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MIDNIGHT AND THE MONK

Jin can feel his life slipping away. His thoughts, his feelings are patiently conmitted to his diary: hope, frustration, despair, resignation... And, above all, an urgent need to tie all the loose ends concerning himself and her. So much to do, so little time. Hiromi is blossoming in front of all, and he's not going to be there to guide her, to see her grow as a tennis player, as a young woman. He loves her, so he is firmly determined not to let the harvest undone when her time arrives, even if his hands are no longer there.

Daigo Katsura comes back from retirement at the call of his friend. Their reunion is nearly the only chance we have got to see these men cheer and laugh, relaxed and happy, renewing an old and warm friendship. Later, when Daigo comes in charge of things, we will find him to be Jin's antithesis: hasty, arrogant, irascible. It could be said that his monastic discipline is the answer to both his inclination to solitude and his effort to control a deep anger inside himself, always prone to burst out.

Ranko visits an ill Jin quite often, and it is interesting to see how she seems to adquire a certain serenity and evenness from this, their conversations displaying those genuine snippets of censure and approval, complicity and happiness between brother and sister. Jin is not willing to let her see his illness' true extent. Crisis are constant now, their incidence increasing. He is starting to lie to her, to everybody. Poor Ranko, she feels despair grow in her heart everytime her brother has to be hospitalized.

We have chosen to detail these scenes to you, not just because of their dramatic strength but for their expressive beauty, surprising beauty for a Dezaki & Sugino production: even as we see malady and death crudely shown, even gruesome, as customary in their style of work, here we have got a far more heroic treatment, even an attractiveness of sorts.

We can find this in all arts, what we could name a "Saint Sebastian's Syndrome", a turning of the sufferance into beauty, boldness, gallant example, even eroticism. Quite effective at the task of moving and shaking the audience, often a monstrous hypocrisy favouring ideology or creed. There is no way around it: anguish, affliction and disease are painful and degrading. This approach to despicting it is nearly a standard of comic-books and animation, but Dezaki & Sugino's style has always allowed for a certain honesty in treatment, introducing an ugliness of features, coarse drawing, ghastliness in illness.

Even though, while watching Daigo witness the crushing weight of his friend's burden, we see that Jin's handsomeness is spared in spite of his every face muscle contorted in pain. Perhaps the artists are focusing in revealing his purity of will, absolute need to achieve his goals, dignity facing his destiny, and the strength of their friendship. There is an effective conveyance of power, Jin giving Daigo regency over Hiromi's future, not just as a tennis player but as a young woman able to love and be loved, too, as we will see at the end of the series.








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