Kotoura-san 02 – Use and Abuse
January 24, 2013 Leave a comment
Haruka’s meeting with Manabe may have been a cathartic moment in her life, but it doesn’t mean that all of her problems would suddenly disappear, quite the opposite in fact. By getting to know Manabe, Haruka has arguably taken herself into the public eye as it were, with others, specifically Moritani and her two friends looking on and wondering why Manabe and Haruka are suddenly together all of the time. The main problem with Haruka though is that while she has become friends with Manabe, her own problems and fears surrounding her ability to read minds have not disappeared. Instead we can see her pushing these ideas to one side largely due to her joy at finally finding someone who doesn’t run away as soon as he knows about her abilities. It was particularly fascinating to see Manabe’s expression and reaction in last week’s episode when he discovered that Haruka could read his mind. Whereas other characters had shunned her and labelled her as a monster, thus alienating her and pushing her into a corner, Manabe is more worried about not being able to have dirty thoughts when he is near her. Manabe is worried about her reading his thoughts, but he continues to think about being near her rather than running away and calling her a monster. This distinction is important because it demonstrates how Manabe wishes to stay near her and befriend her; his worries are therefore rather selfish and are merely to do with his inability to have dirty thoughts rather than about thinking in its entirety.
Furthermore, the introduction of Yuriko Mifune, president of the ESP Research Club, and Daichi Muroto the clubs vice-president adds new members to Haruka’s growing social circle. Mifune in particular is rather fascinating; the way she runs up and essentially kidnaps Haruka demonstrates that she isn’t afraid of her mind-reading ability for example. The comedy that Mifune, Haruka and Manabe create is wonderful to watch, with Mifune and Haruka ganging up on Manabe whenever he has clearly perverted thoughts and daydreams. The presence of Mifune is especially important due to her gender, and allows Haruka to finally make another firm friend, although this meeting also has a darker side to it. Mifune is obsessed with ESP, but not necessarily because she is entirely interested in it, but because her mother was also a clairvoyant who helped the police with their investigations. But, the pressure of being called a liar and accused of being a fake grew too much and she hanged herself when Mifune was still relatively young. The shame that such a death brought onto her family, coupled with the shock that Mifune clearly still suffers from have all melded together into an obsession with the occult and ESP in particular.
Her desire to prove that psychic powers exist, something that would allow Mifune to clear her mothers name is such that she is willing to use her own painful memories in order to manipulate Haruka into joining the club and helping her out. In the character of Mifune we see someone who seems to want to befriend Haruka, but her complete obsession with proving the existence of psychic powers makes her blind to all the danger and damage that she could cause. The clear pain and depression that Mifune’s mother succumbed to seems similar to the state that we find Haruka in before she meets Manabe. And by trying to use Haruka to prove her mothers innocence and clear the family name we see Mifune as a manipulative, and also rather naïve character. She is someone who can be so utterly focussed on her own goal that the possible mental and psychological pain that her whole plan could cause Haruka never seem to make it into her thought process. The problem is that her plan highlights Haruka’s power to the entire school, a school that Haruka had specifically enrolled in because it was far away from her old home and wouldn’t have any of the children who used to bully and persecute her. Her quest to clear her mothers name is therefore entirely selfish, and despite other good intentions towards Haruka, Mifune is also perfectly willing to use Haruka’s abilities for her own goals, without any thought about the possible consequences of her own actions.
One of the main reasons for her mother’s death is down to people’s inability, or unwillingness to even consider the existence of people with such powers, even though many are willing to accept the idea that a god, or gods may exist. In Japan for example, people might visit shrines to gain the local deities blessing, or even buy an omamori for good luck, but the idea that someone has psychic powers will not necessarily be accepted, at least not to the broader public. Whether or not these sort of powers exist isn’t necessarily the issue either, it would be the way tabloid publications spin the story, turning Mifune’s mother from someone who helps the police into a liar and con-artist. The problem is that by using Haruka to prove the existence of such powers, Mifune also opens Haruka up to bullying along with general abuse from the student population, thus bringing back all the horrible memories that Haruka wishes to forget about. These problems are made worse by the appearance of Moritani and her jealousy of Haruka’s current relationship with Manabe. This jealousy manifests itself in a spiteful and ignorant exchange between Moritani and Haruka, one with Moritani labels Haruka as a monster, someone so disgusting that she willingly looks into other peoples minds and reads their every thought and every secret. Throughout this scene we see Moritani accusing Haruka of finding peoples vulnerabilities, and suggesting that she used some underhand trick to get to Manabe.
This short but powerful exchange brings back all of the horrible memories that Haruka wishes to forget, and reinforces her own sense of inferiority and pain that her meeting with Manabe had begun to weaken and break up. It also reinforced the notion that people are afraid of what they don’t understand, with Moritani demonstrating her ignorance and arrogance by accusing Haruka of things that she clearly hasn’t done and probably never even considered. The aftermath of Haruka throwing up also showed us how narrow minded Mifune was being, and how her single minded quest to clear her mothers meant that she used Haruka without ever considering the impact that it would have on her. The two characters that really stood out in this episode were Manabe and Muroto, characters that at first seem a little oblivious to their surroundings but turn out to be remarkably perceptive. Muroto appears to have deliberately let Mifune move forward with her plans, not because he wishes Haruka harm, but because it seems to be the only way that Mifune will understand how dangerous her obsession with clearing her mothers name really is. Muroto’s comment to a distressed Mifune that this incident should be bringing back memories of her mothers scandal, followed by another comment suggesting that she should have been prepared for such a reaction when she set out to demonstrate Haruka’s powers further reinforces how little Mifune has thought about the situation. Muroto, through his silence has helped to demonstrate how narrow-minded Mifune was being and how dangerous and destructive her current obsession has become. Seeing Haruka in pain was arguably necessary to teach Mifune a lesson about her own selfish desires and the damage that they can cause.
The other fascinating character was actually Manabe, someone that we have only really seen messing around, but who is also remarkably perceptive to the feelings of those around him. He notices that Haruka is being bullied and also seems to notice that it is getting to her despite all her claims to the contrary. His outburst at Mortani came as something of a shock, but was also rather fascinating to watch since it demonstrated that Manabe, despite his carefree and easy going attitude will stand up for those he cares about. Moritani’s denial and outburst also suggests that she at least knows what she has done, but still believes that Haruka used some underhand trick to get Manabe on her side. This ignorance and arrogance further reinforces how little she truly understands Manabe and Haruka, and how her jealousy has manifested itself into a spiteful and incredibly hurtful response that threatened to drag Haruka back into the dark depths that she had finally escaped from by meeting Manabe. Manabe is clearly not quite as simple as he originally seemed, and this outburst in defence of Haruka also shows us how important his and Haruka’s meeting really is.
Interestingly, despite the pain and damage that Mifune and Moritani have caused, neither character comes across as a true villain, they are more misinformed and ignorant. Mifune in particular seems to deeply care for Haruka, as demonstrated by her actions once she discovered the pain and mental anguish that her little stunt had caused Haruka. Furthermore, we see a character that has finally learned an important lesson in meeting Haruka; she now understands how dangerous psychic powers and the public perception of psychic powers can be. Moritani is also not necessarily as bad as this episode suggests, at least that is how it seems, with her actions seeming to have more to do with her own ignorance and the dangerous power of jealousy rather than out of any genuine wish to hurt and destroy Haruka. This doesn’t make either Mifune or Mortani’s actions any better, far from it, they were clearly dangerous and both characters are portrayed as being kind, but also rather ignorant of the fragile nature of Haruka’s mental state. However, by joining the ESP Research Club, Haruka has finally taken a step to making true friends and healing the damage that her childhood and parents break-up has caused.