I have this ridiculous idea. I may not have been watching anime, but I’ve been catching up on The Big Bang Theory up to the end of its fourth season. There’s a new season, I know, but it’s still currently running and unfinished at the time of this writing. I couldn’t help myself from comparing that serial comedy with Honey and Clover, especially in light of the later seasons. It wasn’t obvious during the earlier seasons, as there was only Penny, but it showed its similarity to H&C when Bernadette, Amy, and Priya appeared. I said similarity because there is no actual competition among the characters in both series. They know who they love, and they love as best as they could, but don’t actively compete with their friends for the hearts of the people they’re interested in. Just as Penny spites Priya, she bears down on her emotions and respectfully gives Leonard and Priya their space after Leonard and her talked about it, Yamada whines about Rika but doesn’t actively go against her because she also recognizes the capabilities of Rika.
People have complained about the tone of TBBT to have become more serious, but I actually praise it. Instead of mere scientific laughfests from caricatures the viewer is increasingly made to appreciate the humanity of the characters that make up the show. While the comedy remains the focus, the emotions that underlie and that seethe beneath the terse sentences and the unsaid expressions make the show more colorful for me. It’s actually the jarring transitions that make me more endeared to series like this and H&C. Though it’s stomach-crampingly funny at one point, it immediately becomes a trigger for tears when beneath the laughs lie the emotions that the characters feel.
A great way to illustrate this is the awkward presence of Penny at the time when Leonard, Priya, and the rest of their friends were having dinner at Leonard’s apartment. There was witty banter throughout the occasion, but it was enlightening to see how Penny reacted to the aptness of the relationship between Leonard and Priya: both of them were highly intelligent and capable of holding a conversation. They were even able to recall a humorous scene in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The aftermath, of course, is that Penny broke down into tears after Leonard and Priya were gone. (season 4, episode 16)
It is this surprising and jarring transition that makes the comedy all the more funny and the sadness all the more grave, because it is unexpected and yet apropos for the occasion. I think I’ll get back to this later on: my point is that it is the background of comedy that illuminates and gives gravitas to the serious occurrences in the show, especially because the seriousness is unexpected. The seriousness jumps out at the viewer, and erodes the foundation of emotional stability because it precisely is jarring. Compared to series which are consistently sad, or just really fun-fests the series that are bittersweet are for me the ones that are more memorable because of this surprise element. The tears are jerked out of you.