Binbougami Ga and the Gadget of Misfortune
September 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Binbougami Ga may be part parody using slapstick comedy and other humour to create a light-hearted story, but at the very centre of it we have a character that is deeply flawed and very lonely. The central relationship of the series between Ichiko and Momiji is one of mutual distrust and general spite. Neither character hates the other, but their petulant natures coupled with the ridiculous situations that they both find themselves in helps to create an atmosphere that is almost preposterous. Binbougami Ga therefore does what Medaka Box failed to do (and arguably the manga continues to fail in this respect) by managing to parody and lampoon other anime and manga genres, while also maintaining a relatively serious story and character relationships.
The consistent use of characters, props and costumes from classic shounen series such as Dragonball Z, Hokuto no Ken, and Meitantei Conan among others consistently adds an element of the carnivalesque to what is already a curious and bizarre mixture of weird and wonderful characters. With Ichiko and Momiji constantly at each other’s throats it becomes obvious that these two characters appear to respect each other almost as much as they despise the others existence. In this respect Binbougami Ga is a simple story of two petulant and utterly flawed in their attitudes and ways with which they attempt to destroy each other. There is something cathartic about watching two characters that are clearly utterly self-centred and selfish going at each other with magic, weapons and all sorts of gadgets for no apparent reasons. These fights and smaller scuffles do however serve another purpose, becoming some sort of twisted bonding ritual between two equally selfish individuals who only wish for the others misfortune.
The fights, squabbles and incessant bickering between Ichiko and Momiji take on an almost ritualistic form, becoming part of the background in the series. With this in mind it quickly becomes clear that while they may continuously shout and insult each other, both of these characters respect and perhaps have come to like the other. They are friends, and while their friendship may be a little more extreme and eccentric than most, no one could become that angry with someone who they do not at least acknowledge as an equal. Furthermore, as the series has progressed it is obvious that Momiji and Ranmaru (along with Bobby and Momo to a certain extent) are the only people who ever really talk to Ichiko.
As a character Ichiko is perfect, she is beautiful, sexy and gifted in her intellectual studies and athletic ability, and as pointed out by other students she lives the life of a rich and spoiled princess. This is however superficial, she may have the appearance of a perfect oujo-sama, but underneath she is a selfish, spiteful person who glorifies in the misfortune of others. Her internal monologues and tirades at the stupidity of those around her demonstrate that Ichiko is quite a repellent character. But, there is another side to Ichiko, that of a deeply lonely girl who has no one in her life that she can talk to or be around. Her personality, coupled with her phenomenally high levels of Happiness energy alienates and isolates her in school and society. Also, at the beginning of the series she is forced to fire Suwano her life-long butler in order to save his life, thus taking away the one person who she could have relied upon to take away her loneliness.
At school Ichiko’s twisted personality coupled with her willingness to manipulate the boys to do her bidding has only further alienated her, along with generating a significant number of enemies among the student body. She may be beautiful, sexy, rich and incredibly talented, but none of this amounts to anything without others around her. Obviously because of such a twisted personality, Ichiko brushes away such problems, assuming that because of her good fortune such things do not matter. The presence of Momiji, however disruptive it may first appear becomes an integral part of Ichiko’s life, and her constant scuffles are another, albeit slightly twisted version of friendship. It is arguably the presence of Momiji, no matter how disruptive she may be that starts to change Ichiko in subtle but important ways.
Her meeting with Keita Tsuwabuki is another catalyst that once again forces Ichiko to question her current lifestyle and wonder whether or not she is doing the right thing. She is jealous of Keita and his family, but questions this feeling suggesting that by being rich and beautiful she can do whatever she wants. But, while she is ‘Michiko’ it quickly becomes obvious that money and good looks are not everything and that she is jealous of Keita because of his family and the warmth that she never had a chance to feel. We do not know much about her childhood, but it is clear that Ichiko was lonely and rarely saw her parents due to their complete commitment to work. The impact that such a childhood had upon Ichiko as a young girl becomes apparent in the most recent episodes as we begin to be given glimpses into her past.
The loneliness that Ichiko felt due to lacking a proper family life (in this case proper can be anything, and arguably Keita has a ‘proper’ family life in that there is a family present) is a feeling that she wishes to escape. Her friendship with Kurumi is important to Ichiko because without it she would once again be all alone, thus allowing Kurumi to lie and manipulate Ichiko in order to get what she desires. The shock of being betrayed by those who she trusted, along with the ramifications of a simple misunderstanding that Kurumi set up in order to further hurt damages her. From seeing only small excerpts of her past it is apparent that Ichiko had a deeply troubled and damaging childhood. All she has ever known other than the love of Suwano (who is nevertheless a servant) has been loneliness and betrayal, her automatic reaction to protect herself is therefore understandable. Ichiko’s selfish and devious personality is in part a self-defence mechanism; she acts like a spoiled child and manipulates others so that no one can get close to her.
That is not to say that Ichiko does not want or crave friends, quite the opposite, and in fact she is the one who wants friends more than any other character. She craves attention, not from silly boys who are willing to follow her every command, but from equals who are there to help in a time of need. Of course her attitude and personality don’t help and cause more harm than good, pushing people away and turning any male near her into a slavering idiot who she has eating out of her hand. Momiji and Ranmaru are the exceptions, they are the characters that stick by Ichiko regardless of what she says or does. While Momiji may be after her Happiness energy it quickly becomes obvious that she does not take this mission seriously, and it is her interactions with Ichiko that keep her there. Ichiko desperately wants to believe in human beings and wants friends more than anyone else, but cannot come to trust anyone, fearing and believing that they will only betray her in the end. It takes a verbal slap in the face by Momiji to push her into helping Ranmaru, along with confronting her own demons.
The story revolves around Ichiko and Momiji as the bickering couple who appear to disagree with each other on everything and are constantly at each other’s throats, yet get along perfectly. Every little disagreement appears to boil down to some form of competition between these two characters, such as the Tennis competition that doubled as a parody of Prince of Tennis (and generally most other sports/tennis shounen). But in all such cases both Momiji and Ichiko either lose interest or forget what they were arguing about, like it was never important to begin with. Momiji in particular gives the impression that she is enjoying her time on earth, and that despite her terrible attitude being with Ichiko is far more important to her than she would ever admit. However, it is also the case that Momiji is finding the sheer power and presence of Ichiko difficult to deal with. But, it has quickly become apparent that she is using these problems as an excuse to stay near Ichiko.
Despite their constant bickering and general bad tempered nature of the relationship, Ichiko and Momiji get along perfectly. Arguably it is Momiji who constantly pushes Ichiko, making her reassess her current lifestyle and think about what it means to have friends. Momiji has a terrible attitude when it comes to work, but she understands that Ichiko, despite her egotistical and arrogant nature is really a deeply lonely and troubled individual. By forcing Ichiko to use her accumulated Happiness Energy for the good of others, Momiji is accomplishing part of her mission without having to go through as much trouble. Although it is questionable whether or not this amounts to anything since Momiji remains utterly skint (broke) and continues to have trouble with Ichiko and those around her. But at the same time, this is part of the charm of Binbougami Ga, a series that is serious, but also ridiculous, never taking itself seriously and maintaining a tongue-in-cheek, self-referential attitude.
The central relationship of Binbougami Ga is now between Momiji, Ichiko and Ranmaru, and while it is clear that Ichiko has at least begun to reassess her attitudes towards humanity some things never change. Ichiko and Momiji remain flawed characters; they are lazy, petty, devious and incredibly bad tempered. We now know why Ichiko is such a devious and almost unlikeable character at times, and she continues to be a lonely girl who simply wishes for a proper family life and friends. However, the presence of Momiji and Ranmaru have changed that slightly, what is good however is that we do not see a sudden change in personality. Her egotistical personality may be a defence mechanism, but it is still an integral part to Ichiko, therefore to change it would be to destroy an essential element of the character. What makes Binbougami Ga enjoyable to watch is its ability to balance the slapstick parody and more serious elements, with neither one over-powering the other.