Sukitte Ii na yo 11 – Friends and Enemies
December 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Mei and Megumi are incredibly similar when we take their pasts and attitudes towards others into consideration, but regardless of such similarities they are exact opposites in terms of how they have approached the problems in their life. Mei, with the help of her new friends and Yamato has decided to face her fears and learn to trust others. Her painful memories and feelings of rejection and betrayal had a clear impact upon how she approached society, believing that everyone would eventually betray her so there was no point in even trying to make friends. At the beginning of the series we see a girl who has rejected society and social contact, instead she drifts through life like she were a ghost. Meeting Yamato, Asami and Aiko changed all that and throughout the series we have seen Mei gradually open up to these characters and begin to enjoy life to it’s fullest. Part of the reason for this change has been Mei’s inherent understanding of what it means to be alone and treat like a ghost. Her encounters with Aiko and Asami have helped to demonstrate how compassionate and understanding a character Mei is. Through her painful experiences she has helped Aiko and Asami get over their own complexes and realise what is important in life, and in doing so has built strong and lasting bonds with them.
In this episode we see Mei take another step forward through simple actions such as greeting Aiko and Asami and interact with them in a relatively ‘normal’ manner. Mei also attempts to get over her fears during her date with Yamato by going on all the bigger rides despite clearly disliking them. This doesn’t meant that she has completely gotten over her old fears, but by being proactive it is clear that Mei is at least trying her hardest to change herself, even if only a little. Furthermore, she doesn’t completely reject her past, but instead uses it to her advantage, and learns from her experiences to help others. The appearance of Nagi for example clearly demonstrates how Mei has used her past experiences as a form of strength and helped Nagi through an equally difficult time. When we first meet her Nagi is effectively a shut-in, and refuses to go to school. She was used by people whom she thought were her friends and as soon as she didn’t allow them to come to her house they completely rejected her. Instead of berating her and acting as if Nagi is a spoiled child, Mei uses her own experience to help Nagi realise that her own experiences aren’t the end of the world. This weeks episodes shows us the result of Mei’s help with Nagi announcing that she has gone back to school and is enjoying her time.
The effort that she has put into changing herself, while never forgetting about the pain in her past and using it as a form of strength is acknowledged by Yamato as well. While he may have been jealous and arguably petty in recent episodes, Yamato has also been pushing forwards and has begun to understand the difficulties that Mei has gone through in the past. By comparison, Megumi seems to have learned nothing, and is instead still controlled by the problems that she had in her past. While Mei understands the importance of human relationships and friendship, Megumi look down upon it all and sees them as weak, fragile and above all, pointless. Kai suggests that she doesn’t really like Yamato because she has been focusing all of her attention on everyone else but him. He further argues that she is someone who can’t accept that Yamato likes someone other than her and that she isn’t happy unless she is the center of attention and showered by praise. In effect he is calling her a shallow person who doesn’t really like anyone and instead uses others as a way of justifying her current existence. Megumi’s current obsession with Yamato is because he has handsome and in her eyes he should be with her rather than with Mei who is viewed as inferior. During this scene Megumi’s final thoughts are particularly interesting, she suggests that unless she doesn’t work harder than anyone else and make people like her then no one could ever see her as an equal.
The problem is that she is jealous of Mei and the number of people who care about her, and continues to try and focus their attention on her. By jumping in on a conversation between Aiko and Asami about what they should buy for Mei and Yamato we see Megumi attempt to deflect their attention to fashion show full of celebrities and models. This is essentially carrot and stick, with Megumi attempting to use the allure of famous people and the chance to go somewhere exclusive as a means with which she can poach Mei’s friends and make them her own. But, by attempting to separate them from Mei, Megumi only succeeds in demonstrating how close they and how important their friendship is. Her shock and anger at this change of events shows us how little Megumi really understands about Mei and the notion of friends, and she finally bursts out and tries to order them to go with her. As Aiko points out Megumi is effectively treating them like pets by taking them somewhere nice and if they don’t want to go ordering them to attend to her. Megumi has a similar past with bullying to Mei, however, while Mei has made an effort to move on and learn to trust others, Megumi remains stuck in that past. She continues to treat people as if they are going to betray her at any minute and has no understanding of what friendship really is.
She uses her fame and money from modeling to drag people along, but doesn’t treat them as equals, and instead keeps them all at a distance. We are showing glimpses into her past when she changed herself to become someone beautiful who always attracts attention. But that is merely a thin veneer, a lie perhaps that only covers up the darkness that is in her heart, because she still doesn’t trust others and treats everyone else as if they are below her. All the effort she put into being a model, her entire image was based around the idea that being the ‘perfect person’ would somehow mean that people needed her and would be happy. But in doing so she lacks the happiness that she craves, and even appears to be avoiding her mother who Megumi may partly blame for being left alone due to her job. The constant appearance of Momo along with Mei contradicts Megumi’s view of the world, with Momo wanting to get close to her and become a good friend. By lashing out at Mom, and suggesting that she probably laughed at Megumi, made fun of her and pretended to be her friend, Megumi is backing herself into a corner. Momo, Kai, Mei and Yamato are all people who could help her, but because of her own set of complexes she rejects them and instead finds alternate reasons for her current mental, physical and emotional state.
The difference between Mei and Megumi is fascinating and clearly demonstrated in this episode as Mei is moving forward and having a good time whereas Megumi is sinking lower and lower. She has put effort into the wrong things and ironically has become the sort of superficial individual whom she claims to hate. Her attitude towards Mei and everyone who has associated themselves with her mirrors the kind of problems and abuse that she had to deal with as a child. Her inability to notice this, coupled with her almost self-destructive tendencies and unwillingness to listen to others advice and accept their help mark her out as the complete opposite of Mei. What is particularly fascinating about the final sequence of the episode is seeing Mei and Yamato’s expressions when they find out that the modeling agency cannot get hold of Megumi. They are shocked and seem to be genuinely worried about her, showing us that Megumi, despite her best efforts has people around her who care for her, she just doesn’t want to notice.