Making a Game of Joy and Misery

The Cover of Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game.

The Cover of Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game.

I touch on some rather controversial topics in this article. As such, where I’d normally have joke or witty remark, you get nothing instead.

One intriguing facet of Japanese light novels, or novellas, is despite being light reading material there are instances when the atmosphere and themes are engrossing. For example, there are sections in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series where the mood was lighthearted but was still weighed down by the situation the characters were in. These instances gave the books the appearance of a richer story without compromising the relaxed nature of the narrative. Granted, there are light novels that take on a much darker tone, but I feel those are less light reading material for teens as they are light reading material for those in their early twenties. Of course, when one of these novel series is adapted into an anime, much of the tone, atmosphere, and themes bleed into them and they are better off because of this. However, if there is one anime adaptation that’s certainly filled with wonderful ambience, it would be the Denpa teki na Kanojo OVA (original video anime) series. I have previously stated the series is in the same vein as a hardboiled or noir crime drama insofar as it’s an interesting look at the intersection of the world we perceive and the bizarre world we occupy. The second installment, Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game (電波的な彼女〜幸福ゲーム), also did this. But rather than reiterate the same argument, I feel it’s more important to focus on how this installment pulled viewers into the mystery through the atmosphere. Added on top of this, the initial hook of the narrative, the protagonist being accused of sexual assault, and the overarching theme of happiness made this particular story come to life.

While I understand that one way film noir is stimulating is due to the narrative, many of the visual elements also provide viewers with an experience like no other. Consider two of director Ridley Scott’s early films, 1979’s Alien and 1982’s Blade Runner. Though the former is technically in the science fiction and horror genre and the latter is a neo-noir film, they both included visual elements that provided audiences with a unique viewing experience. Both were very darkly lit films, but there were moments where this accentuated the mood of a scene. Take, for example, the scene in Alien when the crew of the Nostromo was examining the derelict alien ship. It’s very dark, with a blue hue to it, which emphasized the ambiance of the abandoned ship. Moreover, whenever there was a scene with the fully-grown alien present, the film took on the same dark lighting. By comparison, when examining scenes that included the crew of the Nostromo enjoying themselves, they were brightly lit with nary a shadow to be seen. Perhaps the best example of this is just before the famous chest bursting scene when the crew was sitting down for a meal. Thus, sometimes without realizing it the lighting in a film, TV series, or anime can greatly affect the mood of a scene.

Though I never felt Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game ever reached the level where the lighting affected the atmosphere of the OVA, the style in which many of the scenes were presented added a great deal to the tone. For instance, one of the staples in the expository scenes, one I noticed in the first installment as well, was how the shots rarely focused on the characters, but rather the surrounding environment. These included shops, signs, and alleyways and when the shot focused on the characters they were often covered by shadows. While much of the scenery shots didn’t provide viewers with any information about the story at hand, it contributed to the sense the world the characters inhabited was truly lived in. I sometimes feel anime series forget to show the audience just how thoroughly lived in their worlds are and so the times we saw the surroundings as opposed to the characters in Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game were rather refreshing. However, this had one other benefit as well. As I said, noir stories are about the intersection of our perceived reality and the mad world we live in. These expository scenes really put this concept on display in this installment.

Some of the wonderful scenery during the expository scenes.

Some of the wonderful scenery during the expository scenes.

To understand this, we must take into account the two different events that occurred during these scenes. The first was the exposition through dialog. Conceptually this isn’t too difficult to understand, but to clarify, what we heard was the heroine, Ame Ochibana, delve into the happenings surrounding the protagonist, Ju Juzawa, and how similar incidents were taking place at other schools. This was nothing more than small, relatively harmless pranks—though I would make the argument writing “kill yourself” on a person’s desk is more than harmless. Granted, engaging in pranks is not unusual for teens, but the frequency and scale of some of them and the inaction by school officials and the police certainly made it seem as though the nature of the pranks in question went far beyond the pale. The second event under discussion involved the visuals of everyday scenes I mentioned above. When the exposition was combined with the visuals of everyday life, not of people living out their daily lives, but rather benign shots of storefronts, signs, stop signs, to even Ame standing in front of a café entrance or Ju and Ame window shopping, there was a disconnect between the two. Thus, while the disconnect between the dialog and the visuals seemed odd at first, it hammered home the point about the intersection of the mad world and that of the ordinary, which is exactly what the Denpa teki na Kanojo series is all about.

Undoubtedly, Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game was filled with atmosphere, but it was the event that instigated the story and the overarching theme that were far more interesting. Addressing the former first, Ju was accused of sexual assault on a train. The reason I found Ju being accused of sexual assault so interesting was how no one considered whether or not he was telling the truth about not touching the girl in question. While I don’t want to insinuate accusations of sexual assault or rape should be ignored, I feel as a culture we can be quick to judge in these cases. Before I go any further, the subjects of sexual assault and rape are very sensitive topics, but we have to contemplate how being falsely accused as well as being a victim of either crime can affect the lives of people. Thus, to help illustrate my point I will be addressing two major news stories about both subjects. These would be the accusation of sexual assault at the University of Virginia published by the Rolling Stone magazine and the revelations about Bill Cosby’s alleged—and I say alleged because at the time I wrote this article no formal charges were filed against him—rape victims.

Looking at the Rolling Stone article pertaining to University of Virginia incident, we know for a fact only one person interviewed for the article was the victim. Not only did this lead to a skewed perspective of the incident, but the author of the article also accused the fraternity and its members of rape without investigating the incident properly. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything did or did not happen to the woman in question in terms of sexual assault or rape, but only addressing her account seemed questionable at best. While some might argue the members of the fraternity would have obviously covered up the incident, I have to ask, without a proper investigation, how can we be certain of what happened? What if the woman wasn’t raped or sexually assaulted? I’m not suggesting she wasn’t. The problem is these are grave accusations to be making and can affect the lives of those involved. Now, it’s been quite a while since this story broke, but I feel some people may still associate the fraternity and its members with the rape culture that is prevalent on American college campuses, even though the allegations were questionable.

How does the Rolling Stone article relate to Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game, then? Remember, Ju was falsely accused of sexual assault on a train and there was no investigation to prove he had actually committed the act. Thus, what we saw were two men physically assault Ju with no real probable cause and the girl who made the accusation making statements to station officials such as, “Give him the death penalty.” While upsetting as this was, it was the following scene that was far more upsetting and potentially indicative of how we perceive anyone who is accused of such an act. Ju was ostracized by many of his peers at school. It was made explicitly clear Ju did not sexually assault the girl, yet the rumor had spread like wildfire and nobody seemed to hear the part where he had been absolved of the charges. This made me wonder, when it comes to sexual assault and rape allegations are we so blind to the facts we refuse to examine the accusations in detail? Again, I don’t want to insinuate accusations of sexual assault or rape should be ignored, but we should engage in enough due diligence to look into each case before making our final judgment.

One type of prank Ju faced. Roughly translated, left: kill yourself, right: idiot.

One type of pranks Ju faced. Roughly translated, left: kill yourself, right: idiot.

Consider the rape allegations levied against Bill Cosby in comparison to the Rolling Stone article. With Bill Cosby there have been a number of similar accounts by multiple women as well as court documents stating he had purchased the sedative Methaqualone, commonly known as Quaaludes, for the express purpose of drugging women he wanted to have sex with. This was far more information than the article about the University of Virginia case provided and it’s thus understandable why Bill Cosby has received a great deal of scorn in the court of public opinion. This is why I feel it’s important to investigate as well as report cases of sexual assault and rape because the evidence will show whether the accused party is innocent or guilty as charged. Thus, when looking at the allegations in Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game it was rather disgusting most of the characters passed judgment before considering the facts of the situation. Yet, this quick passing of judgment fit into the theme of the OVA quite well.

Whereas the first installment of the Denpa teki na Kanojo OVA series explored the psychology of rape victims and murderers, what we saw in Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game was an examination of the dichotomy between happiness and misery. As always, going into great detail about the characters involved could ruin the suspense of the OVA, however the idea that there is only a finite amount of happiness in the world and being able to steal it from others by causing them misery was interesting. Yes, it’s bit elementary, but when combined with the situation one of the characters was in, it was fascinating to see the mental gymnastics they went through to justify their actions. Yet, I also have to acknowledge, there was some truth to this idea as well. While I don’t believe we can actively steal a person’s happiness by causing him or her misery, I feel the lives of the well off are made possible by the labor of the less fortunate.

For example, while many citizens of the United States argue it’s necessary to tighten the border security between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, many of the cheap products, specifically food products, they enjoy are a direct result of those immigrants doing labor some people would think was beneath their dignity. Not only this, but consider the labor practices used to build the 2022 FIFA World Cup Soccer stadiums in Qatar. Qatar could easily hire native laborers to build the stadiums, yet there have been news articles pointing to the squalid working conditions of the immigrant laborers. Would I say these people are having the joy of life sucked out of them and those benefiting from their labor are somehow receiving it? No. But, it can be said those who enjoy the game of soccer will be reaping the benefits of the arduous labor of an immigrant work force. While I don’t believe there is a finite amount of happiness in the world, as postulated in Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game, it can certainly be argued those of use who are fortunate enough to live in developed nations are doing so in part due to the hardships of the disadvantaged.

Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game was a wonderful addition to the Denpa teki na Kanojo franchise. True, there are only two installments in the OVA series and three novels, but there was enough atmosphere in both installments to keep viewers engrossed in the narrative. Many of the visual and dialog cues also gave the OVA a great deal of flavor as there was a disconnect between what we were shown on the screen and what we were listening to. Yet, it was the initial hook of the installment that piqued my interest in the story. While sexual assault and rape are serious issues, we should take the time to examine the accusations presented to us before passing judgment and I felt Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game did a wonderful job of illustrating this point. The idea of happiness and how we obtain it was noteworthy as well, though it was slightly straightforward. However, I don’t feel it was too far off from the reality that those who are privileged may be enjoying their status due to the sacrifices of the less fortunate. Thus, when presented with the mystery of the installment, it made for some very suspenseful moments. While the DVD may be difficult to find, a compilation Blu-ray of the first installment, Denpa teki na Kanojo, and Denpa teki na Kanojo: Kōfuku Game is available. If you are fortunate enough to come by it, I definitely think you should buy it.

Work Info
Title:
Denpa teki na Kanojo (電波的な彼女)
Under: Brain’s Base, Shueisha
Official Site: N/A
More Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denpa_teki_na_Kanojo

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