Entrepreneurial Drive in Kuragehime

Weird? Yes. Passionate? Definitely. Success is within his grasp!

A lot of the focus on Kuragehime lies in its overarching plot, romance, and comedy.  The quirks that define the characters don’t get nearly as much attention for good reason: the producers didn’t flesh them out fully, and so, many of them are little more than caricatures that are, unfortunately, left unexplored.

But imagine what would happen if they did!  I have this crazy notion that Kuragehime isn’t primarily about the struggle to defend Amamizu-kan from developers nor is it about the blossoming romances.  Kuragehime is all about entrepreneurial success.  This hopeful message isn’t quite so apparent in the beginning, but towards the end, it becomes clearer and clearer until it’s almost blinding.  By using the quirky characters as a medium to communicate to us, the show declares that regardless of what crazy passions we may have, we can all succeed by pursuing those passions to the very end.

None of this is anything particularly new or mind-blowing.  A deluge of self-help books have ingrained it in our heads so much that we can boil it down to “doing what you love.”  But that’s always much easier said than done.  Self-doubt seems to be the primary barrier, especially when there’s so much uncertainty in thinking that one’s interests are so niche that it’s impossible to make anything out of the hobby.  For others, money and time is the concern; starting a venture requires a lot of both to be able to get off the ground.  None of these are insurmountable.  As Kuragehime’s Kuranosuke demonstrates, if you love your work enough and have the hustle, drive, and willingness to overcome those doubts, success will come in due time.  And what is entrepreneurship besides doing what you love?

Speaking of entrepreneurship, how often do we see an entrepreneurial character like Kuranosuke in anime anyways?  Eden of the East’s cast had some for sure since their operations are pretty much the epitome of the garage startup.  Maybe Craft Lawrence from Spice and Wolf though that was by design.  But the more I think about it, the harder it is to come up with many characters who took their passions and transformed that into their life’s work.  And that’s a shame because entrepreneurs have some of the most interesting passions and personalities.  In anime, characters like Kuranosuke are a rare gem because he embodies the entrepreneurial spirit to the core.

I love the spirit and energy that he exhibits.  In his relentless pursuit of helping out the residents of Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke refuses to let any obstacle stand in his way.  When the residents needed to come up with money, Kuranosuke took the lead by directing them to take part in a communal yard sale.  During the yard sale, when he saw how Tsukimi’s stuffed jellyfish started selling quickly, he was flexible and quick-witted enough to take advantage of this opportunity to call upon the other residents and direct them to produce more jellyfish.  Those too sold, and so, marked the start of a successful endeavor with jellyfish-themed products.

As you can expect, he doesn’t stop there.  In the beginning of the show, we have an inkling of his passion for fashion.  When it comes to dressing up, he knows what works, what doesn’t, and has studied the industry to the extent that he has a good handle on its ins and outs to be able to navigate the landscape with ease.  With a good eye for fashion, he realizes the potential that jellyfish couture can have upon industry trends and, with the issue of Amamizu-kan still dangling overhead, takes steps to realize this opportunity.  He gets Tsukimi, a jellyfish otaku nonpareil, on board with this proposal, gets her to put together the concept, sew the prototype, and then helps to test the prototype in the marketplace.  The fruits of their labors was then well-received by fashion critics, bringing with it the hope that this venture could turn into something more.  The sky’s the limit as they say!

And on Tsukimi’s end, I’d like to think that her entry into the world of fashion is the first of many steps as she ventures outside her shell and works with Kuranosuke to make jellyfish-themed couture the success that it’s capable of becoming.

Non Sequitur:

This post will not attempt to answer the question about the absence of entrepreneurs in anime sometimes.  My best guess is because Japan’s risk-averse culture that does not tolerate the creative destruction required for innovation is pervasive, and isn’t too comfortable with the concept of self-starting on this grand of a scale.  It’s something to think about, especially given Japan’s economic situation.

12 Responses to “Entrepreneurial Drive in Kuragehime”

  1. Kuranosuke is also a highly selfish individual. That helps.

  2. I’ve read a few articles (mostly shared by you) that indicate Japan doesn’t exactly have a corporate culture conducive to entrepreneurship. A colleague of mine who worked briefly with a Japanese company on commercializing one of his inventions said pretty much the same thing. At first, he said, it was great: the company looked after him and they weren’t demanding about his work. But by the end of it, he hated it. He’s not exactly an individual that likes taking orders, and the corporate hierarchy in most Japanese companies are so strict and rigid. What the boss says, goes, and everyone under him is just expected to carry out their orders… no questions, no complaints, even if those orders are counter-productive. The problem, as far as I can see, is that this is the be all and end all of the job market in Japan… if you’re a university graduate, there’s not much alternative to the regimented corporate structure. I guess the reason why Kuranosuke has a better chance of succeeding as an entrepreneur is that he has money to begin with, so he can afford to make bigger risks and not have to worry so much about the cost. It’s hard to imagine any of the Sisters doing the same thing.

  3. The one thing I do like about Kuranosuke is that he has a keen eye for opportunity. One of his best decisions is taking the chance of sewing that jellyfish dress only after realizing the link between Tsukimi’s love for jellyfish and Kuranosuke’s love for fancy dresses. For entrepreneurs, being opportunistic is a trait that cannot be taught by other people. Other people can teach you that being opportunistic is a gift, but nobody can give you specific examples of opportunism. For that part, I respect Kuranosuke.

    What I don’t like about Kuranosuke is his recklessness. I admit that recklessness is, one way or another, associated with being an entrepreneur (i.e. well, you need to have balls to start something risky in entrepeneurship). But in Kuranosuke’s case, he doesn’t even have fundamental structure or blueprint in his head as to how to succeed in raking in the money to save Amamizu-kan. Him and Tsukimi owning the fashion runway comes off as just a big fluke that’s hard for me to swallow. Lady Luck has been by his side the whole time, even when he only knows that something needs to be done but is clueless as to how it should be done. Case in point: him trying in vain to make a dress even when he knows nuts about sewing. That’s why I think Chiaki deserves more credit for actually making the pair’s dreams come true. Isn’t she also the reason that the flea market pulled through as well?

  4. So Kuragehime’s the story of new successful entrepreneurs. Getting ideal here, what I really, really liked about Kuranosuke is how he went and encourage Tsukimi to do what she loves; he merges here jelly otaku with his own geekiness for fashion, and the enthusiasm transforms to something productive.

  5. Isn’t Kuragehime about how chance meetings and relationships with the most unlikely people can change your life forever? It’s not about romance or entrepreneurship, but simply how meeting people who live in a different world than you and have different hobbies from you can see you in a way you never would’ve thought of about yourself.

    At least, that’s the impression I got.

  6. I think you’re absolutely right. There are so many things I love about Kuranosuke, and this is definitely one of the most important aspects of his character. He has the drive to constantly press forward and rally his troops to follow. He is decisive even even when he hasn’t yet worked out all the details. He’ll figure it out on the way. On top of all that, he is blessed with intense physical beauty that simply opens doors. That’s a potent combination.

    I’ve read to the end of volume six of the manga, and I think this is even more apparent in the books than in the anime. The fashion success comes in the anime too easily. In the manga, there’s a lot more hard work involved, with Kuranosuke leading the Nuns through two different marathon dress-making sessions that aren’t in the anime. He also sees opportunities that everyone else misses. The one that happens in volume six is a master-stroke of ballsy risk-taking.

  7. Similar to what Sorrow-kun said, TONS of barriers to entry, the need for elaborate personal relationships in order to do anything, overly complicated business structures, etc.

  8. @TIF
    That is what happens initially, though I’d like to think he changes over the course of the show to be a bit more conscientious in his resolve towards the Nuns’ plight.

    Yes, having the capital and the political connections is a huge advantage that should be considered. The anime never goes into detail as to whether his father has any influence in him being able to navigate the fashion industry with ease and that would be an interesting to see if it were true. If he went and explored that space on his own initiative and out of interest, more power to him. It gives him the background knowledge of what’s capable of succeeding and what isn’t.

    I’ve been lamenting the emphasis on the career options of becoming a salaryman or civil servant for quite some time now. I think a lot of it lies in the risk-averse tendencies people in Japan have. If at first they don’t succeed… they get branded as NEETs. In the West, we’re allowed to try again. And again. And again. Until we give up or succeed wildly.

    Yeah, there’s a certain degree of recklessness required to take an audacious step of starting an enterprise, but I’ll have to disagree with your notion that a blueprint is required to get a venture of that scale up and running. Reading all the business articles that I have, the common thread I find in all of them is that seasoned entrepreneurs advise simply getting a prototype up and running, and then iterate from there. It sounds messy (and it is), but by doing so, it shows that you do have the balls and the interest level to get this project going, and tests whether you’re really interested in what you’re doing.

    And sometimes, your first iteration really does take off. Just study how fads have risen and fall. Sometimes, it just comes together really well and you succeed on your first try. The point is, you can’t plan for these things, but it happening isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

    As for Chiaki, I’d say no. She has the background knowledge, but not the guts to take that next step to start a venture. As important as her function is, sometimes, you succeed just by showing up. I don’t think she would have shown up had Kuranosuke not been around to do some prodding.

    Yeah, this is my head doing some random associations, but given the results, I’ve been kind of pleased with how it’s progressed. As AC noted above, it’s all about seeing those opportunities and seizing them.

    No stepping on my pet theories now! In truth, what you said was what I was planning to write about until mid-way through, I decided this angle was more interesting to explore (to me).

    Examples of this kind of leadership seems kind of sparse, which is why, aside from his cross-dressing gimmick, Kuranosuke is such a breath of fresh air.

    I’m glad to hear that the manga focuses a lot on the hard work that goes into the enterprise and shows that the iterating aspect is a major part of what goes in new ventures such as the one Kuranosuke’s starting up. Guess I’ll have to read the manga more then since this tickles my business sense.

    And no toleration for creative destruction. That’s the key social stumbling block.

  9. I like when I see small business owners in anime, to be honest. Not necessarily people who want to be entrepreneurs to get all the way to the top (so to speak) but like…Akio and Sanae in Clannad. I love seeing that sort of situation. Still need to watch Kuragehime though.

  10. Japan is much like the United States in that a few mega-corporations have seized whatever industry they’re in with an iron fist. You may have heard of the rise of the Zaibatsu in Japan’s history, and I think their dominance lead to the perception today that any entrepreneurs or start-ups are doomed form the start insofar as being looked down upon. Then again, the huge businesses in Asia all started out as small, pathetic start-ups, so maybe that means something.

  11. @Arianna Sterling
    The only problem with Clannad is that they never show the evolution from starting up the business to the end. Yeah, there were hints of it when Nagisa’s arc was in full swing during the first season, but I’d have liked to see more.

    Silicon Valley is a formidable exception, no? Also, Boston and Chicago seem like strong startup hubs to me.

  12. @zzero
    Ah, I forgot to talk about the part how the US is different than Japan/East Asian, but whatev, you’re right

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