that she would be a foil to Hina, also, on a feelings level. I mean, this isn’t been explored yet, but it would make sense to me, because it’s seen as the Nakamuras definitely push back sometimes. And are like, “Mao still has her family,” like, “Her parents still are alive, so send her back,” and all these things. Whereas they’re like, “Our parents are dead, we have nobody. This isn’t the same situation,” but clearly it is, on some level. It’s like, well we both don’t have parents who can love us. So, that’s really the condition, is the loving part.
Kelly: It’s rough. I think Daiki is the first one who brings that up, he’s like, “Mao needs to go home, her parents are alive. She can see them again. We can never see our parents again.” I’m like, yeah, but does it count as having parents when your parents are awful?
Ashley: They’re not really performing the parent part of the duties of parents. So then, are they actually parents?
Kelly: I actually really like that conversation. I don’t know if you remember. They have it in the graveyard, when Daiki and Hiro go to visit their parents grave, and Mao doesn’t come with them. And Daiki is like, “She has to go home, she has parents who are alive. Our parents are dead. She needs to be with her parents,” and Hiro kind of bridges the gap, and he’s like, “You know our mom would have said Mao, stay.”
Ashley: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: You know? Their mom was always like, “Mao, come over and eat,” their mom was always taking care of Mao, and he’s like, “This is what our parents would want, is for us to take care of her, like our mom did,” and I was like ugh, my heart.
Ashley: I know. Hiro, defacto mom.
Kelly: I know! Hiro, the mom. And Daiki is like, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s true.” So, it’s kind of like, is Mao using them as a replacement family, or are they just taking care of her like they always did? When she was little? Hina, also, doesn’t want to go home. Which, I think it’s like a tough feeling for Mao to deal with, because she’s like, “How can you not want to go home when you have such a loving home to come back to?” And it’s a tough feeling for Hiro to deal with, because he’s like, “I’ve been holding the fort for, in this house, alone, all this time, waiting for you guys to come back to me.” Of course, Hina’s the youngest of the Nakamuras, so she has been living with her relatives since she was really little. So, she has a whole life, and she has friends, and goes to school. I kind of see her perspective of like, “I don’t need to just uproot myself. I’m here.”
Ashley: Yeah. The reason that Hiro, presumable, is very attached to this house, and them all living in it, is because they’ve said repeatedly that Hiro is the one who had his parents build a house there. I’m like, okay, that’s intense.
Kelly: Hiro has so much baggage.
Ashley: I know.
Kelly: He has all this guilty baggage. I think he is the one who was like, “We should move closer to dad’s work,” and so that’s why they got the house. Then he feels somehow responsible for his parent’s deaths, and not being able to keep his family together. Hiro has lots of issues.
Ashley: But he’s just like, “I just keep smiling, and working very, very hard, and I pet my dog, and it’s fine.”
Kelly: I’ve got my dog, and this girl that I’m taking care of like a pet. It’s like Hiro is like a mom.
Ashley: He is though!
Kelly: He is though. He’s such a mom, but I think that he wants to take on that role. As he’s been kind of waiting in the wings, like all this time, to take back this parental role, and to step into the shoes of his parents, and take care of his siblings. It’s turning out that his siblings don’t really need him to be in that role, but Mao really does. That is what Mao needs.
Ashley: But then what they really need is to make babies together.
Kelly: Oh my god. Okay, as much as I’m rooting for Mao and Hiro, I’m also like Mao’s dad being like, “Do you want to marry her?” I’m like, you stop it right now.
Ashley: Oh, yeah, god. Mao’s dad.
Kelly: Like god, why are you being so gross and weird? Stop. And he was like, “I just hope she marries Hiro, and they have babies.” I’m like, what is wrong with you?
Ashley: It’s like, “Isn’t that what Mao wants? That’s what Mao wants.”
Kelly: You’re gross. God. Mao’s family is just … can we talk about the step-mom —
Kelly: ’Cause like, ugh! What a thing!
Ashley: I’m very confused by her. I’m like, why do you like her dad? What is going on here? Why are you here? How did this happen?
Kelly: Yeah. So, she is kind of like a nonentity, in the beginning of the manga. Mao’s problems are kind of all with her dad, and the step-mom does like nothing. Like Mao leaves the house, and dad’s like, “Okay, bye,” and step-mom, and her half-sister, don’t even figure. Then later her step-mom is the one who comes to reach out to Mao, which is nice, I guess?
Ashley: It’s nice, but it’s like, why now? What is changed? What makes you think this?
Kelly: Right? It’s like, too little, too late. But, I can sort of see where she is coming from. ’Cause honestly, if I was married to this guy … First of all, how did you get married to this guy?
Ashley: Exactly! I just want to know.
Kelly: It’s like she has this moment of weird honesty, when Mao comes over for her little sister’s birthday, where she’s like, “Oh, at first, when Mao left, I was relieved. Because I don’t even know how to relate to this high school girl, and she’s not my daughter. So, I was like, eh, whatever. She can leave the house,” and I’m like whoa, that’s brutally honest of you.
Ashley: Yeah, I know.
Kelly: Just like, no, I’m just gonna love her like one of my own, that was not a thing.
Ashley: Part of me is like, did she literally just come and reach out to Mao, because the younger sister seemed sad? I don’t know.
Kelly: I mean, I see her as kind of … Because Mao’s dad is a huge, big, jerk face, but obviously, as cold as he seems to Mao, he has a lot of emotional issues surrounding his daughter. So, I’m sure that step-mom, as his wife, is like, “Hello, my husband is having all these weird problems, and probably needs to deal with them.” Right?
Kelly: ’Cause she sees it, and then there’s the issue of the little girl, who thinks that Mao left the house because she hates her.
Ashley: That really made me sad. That one hurt, a lot.
Kelly: I know. That one hurt. Well, and then, it’s kind of not super … it’s not true, but it’s not untrue, because one of the catalysts for Mao leaving is that she sees her sister sitting in her chair at the table, and is like, “I have no place here, this little girl has taken over my spot in this house,” such as it was.
Ashley: Wait, did her dad, when they were giving presents to Mi-chan … did her dad give like the same bear that he had given Mao too? I was like, you are a little jerk.
Kelly: Oh, did he?
Ashley: I mean, it was a bear.
Kelly: Oh no, I did not even realize that, but it was! Oh yeah, god. He is just the worst. Also, he insults Mao’s present, which to be honest, I would also not be happy to get as a little girl.
Ashley: That’s the one fair thing he did, Kelly.
Kelly: Right? Well, but it’s like, even if I was a five year old, I’d be like, it’s ugly. Why’d you give me your weird, phallic top hat guy? But, that’s the time as a parent that you’re like, “Sweetie, just say thank you.”
Ashley: Yeah, and he’s like, “Nah, you’re right. That’s weird, look at Mao blushing over here.”
Kelly: He’s like, “You’re right, look Mao, you made her cry.” I’m like, oh my god, what’s wrong with you?
Ashley: He’s just so broken inside.
Kelly: I know. So, I feel like step-mom is trying to be like a bridge, and has realized that she should have been more of a parent, and should have stepped in earlier. I think she has a line, where she’s like, “When Mao left, it blew a hole in this family.”
Ashley: Yeah. Oh, that one hurt too.
Kelly: I think that I can see that. Where it’s like, well she’s unhappy, she should leave, but then it’s like okay, it’s like this big elephant in the room. Right?
Kelly: It’s that like, you’re unhappy, ’cause your daughter doesn’t live here anymore, and you have this weird relationship with her. The little girl thinks that her big sister left because she hates her. Step-mom’s in the middle, obviously, it’s something that they all need to deal with, but I feel like I want to give her credit to reaching out for Mao. But then, I keep taking back all the credit, because of the way that she handles her husband.
Ashley: Part of me is like, yeah, do I give her the benefit of the doubt? That she’s like, “Okay, yeah, let’s let Mao go do this weird thing, but then you’ll see that it’s wrong. So then, she’ll come back really fast,” and then that didn’t happen. And she’s like, “Oh, this has just spiraled completely out of control now. Oh, maybe I should do a thing.”
Kelly: Well, ’cause it’s nice that she goes out and reaches out to her, but then when Mao is in the house, and her dad is being a dick to her, step-mom is like, “Oh, sweetheart, don’t.” Like, standup for her! [crosstalk 00:43:14] She’s like, “Honey, aren’t you gonna come say goodbye,” and the dad is like, “No!” And she’s just like, “Okay.”
Ashley: I mean, I can get that. She’s like afraid, probably a little bit, of being too forceful, but I’m just like ugh, this whole family is a mess!
Kelly: I know. They all need family therapy.
Ashley: I know.
Kelly: You guys have so many problems.
Ashley: Y’all need to find a therapist so fast.
Kelly: I know, but I feel like that part where Mao talks to her sister, for the first time in the manga, I think?
Kelly: That they’ve ever spoken. It was really touching.
Ashley: Worth it. No, not worth it. Just be nice.
Kelly: Yeah, where she’s like, has never really … and Mao is at fault for this too, she never really reached out to her little sister, ’cause she always felt like her sister was replacing her, and then they end up having this totally cute little bond.
Ashley: I know. She draws phallic pictures.
Kelly: She draws her a picture. I was like aw, that’s nice. I feel like that is the one pure family connection that Mao has, is with her little sister.
Ashley: Yeah. Right. At this point, yeah.
Kelly: Okay, so I also really want to talk about Radical-san.
Kelly: Yes. Sugimoto, the office girl, the office fujoshi.
Ashley: Oh my. Yeah, I thought she would be older than she is. Isn’t she like 20? It’s very confusing.
Kelly: Yeah, I think she’s pretty young. She’s like around 20. I think she’s pretty new to their job. So, first of all, I’m just like ugh, Japanese office culture.
Ashley: Yeah. First of all, hella sexism. Being like, “Your smile brings all the men in this office. It soothes them.”
Kelly: Yeah, “Everyone is just so happy when they see you smile,” and also her just being casually sexually harassed by her boss. Just being like, “So do you have a boyfriend? How many men have you been with?” I’m like, oh my god! HR! 911! So, there’s that. Like I said, I’ve read this manga a few times, and I feel like I liked Sugimoto the least of all this time.
Ashley: Oh. Yeah, tell me about your evolution of feelings for Sugimoto?
Kelly: Okay, so first of all, she’s like another age appropriate, alternate love interest, right?
Kelly: ’Cause she’s like the appropriate love interest for Hiro, this girl who works in his office, and is like 20, and can go out to drink, unlike Mao. And, she’s like an awkward person, who is also dealing with her own stuff. Right? She’s like never had a boyfriend.
Ashley: She’s obsessed with the civil war, and writing gay fan fiction.
Kelly: Yeah, she’s obsessed with Sengoku General, Date Masamune.
Kelly: Which is actually amazing. It’s like my favorite part about her.
Kelly: She’s like, “I just have to go home and write my Date/Kojuro fics,” and I’m like, you know, you do you. Sugimoto, this obviously makes you so happy.
Ashley: It’s what makes her so weird.
Kelly: I know. She just loves Date Masamune. I love how she refers to him as Maa-kun, I think?
Ashley: Mm-hmm (affirmative) —
Kelly: And then, when Mao meets her, she’s like, “Is this her boyfriend? Who is Maa-kun?” She’s like, “Oh, the Sengoku Warlord, Date Masamune.”
Ashley: Yeah, I love how confused Mao is in the beginning, she’s like, “I have no idea what words you are spouting right now.”
Kelly: I know, and Mao should know too, ’cause she likes historical dramas. So, she kind of lives in her own little world, and her … just similar to Mao, right? She’s like another foil for Mao. Whereas, she also struggles with expressing herself clearly to people, and making her feelings known, but I don’t know, this time around, I just found her a little more like sly. Is that the wrong word?
Kelly: I feel like she has good intentions, but the way that she … Okay. The thing with the novel. Where she tells Hiro that she is Kuukai-san, the one who wrote the novel, I’m like ugh. You!
Ashley: Yeah, I was like no, this is a jerk move right now.
Kelly: This is not cool! It’s not okay. I don’t know. Especially in contrast to characters like Oda, and Chi-chan, who were really straightforward with their feelings. Sugimoto is not, right? And that’s one of her issues, but she kind of … I don’t know. She hides behind this innocent girl thing. Now I feel really bitter about her, I guess. Where she’s just like, “I don’t know romance,” and like, “I don’t know what to say,” but the way that she treats Mao is like eh, I don’t know. How did you feel about it? Seeing it with fresh eyes?
Ashley: The way that she treats Mao, she’s like, “Oh, we’re the same,” and then Mao shows her all the ways in which they are not the same, basically.
Kelly: Yeah, that’s true.
Ashley: And then, the thing with the novel happens, so Mao is like, “Wow I just massively misjudged your character, I guess, because this is a jerk move.”
Kelly: Yeah! Well, because Sugimoto approaches Mao as a fan, right? Where she’s like, “Oh, I love your novel,” and like, “We should talk, and get together!” And then, Mao is kind of not really what she expected her to be?
Ashley: Yeah. It’s classic fan meets creators, and then oh, that doesn’t mean anything. Like just ’cause you like my work, doesn’t make this connection a thing.
Kelly: Then the way that she reacts when she … ’cause Mao totally works up her courage to be like, “Actually, the guy you like is the guy that I live with. Sorry.” It takes her all her little courage to tell her, and then her reaction is like … I mean, I don’t know that I would react better than her, but it’s not really like a … You know how sometimes in shojo romance manga, it’s like, “Well, I’m gonna keep trying hard to win his love, and you keep trying too!” You know?
Kelly: It’s not really that respectful rival thing. It’s more of she’s like, “How can I get on the inside?”
Ashley: She had the chance to redeem herself, I feel, ’cause she at some point was like, “I’m gonna tell Hiro that I didn’t write the novel,” or whatever, and then she does not do that.
Kelly: Yeah! And I’m like, this is so unacceptable, because the whole thing is like Hiro … the novel is like, I get why Mao doesn’t want Hiro to know that she wrote the novel, because it is literally about him.
Kelly: Right? It’s like totally about him, and her feelings for him. Him knowing that she wrote the novel is tantamount to her just confessing that she’s in love with him. Also, Sugimoto being like, “Oh, I wrote it,” and then him being like, “Oh my god. That’s so amazing. You’re so amazing.” Her just being like, “Uh-huh.” I’m like, you co-opted all of Mao’s feelings about her family, and made them yours, and that’s so uncool.
Ashley: I know. Oh yeah, in that conversation where she’s like, “I’m gonna tell Hiro the truth,” doesn’t she just be like, “I’m not gonna update for a while,” and I’m like, are you dictating Mao’s … Mao is the one who writes this. What is happening? I’m so confused.
Kelly: Yeah, and then she’s like, “I can’t tell him,” or like, “I don’t have the courage,” or, “I just want him to like me, and I don’t how to say I didn’t write it without explaining that Mao did.” But I’m just like ugh, you just need to be a better person. She’s like 20, and Mao is like 17, but I feel she is just more immature.
Ashley: Well, one of the points that I had written down, that flows with this, is that I feel like all the bad characters that we have mentioned, are particularly trapped by like … So, there are powers of influence, right? There are six of them. One of them is being consistent. I feel like these characters, in particular, are very, very trapped into like, “Well I said this one thing once. So, if I don’t keep playing like that, then they’ll just think I’m an inconsistent liar, and I don’t want to be that.”
Kelly: And a flip-flopper!
Ashley: Yeah, so like, “I just have to keep going down this path.” So, Mao’s dad is like, “Well, I kicked her out. So, I guess I gotta keep playing like I don’t like,” and I’m just like okay, but you don’t. Then, Sugimoto is like, “I told him I wrote this novel, and that’s the one thing that keeps us connected. So, okay, I’ll just keep playing like I wrote this novel.”
Kelly: Yeah, “I can’t take it back now. We’re just gonna be stuck like this forever.” Particularly, it’s in the fifth or sixth volume, where she insists that they go to that place where Mao works for dinner.
Ashley: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: I mean, that’s the thing, is I feel like she’s not really an underhanded, or sneaky person, but I feel like her behavior is just not good. Where she’s like, “Oh, let’s go,” and she knows Mao is gonna see them together.
Ashley: Yeah. She’s totally trying to rub it in.
Kelly: Right? And, I’m just like, girl.
Ashley: Girl, get it together.
Kelly: Like, what is this about? You need to find a better outlet for your feelings then dumping on this 17 year old girl who is homeless.
Ashley: Right? It’s so mean. When you put it like that, it’s just like, wow, you’re just really mean.
Kelly: I think, finally, we should talk about Hiro, because Hiro is a complex person. I really like him as a love interest, but he needs a therapist.
Ashley: And he is central to everybody else’s story. He’s like, “I am the axis, upon which you all gravitate.”
Kelly: Yeah, he is. I think that is right, even more so than Mao, even though she is the protagonist. Hiro is really the person around which everything revolves, him and his house.
Ashley: Yes. 100%.
Kelly: The House of the Sun, as it were. Well, it’s ’cause his siblings are like in orbit with him, and then Sugimoto, and his throwaway office friend, who I don’t even know his name.
Ashley: Fujitaka, I think. Something like that.
Ashley: Only because Sugimoto is like, “I picture him on Hiro’s bottom,” and Fujitaka is like —
Kelly: Oh yeah, Hiro is the bottom. He’s like, “What if Hiro is a power bottom?” And I was like, Hiro would be a power bottom. I agree.
Ashley: Headcanon confirmed.
Kelly: Like, for sure, I see that. His relationship with Mao’s family, I think is also really interesting. He like openly hates Mao’s dad.
Ashley: I mean, as he should. Somebody needs to.
Kelly: That’s right. As anyone would, who has sense.
Ashley: Yeah. I love every time the dad comes and is like, “Take my money, Hiro. Marry my daughter, Hiro,” and he’s like, “No thank you.”
Kelly: Right? And he’s like, “I don’t want your filthy money! Get out of here.” Hiro occupies a weird position with Mao’s dad, where he is like a kid to him, right? Because, Mao and Hiro grew up together, and his dad knew him as a kid, but then also he’s in the position of being the adult, and Mao’s guardian.
Ashley: He’s like, “How do I treat this man? I don’t know.”
Kelly: Right, but I like how he’s just so straightforwardly pissed off at him, like every time he sees him. I’m like, this is what I need from step-mom.
Ashley: Where’s the step-mom’s anger like this? Ugh.
Kelly: Hiro is like throwing money back on the table, he’s like, “I don’t need this! Go away.”
Ashley: “Don’t ever come to my house again with your filthy money,” right?
Kelly: Yeah! God, her dad is so bad. Oh my god, we didn’t even talk about the part where Oda comes to her house, and her dad’s like, “She don’t live here no more!”
Kelly: I was like, what’s wrong with you? Why do you think this is okay? So, what I wanted to hear from you, Ashley, is whether you think Hiro is being like Mr. Honorable, in how he treats the romance with Mao, or if he’s being wishy-washy, and waffly?
Ashley: I think he wants to be honorable, and then he has moments where he’s like, “It’s so hard to do this.” Some of those come when he’s drunk. So, you’re like, okay, fine, his guard is down, or whatever.
Ashley: I’m sure. But then, like the stuff where Mao kisses him on the cheek, towards the end, and then he kisses her back. I’m like, Hiro you know what you’re doing.
Kelly: Yeah. Oh, also Mao brazenly makes the first move there. I was like, damn girl.
Ashley: Good job, Mao!
Kelly: I was like, you go get it. Yeah, that’s so funny about this manga, is that it’s like chaste kisses on the cheek, and like holding hands, are kind of as far as the romance gets, at this point. And then, Chi-chan is like, “Do y’all have condoms?” I’m like, oh my god, Chi, we are so far from the condom stage.
Ashley: Excuse me, sometimes Mao is just like, “Oh Hiro is sleeping, what if I just lay on top of him.” I’m like, what are you doing?
Kelly: Yeah, we’ll just snuggle. It’s fine.
Ashley: I definitely feel like Hiro never initiates anything, so in that way he’s being honorable, but then he’ll reciprocate things. So.
Kelly: Yeah, that’s true. I totally get his position. Also, I feel like part of him being so like, “Nothing can happen between us,” is that he needs to stick it to Mao’s dad.
Ashley: Right? No, that’s definitely … he’s just like, “I hate Mao’s dad. Mao’s dad wants this as an outcome. So, this can’t be an outcome.”
Kelly: Right. Also, he’s like, “I need to be the adult human.” He’s like, “This arrangement is gonna be totally unacceptable,” right?
Kelly: “If I’m preying on a high school girl.” For a while I was like, does he like Sugimoto?
Ashley: No. He clearly does not.
Kelly: He clearly does not, no. He’s clearly just like super dense.
Ashley: Yeah. I don’t even think he’s giving her that many hints that he likes her. He’s like, “I’m exasperated going to this restaurant, again. Can we do this quickly?”
Kelly: I know, kind of like her, the signals that she’s picking up are just him being a decent human.
Ashley: Right, exactly.
Kelly: She’s like, “Aw, he saved me from my boss,” and I was like, well, yeah, ’cause a normal human would not find it acceptable for your boss to weirdly, sexually harass you in the office.
Ashley: Yeah. Isn’t it always bad that it’s like, “Oh, the person who saved me from the sexual harasser, I should go fall in love with them, because they’re the only decent ones,” and I’m like, I don’t understand.
Kelly: Right? Like no! Calm down! And then, on the other hand, I’m like, is he being … ’cause he knows, he basically knows Mao’s feelings for him.
Ashley: Yeah, she’s told him at least twice.
Kelly: She’s told him a few times, and part of it is, I think, he’s kind of in denial, and he’s like, “No, she’s like a sister to me.” And I’m like, is she though?
Ashley: She saw you come out the shower.
Kelly: Yeah, girl.
Kelly: Isn’t there a part where she’s like, “Did I see it?”
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Kelly: Oh my god. I feel like at that point they still do have more of like a brother-sister vibe. So, it’s not as weird as it would be like in volume seven.
Kelly: I’m like, oh guys, cohabiting. He knows how she feels, and is sort of being purposely dense.
Kelly: Right? By not responding. Speaking of responding straightforward to people’s feelings, right? Like Mao does to Oda. She’s like, “Sorry.” And Oda clearly rejects Chi-chan, but Hiro is just like, “Let’s talk about this later.”
Ashley: Yeah, okay, wait. The thing that makes him wishy-washy, team wishy-washy here, is that now he knows Daiki … he’s getting signals that Daiki likes her, right? So, he’s like, “Wait, wait, wait. I don’t like this,” then like —
Kelly: Oh, yeah, that’s so true. Okay, and that’s why I also really like Daiki, as love rival, because he’s like, “What would you do if we dated?” And he’s like, “You’re making me so mad right now!” He’s like, “But why?” And I’m like, you’re in love, that’s why. Yeah, Daiki is really like … he knows how to stir it up, with his brother.
Ashley: Daiki is like, “I have all of the buttons, and I will press them.”
Kelly: I know, it’s like, “I will push them, at will. At will.” Here’s the other thing I want to know your opinion on, Ashley, do you think Hiro is … ’cause I think Hiro sees himself as selfish, for wanting to put his family back together.
Kelly: In that, he is forcing Daiki, and Hina, to come back. I feel like he even feels kind of selfish for having Mao stay with him, because he’s like the lonely one, and Mao is filling up his house. But, is that a selfish wish?
Ashley: Okay. I think with Mao, it’s not selfish, because Mao reciprocates what he wants, right? Like she’s team “I want to live in Hiro’s house, because my dad hates me, and that’s no fun.”
Kelly: I know.
Ashley: “Hiro likes me.”
Kelly: That’s one thing, I wish they would communicate with each other about it, because I feel like she wants to live there, and he wants her to live there, but she’s like, “I’m a burden.” And he’s like, “But I’m forcing her to stay, and she should go home.” And like, you guys should just live together, it’s fine.
Ashley: Yeah, so they miscommunicate about it, but we know as readers that they both are like, this is a mutually agreed upon thing like we —
Kelly: Yeah, like, we’re both getting emotional benefits from having each other to lean on.
Ashley: Right, but with Hina, who clearly is like, “I don’t want to come home,” and all of these things, it’s kind of like how far should Hiro push, right?
Ashley: What’s the boundary there, and I think in his mind I guess what Daiki did is the thing that makes the most sense, is he kept pushing Daiki, and then Daiki was like, “Okay, I’ll come for a summer,” right?
Ashley: Then he decided, he was like, “Okay, this is fine. This is cool. Let’s do it.” So, it’s kind of unfair for Hina to be like, “I don’t want to do this at all,” without knowing what it would be, without even really seeing them. You know they see her at the fireworks festival.
Kelly: At the festival, and she’s like, “Don’t look for me.”
Kelly: I was like, oh my god!
Ashley: Like, “Leave me!” On that level, it’s just a little unfair for her, but at the same time I’m like … Hiro, you kind of have to respect people who have not grown up with you for several years now, and their feelings of being like whatever, my life is fine now.
Kelly: I know. I feel like it’s so hard, ’cause he really did make a lot of sacrifices to hold on to the family home, you know?
Ashley: I know, but at the same time, that’s what’s always hard about human relationships, is that it’s like, you can do a thing and you can do it for somebody else, but that doesn’t mean that … somebody else is their own person, they don’t have to reciprocate that.
Kelly: Right. It’s like … you kind of chose to do that, and then Hina was kind of living her own life all this time, and dealing with grief in her own way. I think that’s also the piece that makes it hard, is because their parents died and they were just almost immediately were split up. So, all of them grieved separately, and found their own way forward, and Hiro’s was very much like, “I’m gonna be the martyr. I’m gonna work through high school, so I can preserve our home, and we can all come back someday,” and Daiki and Hina’s response was they went out and kind of made their own lives.
Ashley: Yeah, they were like, “No, we’re cool living with these other adults who take care of us, and we made friends, and live in this other community, and it’s fine.” So, Hiro is not being selfish, it’s just a matter of maybe at some point you do have to give up on Hina.
Kelly: Right. I’m like, maybe Hina just isn’t coming home. But also, maybe, Hina could be a little nicer.
Ashley: Yeah. Hina could also definitely be nicer about the situation.
Kelly: Maybe Hina could give her family a call on their birthdays, or something. Be a little nicer. Like I said, I think it’s a little hard for her, because she is the youngest, and so she probably has the least memory of their parents, and what it is to live all together, but I’m still like … But, Hina, come on, throw them a bone, at least. Go visit, or something.
Ashley: I also wonder, in their minds, since Hina was younger, perhaps she would have weird associations of killing their parents, or whatever. ’Cause isn’t the whole situation that they were gonna go shopping, it was raining, and then they were all supposed to go, but Hina got sick. So then, Daiki and Hiro were both like, “We’ll stay home with her,” and she’s a little upset by that, ’cause she’s like, “I wanted to go buy this thing with them.” They’re like, “It’s fine. They’ll just bring it back,” or whatever. So, does Hina have more guilt being like, “Oh maybe if we were there, this wouldn’t have happened?”
Kelly: I don’t know. Yeah, you have to wonder, because we don’t really know what’s going on in Hina’s head yet. Like what her reactions were to it, ’cause they all kind of have their own little hangups. Daiki really hates the rain, ’cause his parents died on a rainy day. One of my favorite moments is when they’re in that scene in the graveyard, when they’re talking, and then they remember their mom bringing them umbrellas. And then Mao comes and brings the umbrellas. It was like …
Ashley: They’re like, “Why can’t we ever just remember to bring our own umbrellas?”
Kelly: “Why don’t we just carry umbrellas when it’s raining?”
Ashley: Damn it.
Kelly: In the outline you sent me, you wrote like, “Umbrellas as a shield,” and I was like, oh my god, that’s totally true of the guys. It’s totally in those scenes, kind of like the umbrella is a symbol of their mom’s love, like protecting them from the elements, and it was like oh.
Ashley: I know, so tragic. Rain, pathetic fallacy, it’s all there.
Kelly: This is so wrath. I know, it’s so sad, and everyone’s dead, and it’s raining. That’s always —
Ashley: Classic. Yeah. I’m excited to learn about Hina, I guess.
Kelly: I do want to know more of what’s going on with Hina. The things that I’m looking forward to in the next volume, I think, are figuring out what’s going on in Hina’s head, because she can’t just be a jerk, right?
Kelly: There has gotta be more going on with Hina than like, “I don’t want to see you guys.”
Ashley: You can’t be Mao’s dad level.
Kelly: No one is Mao’s dad tier. Although, Mao’s mom also, we didn’t talk about her, but she seems pretty awful too.
Ashley: I mean, yeah, she did nothing redeeming. No.
Kelly: No, she was like, “I’m leaving with my boyfriend. Bye,” and I was like … okay, bye.
Ashley: She’s like, “I accept Mao’s answer.” I hate anytime parents accept a child’s answer of anything. It’s like, “Oh, Mao chose you, so.”
Kelly: I know! Mao chose … and I’m like, Mao is like six. You all need to calm down.
Ashley: I still hold a grudge even … like when I was 15, I got bronchitis or something, and my parents were like, “You should go to the doctor,” and I said no. So, they didn’t take me, and then it got so bad that I was like, take me to the doctor, and they were like, “No, now you’ve had it for so long. I don’t want to pay for antibiotics.” It sucked.
Kelly: Oh my god! Were you okay?
Ashley: I had it for like a month. Solidly terrible symptoms, for like a month.
Kelly: Well, it’s also awful, because like … I mean, in your situation, I’m glad you got better. Thank god. But, in Mao’s, it totally puts this responsibility on her, right? That totally shouldn’t be the responsibility of a six, or even year old. Where it’s like, “Oh you don’t want to come live with me and a strange man, in a location you’ve never been? Well I guess you’ve made your final decision.”
Ashley: Yeah, final decision made.
Kelly: Right? And then, she’s like, “Well, I choose to stay here,” and I’m like, no! This is not your fault!
Ashley: Right. It’s like, change of mine should have been allowed. There should have been —
Kelly: And then it’s like, even if Mao could decided to go live with her mom, I don’t know if she would.
Ashley: That’s true, but again, I feel like the openness should have been like okay, let me go test this out for a month and see how awful it is.
Kelly: I just think you guys are just both really bad parents. I think we can all agree, that you guys are terrible parents, and the only good parents were the Nakamuras, and now they’re dead.
Ashley: And now they’re dead, why?
Kelly: Now they’re dead, and Hiro lives alone with a turtle.
Ashley: That really is the summation of this manga.
Kelly: It is. Also, I’m hoping that Oda and Chi-chan find love, because I’m shipping them.
Ashley: Really? You ship them?
Kelly: I don’t know, are you?
Ashley: Not really.
Kelly: Really? Okay tell me, who are you shipping? What is your hoped for outcome?
Ashley: I don’t know! It’s so hard. Okay, clearly not Sugimoto. No, get out. Why are you here? Like why?
Kelly: No. Yeah, go read your doujin, like I don’t know what you’re doing. I have like no patience with her as of volume seven. I’m like, I can’t even with you.
Ashley: Go fall in love with Fujitaka, or something. Just go. I don’t know. I’m really starting to be like, but Daiki.
Kelly: Oh no! I know, ’cause Daiki is so tough. ’Cause Oda is kind of easy to brush aside as an alternate love interest for Mao, ’cause he’s like, “I’m just so sincere, but also I’m like a prince of the school type,” who everyone’s in love with.
Ashley: Yeah. He’ll be fine.
Kelly: Oda will land on his feet. He is okay. Also, he comes from a super loving family. He has no issues, he’s cool. But Daiki, he’s actually Mao’s age-mate. Even though her romance plot is with Hiro, and her foil is Hina, Daiki is the one who is actually the same age as her.
Ashley: Yeah. Ugh. And they’re in the same class, and he like maneuvered that.
Kelly: Oh, I know, and he’s also so straightforward about it. She’s like, “How did this happen?” He’s like, “I asked for it.”
Ashley: He’s like, “It’s funny what you get for when just ask.” It’s magical. Yeah. So, I know that in the end Hiro and Mao probably have to get together, but in my heart of hearts I’m like, Daiki.
Kelly: Daiki, I know. Poor Daiki. Daiki deserves happiness too.
Ashley: I know. Well see, I think that’s also the problem is that I’m like, but if Daiki doesn’t get with Mao then there’s nobody that I’ve been presented that I’m like, oh that’s who he ends up with.
Kelly: This is an acceptable alternative for Daiki?
Kelly: I know. That’s true. ’Cause I think Oda and Chi-chan are totally gonna end up together, ’cause they’re obviously … Like he rejected her, but they’re still friends.
Ashley: They’re gonna slowly fall in love, and whatever.
Kelly: They’re like rotating around. They’re orbiting around each other, a little bit, in the background. But, yeah, Daiki is kind of like there’s no alt path for him.
Ashley: I mean, he could be like a healthy non-shojo person, who goes and finds love when he’s 28 with some person, after he’s dated around.
Kelly: Yeah, whatever, no. No. No one cares about that.
Ashley: Nobody gives a crap about those stories. That’s dumb.
Kelly: Yeah, no one cares. Yeah, I mean, Daiki … He is very confident in himself, so I’m sure that he would be fine. I like that he knows how to needle his brother.
Ashley: He’s also good at using how tall her is. He’s like, “What’s up? Yeah, I’m looking down at you, literally.”
Kelly: Oh yeah. Yeah, also he’s very tall. Also he’s very smart. Daiki has a lot going on for him.
Ashley: I know. He’s a pure boy. I want to give him a hug.
Kelly: I feel like, ’cause Mao and Hiro … it’s like, “We’re basically like brother and sister,” and I’m like, okay. But, I feel like Mao and Daiki really are more like brother and sister.
Ashley: In the way that they rip each other? Yeah.
Kelly: Yeah, and Hiro gets kind of jealous of it, right? Where they’re kind of like being dorks together, and going to work together, and just, yeah, ripping on each other, and Hiro is like, “Huff, huff, huff.”
Ashley: He’s like, “Is this the glowingness of youth? What is happening?”
Kelly: I like how Hiro is like, “I’m so old!” I’m like, oh my god, you’re 24, shut up. You’re young, you big jerk. He’s like, “They’re so young, and pure, and full of life,” and I’m like, ugh! Just wait until you’re 30, Hiro, then we’ll have a talk. But, yeah, that relationship that they have … I feel like the reason that Hiro and Mao don’t have as much of that, even though they have a little bit like, “You suck,” … “You suck more,” is that they are having more of that romantic spark, which is making them more self-conscious around each other. And Mao and Daiki are just very … they totally act like siblings.
Ashley: But especially from Mao’s perspective. She’s just like, “Oh Daiki, I want to kiss your brother right now. So, I’m just gonna go in your room instead.”
Kelly: Oh my god. Mao hiding in Daiki’s room is probably my favorite thing. He’s like, “Why are you here,” and she’s just like, “Uh, no reason.”
Ashley: Let’s study.
Kelly: Let’s study, we’re studying so hard.
Ashley: “Will you let me kick your butt in Soul Caliber?”
Kelly: Yeah, I feel like Daiki can see Mao as a love interest, but I don’t think Mao would ever be able to see Daiki as more than a brother.
Kelly: Unless there was a radical event.
Ashley: Well, I don’t know, is there a radical event?
Kelly: I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to find out.
Kelly: We’ll talk the next podcast.
Ashley: Okay, pause. I loved the side chapter in which Daiki got drunk, because Mao was like, “I thought this was water!”
Kelly: Oh my god. I feel like Daiki has a few good omake chapters.
Ashley: And I’m like, oh my god, I love this boy.
Kelly: Also, this one was not as funny, but the one where he remembers telling Mao that her hair looked ugly in a bow, when they were kids.
Ashley: Oh yeah.
Kelly: I was like, that one kind of hurt a little, because it’s like, she wore her hair in a little braid, and she must have done it herself right?
Kelly: Because her dad sucks. And Daiki is like, “It looks awful. You should never wear your hair like that,” ’cause he was being a dumb little tsundere kid, who is like telling the girl he likes that she’s ugly. Then she’s like, “Fine. Blah,” and then Hiro is the one who … he’s like a few years older, so he’s like, “Oh, you look really cute,” and he’s like more mature. But then she never wears her hair like that again, and I was like, oh my god.
Ashley: I know, I was like, Daiki lord, look what you did.
Kelly: Daiki, why did you that? She looked so cute. You know she looked cute.
Ashley: And you know it.
Kelly: Why are you lying to yourself?
Ashley: Really, I’m just a sucker for tsunderes, so Daiki is just like oh, here he is.
Kelly: I know, he really is, but I feel like that chapter is kind of like the … even though it’s just a little omake, it perfectly contrasts Daiki versus Hiro. Where Hiro, because he’s a little older, is a little more mature, and has been able to have that relationship with Mao where he is more of a protector of her, and looks out for her like he looks out for his younger siblings. Where he sees her crying on the road, and he stops and talks to her. Whereas Daiki is like they’re age mates, so it’s just been like, “You’re stupid,” “No, you are stupid.” “Your hair looks ugly.”
Ashley: “You suck at games!”
Kelly: Yes, their relationship has always been more like that.
Ashley: Fine, I just want Daiki to find happiness, okay?
Kelly: I know. Daiki is a good boy, he really is.
Ashley: Like, I’m confident about everybody else’s happiness, except Sugimoto’s who I don’t really care about at this point.
Kelly: I know. See? I brought you over to the anti-Sugimoto train.
Ashley: Yup. You brought me over pretty hard. I’m like, she was okay, before, but now I’m like, nah.
Kelly: I just need her to grow up, okay?
Ashley: She’s trying to steal the love of an orphan girl. It’s so rude.
Kelly: I know. Well, also she’s just like … I kind of get her, ’cause she’s kind of naïve, and stuff, but I feel like she’s using her naivety as a weapon. Well, or as an excuse, ’cause she’s like, “Well, I don’t know what to do. Is this not acceptable,” and I’m like, no! It’s not acceptable!
Ashley: But Mao is just like, “Oh, she’s older. So, I guess I can’t say anything.” I’m like, Mao, you tell her.
Kelly: I know, tell her off, Mao!
Ashley: You tell her off.
Kelly: You know who would tell her off? Is Chi-chan.
Ashley: Yeah, right?
Kelly: Chi-chan would like get up in her face.
Ashley: And be like, “How dare you?”
Kelly: Yeah, Chi-chan would be like, “You are being horrible.”
Ashley: “Give back my friend’s novel. Let her have the sex, with Hiro.”
Kelly: Yeah. She’s trying to get laid, and Mao is like, “Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Hold on.”
Ashley: “That’s not what I said,” like.
Kelly: Then Mao would be like, “We held hands, it’s fine.” I also like … this manga is so innocent, in that it does the whole full-face blush.
Ashley: Oh yeah.
Kelly: Like full, everything.
Ashley: Not just like a little tinge on the cheek, but your whole body just became red.
Kelly: Full blush, I know, and then they’re like, “We held hands once.”
Ashley: “Oh no, we held hands again,” like.
Kelly: “What did we get into,” I know. Oh my gosh, when Daiki holds her hand, ’cause he’s taking her away from that dude who is hitting on her, I’m like Daiki … Daiki, you’re hurting me right now with this.
Ashley: Daiki, I love you.
Kelly: It’s like, I feel like your love is futile. Why are you —
Ashley: It is, but Daiki!
Kelly: You’re hurting us all. You’re hurting yourself. You’re hurting me.
Ashley: I love when he was like … wait. I can’t tell if he was playing her too, ’cause he was like, “I’m not wearing my glasses, so I can only see you as I’m about to kiss you.”
Kelly: Oh! I wondered that too. Yeah, we didn’t get an omniscient view of that. Like, was he? Did he really forget his glasses?
Ashley: Because then he was leading them down the street, so I was like well, but wait a second.
Kelly: I know, and did you really forget your glasses, Daiki, or are just being Mr. Sly over here. I’m genuinely unsure, because for Daiki it could totally go either way.
Ashley: I know. So, I’m like, hmm, I don’t know about this Daiki. I didn’t buy this little story you gave about forgetting your glasses.
Kelly: I know, like uh-huh, sure.
Ashley: I don’t believe you.
Kelly: So, would you be happy if Mao ended up with Hiro, or would you be squicked?
Ashley: Oh. I think I would be fine with it, ’cause I mean, it’s always so hard with these. ’Cause I get that it’s like yeah, we have age limits for a reason, and Mao is not a fully developed adult, but she will be in like half a year.
Kelly: I know, I’m like, she’s 17. She’s not like 14. You know?
Ashley: Yeah, and then as they’re aging … their current age gap, it’s not like 20 years, it’s what, seven?
Kelly: Yeah, I feel like it is surmountable.
Ashley: I mean, I don’t know. I always just try to think of it as, as you get older those gaps matter so much less, right? Like when you’re 40, and Mao is 33, it’s like okay. Nobody cares.
Kelly: Yeah, you’re like, no big deal. I feel like it would be worse if Mao was in eighth grade.
Ashley: If Mao was in eighth grade, I would have different feelings.
Kelly: Then you’d be like yeah, that’s weird.
Ashley: And I guess for me, whenever I read stories about childhood friends that become lovers, it’s kind of always a question of like, yeah, so what makes you love a person? Does growing up with them, and kind of shaping them consciously, unconsciously, to your will … Like we just mentioned Daiki being like, “Don’t wear your braid like that,” and that severely affects Mao, right?
Ashley: That’s a concrete thing, and so it’s just always like how much have you shaped each other, for each other, versus how much do you need to be your own person?
Kelly: I will say, I am a sucker for the childhood friends to lovers plots.
Ashley: Oh yeah?
Kelly: So, for me, this is fine. Well, yeah, ’cause it’s always like, “We had all these feelings for each other, but we didn’t know they were love.” I’m like, oh aw.
Ashley: I think that’s fair. I would be very curious … I guess I should try to look this up, or something, of like do romantic relationships that started as just friendships normally last longer? Is it the same? Does it matter? I don’t know.
Kelly: Yeah, I don’t know either. Who can say?
Ashley: Who can say?
Kelly: We need a manga about that. We need a manga about people who were childhood friends, who got together in a shojo manga, and then 10 years later how are they doing?
Ashley: Yeah. Are they broken up? I don’t know.
Kelly: Are they fine? But, I think that the other thing, with the Hiro and Mao being childhood friends, is because family is such a big, huge theme in this manga, it’s like they’re kind of the logical way to make each others families?
Kelly: ’Cause they already have that bond.
Ashley: Yeah, it’s always a question of too, is I feel like family comes up as a lot in shojo manga, as a theme, and it’s like yeah, that obviously goes really well with romance. Because, when you get married, then you make somebody who wasn’t your family be your family, and then you expand it. So, it’s always like, what is the line here? And found families, it’s like yeah, I don’t know. You can just do whatever.
Kelly: I know, and I am also a sucker for found family stories. So, this one just hits all my buttons.
Ashley: That’s why, House of the Sun, would hit all your buttons.
Kelly: I mean, it is true. It’s funny, because the orphan shojo is such a trope in shojo manga, right? Where it’s like, I have nowhere to go and no family, and so I have to make my own family.
Ashley: But also, everybody is in love with me.
Kelly: Right? Like Fruits Basket, Kamisama Kiss. I have no family and nowhere to go.
Kelly: Someone must take me in. I am an independent girl, making my own way in the world, with no support. And, Mao, is kind of an orphan shojo, but the whole manga is like families breaking apart, and then coming back together. Like, the Lord of the Rings plot, of families. But then, I think making your own family is also big, because their little family is just Hiro, and it’s like Hiro and … Oh, sorry, it’s Hiro and Wakaba-chan.
Ashley: Yeah. How dare you try to discredit —
Kelly: How could I forget the turtle? And then it’s Hiro, and Wakaba-chan, and Mao, and then they get Croquette, right?
Kelly: Then they get Daiki, so it’s like they’re kind of making their own little —
Ashley: They’re building it up.
Kelly: Their own little family group, that they all can feel happy and comfortable in, even though their parents are dead, and her parents are terrible.
Ashley: No, they’re definitely like a found family, that I’m like, okay, y’all are gonna actually marry each other, though, and become an actual family.
Kelly: I know. I have to say that in shojo manga, even though so many of them end with weddings … like the wedding dress on the final volume is so classic. Sometimes I’m like, meh, I didn’t really need see you guys get married, that wasn’t —
Ashley: Yeah, you’re like, “I didn’t need to read this chapter.”
Kelly: Right? I don’t know. That’s how I felt about … what’s that manga? My Little Monster?
Ashley: Oh yeah.
Kelly: Where there’s like a flash-forward, and it’s like, “They got married,” and I’m like, I don’t really care, this is kind of weird. I feel like I would feel the same in Taiyō no Ie. I’m like, I don’t really need to see you all get married. Also, because it would be weird, with your dad. But, I do want to see them —
Ashley: You want to see them kiss.
Kelly: Yeah! And, kind of just admit to each other that they are both happiest when they’re with each other. Although, I do get why Mao feels like she needs to move out.
Ashley: Oh, definitely. Mao is being reasonable, and she’s like, “I should probably not be here.”
Kelly: I know. Well, ’cause Mao is like, “I should not live here. A, because I feel like I am a burden,” which I’m like, no you’re not, Mao. But also, because she’s like, “My romance plot cannot proceed if I’m living here,” and I’m like, I totally agree.
Kelly: Because, as long as you’re living under Hiro’s roof, Hiro is your guardian, and that makes it weird.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s weird. I do love when they go grocery shopping though.
Kelly: I do too, and Hiro is such a mom, and he’s like, “I need you to go get two dozen eggs, right now.”
Ashley: I love that he’s like, “Oh my god guys, we have take advantage of every sale, and it’s per person. So, there’s three of us now, oh my god,” it’s so good.
Kelly: Do grocery stores in Japan really work like this?
Ashley: I don’t know. It does seem like a lot of work, right?
Kelly: ’Cause it’s such a manga trope to be like, “There’s a sale at the super market, gotta stock up!” And I’m like, does this happen? Is this like a real life problem?
Ashley: I have to assume it’s real, yeah.
Kelly: So people are like, “Wait we have to go get all of the toilet paper! It’s like two cents a roll, get all your friends! Get all your friends, everyone grab some!”
Ashley: Oh my gosh.
Kelly: I’m like, this is really a communal event. I didn’t realize that this was such a thing. But, yeah, like domestically, they’re super cute together. And Mao is trying to do all the chores, and she sucks at it. Poor Mao.
Ashley: But they did the slipper thing, where they made slipper, and you just stomp around, and clean the floor. I’m like, oh, that’s pretty good.
Kelly: Yeah, that is true. Okay, I also like, speaking of their domestic life … and I feel like this manga is also kind of slice of lifey, even though —
Ashley: Okay, I literally just listened to your One Panel Later episode about this, and I was like, is this a slice of life? Now I doubt myself.
Kelly: I know. You’re like, “There’s so much more to this than I thought!”
Ashley: I know.
Kelly: That happened to me too, when I recorded that, I’m like, is this a slice of life? I don’t know. Are they? Is this really a slice of their life?
Ashley: I don’t know anymore.
Kelly: But, I feel like this manga has slice of lifey elements though, right? Which is funny, ’cause not having read it for a little while, and then rereading it again before this podcast, I was like … I kind of primarily, in my mind, remember it as fluffy, slice of lifey, comfy romance, and then reading it again I’m like, oh yeah, no. There’s like all this crap going on that’s really intensely emotional. That’s like not how I remember it in my brain. The things that I’m more remembering I’m like, oh remember when they were just hanging out with Croquette?
Ashley: Yeah, exactly. Remember when Daiki was drunk? Like, the silly things.
Kelly: Yeah, and they’re walking their dog, and that’s fine, but they have this kind of comfy domestic existence. Then I do kind of like how we get in Mao’s head sometimes, and she’s like, “I want to touch him.” Well, ’cause I feel like sometimes shojo romance protagonists don’t get to be like, “I’m interested in snuggling.”
Ashley: “I’m lusting after you.”
Kelly: Right? And she’s like, “I want to touch him more,” and I’m like, I get you Mao. You’re not Chi-chan, but —
Ashley: I love when she gets her hair caught on his buttons.
Kelly: Oh, caught on his button, and he’s just trying to be like all stoic, and he’s like, “What’s she doing?” Then I love how his first thought, he’s like, “Is she trying to pull something,” then he’s like, “No, it’s Mao, she’s doing something stupid.”
Ashley: It’s so good. I mean she did draw on his face later, and he didn’t even try to wipe it off.
Kelly: No, he’s like, “Now I have to get a hat.”
Kelly: I was like, why don’t you wash your face?
Ashley: I was like, I understand it probably all won’t come off, immediately, but come on bro?
Kelly: I know, like makeup remover, lotion, I don’t know, there’s numerous avenues to get a giant eye off your forehead.
Ashley: He didn’t even try.
Kelly: But he’s, “Too bad, I’ll just have to go get my hat,” and I’m like, okay. That’s fine, Hiro.
Ashley: Such an adorable dork.
Kelly: I know, he is, I like Hiro a lot. I really feel for him, I think, ’cause I’m just like, he is just such a lonely person.
Ashley: He just … he has no idea.
Kelly: He’s just like … he lives with a turtle. Also, his work schedule is like bananas.
Ashley: I don’t understand his work schedule. Is there a schedule? It just seems like it’s do things forever.
Kelly: Yeah. He constantly, constantly works, and then he comes home at like dawn, and takes a shower, and goes back to work. I’m like, is this real life, dude?
Ashley: That’s very Japan. That’s my stereotype of Japan is just like —
Kelly: I know! It’s totally my stereotype of the Japanese salaryman. And I’m like, when do you bath? How do you live?
Ashley: I don’t know, but they do.
Kelly: He comes home and makes bentos for Mao to take to school.
Ashley: ’Cause he’s a mom.
Kelly: ’Cause he’s a mom. And maybe I just want a boyfriend who is a mom.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s what I learned.
Kelly: Right? He is like … does the laundry, he cooks her breakfast, and makes her bentos. He’s really got it all figured out.
Ashley: I love it.
Kelly: But, it’s like he had no one to take care of to use his skills all this time. So, now he finally does, and he’s so excited.
Ashley: Yeah, they were all atrophying, and he’s like, “Yes!”
Kelly: I know, poor Hiro.
Ashley: I think the only other thing that I definitely wanted to bring up, was the use of fireworks both as a metaphor, but also as a thing that they do frequently.
Kelly: Yeah, that is true. Well, Mao has that episode where she goes and tries to light fireworks with her classmates.
Ashley: Yeah, and it doesn’t work, because they’re old fireworks, or whatever.
Kelly: Yeah, ’cause they’re old.
Ashley: But, she does it with Hiro, and then it seems to work slightly better, was my take on that, and I’m like mm-hmm (affirmative) —
Kelly: And you’re like, “Whew, what does this mean?” I know, and I think that Oda is there too, at the time when the fireworks don’t work.
Ashley: Yeah, it’s totally on. I see the metaphor here.
Kelly: Like, oh.
Ashley: Love is sparkly, and explosive.
Kelly: I know, right? Well, also, that part is really cute too, ’cause she’s like all excited to have a curfew.
Ashley: Oh yeah!
Kelly: ’Cause she’s never had a curfew, because her parents don’t give a crap about her. So, she’s like, “I have to be home by my curfew,” and the other kids are like, “Oh, sorry,” and she’s like, “I have to leave now. It’s my curfew.”
Ashley: And they’re like, “Sorry.”
Kelly: They’re like, “Okay, bye. Sorry about it,” and she’s so excited. She’s like, “Someone is waiting for me,” like, “I’m gonna get in trouble!” Then they go to the fireworks festival together.
Ashley: Yeah, they also go to the fireworks festival, and I love it that it’s a thing that they do every year, and fireworks are so fleeting, but they still bring about this wonder that you anticipate, and all these things. It’s so good.
Kelly: That is so good. I know, the classic fireworks festival. I just cannot get enough of that, and also the fireworks booming too loud, and they’re like, “I couldn’t hear you. What did he say?”
Ashley: My understanding of Japan in the summer is that those summer festivals are the only good thing about the summer.
Kelly: I liked that the fireworks festival, especially if we’re thinking about fireworks as a metaphor for like romance —
Ashley: But they are.
Kelly: Where the fireworks festival is kind of something they do every year, and then the flashback to when Mao didn’t go with them, ’cause she was at home waiting for her parents, and waiting for her family.
Ashley: No good.
Kelly: And so, she missed the fireworks. Him bringing Mao is kind of like a fulfillment of that promise.
Ashley: I know. So good.
Kelly: I know. It’s so good, but it’s also like, why are her parents so bad?
Ashley: Some humans are just bad, is what I’ve learned.
Kelly: They’re just bad. I don’t know. I thought that was nice too, where he’s kind of fulfilling his promise from when they were a kid, and he was like, “I’ll take you, ’cause your family isn’t gonna take you,” and that’s pretty much what the manga is about.
Ashley: I know. See, on some level, it’s so much like, Hiro is so admirable for wanting to maintain all these things from childhood, and stuff, and at the same time it’s like, Hiro, you gotta grow up.
Kelly: I know. That is kind of true, right? You’re like, Hiro, maybe you need to move past this.
Ashley: Even when they were talking about, how you mentioned earlier, that Mao stays in Hina’s room right now, and Daiki has taken his old room, and Hiro still lives in his old room. So, then when they’re talking about how Hina is gonna come, they’re like, “Well, what’s gonna happen then? Is Mao gonna live in our parents room,” and I’m like, why wouldn’t Hiro live in your parents’ —
Kelly: I know. I was thinking about that too, actually, because yeah, they were like, “Oh, when Hina comes, I won’t have a room,” and I’m like, obviously there’s one more room in the house, you guys, your parent’s room. And I’m like, is this —
Ashley: Nothing can take that.
Kelly: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s like a Miss Havisham situation, where they all go in and everything is just as it was.
Ashley: Well, but that’s what’s baffling, is because they have that scene where they get the yukata for going to the fireworks festival, right?
Kelly: Mm-hmm (affirmative) —
Ashley: Where, isn’t it supposed to be one of their mom’s or something?
Kelly: Yeah, and it’s Hiro and Daiki’s mom’s yukata.
Ashley: So, clearly Hiro is like, “I have a level where I’ve let things go,” he’s like, “The yukata is sad that nobody wears it, so go ahead,” and stuff. He has some healthy level of like —
Kelly: But, even that was so fraught with baggage, right? Because, Mao felt weird about wearing it, but then Hiro was like, “We need to move forward, and someone should wear it.”
Ashley: Yeah, and Daiki was like, “No. Disagree.”
Kelly: But then Hina sees Mao, doesn’t she?
Ashley: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: Hina sees Mao in her mom’s yukata, and comments on it, and it’s totally like Mao has usurped this place in the family, at that moment. I don’t know, it’s so fraught.
Ashley: I know.
Kelly: Oops. But, I kind of agree with Hiro, I’m like, well someone should wear it.
Ashley: Right. I know I’m pretty young, but I definitely get very fraught if I think about it too much I’m like, I have all of this junk, what is gonna happen to it when I die? People are just gonna throw it away. I’m like, this is not gonna —
Kelly: Oh no, this is getting really dark.
Ashley: Right, and it will make people sad, and then they’ll throw it away, because they don’t want to look at it, ’cause it makes them sad, and stuff. I’m just like, okay, I hate capitalism now. Thank you.
Kelly: Capitalism. Well, I feel like there is some virtue to like using something that someone left you as a way to keep their memory alive.
Kelly: I feel like Mao using his mom’s yukata is like, we’re all moving forward. ’Cause they went to the fireworks festival as a family too as kids, right?
Kelly: And so, it was like they remember everyone getting out their yukatas and going, and it was kind of part of their ritual, and in that way they were kind of keeping it alive. So, yeah, it is tough. But, yeah, part of me I’m like, Hiro, maybe you shouldn’t have lived in this house that your parents died in.
Ashley: Yeah. Part of me is like, Hiro clearly needs to move past some things.
Kelly: Well, he’s kind of just like frozen in time, ’cause he’s just stuck in this house, where his family lived, and tries to keep everything as it was, so that his siblings can come back to things just as they remember. But, his siblings are not as he even remembers them.
Ashley: Yeah, ’cause they are in peak oh, we grew, isn’t that magical?
Kelly: We are humans. It’s been like 10 years, and we grew up. Yeah. So, he’s like a time capsule. He needs to figure out something else to pin his emotions on than his family coming back, and living with his dog and turtle.
Ashley: I’m hoping the best for him in the remaining six volumes, I guess.
Kelly: I know. Yeah, the house is so central to the manga, like the manga is named after it, but it’d almost be better if it burned down.
Ashley: If they lit a firework and it set the house on fire.
Kelly: Yeah, and what does this mean? Where are your metaphors now?
Ashley: Oh. Too hot to handle.
Kelly: It’s just like this baggage weighing him down, and I can see the alternate side of that, where it’s like the house as kind of a symbol for Mao, of a place where she has always been able to be happy.
Kelly: And be loved, unlike her own home. So, it’s like a bright spot in that way, but in other ways I’m like, Hiro, you need to be able to move passed this family stuff, and live a life of your own.
Ashley: I know. See again, consistency, it comes in. Y’all need to just be like, let me think about this for a second. Okay, this position is nonsense. Throw that away. Make a new self-image of myself right now, to live by.
Kelly: Right, and be able to move forward and worry about other things than having your siblings come back. ’Cause the thing is, even Daiki and Hina come back. Daiki is the same year as Mao, and she’s like a second year in high school. So, he only has one more year before Daiki goes to college.
Ashley: I know, right? And then he’s gonna be his own adult boy, and not live in this house anymore.
Kelly: Right. Then Hina, she’s in middle school, right?
Ashley: Something like that, yeah.
Kelly: She’s in like seventh or eighth grade, and so, eventually she’s … and then, I’m like, he’s gonna be an empty nester!
Ashley: Grew up too fast.
Kelly: Again, again.
Ashley: And at the same time, went nowhere at all.
Kelly: Yeah, and he’s always just been here, working his salaryman job. Also, maybe Hiro needs better friends.
Ashley: Right? Does Hiro have friends? That’s the confusing part.
Kelly: He has like his one office friend.
Ashley: Yeah, he has his one office friend, but —
Kelly: Who is not that involved in his life. He’s like a work friend, only.
Ashley: Yeah, and he they only hang out when Sugimoto is also there.
Kelly: Yeah, and he doesn’t even tell his work friend about Mao. He’s like, “Oh, my sister,” he literally confides in no one. He has no real friends.
Ashley: Poor Hiro. He needs a lot of hugs.
Kelly: Yes. Now we’re feeling very bad for Hiro.
Ashley: I mean, he’s gonna have a mental breakdown one day, but —
Kelly: I know. I’m just worried that, I feel like Hina could be the breaking point for Hiro, if she says something really unkind to him. If she’s just really blunt about being like, “Look, dude, you need to move on. Our parents are dead.” I’m like, don’t break the boy!
Ashley: Oh, he’s gonna get broken in the next six volumes, isn’t he?
Kelly: I don’t know. Does he?
Ashley: You know.
Kelly: I’m trying to keep it a mystery. I mean, I will say that this manga like I said, is overall pretty gentle. It’s not like some shojo manga where it’s like, I’m dramatic, and then Daiki got hit by a car.
Ashley: Oh, yeah?
Kelly: That would be a dramatic twist.
Ashley: Oh, it would. I would still love him. I would be like, no Daiki, you deserved so much better.
Kelly: Maybe that would be how we got out of happy, and sad that Daiki failed as the love rival —
Ashley: Yeah, he got hit by a car and died.
Kelly: Is he got hit by a car and died, and everyone came together over it. Then Hina came back, and then no one had to live in their dead parent’s room, because Daiki’s room is open.
Ashley: Oh boy.
Kelly: This is family of tragedy.
Ashley: Yeah. Well, I think on that note, that I guess we can end here with the mystery of what will happen in the next —
Kelly: What will happen? Will Hina come home? Will Daiki get hit by a car? Will the house burn down in a freak fireworks accident?
Ashley: You have to stay tuned to find out! Anyways, seriously, thanks for listening to Shojo and Tell. If you have any comments, or questions, or whatever people normally want to say about episodes of podcasts, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet us, Instagram, whatever, at shojoandtell on those things. Kelly, where can people find you on the internet?
Kelly: You can find me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @kellyqute, Q-U-T-E, and you can also find me at my podcast, at onepanellater.com, where you can find lots of really fun articles I have written about manga on the Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog.
Ashley: Oh. You live the life. You’re like, “I got this podcast, and write about manga.” I’m like, alright.
Kelly: I know, I’m like, when do I have time to sleep? I don’t know.
Ashley: No sleeping, that’s overrated. But, yeah, so everybody go check out One Panel Later, and then if you like both of those podcasts, you should go leave ratings, or reviews, in iTunes, or Stitcher, or wherever you see a thing that’s like, “How did you like this?” Click the five stars, or whatever.
Kelly: And in your review you can tell us if you support Daiki, or Hiro, as Mao’s love interest.
Ashley: Yeah. Which one do you love more? Which Nakamura boy? But, yes, so the next time we will, for real, be back for the last six volumes of House of the Sun, and we will find out if Daiki gets hit by a car. Probably not, but you don’t know.
Kelly: You don’t know. You’re gonna have to read it.
Ashley: Yeah. Okay, until then, bye.