I’d like to make a point perpendicular but related to Bitmap’s observation of magic realism in Mysterious Girlfriend X.
Let’s talk about that observation for a moment, as I think it’s an important one. Magic realism is, despite Margaret Atwood’s protests, a kind of fantasy; the term is applied to more or less recognizable, modern-Earth settings in which things happen because they happen. Maybe these things have a kind of meta-logic, maybe they serve a theme, but that’s common enough in fantasy that it’s hardly remarkable when magic realism does it. The point is that certain events aren’t results of complex processes observable and replicable by science. They simply are.
I quite like magic realism for at least
four three reasons:
- I was a fantasy fan to begin with.
- Though I don’t demand “authenticity” from every story, I do like it when the experiences of characters are recognizable to me.
- By locating magic within an otherwise plausible setting, stories call attention to the fact that, in life, we really don’t have explanations for everything that happens. This may be a result of limited, subjective points of view and people acting irrationally, but it’s true nonetheless.
Jazz and Cutty Sark.
Is the saliva that forms the basis of Mysterious Girlfriend X magically realistic? Sure — it gives our leading couple a fantastical power that plenty of couples might like to have, i.e. perfect communication unadulterated even by the need to use language. It’s the ideal medium, and it quite explicitly works because that’s just how Urabe is. It’s also notable in that it has the consistency of — well, let’s just be blunt here: it looks like hentai semen. This isn’t “magical,” per se, but it’s something other than strict realism; drool is visually sexualized here in a way that it wouldn’t be on a real finger. Er, for most people.
That’s kind of my point, though. Set aside the magic for the moment and think of the communion as simply an exchange of saliva. This is a weird practice, in broad societal terms. It’s pretty clearly not something that happens all the time even in the show’s setting. But when Oka sees it, she isn’t especially weirded out by it. She just impartially observes that maybe Urabe and Tsubaki are a couple.
I like to think that Oka reacts as she does because she has a boyfriend. She knows that, when two people communicate for a significant length of time, whether as romantic partners or whatever, they develop rituals and oddities between them. These practices follow a kind of internal friendship-logic, but to outsiders they’d look odd, if not deranged. I’m talking about the kinds of things that make you shoot suspicious glances at the loud table of friends in the coffee shop.
I’ve never removed spit from my mouth and offered it to someone, nor have I been the recipient of such an offer. But, even barring the magic, I can kind of buy that two people I don’t know might do a strange thing like this when nobody was looking. Who knows?
Magic is only half of magic realism. The other half is…well, you know. It’s not enough to slap behind the cast a background that looks like modern Earth. When they aren’t being wizards, the characters need to act more or less believably human. And — notwithstanding the usual anime romance conservatism, which is probably subverted here anyway — they do. I’m quite happy that the show ties its magic into the things that happen between people behind closed doors — those rituals can indeed develop a kind of power, and if it isn’t literal power, it hardly matters as long as we enforce and reinforce it.
And don’t even pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, you strange, strange person.