The Other is Us/Us is the Other

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.”

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8 Responses to The Other is Us/Us is the Other

  1. Yes. I think you nailed it.

    As I mentioned to 2DT, if there’s anything that lionizes otaku it’s the caricature that is the Prime Minister.

    YOU CAN BE AN UTTER TRAPDORK AND RUN JAPAN (to the ground).

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I love the PM. He’s such a nutcase. I hope I, too, can grow up to be a trapdork who runs Japan.

  2. E Minor says:

    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.

    Hm. Are you saying that I think they are being portrayed as saints? I really don’t. I think the Nunz are definitely portrayed in a negative light. I just don’t think this is enjoyable to watch at the moment. My main point is only that there isn’t any catharsis when I watch the show (which, at the same time, isn’t me saying the show is bad). I don’t particularly like watching people acting terribly… and getting away with it. That’s how episode two and some of three played out.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I think I must’ve misunderstood you, as I drew from your comments on what you viewed as tacked on, misaimed morals in episode two; I took that as saying that the show wants us to view the Nuns as better than their more stylish counterparts.

      • E Minor says:

        It’s probably my fault as I’m not always clear in explaining exactly how I feel.

        Essentially, I know the women are portrayed negatively because (prima facie) I reacted to them negatively. When nothing comes of it, however, — when Kuranosuke (who I don’t particularly care for either) actually has to bring them expensive cuts of beef almost as an act of apology — I criticized the second episode for lacking catharsis. Then I began to wonder why not… why does nothing bad come of the Nuns for acting so poorly? This doesn’t mean I think they’re portrayed in a positive light or as saints.

        I know it’s too early to judge; I’ve only seen three episodes after all. Still, that’s what I came away with from watching the show.

  3. Shinmaru says:

    Yeah, I kind of like that everyone has their good points and their bad points. You can see that the girls really care about Tsukimi, but at the same time they’re as restrictive as the people outside their circle. They have passion and can clearly work hard (I think Bakuman showed us that even being the assistant on a manga ain’t easy :p), but they also make excuses for their lifestyles … like most people do, of course. That’s the one thing that makes them real to me right now, since for the most part they are such caricatures (albeit entertaining caricatures lol).

  4. kluxorious says:

    There is just something about Kuragehime that pulls you in and sucks you dry. I fucking love the sensation. This show is real which most of us can identified with. Hence why we love it. We are simpleton after all

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