“A world could be made in five pages, and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiled prince could be framed within half a page, a moonlit dash through sleepy villages was one rhythmically emphatic sentence, falling in love could be achieved in a single word–a glance. The pages of a recently finished story seemed to vibrate in her hand with all the life they contained.”
-a narration regarding Briony Tallis, Atonement, Ian McEwan
Imagine you’re at a café. It’s a warm atmosphere; the feeling that one has when walking inside after being cold for quite some time. You wipe off your shoes, freshly damp from a snow squall, onto a damp, salt-stained mat that has obviously seen better days. Steam rises and screams from an espresso machine. It’s almost too warm, but a pleasant feeling nonetheless. As you walk in, your ears are immediately filled with chatter from a myriad of conversations. In fact, the entire café seems to thrum happily with its cacophony of white noise from its various inhabitants. You breathe deeply, inhaling the scent of coffee that seems to seep out of every wall and quietly, but happily, wait for your turn to order.
Suddenly, someone brushes up against you accidentally on their way to gather more paper napkins, procure a new straw seeing as theirs broke, or something of the like.
“Excuse me,” they say, cheeks reddening a bit.
You can’t help but notice that they are quite attractive; however, before you can open your mouth to say anything, they cheerily smile at you and walk back to their table. Another scream from the espresso machine swallows your late attempt to speak, or perhaps you didn’t say anything at all, only imagined it.
Your heart is beating a bit faster than it was before. Slowly, but covertly, as to not be seen as suspicious, you turn sideways and notice out of the corner of your eye that they’re sitting alone with their computer. Your mind can’t help but reiterate that they are, again, very attractive, and your heart begins to beat even faster. You begin to ask yourself all sorts of questions.
“Are they looking at me?”
“I should look at this…ah…painting on the wall…pretend to look deep in thought.”
“Would they even like art? No, maybe…well, either way, it will look like I’m intelligent.”
“Oh! I should probably check to make sure I look alright!”
As you lean forward to brush your bangs from your eyes while squinting to see yourself in the reflection of the glass-covered dessert case, your thoughts are brought to a screeching halt by the loud, seemingly antagonistic, voice from the person in line behind you.
“Hey! Are you going to order something or not?”
So ends your attempt to woo an attractive passerby in a café, and our little exercise. Unfortunately for you, and for most, it ends in tragedy. The heartbeat that becomes just a bit quicker, the over-analysis of what, in actuality, is a common and innocuous occurrence, these are just a few things that are part and parcel of being a dreamy romantic.
Literary Girl in Daily Lives of High School Boys is an interesting, and hilarious, addition to what is already a funny little series. She self-centeredly haunts the same riverbank, imagining herself as the tragic heroine, Catherine (Wuthering Heights), when in reality she is Isabella, unfortunately naive and easy to tease or be taken advantage of. Hyper-aware of her situation, and waiting for her romantic hero, she reminds one of a multitude of similar characters: Briony Tallis in the opening scenes of the novel Atonement, who dreamily walks through life, adding her own romantic tension; Megumi in the opening scenes of Shiki, who dresses up to the nines in her sleepy farming village in the hopes that her crush will happen upon her and see her as the sophisticated lady that she is; and countless others. The crux of the dramatic tension, with comedic results, of literary girl is the play of her own astronomically high expectations pitted against the achingly dull-by-comparison reality of her everyday life.
In contrast, Daily Lives of High School Boys, presents a few different perspectives to Literary Girl, the first being the reaction of the high school boy who tries to impress her. This is especially evident in his romanticized response; instead of blowing her off or ignoring her, like one would expect, he wholeheartedly throws himself into her game in order to get her reaction. By attempting to meet her romantic expectations he is also able to momentarily escape his own reality. The comedic part comes in when a third party enters the equation with a more rational or realistic mindset (in the scene above, it’s another character yelling about potato chips being on sale at a convenience store).
Multiple other perspectives are presented from other high school boys in the series, especially the student council. All of these ideas hinge on the stereotypical male role of being a dramatic hero or protector. In the scene above, Tadakuni’s sister had gotten herself into a bit of trouble and the boys, in spite of telling her that they wouldn’t interfere, had hidden nearby, presumably to protect her should the situation escalate. It’s all very sweet as the camera pans down the line of boys who were waiting in the wings to protect her until they get to the end of the line where the young man above laments the fact that nothing happened, so he couldn’t play the part of the hero for Tadakuni’s sister. This, presumably, is the high school boy’s romanticism. Much like Literary Girl’s, it comes with ridiculous expectations of what will happen.
In another situation similar to the Literary Girl setups, the boys’ student council team is asking Ringo, the student council president of a nearby girls’ school, to borrow some equipment. Their unfortunate choice of setting for this confrontation is in a dark alley at night, resulting in a passerby, who also appears to be a high school boy, misunderstanding the situation and asking the guys to let Ringo go. Instead of rationally explaining what is actually happening, the three guys immediately identify with the passerby, choosing to act the part and pretending to attack Ringo in order to help him save face. Hilarity ensues when Ringo doesn’t understand and ends up pretending to attack the passerby as well.
Whether it’s Literary Girl, the student council, or the main characters, The Daily Lives of High School Boys has some humorous and interesting thoughts on romanticism, with all perspectives being inherently selfish: “I want to be the hero,” or, “I want this person to fit into my ideal romantic setting.” And why not? Anyone who has ever been a high school boy, or girl, can affirm that they are, indeed, the most selfish creatures of all.
Recommended Reading: Schneider wrote this charming Valentine’s Day post! I suggest everyone give it a look!