Akogare is a verb in Japanese that can mean anything from straight out admiration to a full-blown crush. It’s considered normal, even helpful, for a young person to akogare an older role model…an intrinsic part of the mentor/protégé relationship. Akogare means you will do your best to learn and replicate those qualities which make the older and more experienced person so “cool.”
Akogare is a space, like shinyuu, that is very open to misinterpretation by people who like to read into vaguely defined spaces. It is these two words that allow so *much* Yuri-service, precisely because they are not as easy to label for westerners. In reality, we do have these spaces but, because we have no words for them, they still are often instantly turned into slash relationships by fans. Some people simply find it hard to believe that two people of any sex, gender or sexuality, can be close physically and emotionally, but not involved sexually.
In many anime and manga, this gray-space-ness of akogare and of shinyuu is played for service. As much as some fans would prefer labels be solidly applied on anime/manga couples (are they together or not, ARGH!) this will not happen. Ambiguity sells to a larger audience than specificity. The larger the audience, the more possible sales. The producers are not going to alienate the Nanoha x Yuuno ‘shippers by making the “Fate and Nanoha get married” episode, because those people buy stuff too. :-)
In Aria, Volume 4, we have several examples of akogare. First, let’s look at Aika. Her admiration for Alicia borders right on the line of “having a crush on.” This is interesting because it’s damped down from the beginning of the series when it was very crushy. The reason for the change? Al. All akogare is assumed to be a phase. Whether it’s same or opposite sex crush, everyone understands that it is an expression of immaturity, a part of growth. That’s why it’s cute when a teenager likes a pop idol to the point of lining up for goods and appearances…and kind of creepy when an adult does. ;-) Aika clearly admires and kind of sort of desires Alicia. Her growing interest in Al will temper that to a more adult admiration.
Akari’s admiration of Alicia is – in my opinion – totally without desire. She admires Alicia’s skills, her grace, her personality. To the point of idolization. What we *never* see is any sign of Alicia being moody, or in fact, human at all. She remains from beginning to end, a Fairy. (Unlike Akira who is snappy and Athena who is clumsy.)
Volume 4 is a chance for us to watch as the mentors actually force the shift away from them to their protégé’s own skills. It’s an interesting perspective, because the idolized seniors start to push the chicks to venture out of the nest, knowing that this will make them, as role models, less necessary. As well as being perfect at their jobs, they are the perfect sempai.
So, no, no “Yuri” as such in Volume 4, but a chance to watch a similar, but not the same, series of relationships between women develop.
And more time spent in the company of the Undines of Neo-Venezia, which is never a bad thing. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 0
Service – 3 (bathing suits, fine, but seriously, that level of anatomical detail is creepy.)
Overall – 8
It is my sincere pleasure to thank Okazu Hero Frederick D. for sponsoring today’s review! You are our hero. ^_^