Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall 2010: MM!

There is something to be said about the lack of psychoanalysis in anime. With all the screams of "Hentai!" and slaps that knock falsely-accused would-be perverts into the next prefecture, you'd think there would be just as many psychiatrist visits as there were hospital visits. There are so many personality flaws and oddities in anime that Sigmund Freud would have to cancel all of his appointments for the rest of his life if he were working today.

If all of those mental cases were thrown into a padded room, the interactions might result in the sort of anime MM! has become. The goal isn't necessarily to cure each of their mental phobias and philias—it's more like watching different sorts of fish sharing the same aquarium—but if the basket cases manage to stumble upon a remedy, it's a bonus.

This show from Xebec (Ladies vs. Butlers, Kanokon, To-Love-Ru) really runs the gamut on the different twists one could make to a destroy a relationship. The general gist is that Tarô Sado is a masochist, to the point of being able to take the brunt of any female's attack and find pleasure from it. This was triggered from his classmate Arashiko's extreme fear of boys (and her right fist), which was in itself triggered by violence from a past boyfriend. With these dominoes so easily upset, Tarô is endlessly tubthumped (you're never gonna keep him down!)

Enter the head of the high school's "Second Volunteer Club", Mio Isurugi. Although she first appears angelic to Tarô, serving as a means to cure him of his problem, her superiority complex and sadistic measures just makes matters worse. Throw in a crossdressing guy with an ojôsama split personality, an obsessive-compulsive girl, a school nurse that has a thing for subterfuge over others, and Tarô's over-doting sister and mother, and you have yourself the makings of a real asylum, padded cell and all.

Since many of the characters seem to suffer from divergences in their personalities, it should be no surprise that MM! itself suffers from its own Dissociative Identity Disorder. The show does have some touching moments in it between Tarô and the other Second Volunteer Club members, and the plot is surprisingly free of any seriously awkward sexual situations. That being said, the processes used to help the members drive away their neuroses are hardly conventional and seem to bring about more pain and suffering than if the characters were to drop cash for a professional psychologist.

Additionally, there just seems to be no love for Tarô in this series. When he's not being the club's masochistic dog, he's a wishy-washy character that looks perfectly fine in front of girls. The only reason he's taking all of this punishment from Mio's God complex and Arashiko's androphobia is so he can receive psychotherapy from the club. I'm no brain surgeon, but my suggestion would be for Tarô to get over himself and leave the freaking club. So you're getting hit over and over again by a tsundere and a meek girl—do you know how many fans would kill to be in that position?

If anything, MM! is a Pavlovian experiment in itself—after seasons of priming fans with bossy characters, showing them Mio likely will trigger automated responses of moe, even though tsundere fans would rather have another season of Haruhi. Realistically speaking, the reactions to the characters may be the only thing the show has going for it, as there doesn't seem to be any pressure to solve the mental problems of the Second Volunteer Club. It won't matter if Tarô gets well in the end—he'll still have a girlfriend who both loves and hates him.

Unless you're a masochist like Tarô and appreciate the pain without reward, perhaps it's time to stop pushing the button.

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