Falling in Love

At this point I think I have said most of what I can say about
Strawberry Panic as a whole. I’m going to confine my comments upon each
episode to whatever seems striking and different about it, and not
necessarily about how the episode relates to the series as a whole.

About "Greenhouse," let me say two things.

The
incident in which Nagisa and Shizuma play music together foreshadows
their last dance at the close of the series. In the act of creating art
together, they fall into a deep wordless communication that expresses a
kind of spiritual affinity with each other. Their gardening together is
of the same character: an expression of love which produces beauty,
which they do together and which expresses a deep connection between
them. When Shizuma says "If you
take care of them [ie plants] with your heart, they’ll bloom into
beautiful flowers," we understand that she is also speaking about the
two of them, the effect they have for each other. Thus, Nagisa’s care
of a despondent flower symbolizes her capacity to restore Shizuma to
her former healthy self. Conversely, Shizuma’s promise to Nagisa is to
help her blossom into a woman.

I
am struck by the discontinuity between Shizuma’s tragic experience of
life and Nagisa’s innocence. Both girls have "fun" with each other, but
when Nagisa comes upon Shizuma unawares in the greenhouse, she is taken
aback by her despondence, and cannot understand it. When she returns to
Tamao, she throws off the complexity of emotions Shizuma inspires and
becomes again apparently carefree. In narrative terms, the episode is
preparing us for the revelation of Shizuma’s lost love. But in terms of
character, we are being forced to consider the disparity in emotional
development between the two. Are they simply incompatible,
incommensurable? That really is the point of Miyuki’s later complaint
to Shizuma, that she has no right to involve Nagisa in her tragedy,
since "[y]ou’ll only be hurting her." One way to think of Tamao and
Shizuma is to see them as versions of Nagisa herself, the opposition
between innocence and experience that marks the transition from a
sheltered, simple childhood to a complex, tragic adulthood. Put this
way, we can see why Nagisa never really considers Tamao as a partner,
except perhaps as a temporary refuge into her own childishness. (As we
see for example in a later episode, when Nagisa retreats to Tamao’s bed
out of her fear of ghosts). To experience love is to be fully an adult,
with all the costs that entails. So if Nagisa is to have love, she can
only have it as an adult with an adult, which is to say, with Shizuma.
Tamao is only ever a foil for Shizuma, never an alternative.

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