It started out with a hat. How did it end up like that? Imagine you’re at the bottom of a slope, sakura petals floating gently onto the pavement. A gust of wind blows through and you notice a white hat lightly tumbling down on its side. You pick up the hat and look upwards, to the source. It’s the owner of the hat. She’s a short-haired girl in a short frilly dress, with her tender hand keeping her hair from her face. The sakura petals flow past as the both of you stand still, eyes locked, fixated on each other across the steady incline of the slope.
And that’s it. That’s all. The only reason. Aki chose her as the model for his visual novel because he happened to be the one at the bottom and Megumi happened to be one at the top. It’s one of those cliche, cloying intros you typically find in a high school based visual novel. In other words, all he’s doing is imposing a particular character over who she really is, and most of his intent with her is to keep doing that in order to create his ideal heroine. She has every right to be offended by that. Yet she sticks around in the doujin circle nonetheless.
I think her contined involvment with the project started out as plain curiosity and appreciation. No one had really noticed her presence before, and certainly not to the level of someone trying to rope her into someone else’s life goals. It wasn’t previously in her to go as far as take Aki out on a date to the mall and stay at his house for multiple overnighters until she had met him. It was Megumi’s way of being considerate, as well as being thankful, for being part of something bigger than her.
Take, for example, the date I mentioned at the opening day of a new mall complex. It’s pretty innocent, to put it in a few words. She learns how Aki, through experience at Comiket, has superior knowledge of queueing up peacefully and efficiently planning out a day through a shopping building. Together, Aki navigates Megumi throughout the mall at their leisure and adapt as conditions change. Aki stays outside with his phone as Megumi goes into each store. They end up holding hands trying to stay together in tight spots.
The plan itself manages to be a success, and Megumi picks out a new pair of glasses for Aki. The hat, however, is later gifted to a cousin offscreen in the most unceremonious manner possible. It’s used as a meta joke to highlight just how little the hat itself, the core object of the project, matters to her at this point.
However, as time went on, her passive interest for the project transformed into devotion. She starts to see the merits of brightening up her attitude, even if it’s by a little bit at a time. Through practice, she improves at acting the part of Aki’s main heroine. Both of these improvements collide to the point where you can’t tell whether she’s being in-character or sincere. At no one’s behest, she learned basic coding for visual novels. Since it was not her position to dictate what the creative process should be like, this would be her way of contributing to the project. Slowly, her involvement deepened to match, perhaps even overtake Aki’s desire for the visual novel to succeed. The project no longer was related to her. The project was about her.
At the end of the season, Megumi goes with Aki for another date at the same mall.
On the surface, it’s a near perfect reconstruction of the first date. They go to the same stores, operate the same way, and even finish shopping at nearly the exact same place they did the last time. Since it’s not opening day, they’re allowed to go as long as they please. That doesn’t stop the date from having its own pressure, however: there’s something deliberate about how they’re going about. Megumi is the one who initiates the idea of a time schedule. At one point she brings Aki into the store and attempts to get his opinion on dresses. And as if to complete a ritual, she calmly offers her hand, palm down, for Aki to hold.
Near the completion of their time at the mall, Aki takes a detour to a higher floor. It’s a hat store.
He finds a white hat, essentially the same as the original, and buys it for her.
Aki – Hey Kato, maybe you should have exchanged that [hat] for a different one.
Megumi – No way.
Aki – But now that I think about it, isn’t that basically the same one you had before?
Megumi – That’s what’s good about it. Besides, while it’s mostly the same, it’s not identical.
And then Megumi runs ahead of him, atop a slope, and looks him in the eye.
She did all of this on purpose. What happened in the present time may have appeared the same as the first one, but this time Megumi is completely aware of how important this is. A whole season’s worth of knowledge and experiences informed her to make this decision. The date matters. The way they went about it matters. The hat matters. She realizes the importance of the date. The importance of everything leading up to, and down after that date. Megumi no longer struggles to understand Aki. Now she shares his passion, his vision, and wants to create a new visual novel with that in mind.
Megumi is saying that she and Aki should start over. This time, together.
- TECHNICALLY I FAILED BUT SCREW THE HATERS
- post to come later about the lot of you and the project itself