Kyoukai no Kanata 08 – Into the Gloom
November 23, 2013 Leave a comment
Throughout Kyoukai no Kanata there has been an arguably arbitrary line forced between Youmu and Spirit Hunters. Spirit Hunters have been portrayed as people who are attempting to rid the world of potentially dangerous shades and creatures that can bring great misfortune to human beings. We know that it is impossible to completely eradicate Youmu as they are often the accumulations of humanities negative energy, or in some cases appear to be the particularly powerful natural spirits. So, the Spirit Hunters act like shepherds on the one hand, herding these potentially dangerous spirits and preventing them from bringing harm to others, while on the other they are hunters, using their powers and abilities to thin out the herd as it were. While characters have debated the merits of this activity, and characters like Izumi Nase have their own opinions on the job of a Spirit Hunter, they are largely portrayed as warriors tasked with helping humanity. Youmu are therefore a scourge, a deadly plague, a faceless mass, or terrifying creatures that threaten all those that come near.
But in recent weeks, and particularly in this week’s episode we are seeing a new side to the Spirit Hunters, one that questions the binary existence of Spirit Hunters as good and Youmu as the evil threatening humanity. Many Youmu such as Ayaka and Ai are relatively normal, they may possess immense power (at least in the case of Ayaka), but they bare no grudge against humans, and even befriend many, making a decent business out of trading Youmu fragments – somewhat akin to a Bear or a Beaver vouching for the quality of its own kinds fur. They are far from this image of a deadly force, or a mass of dangerous, bloodthirsty creatures that we as the viewers assume them to be. Furthermore, the presence of Yakimon (Sweet Potato) as Mitsuki’s familiar and pet presents us with another, more gentle side to Youmu, and one that is very different from the Hollow Shade in previous episodes. Rather it is humans, and particularly Fujima Miroku – and arguably by extension the Spirit Hunters Association – that come across as the more aggressive and dangerous, more so than most Youmu.
As the Lull – a period where Youmu become incredibly weak – approaches, we see Spirit Hunters go into what can only be described as a feeding frenzy, like watching a pack of piranhas tearing into already dead animals. Ayaka talks about the Spirit Hunters seeing the Lull as a chance to bring down Youmu that are normally far too powerful for them to even think about attacking them. Shizuku’s actions and general demeanor suggests that to her this is little more than sport, an attitude made easier by the unpleasant, and vicious appearances of the Youmu she flushes out and fights. This theme is a continuation from last weeks episode where Sakura was used by Miroku to power up his weapons by killing Youmu and allowing it to consume them. In this context Youmu are as Izumi suggested a few episodes ago, little more than livestock to be controlled as the Spirit Hunters see fit. As such, characters like Ayaka and Ai seem to be far more innocent than the humans, they are certainly powerful, and run a questionable business, but they seem to be neither as dangerous, or as devious as the human characters we have been introduced to.
We now come to be question of what is happening and the significance or particular characters in this week’s episode. The focus in recent episodes has largely been on Mirai as the sole survivor of a much-maligned clan of blood manipulators. As mentioned in previous posts, the significance of blood in Shinto belief systems would mark Mirai as a cursed individual, someone with abnormal powers that could result in death and destruction. Over the course of the series so far we have also seen Mirai’s past in the form of Sakura catch up to her, and even resolved when Mirai is finally able to confront Sakura in last weeks episode. But, behind all of this we have had the considerable presence of Akihito and the immense powers he possess, something that hasn’t been entirely explored until this week’s episode. His existence as a half-Youmu has never been fully discussed, although it is clearly immensely significant for both Miroku and Izumi, and potentially central to their individual plans.
Akihito’s existence is somewhat of an enigma, and as Ayaka points out, there have been so few half-Youmu that no one really knows how to deal with him and the powers he possess. It was interesting to see how much attention Izumi shows Akihito in guarding him when he is asleep on the train, watching over him as he has a nightmare, and even erecting a barrier around him so that no one, or thing can get close. It’s difficult to tell why she does this, whether it is out of kindness, or because she needs him for her plan, but it is clear that Akihito is particularly important to her in one way or another. Miroku has also been interested in Akihito since he was introduced, completely ignoring Mirai and glancing at Akihito when they visit the Nase’s earlier on in the series. Whatever his plan is, and whether the Spirit Hunters Association are also involved, he seems that it involves Akihito and the Youmu described as ‘Kyoukai no Kanata’, a particularly malevolent, and mysterious Youmu.
Through all of this we see how special Akihito is, and how dangerous his existence could be if his immense powers were harnessed for the wrong reasons. This underlines how complicated the lives of those with special powers or ‘gifts’ can be, and how their very existence can lead to trouble and danger. Mirai talks with Sakura about how Akihito makes her feel normal, how her powers and lineage do not mean anything when she is with Akihito. Throughout the series Mirai’s powers and lineage have been described as dangerous and destructive. We have seen Sakura attempt to finish what her family started in killing Mirai to avenge the death of Yui, and we have seen Mirai destroy the Hollow Shade and the desolation that her cursed blood causes in the aftermath. But, we have also seen a clumsy, socially awkward individual who has had to live with the burden of her powers, and knowledge that they have cause the death of someone whom she still holds dear. But, when she is with Akihito, none of this matters, perhaps partly because her own problems and powers are nothing compared to the immense destructive forces that Akihito commands (what little of it we have seen), and also because he is a much stranger, and all-together more dangerous existence.
Even with all of this information and character development Akihito remains largely a mystery, a character with a strange, and almost unique lineage, and one who seems central to various plans and schemes. He is a character that helps to demonstrate the complex relationship between Youmu and Spirit Hunters, one that points to many Youmu as innocent victims of Spirit Hunters who see them as relatively easy targets and money. This is not a relationship where everything is black or white, and its not necessarily the case that Youmu are bad and the Spirit Hunters are good. Instead we are left with characters on both sides that are both good and bad, that dangerous Youmu exist is certainly true, especially after the appearance of the Hollow Shade, and this week’s introduction of a particularly mysterious and supposedly dangerous one. In the end we are left with characters that have to make their own place in the world, and as Akihito makes Mirai feel normal, it may be the case that it is Mirai who can finally see Akihito for who he really is, whether that is a Youmu, or a human being with certain complications remains to be seen.