Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Heart-Melters #9 - Tomo Takino


Who is She?
Somewhere in the middle of Azumangaland, there is a group of six friends that spends high school together in Miss Yukari's homeroom class: Chiyo Mihama, the 12-year-old prodigy with the intellect of a college student but the naivete of a 12-year-old...Ayumu Kasuga, the slow-minded transfer student from Osaka that is always trying to get it together...Sakaki-san, the lover of all things kawaii yet is cursed with physically mature body...Kagura, the athletic tomboy and self-proclaimed rival of Sakaki-san (who really couldn't care less)...Koyomi Mizuhara, the seemingly normal girl whose only goal is to get out of high school...and Tomo Takino...the other tomboy. Tomo is the wild one in the bunch. She calls herself the Bousou Joushikousei, or the "Wildcat High School Girl," and it definitely fits. She possesses an endless stream of energy, which probably helps her get through school, but it doesn't give her any athletic advantages. Her personality is the direct opposite of the cool and composed Yomi, whom she often goes out of her way to annoy. Not surprisingly, they have been classmates together since elementary school. Even though Tomo fulfills the basic criteria for ADHD, plus the positive illusory bias that folks with ADHD often exhibit, she can still focus her energies when she wants something done. It helped her get into the high school (which is no easy task), and it may help her fulfill her dream of becoming a police officer with ICPO. The problem is...she just isn't motivated. It explains why she is the central member of theBonkuras...the Boneheads. (Interesting enough, her name Tomo means "wisdom." So much for having a name that fits.) And even though she is often seen tormenting Yomi, Ayumu, and Chiyo...and has a running rivalry with Kagura, she still cares dearly about her friends. Even though Tomo is not among the most popular characters in Azumanga Daioh, her mere presence injects life into the series.

Tomo's Influence (November 20, 2006 - Early 2007)

So the first question is...why Tomo? First of all, this is not the same case as Sister Princess or Tales of Symphonia, where my interest in the source developed after the heart-melting experience. It's more like Pokemon, where the heart-melting experience developed after initial exposure to the source. The Azumanga Daioh is 90% female, so the Heart-Melter could have been anybody from Ayumu (the popular choice) to Nyamo to Kagura. So why Tomo? She's wild. She's crazy. She's impulsive. She's a baka. She's even shorter than Kattixie. She's vain to the point where it becomes almost delusional. She is never seen dressed up outside of school. Her method of showing affection would drive most people up the wall, so I'd feel sorry for whoever would become her boyfriend in college. Her interests and personality are completely different from mine? So why would I not mind being that unfortunate boyfriend? I've given some thought, and the reason that pops out is because unlike me, Tomo Takino is a free spirit. Whereas I continue to carry unnecessary burdens, she seemed to have dropped them all and is now living life to the fullest. Sometimes when I am caught up in lethargy and hours of doing nothing, I think about how nice it would be to break out of the shackles and enjoy life as Tomo does...or maybe it's because it's just that I find Tomo heart-meltingly cute.

Anyways, I had first read the Azumanga Daioh manga around the time when I wrote the original Heart-Melters Gallery thread. It may have been slightly earlier or slightly later. But at any rate, it was an enjoyable experience, and somehow I kind of knew that I would be hooked to the anime if I ever saw it. Maybe that wasn't the reason, but I went a year and a half to two years without seeing the anime. And then three weeks ago, my sister was able to borrow a copy of Disc 1 from a friend. I had resisted watching it because I had a biochemistry test to study for, but she insisted, and it was no use. I was hooked. It was so much that while waiting for the Wii on November 18, I walked to Best Buy and picked up the boxset. And the gig was on. For the week of Thanksgiving, even though I had gotten a Wii, I had actually spent more time watching Azumanga Daioh than playing the Wii. My urge was not "Gotta play Zelda," but "Gotta watch Azumanga." Even when I was playing Zelda, I had Azumanga Daioh running on my computer. So what does all this have to do with Tomo? Well, throughout the entire week, I noticed that Tomo seemed to stand out. Despite all of her faults, I found her strangely endearing. The more I had watched the series, the more I felt attracted to her various quirks. In the end, I had no choice but to declare her a Heart-Melter.

The Age of Tomo
If we go by the manga, Tomo would have graduated sometime in spring of 2002, which means she would have been born in 1983 or 1984. Of course, if we go by the anime, the class had gone to Okinawa for their senior trip in 2002, which means her graduation would have come in spring of 2003, so she would have been born in 1984 or 1985. This would mean she is between the ages of 21-23 by now. Of course, we have no documentation of her life after high school (except that she is possibly going to the same college as Ayumu Kasuga...roommates, maybe?), so it really doesn't matter in the end.

The Age of Tomo burned bright for a while in the latter half of 2006 and early in 2007. For about two months, Tomo and other Azumanga Daioh-related media are the only things that I can think of. I was re-watching Azumanga Daioh episodes, listening to Azumanga Daioh songs, reading Azumanga Daioh fanfics, and enjoying Azumanga Daioh AMVs. Yet was this too much? In the 10K run for the second sports fest, Tomo had zoomed out of the starting line, yet by the end she barely finished ahead of Chiyo and Ayumu, her energy obviously sapped out. A similar analogy can be seen in stars. The massive stars shine brightly, yet die off quickly. The red dwarfs don't shine quite as brightly, but they are able to remain present for literally trillions of years. Could the Age of Tomo have been like the luminous, massive stars? Unfortunately for Tomo, all signs point to yes. I had felt my affections for Tomo dying down even as early as January 1, 2007. Getting hooked on Twilight Princess didn't help, as it took my attention away from Azumanga. The more damaging thing is my slow realization that Tomo is nothing more than a hyperactive and sadistic creep once the honeymoon period wore off, especially after Tomo became a vindictive, unforgiving wildcat in the stories I did with my sisters. My attraction towards Tomo fell off the cliff, and didn’t return even after I got back into Azumanga Daioh that summer. Tomo’s status as a Heart-Melter ended almost as abruptly as it started, but it was still a fun ride.

Strength: 7 - Tomo was an interesting personality, and I was definitely attracted to her past minimum point of becoming Heart-Melter, but it never really went beyond that. She never truly dominated my thoughts, and I never stayed up late at nights thinking about her. She was just somebody that melted my heart.

Duration: 8 - It's hard to judge the duration of most Heart-Melters, since their end dates are usually so undefined. However, most of them generally stay Heart-Melters for three months. Tomo was Heart-Melter for two to three months. It's longer than Kiki and the person in the 10th spot, but still short compared to everybody else.

Recurrence: 10 - Tomo is an interesting case where I do fall back in love with her source (in this case Azumanga Daioh), I don't necessarily do the same for the Heart-Melter. Thanks to Thingys, the stories I do with my sisters that include characters from Azumanga Daioh, I can no longer stand Tomo. You may even say that I've developed a dislike for her. That may not be entirely fair, but it goes like it goes.

Overall: 25 - One thing about the Heart-Melters Gallery is that once you get in, you don't leave. I mean, it's a Gallery. The fact that I don't really like Tomo anymore doesn't mean she loses her spot. The important thing is that once upon a time, I was really attracted to Tomo Takino. I can't say I understand why anymore, but it was pretty intense.

Next Up: Lisa in Nintendoland

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