Tasogare Otome x Amnesia 03 – The eyes may see what the mind does not believe
April 26, 2012 2 Comments
Yuko’s existence is one of misunderstandings, isolation, ignorance and the pain of never truly knowing if she exists or what she looks like. Niiya helps to validate her existence through their constant interactions, and yet, there is an element of uncertainty that is stuck in the mind of Yuuko. It is as if Yuuko is afraid of her own existence, and the numerous ghost stories involving her name further demonstrate how, to the rest of the student body, she is a being of anguish, hatred and death. But more than that, it is something that has taken on a life of its own, completely changing the way, not only the people who attend the school think about Yuuko, but also the way she thinks about herself.
This episode further emphasises the myth of Yuuko, giving her a demonic appearance and suggesting that far from being this cute, playful ghost, she is in fact a trickster. It also introduces a new character, Kirie Kanoe, who can also see Yuuko, but chooses to ignore what her eyes are telling her. She plants the idea of Niiya’s mind that Yuuko is being of demonic evil, using her beautiful appearance to lure unsuspecting mortals to their doom. Like the Sirens from Homer’s The Odyssey, she uses her startling beauty to bewitch those that see her, ensnaring them in a web of lies and deceit from which they can never return. It is a very common story within Shinto, one that is told in numerous areas of Japan, all based around specific historical events. The idea of something so beautiful that you would willingly follow it to your death is bewitching, it has such a powerful effect on Niiya and Yuuko, partly due to their increased attraction to each other. Perhaps for Niiya, it is almost impossible to beleive that someone so beautiful can truly be attracted to him, and that little seed of doubt adds fuel to his own ideas and beliefs surrounding the ghost story.
We see a startling change in Yuuko, switching from this beautiful girl, to a withered beast with red eyes that is so terrible it is forever in shadow. The idea that he may have fallen in love with something like this frightens Niiya, as if he is seeing Yuuko for the first time, and everything that had come before was little more than a dream. And yet, he cannot fully believe that this is the case, still in a sense believing that the Yuuko he knows is the true one. Niiya is trapped between what his eyes are seeing and what he believes to be the truth. But, for a few minutes, the visage that he sees before him takes over, pushing all his thoughts and memories of the beautiful, sexy and kind Yuuko out of his head, replacing them with images of death and agony. That his attitude towards Yuuko can change so suddenly further demonstrates the power of stories to take your ideas, beliefs and dreams and twist them – Niiya’s own self doubt about why someone as beautiful as Yuuko is hanging onto him only serves to add more fuel to the fire.
That he can finally overrule what he has been told and instead try to believe that the beautiful Yuuko is the true Yuuko demonstrates his ability to see beyond myths and legends. It is not always about what you see, it is about what you feel, and for Niiya, he appears to truly believe that Yuuko is good and not a Youkai trying to spirit him away. He had begun to believe the ghost story that Kirie had told him, taking a story for fact. But, ghost stories are passed down from mouth to mouth, they get altered, sometimes subtly through constant retellings with different people adding their own embellishments, but also deliberately, to fill a specific role and tell a specific side of a story. The problem is that these alterations can have a powerful and profound effect, further twisting the meaning of the stories and creating something far more dangerous and beguiling. One of the many mysteries surrounding Yuuko is trying to differentiate between the story and reality, and the story is so strong that it can even effect Niiya, who up until this point has been essentially immune to it all.
Stories have to be taken as works of fiction, and while many have an element of truth about them, it is important to acknowledge that they are not the truth themselves. Niiya’s big mistake was to believe the story over his own feelings, and while there may be an element of truth to the ghost spiriting unsuspecting people away, it has not been proven. And worst of all, he betrays Yuuko, ignoring her pleas for help, ignoring her sadness and anguish, instead only thinking about his own safety. But, stories can be believable if they are powerful enough, and more importantly, it is possible to truly believe that something exists despite your mind telling you the opposite. For Niiya, the strength of the story told by Kirie, coupled with his own doubts and anxieties helps to create the belief within himself that Yuuko may not necessarily be the beautiful, harmless ghost that we have assumed she is up till this point. And this perhaps frightened him, but it was not because he might be spirited away, Niiya is scared that all those feelings that have been steadily growing in him towards Yuuko are a lie, and that the girl he has seen is nothing more than a figment of his own imagination.
Yuuko has to constantly live with these myths, ghost stories and urban legends, that she is named in many of the most gruesome ones clearly has an impact on her. Her interactions with Niiya suggest a lonely spirit who only wants to be pampered; she craves attention, love and care. Niiya is able to do this through his ability, not only to see her, but also to touch her, something that Yuuko takes advantage of at every opportunity. And yet, she is afraid, not only of the stories and myths that surround her, but also of Niiya abandoning her, forgetting about her and leaving her alone yet again. That Yuuko clings so tightly to Niiya further demonstrates her need for contact with people, she needs someone to validate her existence, giving it meaning. The problem is that Yuuko not only doubts her own feelings, but also her own existence, and the constant presence of ghost stories using her name further adds to this growing sense of unease within her.
In a sense Yuuko believes in some of the stories surrounding her as much as many others, and her interactions with Niiya are her validation of her own place in the world. She needs to know that she isn’t a demon, but a beautiful girl with long black hair, smooth white skin, almond-shaped eyes, and a wonderful, bewitching appearance. The fear of being abandoned by Niiya is almost uncontrollable for Yuuko, and seeing the one person who she believed in is now afraid of her and running away must have been terrible. To Yuuko it must be as if her existence itself is being questioned, and the importance she placed on her interactions with Niiya have come to nothing.
As she says herself, Niiya dragged Yuuko away from the meaningless days of her existence, giving her something to look forward to. He saw the beautiful person that she also wished to see, and in a sense, gave her (after)life meaning. When Niiya finally acknowledges his mistakes and decides to face his fears, there is some sort of catharsis in this moment, when they can both face their fears. Because, both Niiya and Yuuko believed the ghost story and curse, that was why it had such a powerful effect on everyone involved. In a sense, their belief helped to shape the ghost story into something far more frightening than it may otherwise have been, twisting it and creating an entirely new story.
Her sudden change of form mirrors the change of mood, and while she may still worry about her own existence, Niiya’s words and belief in who she is helps her to in part escape. Her embarrassment at being naked and Niiya seeing her corpse show a switch to what may be considered a normal high school girl. She has gone back to being a beautiful girl who gets embarrassed when someone she cares about sees her naked, and that she can do this further emphasises her need for human contact. It is fascinating to watch her messing around with Niiya, acting like a normal school girl, and yet, there are also moments when looks of intense pain and sadness can cross her face. Her daily interactions with Niiya are a wondrous thing to Yuuko, and yet, im sure in the back of her mind she knows that someday Niiya will leave this school and leave her, that she is growing more and more attached to him must make such thoughts excruciating.
The mysteries of Yuuko’s death still remain however, and far from being simple become ever more complicated and convoluted. But, interestingly enough, there appears to be far more to her death and the subsequent ghost stories involving Yuuko than meets the eye. There is now the distinct possibility that far from being a vengeful spirit, Yuuko is in fact the victim of a much older curse. Her younger sister, Kiries grandmother clearly knows about the circumstances surrounding Yuuko’s death, and by not saying anything adds a further layer to this mystery.
It is these mysteries, along with Yuuko’s amnesia, that perhaps creates the conditions for such ghost stories to exist. If nothing else, Yuuko’s amnesia means that she has always been unsure about her place in the world, knowing little of her past, other than having died fifty years before. Niiya and the Paranormal Investigations Club give her a sense of belonging and place to exist, rooting her existence to one particular place. While her existence may still be ambiguous, there is something, heart-warming when you see a club started on a whim now with four members. In a sense, Yuuko has finally found a place where she belongs and can be herself, along with someone she can truly love and interact with in a way that she has been incapable of doing before.