I hate jellyfish, actually.
I’ve been watching and truly enjoying Kuragehime, particularly as it comes as a nice thing to soothe me after the horrors of Shiki (especially after episode fourteen *shudders*). But I do also think it is funny even sans the Shiki lead-in, and I would still watch it if it weren’t aired immediately following Shiki.
One of the things I am really enjoying about the show is how much humanization its giving to the Nuns. While the show is more or less of an argument that otaku are people too, it doesn’t go about this in a saccharine fashion – which, if you think about it, would have rendered the whole thing incoherent to begin with. After all, are people actually all lightness and glory? Hardly. To humanize anyone also requires that we accept them as fully human, and therefore see the grit in the cracks as well as the fuzziness of their hearts. Or something like that.
Honestly, I’m reacting to E Minor’s posts on Kuragehime. I think he raises some valid criticisms, but I disagree with him, ultimately. Because I don’t think the show is trying to portray the Nuns as saints on high altars. Tsukimi’s comment after the dinner incident, of her fellow Nuns fully embracing Kuranosuke after he brings the expensive beef, is illuminating – there is no moral lesson here, unless one wishes to count “hey, we’re all alike!” as a moral lesson. Tsukimi highlights the hypocrisy of the Nuns behavior by taking note of their flip in attitudes once Kuranosuke brings the bribe around. Otaku! They’re just like us.
The fact is, to say that ‘so-and-so is a person, too!’ is both one of the nicest things you can say about someone, and also one of the worst. In accepting someone as an alike being, one basically makes it much, much more difficult to then turn and around and treat that person poorly. But its also saying that they possess glaring flaws and all the minor miserable attributes that also render anyone as human. Humans are beautiful, but they’re also ugly. We create great works of art, feed the poor, kill the unfortunate, and pollute the waterways. If we fell on one side of the spectrum entirely or the other, we’d be angels and demons, not human.
Kuragehime, then, isn’t intended as a means of canonization of the otaku. Of course the Nuns hate and fear hipsters and other stylish-types. While it is possible to differentiate oneself and not hate or demonize the other, its much easier to differentiate oneself while demonizing the other. This is particularly so when one’s identity is counter the larger culture, as the larger culture in turn helps bolster itself by attempting to eliminate those who do not fall in line with it. None of these are necessary; they just happen to be the paths of least resistance.
Tsukimi ends up being the best demonstration of what is wrong with the way both sides of the hipster/otaku divide relate to each other, as she ends up risking flak from both directions depending upon the circumstances. She fits into the otaku world, and so fears being rejected by them as she has found acceptance with her fellow Nuns. She also fears that she can’t fit into the more mainstream society, so she can’t afford to offend the Nuns. Consider Mejiro’s advice for what should be done to a Nun who accidentally brings man into the household – DEATH. This is pretty extreme, and is meant to reinforce the fact that the Nuns are just as tribalistic as any other group. They just happen to also be obsessive about the Three Kingdoms and trains.
Kuranosuke may be treated poorly by the Nuns, but he also imposes his own standards on Tsukimi when he gives her the makeover. He may come off as more accepting of her no matter what, but his actions also demonstrate that he is just as tone-deaf to how she truly feels as the Nuns are unwilling to have her in any other form than she already is. That Kuranosuke’s brother finds out about Tsukimi’s dead mother really speaks to this. Who is the friend here, after all?
This isn’t to suggest, though, that Shuu is himself ‘better’ than Kuranosuke and the Nuns. Its more demonstrative of the fact that Kuranosuke has been thinking more of Tsukimi as an interesting diversion as opposed to as a human being. He considers his friends boring basically because he doesn’t find them challenging. Tsukimi, with her lack of fashion, jellyfish obsession, and geeky glasses, is his would-be fair lady. On the flip-side, to the Nuns she’s more or less a fellow foot-soldier, someone to help shore up the defenses against outsiders. Neither system of belief will let her just be a human being and that alone.
(We could argue about whether anyone is a human being and that alone, but that’s really just too existential for this post.)
I like Kuragehime. And I like all the characters, even if they are using Tsukimi as a game-piece, ultimately. Because there’s more to them than that, and they aren’t Mary-Sues or Gary-Lous. I think the real message of the whole thing isn’t “Be yourself.” but “Be yourself… and let others be themselves, too.”