Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (A Melodramatic Basis)

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (A Melodramatic Basis)

This is the second part in a series of essays on Mari Okada and melodrama. If you stumbled upon this post, start at the Introduction instead! No spoilers ahead for now.

Before we can start talking about anything relevant in Mari Okada’s work, we have to establish a melodramatic basis for analysis. In other words, we have to know what melodrama is and where it comes from—which means chugging through some history and exposition. The history of melodrama is actually quite interesting and I’ll be keeping it light and to the point, since it’s way more fun (and useful) to talk about the gritty details once we’re engaged with some specific anime. In addition to history, I’ll give a brief overview of the most universal elements of melodrama to be expanded upon in future essays.

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Melodrama originated as a method of performance in the theater, not as a genre or tone. Music was used to add or fine-tune emotion within a scene, hence melo+drama. Here’s the entirety of Ariadne auf Naxos and an excerpt of Medea so you can get an idea of what this would look like onstage. As you’ll quickly notice, theatrical melodrama is not far removed from opera, and the functioning of melodrama (i.e. the method of acting, the emotional impact of the music) has greatly influenced modern media. Most notably, early cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and most silent films (Nosferatu as a random example) rely heavily on a melodramatic mode to better convey character motivation and emotion. I’m leaving out some details about the overall bombastic nature of melodramas, but this is a fine starting point.Read More »

Wandering Identity

Wandering Identity (A Hourou Musuko Analysis)

As I began writing a character analysis of Saori Chiba from Hourou Musuko, I realized I couldn’t say all I needed to say without first establishing the nature of identity in this show. Obviously, a story that deals heavily with gender and sexuality also has to grapple with identity. That being said, we won’t be looking at identity strictly through the lens of gender issues. We’re going to investigate a more universal idea of identity—applicable to any scenario and any perspective.

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Whether or not gender and sexuality are things we should include when we think about what a ‘personal identity’ consists of is a discussion for another time. We won’t be investigating what attributes are included in Hourou Musuko’s concept of identity, we’ll be figuring out what factors influence the formation of personal identity. The topic isn’t what identity is, but rather how is identity formed (and the show’s opinion of those influencing factors).Read More »