The “extra chapter” of the Ibara no Mori novel, is really a whole second section. As Tsutako mentions in the first part of the novel, this section has no illustrations – apparently Girls’ Love is the same as Boys’ Love in the publisher’s eyes. From my own perspective I have learned that it is *a lot* easier to publish gay love/sex in print than in graphics. Words have to be focused on and understood and are, therefore, safer. Pictures are a whole ‘nother issue.
On the Yuricon Mailing List I received a lot of questions about this section, so let me answer them right off – no, Sei does not think about that fact that this was her first kiss, or that it was with a girl. Nor does she reflect on what it might mean to “be gay.” You’ll see, she does acknowledge that that she might have homosexual feelings for Shiori, but the thought that she might “be gay” isn’t really relevant.
Let me interject my own experience and understanding here: I think that, if Sei and Shiori had run away together and found themselves alone and with the opportunity to have a physical relationship, they would have done so. I’ve seen this before – up until a young person kisses another person, they are, like Sei, unsure of just what it is they’re wanting to do. After that kiss – it’s less confusing. ^_^ So I don’t think Sei is being ingenuous. Nor do I think she “is gay.” She may well decide she’s a lesbian at some point in her future (which based on reading future books, she does), but I’m pretty sure she’ll have to fall in love with another woman for it to be something she considers. After all – she’s been going to an all-girl school since she was a child. It stands to reason her initial affinity is for another woman.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think she’s gay. ^_^ For one thing – she has gaydar!
And on that note…onto the notes!
1) It was an accident that Sei was there to meet Shiori – she had woken up too early that morning and was at the school too early. Sei tells us that she was not a very social person – she was aloof and anti-social, spending most of her time reading novels by herself.
The first half of this chapter is almost identical to the anime and manga. They cut out only minor descriptions. In fact – very little was changed or cut out of this chapter. I was pretty impressed.
2) In the greenhouse, as Shiori sits by Sei in the warm air, Sei is overcome with the desire to do *something* but she doesn’t know what. Her heart is beating, her body is shaking and all she can think of is that she wants to be in one body with Shiori.
This scene was brilliant, btw – the descriptions of Sei’s reactions and need were, to be blunt, exactly the mirror of my own at that age, in that situation. It was, not surprisingly, a very powerful and sexy scene.
3) The one chapter that was cut out in its entirety was basically a monologue in which Sei recounts her growing infatuation with Shiori:
After the greenhouse, she is obsessed with the need to understand what these feelings are. She couldn’t be sure whether or not it was romantic love – she knew she loved Shiori’s soul, her spirit, but she felt that Shiori’s body was just decoration for the inner self.
Sei reads a lot of love novels, to try and see if this is what she’s feeling – the only thing she learns is that she really comes to hate love novels. ^_^
So, Sei starts looking at books about homosexual love, but she finds nothing that really reflects what she’s feeling. (Again, this jibed with my personal experience – interestingly, *this* novel is quite realistic, which bucks the trend and once again points out that Konno Oyuki is a really good writer.)
Finally, she turns to textbooks on reproduction to figure out why she felt this way, and determines only that something in her is broken – but she’s no closer to understanding what it is, or why.
4) During the planning for the school festival, Sei asks her onee-sama to dissolve their bond, because she has no intention of taking Shiori as a soeur. This scene is in the manga too, not the anime. Her onee-sama says that she did not take Sei as soeur to have Sei take a soeur, she took Sei as her little sister to be by her side until she graduates. I think that this scene very neatly characterizes the White Rose family as we see it, since Sei has a similar situation with Shimako, and Shimako with Noriko.
5) When Shiori rejects Sei’s kiss in the church, her reasoning is that “Maria-sama is watching.” Sei goes cold and walks away, but not before thinking that she had lost to a 2000 year old ghost. This was in the anime and manga…but the next line, that Maria-sama was nothing more than a stone statue, while she herself was living flesh, was left out of the anime. I thought that line was pretty great.
6) As her grades slip, she is called into the teacher’s staff room and asked why, Sei fantasizes about saying, “Because Kubo Shiori broke my heart, what are you going to do about it?”
7) Sei is called to the Guidance Office during the break after exams (her exam results were the worst score she’d ever gotten.) Sei figures that its about the grades and absences, but when she sees that both her homeroom teacher and Shiori’s homeroom teacher are there, she feels sick, because she knows that her relationship with Shiori will come up.
When she’s confronted with the relationship, she turns, not to her homeroom teacher (who brought it up) or her mother (who is quite hysterical by this point) but to the Principal, because she knows that Shiori has stayed with her, and because Sei assumes that she knows that Shiori is a good person.
At the end of the scene, as she’s leaving, the Principal’s final shot about not being part of the people and activities around her is lonely, Sei realizes that, of all the people in the room, only the Principal knew – really understood – what the real relationship between Sei and Shiori was. Obviously, from our perspective, we know why…but Sei doesn’t – all she knows is that her feelings were completely transparent to this woman, and it terrifies her.
8) On the last day of school for the term, a Xmas Eve service is held at the church. Although Sei hasn’t seen Shiori for weeks (and she tells us that although she had put distance between the, her yearning to be with Shiori grew with everyday they were apart), Sei assumes that Shiori will have to attend the service. She’s right – and she sees Shiori there, looking well, and is at peace for a moment.
Later, of course, she wanders back to the church, in hopes of running into Shiori, only to find Shiori waiting there for her. (The scene of Sei and Shiori kissing and planning to run away together is exactly the same in book, manga and anime, with the exception of it taking place behind the church, instead of in front as in the anime.)
9) While waiting for Shiori to show at the train station, (she waits more than 6 hours….) Sei is approached by a drunken guy and an OL who ask if she’s all right. Sei feels tears well up, but she ruthlessly holds them in. The OL and guy hang around and she thinks to herself that this is a special punishment…. (Which, btw, brings me to a difference in manga and novel. In the novel she doesn’t ever equate her feelings for Shiori with punishment for her scoffing at god.)
10) When the third term begins, her onee-sama keeps Sei very busy, so she can’t brood. Sei sucks it up, because she knows that she had slacked for the last two terms.
Sei cuts her hair, because looking at her own long hair makes her think of Shiori’s long hair, so she gets rid of it.
11) Sei finally reads the letter Shiori left her in mid-February, a month and a half after Shiori left her. Afterwards, she thinks about Shiori’s words, and comes to the conclusion that, if they *had* run away, they probably would have had no other choice but to kill themselves, that they really didn’t have a bright future. Sei feels that Shiori has some kind of premonition of that when she came to the station and saw Sei, so she felt she couldn’t go. In retrospect Sei believes that it was better that they both lived.
Interestingly, the book, manga and anime all end this story arc completely differently.
In the anime, Sei joins Yumi as they head to the Xmas party at the Rose Mansion, telling us that it’s her “Happy Birthday.”
In the manga, we see her thinking about all this, and about her parting with her onee-sama who tells her that she will have a soeur of her own…then we see Shimako greet her with “onee-sama” and Sei looks a little surprised, then smiles and greets Shimako.
In the novel, Sei thinks about her onee-sama’s words, about how the “future heals the past” and we are told that, as Sei stares up at a blue sky between the sakura tree’s branches, she has come to believe that those words are true.
(This ending struck me as really poignant, but odd too, because I ended a Marimite fanfic with almost the exact same sentiment before I read this book. How weird is that? )
And there you have it. ^_^