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Hisone and Masotan: A Story About Love and Work-Life Balance

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NOT to be confused with Hisone x Masotan.

SPOILERS FOR DRAGON PILOT: HISONE AND MASOTAN EPISODES 1-10 BELOW:

Hisone and Masotan is a story about the friendship between a girl and her dragon friend, but it’s also a story about romance between humans. I thought that the former theme would be the entire point of the story, but the latter ended up being equally important, despite only becoming a serious plot point in the tail end of the show.

I opened up my blog to complain about all the heterosexual romance that basically appeared out of nowhere in Hisone and Masotan. There was a bit of ship teasing between some of the girls and the dudes who also work at their air base, but I didn’t think that the narrative would take this too seriously. It seemed obvious to me that Hisone and Masotan was way more about platonic female friendships than cheesy romantic love triangles.

In my head, I had the genre of this story all pinned down. Hisone and Masotan was clearly one of those “cute girls doing cute things” anime where men are just background ornaments, if they exist at all.

honoka's dad

Love Live! is infamous for this. Honoka’s dad is one of the only male characters that ever appear onscreen, and his face is never directly shown.

It makes sense why men would not really appear in these shows about female bonding. For one thing, it makes it easier to ship the girls together (or with yourself, if that’s what you fancy). Plus, a romantic subplot would take the focus away from the girls’ individual stories. These shows may not always be considered “yuri”, but there are a million heterosexual romance stories out there to satisfy one’s itch for straight ships, so it’s not like I’m dying to see boys appear.

This was why the latest episodes of Hisone and Masotan felt a bit like a betrayal. The show defied my expectations by showing some of the girls falling in love with their male colleagues. It’s also a major plot point, because by experiencing romantic love, these girls are no longer able to pilot their dragons.

Upon watching those episodes for the first time, I thought that this was a bullshit excuse for romantic drama. And to some extent, I still think that way.

But now that I have actually sat down to write up this blog post, it occurs to me that Hisone and Masotan may have been making an intelligent point about women’s relationships by including this kind of story development.

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“How could my heart be moved by someone other than Norma?”

The important thing to note about the Dragon Pilots (or D-Pilots) is the mysterious requirements that are foisted upon them. For some reason, the dragons only allow women to pilot them, but that’s not all – the only obsession these women are allowed to have is with their jobs. Once they develop worldly desires (for example, love for a romantic partner or a child), then their dragon rejects them.

Vice-Minister Iiboshi literally refers to the ideal D-Pilot as the “White Lover”, presumably because only their love for their work can be considered “pure”.

The love that the Hisone and Masotan characters show for their dragons is portrayed as genuine and heartwarming, but it shouldn’t be the only kind of love they experience in their lives. Nobody should be a slave to their jobs. Hisone and El are shown agonising about their romantic feelings for men because they have been put in a position to choose love or their jobs. It’s especially frustrating for them because it ought to be a false dichotomy; nobody should have to choose between the two.

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“I’m going to quit as a D-Pilot!”

Despite the fantastical nature of the story, this is a relatable situation for many women, especially in Japan, where the so-called “M curve” is more pronounced compared to other rich countries. There are all sorts of reasons why women drop out of the workforce around a certain age, but basically the social expectation is to choose either marriage or work instead of trying to mix the two. Hisone and El may have only just realised the nature of their crushes in embarrassed, schoolgirl-like fashion, but that’s the dilemma they face as of episode 10.

If my reading of the narrative is correct, these girls are going to eventually find a way to find love and be with their dragons. They aim to participate in a tradition that repeats every 75 years, but they have it within themselves to break the cycle. Just because things have always been a certain way in the past doesn’t mean that it has to be that way in the future.

In retrospect, I was definitely being unfair when I assumed that all of the romance was “drowning out” the girls’ individual stories. The romantic love isn’t portrayed as more or less important than the platonic friendships within the group of girls. It’s also worth noting that not all the girls are afflicted with lovesickness: Nao, Mayumi, and Liliko don’t have any romantic subplots with men. (I’m convinced that Nao is gay for Hisone, but that’s not a plot point in the show, sadly.)

Nao

Basically, you could sum up the point of Hisone and Masotan as “Let women be horny”.

This is a recurring theme in Mari Okada’s writing, most explictly (heh) in Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo (“Maidens of the Savage Season”), a manga which is entirely about girls being horny. Let’s not also forget that it was Okada who wanted to add more sex jokes to Aquarion EVOL, as if that show didn’t have enough horniness already. Even Anohana was originally intended to have more slapstick erotic elements, partly to portray the vicissitudes of growing up.

“Work-life balance” was also a prominent theme in Hanasaku Iroha, which handled its own romantic subplot similarly to Hisone and Masotan. The male love interests are firmly in supporting roles and don’t dictate the action at all. Ohana found love and she found fulfillment with her work, although she struggled to reconcile the two at first. (There are more than a few similarities between HanaIro’s Kou and HisoMaso’s Okonogi in terms of personality, too.)

Going by all these precedents, it should be fairly clear that Hisone and Masotan is really a story about women’s empowerment. And for that to happen, the men don’t need to disappear from the face of the planet. Looking at it from another perspective, it may actually be more refreshing for an anime which totally looked like a “cute girls doing cute things” show to tackle the sexuality of its characters head-on. I’m still not a fan of those awkward sexual harassment jokes (especially in the early episodes), but that’s a conversation that can be had another day.

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In conclusion, don’t let Toshinao Aoki’s cute character designs fool you. Despite their looks, these girls are very much adults. They even get drunk at izakayas and bitch about life! Truly a relatable anime.

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Posted on June 22, 2018, in Anime Analysis, Pairings and Shipping and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Some of the sexual harassment stuff to me felt pointed in the way Hisomaso’s (presumed) intentional dealing with the tension between a personal life and a job, especially as it relates to El, since she explicitly talks about the sexism she’s face in trying to achieve her dream. It’s certainly not enjoyable or comfortable to watch, and some of rest on border between “the show wants you to think this is funny” and “the show thinks this is realistic, but bad,” which makes it a bit nervy.

    For my part, the romance thing structurally was rather amusing to me, rather than a betrayal, given the military had spent an entire episode trying to get the girls to fall in love only to fail and give it up and then have it backfire on them tremendously later on. El’s crush on the waste of space that is Zaitou is some bs tsundere cliche nonsense though.

    I do think the romance/work binary has been well-seeded, though, and supports recent events. The stuff with Forrest way back before the island arc hinted at this, and since the island arc made clear that Hisomaso is concerned with themes dealing with women in the workforce, it kind of makes sense that it would deal with what, as you noted, is a prevalent issue for women in Japanese society.

    Gosh I hope the show sticks the landing, please stick the landing ;-;

    • I think that all of Ikushima’s stuff about pointing out the body sizes of the girls and feeling their bodies to make suits for them was of the “dumb anime humour variety”, made worse by the fact that Hisone is shown to be uncomfortable about it but it’s all a joke. Zaitou’s character can be hit or miss but at least some of his behaviour had a point.

      Episode 7, which is when all the romance stuff started, was incredibly hilarious to me. Because it was all a big joke in that episode. It actually made me more convinced that the show wouldn’t take it all too seriously. It was the introduction of Okonogi’s childhood friend that made me groan, because that signified the shift to drama.

      • Oh yeah, all of the stuff where they focus on the suits was bad.

        how dare you speak ill of the childhood friend who is probably going to be corporally devoured by the ancient dragon, though, she’s doing her best

  1. Pingback: June 2018 Community Content Round-Up – The Backloggers

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