Kyoukai no Kanata 01 – It’s all in the blood
October 5, 2013 2 Comments
Kyoukai no Kanata is a series about cursed existences and the continued importance of blood within Japanese belief. Both of the main characters live cursed existences due to their connections with blood and the realms of gods and spirits. There is no moral notion of sin within Shinto belief; death is not the ‘wages of sin’ as it might be for Christianity, but rather the outcome of evil-doing. Because purity is valued above all else, evil is defined as that which is ‘pollution’, or ‘polluting’. The primary pollutions within this belief system are sickness, death, and blood, and exposure to such pollution can offend the kami, resulting in disasters such as plagues or famine. Because of this Shinto shrines usually do not conduct funerals, leading the to familiar adage, ‘Shinto for weddings, Buddhism for funerals’. Nevertheless, Shinto has historically dealt with ideas of dead; with practitioners believe that spirits of the dead go to the mountains, above the sky, below the ear, or beyond the horizon (Kyoukai no Kanata). Living beings from this world may visit those from the other worlds in borderlands such as cliffs, caves and coastlines, places where the boundary between the two worlds is considered weak.
Two of Japan’s oldes texts, the Kojiki (Record of ancient matters, 712) and the Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan, 720), tell the story of Izanami and Izanagi, the two kami who created Japan and gave birth to all the kami in Shinto, including Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi. When giving birth to Kagu-Tsuchi, the kami of fire, Izanami was horrible burned and died. Izanagi was saddened by Izanami’s death and decided to journey to Yomt (‘the shadowy land of the dead’), in order to find her and bring her back to the world of the living. Izanagi found her, but due to the shadows of Yomi was unable to see her, even though he asked her to return, Izanami spat at him saying it was too late for she had eaten the food of the underworld, and was now one with the land of the dead. While this news shocked Izanagi, he refused to leave her in Yomi, and while she was asleep he took the comb that bound his hair and set it alight as a torch. Under this sudden burst of light he saw a horrid form of the once beautiful and graceful Izanami. She was now burned, rotting, with maggots and foul creatures running over her body.
Crying out in horror Izanagi was unable to control his fear and started to run, intending to return to the living and abandon his death-ridden wife. However, with this shriek Izanami work up, and seeing the look of disgust on Izanagi’s face chases after him, sending Yakusa-noikazuchi-no-kami (Raijin, god of thunder), and Yomotsu-shikome (Ugly-woman-of-the-underworld) to hunt him down and bring him backl to Yomi. Izanagi manages to escape, and in order to escape his pursuers pushed a boulder over the mouth of Yomotsuhirasaka (黄泉津平坂; the cavern that was the entrance of Yomi) in order to trap them inside. Izanami screamed from behind this barrier that if Izanagi left her she would destroy 1,000 people everyday, to which he replied that he would give life to 1,500 everyday.
This origin story demonstrates the importance placed on purity, and the dangers of pollution, with an enraged and blood Izanami threatening to kill thousands because of Izanagi’s betrayal as she saw it. Kuriyama Mirai is therefore a polluted individual, coming from a clan of polluted people – the ability to use blood and shape it to your will can be seen as a dangerous and destructive force within Japanese belief. That Mirai is also female is of particular importance if we bear in mind the fearsome anger of a scorned Izanami, and the terrible destruction that she brings to the human world. Her clans’ ability to manipulate blood is clearly considered to be destructive, perhaps even unnatural by the other hunter clans, thus leading to alienation and perhaps death. In many respects we can see why the ability to manipulate blood is so abhorrent to many people – so far we have only seen her use a small pinprick to create a sword so sharp it can probably cut through anything. But, what if Mirai (or for arguments sake, anyone from her clan) became angry and started manipulating the blood of those nearby, the death and destruction would be terrible.
Kanbara Akihito is similarly cursed because of his blood, the blood of a half Youmu (or Youkai, because they are all spirits in the end). He lives on the sidelines of society, and judging by Nase Mitsuki’s comments is considered to be dangerous by the Spirit Hunters, perhaps because being half-youmu means he is neither governed by the laws of human society, but neither is he controlled by the laws of the spirit world. If he could die then Mitsuki, and the other clans would be able to treat him as a normal individual, but due to his somewhat unique situation he is not normal. Such anomalies, or abnormal circumstances worry people, especially when they cannot be easily pigeonholed or explained through simple rules and ideas. By warning Akihito not to get involved with Mirai, Mitsuki seems to be suggesting that on his own he isn’t considered to be much of a threat, but with Mirai the hunter clans may become uneasy. That both main characters are considered to have cursed blood is important as it leads into the Japanese belief systems surrounding purity, pollution, life and death. They live outside of the natural order of things and are therefore potentially dangerous to the wider world.