Samurais are samurais, and ultimately, kids are kids. This week, Yukina suffers from hysteria, and I cannot blame her one bit. Tom tells her to be a fighter. If she cannot be a fighter, then he believes that she may as well die like a pig. Sophie lectures Yukina on how to be a samurai, even going so far as to quote a passage from the Hagakure. If she will not fulfill her destiny, then she may as well be a criminal. Jose begs Yukina to be a savior, and do all she can to search for Ryoto and Jundai, both of which are still missing after last week’s events. The rest of Yukina’s classmates see her as a superhero — Japan’s superhero, in fact, since she and Ken are the only ones who have managed to defeat the marauding invaders. And even though Ken won’t say it, Yukina can’t help but feel as though she is meant to replace his princess. I can’t help but think back to the first episode, and recall that meeting between the heroine, her mother and the school counselor. Yukina wants to visit Mars. She wants to explore the Solar System. She loves geology. All of that is gone now. Her social, symbolic identity has changed, and this is the source of her hysteria: why am I what you are telling me that I am?
The girl isn’t allowed to be who she wants to be. At the same time, however, I will suggest that she is fully aware what she must do or become. She knows what her duties are, and that she needs to fulfill them. Yukina may not be as gifted as her mother, but she’s not a dumb girl. She’s aware she should be a fighter. She should be like a samurai. Of course. If the world is under threat, and she’s one of the only two people on this entire planet that can operate the Black Relic, then she has the responsibility to fight. Neither Tom nor Sophie are necessarily wrong in this sense. The problem lies in how the girl is supposed to arrive at this realization. Not only that, everyone seems to misunderstand Yukina’s apprehension. They believe that she is primarily held back by her fear of death. Sophie tells her that everyone dies eventually. Meanwhile, Ken wants to assure the girl that he will protect her at all costs. But that isn’t the primary issue at the heart of the matter, and this misunderstanding only enforces the girl’s belief that nobody cares about her feelings. The truth is that Yukina is having an existential crisis. You want me to be this and that, but what about my autonomy? I should be allowed to make my own decisions.
In the Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus is told as a young man that he is not only the Son of God, but basically God himself. Naturally, he doesn’t simply accept it. Who in their right mind would? Jesus Christ has to go on his own personal journey before he could accept the role that he is meant to play, before he could assume the duties that he is meant to fulfill. This is Yukina’s problem in a nutshell, and at this early point in the narrative, before any journey has been or can be undertaken, our heroine predictably lashes out. I’m supposed to be this, I’m supposed to be that, this is my destiny… well then, what about you? Who or what are you supposed to be? You’re no better than me. So to Ken, Yukina insinuates that he’s a poor soldier. After all, he couldn’t even protect his princess. He even admits that all he has left is revenge. He’s not some noble hero or anything. In that regard, he’s a poor samurai. Likewise, Takehito couldn’t protect her. In her mind, he is the reason why she was bullied and called a liar by her classmates. And in response to her sadness, he chose to simply disappear without a trace, shirking his own paternal duties in the process. In that regard, what is he in her mind but a poor father?
And finally, we get to the powerful scene between Yukina and Hiromi. At the end of the day, the girl fulfills her duty as a proper older sister. After what she’s been through, she could’ve thrown a typical teenage tantrum, and hidden herself away in her room. But no, she’s in the kitchen, preparing a meal for the family. It’s something she’s done countless of times before, and crucially, it’s a duty she has grown to accept. All of a sudden, Hiromi tries to enter this world. We have seen from previous episodes that Hiromi doesn’t always join her family for dinner. After all, she’s a prominent UN researcher. Even her brother is surprised see her tonight. Even so, Hiromi takes a seat at the kitchen table, and the two older women of the Shirahane family work together to make gyoza. At first, there is only silence, but make no mistake, Hiromi did not randomly decide to start cooking. Through her actions, it’s as if she is saying, “Look, I’m dirtying my hands to make this meal with you. I’m not some high and mighty researcher. I’m just your mother now. Acknowledge that.” But her actions ring hollow precisely because this sort of thing is such a rare occurrence. Hiromi’s presence is more akin to an alien invader than a mom joining her daughter in a familial task after a long day at work. The following exchange says it all:
Yukina: “You came to tell me to get back in the robot, didn’t you?”
Hiromi: “Don’t worry, I won’t.”
Yukina: “Lies. (pause) I never wanted to be the heroine who’d save the world. I don’t have the mindset for it, either.”
Hiromi: “Like you’ve ever had anything you wanted to be.”
Yukina bares her raw feelings; she lays it all out on the gyoza-laden table between them. Neither Hiromi nor Takehito showed any concerns for the girl’s feelings. She wishes the latter had never even found the Black Relic. Meanwhile, Hiromi is concerned with the petty details. “Takehito wasn’t the one who dug it up,” she counters. She also claims that she never objected to any of Yukina’s dreams and aspirations. While this is perhaps technically true, at the same time, however, it would appears if she never nurtured her daughter’s dreams and aspirations either. Most of all, one gesture after nearly two decades of mostly absence isn’t going to change anything. Great, Hiromi is helping Yukina cook a meal for once! How many days are in a year? How many days are in seventeen years? There are many ways to be a mother, and as a guy, I won’t even pretend to know what it’s like to be one, much less juggle a prestigious career in the UN at the same time. But we have to ask ourselves what Yukina needs and if those needs are being met. In that regard, is it any surprise that the girl sees Hiromi as a poor mother? “Why can’t you act like a mother for once?!” Yukina cries, one cheek reddened by a slap across the face from her mother.
While watching the episode, I initially felt as though Yukina was being too cruel. Why was she saying such hurtful things? Wasn’t her comment to Ken, the one regarding his failure to save the princess, such a low blow? And her father could be dead for all she knows. Even in the West, you wouldn’t speak that way about your father, so imagine what a taboo it is to say what she said in an Asian household. I would have gotten a lot worse than a slap across the face. But after the episode was over, I reflected on her circumstances, what she’s been through, what she must’ve been feeling throughout the entire episode. If Yukina’s supposed to be all of these things — a fighter, a samurai, a savior, a superhero, a princess, a dutiful daughter — at the mere drop of a hat, then why can’t her parents just be her parents? They’ve had years of practice. On the other hand, she’s only had a couple of weeks to become a soldier. Finally, we’ve been that age before, and I feel as though, at that age, unfairness was such a big deal to all of us. As we get older, we become self-proclaimed realists. We tell ourselves to accept the slings and arrows as they come. “Life isn’t fair,” we say. Just deal with it. Just suck it up. That’s part of being an adult. But Yukina’s still just a kid. In trite fashion, she runs away from home, but again, I can’t blame her. Kids should be kids, and maybe the world should stop being so unfair to them.
— According to one of the UN people, the invaders are gathered around areas that exhibit a positive gravity anomaly. What does that even mean? Is there a negative gravity anomaly then?
— I’m glad that Hiromi isn’t going to force Yukina to be a soldier, but why didn’t she speak up before her daughter fled the room?
— I couldn’t help but be bored during the swimming class. I think the intention is correct; at this point in the episode, it needed a moment of levity. But it seemed as though we got more boobs and scar-ridden abs than laughs.
— For the most part, I’ve been commending the show’s technically superior animation. Unfortunately, the supermarket scene sticks out like a sore thumb. You can tell P.A. Works took a picture of some actual market, then turned it into “anime.” In this regard, less is more, because the characters don’t blend in with their environment.
— I like the emotional “duel” between Yukina and Ken being played out through their popsicle sticks.
— I wonder if, like Yahoo, Galoo is also struggling.
— Ahhh, we finally get a scene where the bad guys sit around in a circle, and talk cryptically about subjects we know nothing about! Nice 8-bit chairs, though. And even if you’re clad in armor, if you’re a woman, you must show some cleavage. Efidolg wouldn’t have it any other way.
— The invaders eventually broadcast a message in allegedly 195 different languages: hand over the one weapon that can stop us, and we promise there will be peace! I think they seem trustworthy! Anyway, I don’t want to speculate on the aliens’ ultimate goals. I’m here to analyze ideas and themes, characters and their inner worlds, not be a fortune teller.
— God, I want some gyoza now. Or mandu. Or jiaozi. Or momo. Just gimme some meat in a wrapper.
— Something odd is going on here. Osho looks as though he’s twice as big as Ken.
Notwithstanding the random, unnecessary fanservice, I feel that this week’s episode is overall pretty strong. If I can remember to submit my vote for the Anime Power Ranking — and no offense to anybody, but I probably won’t — I’ll have a hard time deciding this and Concrete Revolutio. On that note, I’ve watched all of the good shows that I’m going to watch this week. All that’s left is… ugh, I’ll deal with it tomorrow.