Mini-Ika: Petiteness and its ability to be heartwarming

I’m kind of sad to have to admit that Episode 5 of Shinryaku! Ika Musume! was probably the most heartwarming thing I’ve watched this entire season. Not so much the first and second acts, but of course, the third act, where we get to see how Eiko brings Mini-Ika up as a pet all the way until she dies, presumably single and alone. Almost no voice acting was used for either character : the entire segment was silent and with appropriate music in the background. Yet it astounds me: how can a short 10-minute segment , in a comedy show no less, be so heartwarming?

Of course, it tugs at the heartstrings to see Mini-Ika run around chasing Eiko’s fingers, making snowmen and an miscellany of other adorable acts, yet it appears that it was heartwarming nonetheless. This is the kind of feeling you get from watching shows like Ponyo , or even Up.

But then again, why so? Mini-Ika is adorable, and that sums up the argument nicely. To be adorable, to be cute, would imply a sense of daintiness and petiteness. That’s the whole essence of being cute : to be small and petite. You’d notice that in anime, the more helpless some characters are, e.g. Yui, the more adorable they seem. It’s the same reason why people have pictures of puppies plastering their walls and various other belongings.  Smallness will , at one point or another, lead to cuteness.  Heck, the concept of cuteness is even a scientific concept, and even used  in analysis in ethology, introduced by the late Konrad Lorenz.

Now that we have that out of the way, how does that make it any more heartwarming? The plot is heartwarming enough on its own, but adding a factor of petiteness could make it even better. Take Ponyo on The Cliff by the Sea, where Sosuke spends a large amount of time playing with Ponyo, and their childish antics don’t fail to charm.  Likewise, Mini-Ika’s antics with Eiko charm us as well.

But this still doesn’t answer the question. I think if anyone could explain it better, it would be Konrad Lorenz, esteemed animal psychologist, zoologist, ornithologist, and recognized as one of the founders of ethology.

Konrad argued that in addition to this sense of ‘petiteness’ being carried on by child-like features and instincts,  these infantile features triggered the urge to nurture in adults, an adaptation which he claimed, to have ensured that our young were taken care for. Evidence had been aplenty too. Lorenz claimed that humans liked adorable animals (i.e. puppies) because they resembled infants. Recent studies also seemed to back up this theory, with experiments conclusively proving that adults react positively to infants which are cute (duh).

So what would this result in? This urge to nurture is activated. We feel like we would want to care for such a being, if it did exist. It’s like an urge to reach out and help someone. We subconciously want to raise Mini-Ika. Just like how some people seem to wish that their sisters would be like Kirino – or the other way around- we all gain the same kind of feeling from cute images, for cuteness is just like a different version of beauty.

How does this contribute to making the show heartwarming? Simple. Subconsciously, we relate to the characters. The cuteness multiplies this : it makes this feeling become stronger. With us relating to the characters combined with the ever-so-great cuteness of the characters, it fuses to make the show even more heartwarming.

Would the segment be heartwarming without Mini-Ika? Yes.

Would it be as heartwarming without her? Probably not.

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19 Responses to Mini-Ika: Petiteness and its ability to be heartwarming

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  2. Ex14 says:

    I never liked ponyo for some reason (even though i never watched it OTL) maybe cause of the song? >_>? but yes up is nice and if not for the ridiculous ammount of stuff i’m watching i would have picked up thisanime too >_>

    • Valence says:

      The song didn’t see very related to the movie. Apparently it’s a bathing song from parent to child . . . . .

      Don’t worry, I pick and drop things all the time.

      • Ex14 says:

        no it’s not that i thought the movie revolvrs around the song, but rather I got really irritated whenever i ehar it since that day i got bombarded by “ponyo, ponyo~~~” >_> not to emntion the art doesnt click with me so >_>

        • Valence says:

          The art was okay (after all Ponyo looks like a kid’s movie) and as far as I remember they only play that song during the credits….

  3. Shance says:

    It’s called moe, Valence. And considering how much moe has evolved, I think it applies to all of us.

    • Valence says:

      But it doesn’t translate over western media, where this idea is used several times as well. Sure , moe is one thing, but moe is not necessarily heartwarming in the same way Up and Ponyo was.

  4. flyzice says:

    Mini-Ika looks really cute there. I dropped this anime after the first episode but will probably pick it up again when I’m a little less busy. I vaguely recall that it’s quite a hilarious anime. =W=

  5. Azure Hoshizora says:

    To be honest, Ika Musume has possibly disappointed me from episode 1 until Mini Ika’s coming. It did remind me of Ponyo though, lol.

    • Valence says:

      Yet again, I feel your feelings. It’s the same thing that happened in my case, really. Dropped, and picked up for this scene.

      Although I think I may drop it again though . . .

  6. To an extent, cuteness is related to helplessness. We think babies, puppies, and kittens are cute because they’re so helpless. We don’t say the same thing about fully-grown dogs, cats, and teenagers.

    Personally, I found the mini-Ika segment to be closer in its poignancy to Wall-E than the other Pixar films you mentioned.

    • Valence says:

      Wall-E works too, I just wanted to use one Pixar film as an example.

      And your point is the same as Konrad Lorenz’s point : that cuteness equates to a sense of helplessness, that makes us want to protect this helpless being. It’s like a fundamental concept of keeping the human race the dominant species on Earth, apparently. Lots of animals don’t take as much care as we do for our young – in fact, I think we care the most about our young.

  7. Yi says:

    Great post. Mini-Ika certainly appealed to my parental instincts. The most emotional part of that story for me was at the very end… The thought of mini-Ika left all alone brought tears to my eyes.

  8. reinfinitum says:

    Didn’t watch Ika after episode 1. but I guess I’ll watch ep 5 just for this.

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