Kyoukai no Kanata 02 – Shadows and dust
October 12, 2013 Leave a comment
At the centre of Kyoukai no Kanata is the connection between blood and corruption found in Shinto belief. Both central characters of the series are in some way corrupted through their blood, be it Mirai and her clans ability to manipulate blood at will, or Akihito’s mixed blood. Their existences are clearly seen as dangerous, and the Spirit hunter’s feel threatened for reasons that have yet to be fully revealed. What we can discern from the actions and attitudes aimed at these characters are that they are viewed to be potentially volatile, and even destructive forces within an otherwise stable relationship between Youmu and humans.
To pick up on a point from the last post, the presence of Mirai can be linked with the story of Izanami and Izanagi, the two kami who created Japan and gave birth to Japan’s numerous gods. In this story we are told about the wrath of a woman scorned, and the power of blood to defile a being of such magnificence and radiance. Her bloodied, maggot riddled figure is one that disgusts even her own husband, and her anger threatens the very existence of humans. As a female character with the ability to manipulate blood, not only is Mirai a polluted individual (doubly so because of her gender as woman in Japanese belief are traditionally polluted already due to the menstruation cycle), thus there may be a fear that to anger her means the destruction of those near by. This is at least partially substantiated when Mirai removes her ring, and seems to release the true power of her blood, in an attack akin to spitting acid on the escaping youmu.
We also see how diverse Youmu are – in a similar fashion to Youkai (ghost, phantom, strange apparition), they do not appear to be uniquely, or wholly evil, but are instead an eclectic group of spirits and shades with their own ideas and beliefs. Youkai incorporate the Tanuki, Kitsune, Bakeneko, Inugami, and Okami, along with a variety of other fearsome, or strange supernatural beings. While they can be dangerous, within Japanese stories and mythology many Youkai are merely mischievous, often excessively so, but they are not inherently evil. The Youmu in Kyoukai no Kanata are similarly diverse, and while we have seen two particularly aggressive Youmu, they neither seem entirely dangerous, or entirely evil despite appearances. Youkai merely exist as part of nature, they may be the spirits of dead warriors, or kami that have been forgotten and have lost their divine powers and a place to belong. They can also come into existence through age, or because of the feelings held in a particular household object.
Youkai, and by extension Youmu can be viewed as neutral, they are neither good nor bad, however, they can quickly become cursed or a vengeful spirit, full of the negative forces that they have absorbed over the years. Worshipping ancestors and venerating long dead soldiers is partly to appease these spirits so that they do not turn into vengeful spirits and potentially damage the country or family fortunes. While Mirai and Shizuku have both managed to destroy particularly aggressive Youmu, the existence of Akihito along with Ai and Ayaka help to further demonstrate diverse Youmu really are, while also pointing to a distinction between vengeful spirits and those that can live in harmony with their surroundings. Mirai’s reaction to Ai points to a lack of understanding on her part about the Youmu, or perhaps suggests that due to her clans cursed blood (as she describes it), she has grown up believing that all Youmu are evil and must be exterminated. Although in the case of Mirai, she seems unable to accept help from others, partly because of how others have treat her clan, but it also seems she doesn’t trust her own powers and fears killing others.
The beginning of this episode where we see Akihito with blood on his hands, along with Mirai’s revelation that she has already killed a person once again brings us back to the corrupting nature of blood and death. There is no moral notion of sin within Shinto belief, and death is not the ‘wages of sin; as it might be for Christianity, but rather the outcome of evil-doing. As such, Mirai and Akihito are not sinful individuals, nor are they evil, but instead they are polluted, not only because of their links with blood, but because they are involved with death. The primary pollutions within the Shinto belief system are sickness, death, and blood, and exposure to such pollution can offend the kami, resulting in disasters such as plagues or famine. As such the Hollow Shadow mentioned by Akihito’s mother may be considered a force of nature, one that wreaks havoc for pollution caused by those strained with blood and death. Rather than a single, easily defined spirit, the Hollow Shadow may be akin to a tsunami, landslide, or volcanic eruption. Thus fitting in with Japanese religious belief, as natural disasters could often be attributed to the anger of a kami, maybe one that has been offended by a single individual, or even an entire clan.
Mirai’s reaction to the mention of this particularly powerful and destructive Youmu, coupled with her attempts to push Akihito away suggests that it has a deep connection with her, and likely her entire clan. She openly carries the painful past of her clan, and her own past with her quite openly, shunning others existence. Whereas Akihito is happy to associate with others, despite warnings from Mitsuki about getting near Mirai, suggesting that despite his clearly troubled past, he has selfless streak, which makes him want to help others. It also seems as if Akihito’s existence is only tolerated because of his mother’s position as a Spirit Hunter, as we know nothing of his father the Youmu. As an aside, the playground where Mirai fights the Youmu seems to have Bodhisattva’s along the wall, seemingly hinting at the selfless compassion that Akihito shows towards others, despite being a polluted individual within Shinto belief.