This article contains spoilers for OreImo.
In the article about Ken Kubo from Otaku no Video, I mentioned his relationship with his girlfriend Yoshiko, who betrays him after he becomes involved with his friend Tanaka’s otaku circle. She’d spent months getting slowly more and more bewildered at Kubo’s deepening otaku interest, ultimately culminating in her cheating on him.
Kubo had found a passion, something that made him happy. All Yoshiko wanted, however, was for him to come back to something she understood. The two grew apart and couldn’t reconcile, with disastrous results.
This happens a lot. People with ambition and drive often alienate others without meaning to. Focusing hard on a project or a passion can have the added unintentional effect of pushing away people who aren’t with you on that journey. It’s a battle between progress and stagnation, where people comfortable with their lives as they are unconsciously attempt to hold back those who endeavour to move on to bigger and better things, out of fear of that person vanishing from their life.
This easily becomes a disaster in the context of a romantic relationship. OreImo contains two such scenarios.
Manami Tamura & Kyousuke Kousaka
Manami is introduced as the classic “childhood friend” character. She’s close with Kyousuke and has a crush on him, but the two aren’t in a relationship. Nevertheless, she comes off as pleasant, if a little plain.
In reality, she turns out to be the series’ main antagonist, single-handedly responsible for the bad blood between Kyousuke and his sister Kirino.
The Kousaka siblings used to be very close. Kyousuke had good grades, was the school’s track star, and was well-known for stepping up to challenges. Kirino looked up to him. He was a hero to her and she wanted to be like him. At the same time, however, Manami was also fond of him.
Seeing Kirino as competition, and intimidated by Kyousuke’s high achiever tendencies, she poison-dripped Kyousuke into adopting an “easygoing life,” into embracing mediocrity so that he would never outpace her and move on to bigger and better things where she couldn’t follow him, and so that his relationship with his sister would deteriorate.
Ayase Aragaki & Kirino Kousaka
We’re introduced to Ayase as Kirino’s cute friend who Kyousuke finds charming and from whom Kirino hides her otaku lifestyle. We’re quickly, however, exposed to her darker side. She vehemently hates otaku and thinks otaku media is harmful. Much of her interaction with Kirino and the others throughout the series is decidedly hostile when it comes to otaku culture.
Her motivation is to “protect” her friend Kirino from the “corrupting” nature of otaku media, but in doing so, she reveals a significant mistrust in her friend, in favor of her prejudice about otaku.
Otaku media makes Kirino happy, and she cares about it deeply. Ayase’s hatred for it runs so deep that she’s unwilling to be friends with Kirino if Kirino keeps her hobbies. As a result, in order to have her cake and eat it too, Ayase endeavours to strip Kirino of her otaku tendencies.
Ayase wants to remain friends with Kirino, but only the idealized version of Kirino that exists in her head, not the real one. Ayase’s ideal Kirino doesn’t like otaku media, which Ayase finds disgusting. She can’t accept Kirino’s love for otaku culture, and she’s viscerally afraid that Kirino might move on from her because of that.
Manami and Ayase are different versions of the same paradigm. Though Manami is more callous and deliberate in her hamstringing of Kyousuke’s ambition, and though Ayase acts unconsciously out of selfish desperation, the underlying dynamic of both is "I want to reign this person in from their passion because I want to satisfy my ideal of them," treating their friends like dress-up dolls in order to take control of their lives.
It’s an unhealthy paradigm that occurs when one person’s moving in a direction and the other person wants to stay with the first, but has no desire to begin to understand why they chose to move in that direction.
Manami had a choice to step up to Kyousuke’s level so she could stay by his side as his equal. However, her complacence and comfort with her own mediocrity stopped her from doing so and made her callously sabotage Kyousuke’s life and his relationship with his sister.
Ayase had a choice to trust her best friend’s judgment and, at the very least, understand her love for otaku culture enough to stay out of her way with it. Instead, her intolerance, self-centeredness, and prejudice toward otaku turned her against her friend and had her giving ultimatums.
People change and evolve. They grow. When people end up in friendships and relationships with each other, they can either grow together or grow apart. The most mature among us can accept this and go with the flow, growing with the people who are heading in a direction they like, and letting the people heading in a direction they dislike proceed on their way.
The less mature among us will fight tooth and nail to keep the people in our lives exactly the way they are. They’ll try and take control of the lives of others, and when that doesn’t work, they’ll try and “get back” at those people, who they feel have wronged them for simply living life.
There’s something to be said for looking out for one’s friends’ best interests, and steering them away from truly harmful activities, but this isn’t that. This is what happens when people fail to accept and understand the people close to them.
· Grow together or grow apart. Understand and accept the paths that people close to you are on. And if you can’t accept them, be prepared to go your separate ways.
· Own your passions. You don’t have to compromise things that are important to you, and anyone who wants to make you do that isn’t on your side.
· Keep an open mind. Be willing to take interest in what’s important to the people close to you, even if that means re-evaluating your pre-conceptions.