What It Means to Speak: Melodramatic Articulation in Anime

What It Means to Speak: Melodramatic Articulation in Anime

This essay contains significant spoilers for Toradora!, The Anthem of the Heart, and A Silent Voice.

Introduction

In her autobiography, From Truant to Anime Screenwriter, Mari Okada faces the quintessential melodramatic dilemma: how can I speak aloud what I feel inside?

“I’m hopelessly inadequate with words,” she writes. “Whenever I try to say something, the words will clog up in my throat… Until I became a scenario writer, I’d thought that it was solitary work where you could carefully pick the right words to use and express your feelings perfectly. But that’s not how it was at all. Being an anime scenario writer means grappling with people. You can’t just write your feelings in text; you have to say the words out loud.”

When we imagine the pivotal conflicts and climaxes of melodramas, it is easy to gloss over the mechanics through which those scenes are expressed. We think of love confessions, emotional outbursts, and flowing tears, but always with a focus on their emotional weight and register. This is where the negative characterization of melodrama is often grounded–its “hysterics” and “manipulations”. Rarely do we examine the construction of such scenes in terms of their specific, observable actions and reactions. In short, what are the characters actually doing during these confessions and outbursts?Read More »

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