I am a 24 years old woman and, as the years pass by, I find more and more myself wanting grown-up protagonists with whom I can relate easier. Josei, a demographic targeted at women is relatively small, especially when we talk about anime. So it’s always more than welcome when a series appears in my radar.
With this title I was a bit hesitant, since I watched its very first episode, Kawame o Suberu Kaze, 2 years ago, but the anti-urban sentiment in it annoyed me. Now it was clearly stated though that these new stories would be based on awarded novels written by women, and the artwork was very appealing, too. Thus, I had to give it at least a chance. Three episodes all in all. Unfortunately, I got spades of housewifery stuff instead of work related troubles and successes.
The first story was the most frustrating and disappointing of the three. With the title Dinner I should have expected as much. Mimi is a housewife and remains one till the end of the episode, with the only difference that now she cares more about her cooking and has a different, kinder man by her side. Oh and a new couch. And that’s her only happiness. Illustrated by sparkles of course. Ok, they were subtle.
Dinner starts with a romanticized statement about the nature of cooking -as seen above- and rephrases the infamous saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. This is more problematic than it appears. Yes, good nutrition is very much needed for good health. And I won’t deny that I feel like creating something delicious for my beloved person to eat. I want to help him with his diet. But that doesn’t have to do with my gender. I expect from my partner to display the same willingness and feelings as well. It’s not ‘my duty’. It’s not any woman’s duty. And naturally, it’s not the only way I can charm my lover or expect my love to be understood.
The problems continue. Mimi tells us of her life before she met the garbage collector she fell in love with and it was really pathetic. She was an extremely obedient child who let herself be humiliated by everyone; she was continuously scolded by her parents, younger sister, and her parents-in-law. Her marriage wasn’t her choice. It was an arranged marriage with a man who hadn’t looked at her in the eyes even back then. At some point, she must have felt tired of this emotional abandonment and for once she stood up for herself and did the right thing, namely ask for divorce.
That was good, right? She realized her agency and mustered up courage to make her own life choices. Even before getting in an affair. The thing is that her husband denied to give her divorce and the things stopped there. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, she could have pressed the matter and she could have gotten what she wanted even without mutual consent. The man left her but she kept living on his money. Couldn’t she chase even a simple part-time job in order to escape his economical prison? What’s worse is that her freedom was not something she achieved by herself, but she was allowed to have it by her husband under the condition she came to her sister’s wedding -and probably stand by his side at the ceremony for the last time.
Her sister calls her and is quite patronizing in how she talks. She is in fact blackmailing her of sorts and blames her sideways for her adultery without knowing how Mimi feels and how unhappy her marriage was. Her husband’s family was “nice enough to be quiet” about her ‘crime’ which was leaked from a private dedective. Mimi neither protests about the belittling words she hears nor seems terrified and angry about the fact that “before she even made it out of the house, he knew the identity of that man”. Or the fact that according to her husband’s wording she is a possession to be disposed-bestowed to someone else. She just accepts everything and actually sees her husband’s disposition as generous and benevolent.
Mimi appears genuinely happy in the end, though. Being a housewife is as much of a choice as being a career woman some might say here. Happiness takes many different forms and it doesn’t follow a certain recipe, so why would anyone question the protagonist’s bliss? Especially since Kou is such a nice guy who respects Mimi and praises her cooking skills, making her feel loved and important. I beg to differ.
I mean, Kou compares her to an animal, which honestly is insulting unless it’s a sweetheart or sex name. Which totally isn’t. He says:
Mimi questions it for a moment but when he comes to hug her reassuringly she doesn’t seem to mind. No, it completely doesn’t matter if she was called a pet. He didn’t mean it that way, surely. They both live in Japan, they weren’t able to attain any upper education and they couldn’t possible know anything of feminism and patriarchy. Why would Mimi feel offended? It’s her duty to stay at home so that a man feels safe and good, no? She was ‘saved’ by him although she was “the most dangerous thing” he found, she was trash to be thrown away, and he validated her life which was awfully simplistic.
Once, when Kou was late from work, she was worried sick that something happened to him and at that point their relationship was still not public. She had no one to turn to. This made me realize two things: a. She really had no friends that could support her and b. if something happens to Kou, she will be lost. She will be left all alone and after her divorce, she won’t have any way of surviving. Because as she says herself:
She depends on him completely. She has no particular skills except for her cooking. No hobbies or interests. She is frail without him. Why would that be romantic or good? Her relationship with her family is pretty bad and probably not repairable much- I know from my own experience that old people don’t change much; on the contrary they get worse as they get older. Mimi has no family or friends and a psychologist would talk about worrisome lack of safety nets. Not to mention that a relationship which is slightly mutual exploitative bears some significant flaws and in the long run it’s dubious how far the two individuals will go and develop. Mimi states that:
Satisfying his appetite was the beginning. I was trying to monopolize his beginning. And using him as a starting point, I came back to life. […] I used him as a starting point and he used me as an ending point. If we keep using each other like this, it might end up as something like love.
She generally either uses the wrong words or she has a distorted view of what love is and how it works. At an earlier point she says: “He took me in. When pity is coupled with the flesh, it becomes love.” I am not sure she will be able to overcome her low confidence issues, if she keeps the same beliefs. A redeeming ending would have been to show them sharing a common interest, Mimi starting working somewhere and blossoming into an individual that can stand on her own two feet. Not remaining a simple housewife.