This is the first in a post series I’ve been hoping/trying to do for a long time, called “Great Scenes in Anime”. As the name implies, it’s a series dedicated to taking a deeper look at some of my favorite scenes in anime. For the most part, these won’t be those big scenes that everyone knows, like character deaths, endings, etc. – instead, they’ll be smaller but meaningful moments that many wouldn’t stop and consider on their way through a series. I’ve been gathering a collection of scenes for a long time, but today I’ll cover one that I just watched from Gakuen Alice episode 8.
If you’ve already seen this episode, you can skip down to the parenthesis below or skim the summary to refresh your memory.
In this episode, Sakura Mikan is upset because in the time that she’s been attending Alice Academy (where she’s not permitted to leave), she hasn’t received any mail from her grandpa, despite having sent him letters every day. The letters had gone through her teacher, Narumi-sensei, who’d been her primary help and trust source since entering the academy. Thanks to the special powers of the other students in her class, Mikan is able to observe her grandpa, and finds him arguing with a mailman that he should’ve received some letters from his granddaughter, but hadn’t. What’s more, Mikan notices that his health seems to be on the decline, most likely out of worry for her well-being.
Upset greatly by this, especially because her grandpa doesn’t actually know that she’s attending the academy at all, Mikan tries to find out why her mail isn’t reaching it’s destination. Once again, the other students’ powers come to her aid, and she finds out the shocking truth that Narumi-sensei has been hiding the letters in a drawer at his desk. Evidently, Mikan isn’t allowed to send mail out of the school, and what’s more, the ‘higher-ups’ of the academy are keeping close watch on her for unknown reasons. Mikan goes into a fit over this and accuses Narumi-sensei of being a traitor. Because of her hysterics, one of the other teachers punishes her to seclusion in her room for the rest of the night, but her friends easily bypass the robotic guard to see her.
Mikan teams up with friend Ruka-pyon, who’s a master of animals, and plans to have a huge eagle fly Mikan over the school gate (they can go no further, as an electric fence surrounds the school that would shock the bird.) Mikan successfully escapes, but within minutes, she’s nearly captured by some yakuza-looking men who imply that they plan to sell her into slave labor, as well as that they probably hang out around this school just waiting for someone they can take. Thankfully, Narumi-sensei comes to her rescue, beats up the bad guys, and gets her back into the school, although he gets grazed by a thug’s bullet in the process.
Back inside the school, Narumi-sensei reassures Mikan that he’s sorry for deceiving her, and that he wants to be her ally and help to make the school a better place, but there are mysterious rules binding him which he can’t really discuss. Once Mikan has calmed down, she goes to bed, but can’t get to sleep. Which leads us to this scene…
(Sadly, I fail hard and don’t know how to rip audio. Instead, I set the clip to Memory Past from the Casshern Sins OST by Kaoru Wada.)
The first point of interest in this scene is Mikan’s hair. This is the first time we’ve seen Mikan with braids, and those in combination with her pink pajamas, tired eyes, and the pillow clutched in her hands create an unmistakable image of childishness. Mikan is only about 11 years-old, but because of her manic energy, it can be hard to consider her age. In this scene, she’s showing a lot of her childish vulnerability and reliance, and the appearance is the first thing to sell it home.
The way that Mikan talks about her grandpa and how she slept with him when she was afraid of ghosts and how he snored like a vacuum cleaner does a better job of expressing her homesickness than any amount of flat-out begging to go home. She talks about him almost as if he’s died already, as the level on which she misses him has reached the point of grief. Note also how she’s clinging tightly to the blanket – an addition to the appearance of vulnerability and desperation for security.
This all culminates into Mikan straight-up asking Narumi-sensei if she can call him ‘grandpa’ (jii-chan). She’s come around full-circle to trusting him the most again, but more importantly, she’s desperate for someone to trust and cling to. She needs a parental figure of some kind, and since her grandpa is the only one she’s ever had, there’s no greater title of trust in her mind.
Narumi-sensei’s reaction that he’s only 20 years old is exactly what I expected, but he turns around and completely defies expectation when he doesn’t tell Mikan to call him ‘nii-chan’ (older brother/young man), but instead to call him ‘otou-san’ (dad). Talk about a reliable answer! Narumi-sensei knows that what Mikan needs is a parental figure, not just someone she can trust. He appoints himself as her dad for now, and there’s no doubt that this is a bond of trust on the highest level.
It’s a shame that I couldn’t get the audio for this as well, because I love Ishida Akira‘s performance as Narumi-sensei. His voice is very soothing and cool, sort of sexy without being perverse. In this scene, the way he says ‘hai, hai’ after Mikan repeats ‘otou-san’ brings a smile to my face. I guess it’s to be expected from the guy who plays Nagisa Kaworu.