Alright, the end of the month is upon us, and thus, it's about time I finale'd (holy shit, spellcheck isn't calling me
on that travesty) MTtB and fanboyed out proper. A lot of this might end up being a repeat of my previous comments. Actually, this is shaping up to be one of the most thrown together reviews I've ever done. It's, ah, going to get a bit messy down there. Possibly repetitious. You've been warned. So, everyone ready? Buckled in? Got your Dr. Pepper to your left of your chair, with a recycling bin to the right? I do. It's practical, damn it
Rereading this fic, I remember what makes it all so engaging: Iwanako is not perfect. I mean, that much seems obvious, no one is, but so often everyone is so perfectly imperfect that it's annoying. Sure, Hisao isn't perfect, but honestly? His major failings are pretty lightweight. His angst is 'meh'. Emi is certainly a bit broken, but she perseveres and overcomes and becomes a picturesquely
better person for it. Her faults are both understandable and ultimately reversible
. No matter the route, love conquers all, disabilities are only secondary or even tertiary
to the stories truly being told. It's all very heartwarming and touching and such. It's the same in all the routes, really, and even the fan fics tend to mirror this notion. Take, and I'm just pulling something at random, Freaks and Friends
. (Don't mean to put you on the spot, Oddball.) Hitomi is bitter, yes, confused, absolutely, but she's got a good sense of humor and enough flexibility to deal with even the most bizarre circumstances with hesitant acceptance. She builds her new identity quickly and efficiently. She's, to paraphrase a famous sitcom, gonna make it after all. She's an interesting character, and a rounded one, and she seems custom built to fill Yamaku's roster.
Iwanako is none of these things.
Here, we have a character who is building an identity that scares her
, one who can't conform and can't understand how others can, one tossed about by the events of her life like a ship in a storm. Every day isn't a heartwarming tale of making friends and understanding human nature, it is a goddamn fight for survival
, beset by an antagonistic student council, reckless track star runners, enigmatic strangers and negligent family. Iwanako is a girl who doesn't fit the story
, a concept that Leaty knowingly
writes into MTtB to incredible effect. (Did I say fanboying? I friggin meant it
.) Doctors aren't always funny and likable. Teachers aren't always insightful and wise. Classmates aren't always friendly and reliable. People are strange, when you're a stranger, etc.
The result is realism. Possibly the most realistic Yamaku on the forums, because she doesn't delve into the Dues Angst Machina that plague the dark-fics and death-fics, either. The events of MTtB are things that happen to all of us
. Who here hasn't dealt with feelings of depression and worthlessness? Or complicated and hurtful familial interactions? Or annoyance at the jerks who just make your day difficult? Do you feel like a better person for having overcome it? Sort of, right? Like a little. Maybe
. Because your life isn't a plot arc, these things aren't foreshadowing some divine 'Act 2, Scene 4'
of your life. Iwanako just does the best she can, and often, it doesn't seem like a lot, and at the end of the day, it might not even be particularly significant to the plot. And this realism extends to her actions, as well. She isn't so accepting of strong-willed Shizune. She isn't so sure of her actions around nervous Hanako. She feels incompetent and apologetic around perfect Lilly. Her reactions aren't ideal, and she isn't always the person she wants to be, because really, none of us are.
This is the main thrust of the entire fic, I feel. Iwanako isn't always understanding, she isn't always listening like she should, she has a hard time changing, because that's life. We all have a snide voice in our head that swears at the cop who pulls us over, the person chatting at the register while your groceries get warm, the coworker who takes a break at the busiest time of the day, every day. It's not something we talk about, but it's there, and seeing Iwanako call these people out is so much more honest and intriguing then the cheerful and non-threatening way Yamaku is typically portrayed.
But enough generalizations! Time for some fine detailing! (You thought we were wrapping up? You poor, deluded fool
I love how Iwanako manages to befriend Hanako, not only because I like Hanako almost as much as Shizune, but because the parallels Leaty draws between the two are great for both. (I love it when characters bond over shared experiences.) To see the Tea Room Duo come so readily to her aid is just adorable, because it's just so altruistic and artlessly thoughtful of Hanako to help someone who needs it, and at Iwanako's lowest point, at that. I also like how plot points are unfolding in the background, things like Misha and Shizune's separate actions, Molly's odd behavior, events never brought into focus, existing just on the peripheral of the narrative, because again, that's how reality works most of the time; the answers aren't always obvious.
AHAHAHAHAAAAAA THIS CHAPTER. This chapter.
This chapter was the reason I even signed on to the damn forums
! That's right, you can all blame Leaty for that one. This chapter perfectly summarizes my whole point. If this were any other character, in any other story, this kind of behavior would be a Bad End, a Misstep. It's the kind of reaction that's just hurtful, a visceral tirade whose only purpose is to inflict furious vengeance on Emi. And you know what? It's the best chapter. It's something we all know about, it's like the lowest common denominator of human nature, but something that we learn to suppress, and never something that we would expect from the protagonist of a story like this one. It's like that scene from Fight Club, where Ed Norton just breaks Angel's face because he 'felt like destroying something beautiful'. It marks such a huge deviation from the character we had at the beginning of the story, a culmination of everything that's happened before it. It's the basest form of self-validation possible, and the ugliest. It's cathartic, and shocking, and brutal, and tragic, because this is what happens
when you back someone into an emotional corner.
And everything leading up to the explosion is so perfectly written as well, that build of pressure, the determination not to snap at someone you just want dead. I've been there.
Yes, I've had a Bathory of my own, something I didn't think I was capable of. For that one fleeting moment, I made my older sister cry and it felt incredible,
because she deserved it, and my points were unassailable, eloquent and utterly devastating. I destroyed her, really, and it was only later that I learned that I almost drove her to suicide as a result. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can fucking kill you.
So yes, I understand Iwanako here, that line you cross, the moral event horizon, and I know how it feels when the consequences come around. It's something no other fan fic on this board has managed to emulate, and it stands as my single favorite moment in KS fiction, bar none. This chapter sets Iwanako apart as more then just a familiar name in a familiar setting; she's a human being, a deeply flawed and relatable person, and while MTtB isn't doing her any favors, it'll make her victory all the more thrilling, and her setbacks all the more heartbreaking.
FANBOY OUT, HAPPY JULY EVERYONE, THE SUN RISES AND THIS RANT IS OVER