I know Aki’s backstory is supposed to be tragic, but I feel like “Kamisama Dolls” is taking the easy way out. Some storytellers, when they need to cast a strong, empowered female, usually heap abuse and trauma on a female character. Usually, this involves a sexual assault of some kind. Eventually, the female gets over her attack and seizes control of her life and destiny. As readers, we are supposed to be inspired by her strength and steely resolution. Sure, that seems plausible.
You keep reading stories, however, and you can’t help but notice that a lot of female empowerment stories tend to start with degradation and abuse. You start to wonder, then, if there’s some mindset out there that women can only empower themselves by first facing sexual abuse. Well, of course not. Women can empower themselves in a multitude of ways, and I’m willing to bet most authors know this; many authors are just lazy. It’s just so much easier to get readers to sympathize with someone who has been a victim of rape.
So what am I trying to get at? When I watch Aki’s backstory unfold, I’m not moved to sympathy; I just feel manipulated. Aki is a brutal murderer and mentally deranged so how do we get the audience to sympathize or even empathize with his character? By, of course, having him be the target of bullies and ostracization. By, of course, killing Aki’s pet, a cute dog; after all, the audience is always sad when an innocent animal dies. Last, but certainly not least, you can tug at the audience’s heart strings by stealing Aki’s woman. What’s that term they have in the anime/manga subculture — netorare? Yes, that; Senou is only in the story so the anime can rape and steal her away from Aki. I just find this emotionally manipulative and lazy.
The story’s laziness seeps into other areas of the story as well. Yes, I understand that the backstory must fit within the confines of a single episode, but in order to accomplish this, and still get the audience on Aki’s side, “Kamisama Dolls” paints its antagonists in very broad strokes. Atsushi, the bully and rapist, is rendered a caricature of an entitled brat. He just abuses Aki and rapes Senou because he can. The school principal is only included to be heartless to Senou-sensei’s plight. Even Atsushi’s cronies are a joke. When Atsushi accidentally kills Senou, his underlings whine, “You never said anything about murder!” Wait, what? So you were cool with the animal abuse, kidnapping, and rape (possibly gang rape), but we draw the line at murder?
Even Senou’s story is so ridiculously and hastily developed, I couldn’t help but laugh. But this is supposed to be tragic, right? I shouldn’t be laughing, right? Here’s what happened: a kid walked in on his father sleeping with Senou, his teacher. He completely freaked out at this sight and ran out of his home where a car hit him. Really? It wasn’t enough that Senou slept with a student’s father even though this alone would have been sufficient in explaining why she had to take a crappy job in the country. The author felt that this simply wasn’t tragic enough. To remedy this, the author piles on the drama: as punishment for having sex — with an unmarried man, by the way –, Senou-sensei is literally responsible for a kid being run over. This is a joke, right?
Lack of male role models in the village
Kyouhei’s a decent guy, but he’s also a bit of an outsider; he’s part city boy now, after all. Aki’s murderous and deranged, as we’ve discussed previously. We only see Kyouhei’s father in his office and he seems symbolically impotent. Whenever Kyouhei needs his father’s help, his father just stonewalls him. Kirio seems just as potentially deranged as Aki — oh those crazy evil twins! Then there was that old man beating the tar out of Kirio two episodes ago — you know he’s evil just from his eyes. Oh, let’s not forget the horrible men in this week’s episode. Are there any good guys whatsoever in the village? Maybe Koushiro, who seems to genuinely care for Kirio’s well-being, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good guy just yet. So what’s going on, guys? What’s with all the males in the village being dicks? Is there a sex-linked gene affecting everyone in the village?
It just seems weird to drop the ball on the animation for such an important episode.
Then again, they dropped the ball on the storytelling too so why wouldn’t they be lazy about everything else?