Kyoukai no Kanata 11 – A Place Between Worlds
December 13, 2013 Leave a comment
The relationship between Mirai and Akihito has been a complex one, with both characters coming from complicated backgrounds and having to deal with their own issues throughout the series. This episode acted as a continuation of the progression in their relationship, and arguably served as a defining moment in how they view each other, and themselves. From the very beginning of this series Mirai, and Akihito have had their fair share of problems stemming from their backgrounds and lineage. The complex issues of pollution within (traditional) Japanese belief means that both characters are arguably polluted, with backgrounds that single them out as strangers, outcasts that neither fit in the world of humans or the world of dreams and shadows.
Mirai comes from a cursed lineage, a clan of blood manipulators who appear to have been alienated from Spirit Hunter society and persecuted as dangerous, unnatural beings. Fear of the unknown, or fear of something that may go against the prevailing belief system can result in individuals or entire groups being labelled as cursed or shunned from society as unclean or destructive. Mirai has thus internalised the negativity of individuals around her, truly believing that her clans blood is truly cursed. Interestingly, Sakura Inami reinforces this negative view by describing her as a ‘Shinigami’, a god of death with the power to destroy the land around her with blood that falls like acid rain and purges the land of life. It is easy to see why Mirai’s clan is so maligned when the full power of her blood is unleashed, melting away the trees and leaving the landscape around her barren and scarred.
This label, coupled with Mirai’s own issues surrounding her foster families daughter lead her to shun company and attempt to carry out her own form of revenge, and atonement for her past sins further reinforces the negative image that she has had of herself, and of her Clan. As the series has progressed we have seen how her past with the Inami clan, and her dealings with the Hollow Shade further reinforced the negative image she has of herself. The vengeance that the Inami clan pursued against Mirai, and her attempts to atone for the death of Yui Inami underpin how she perceives her power and her interaction with others around her. This sort of past and world view also helps to highlight why Mirai turned to the Nase clan for help – as a powerful clan they are capable of not only sheltering her, but also providing her with a reason for existing in a harsh world that rejects her and her powers.
Mirai’s initial reactions to Akihito were clearly informed by Izumi’s assertions that he was not a human, but the wielder of immense destructive power, and the ability to destroy the world if nothing is done about him. However, as we now know, it quickly became apparent that rather than a destructive beast, Akihito has to live with the same sorts of problems that Mirai has struggled with all of her life. As a half-youmu, and the one who embodies the powers of Kyoukai no Kanata, Akihito possess immense strength and power, with his very existence perceived to pose a real threat to the human race. The laws of humanity don’t govern him since he is immortal, but because he isn’t a full Youmu, Akihito may also be exempt from the rules of Spirit Hunters. This position between the rules of these two worlds is a particularly tricky one, as such, he obviously doesn’t live the sort of carefree existence that Mirai has accused him of having, and instead of really trying to understand others, she continues to carry around a persecution complex, believing that she lives a truly horrible life, while others are happy.
But, by choosing to sacrifice herself in order to save Akihito’s life, Mirai demonstrates how far she has come since the days of her persecution complex, and assertions that Akihito doesn’t understand how hard her life really is. Her struggle throughout this episode is perhaps symbolic of the struggle that both she, and Akihito have been a part of for their entire lives, the snowy landscape a representation of a world without life, one where the struggle between life and death has become all-consuming. In her naïveté Mirai was used by Izumi in her quest to destroy the Kyoukai no Kanata and save humanity, and her pure desire to save Akihito from an implied cruel fate decided to shoulder the whole burden and willingly gave up her own body to destroy the shade, or at least that was the intention.
At this point it is useful to return to the notions of giri/ninjo (duty/human feelings) when exploring the actions, and reactions of characters like Mirai, Akihito, and Izumi. Izumi feels duty bound to destroy the Kyoukai no Kanata no matter the cost, it is the singular threat to the Nase clan, and by extension humanities existence and must therefore be eradicated, even if it comes at the expense of others. In her conversation with Akihito, she justifies her actions, and use of lies and misdirection as justified to keep everyone safe. Mirai is similarly guided by these principles – she is duty bound to carry out the wishes of the Nase clan in order to pay back the debt she owes them as her benefactors – but her personal feelings for Akihito mean she does not kill him, but instead takes it upon herself to bear the burden of destroying the Kyoukai no Kanata, while also saving Akihito’s life. This is a clear change from earlier episodes where her duty as a Spirit Hunter clashed with her internalised feelings of hatred and loneliness, cursing her existence and that of her clan, and cursing her inability to simply leave her Spirit Hunter existence behind. The struggle between giri and ninjo goes to the heart of the conflict within this series, with both informing the main characters actions and approaches to the problems in front of them. Ninjo also governs Miroku’s actions, and helps to explain the great lengths he has gone to in order to gain the power to manipulate the Kyoukai no Kanata, although what these personal feelings are remain a mystery.
This still leaves us with the increasingly complex character of Akihito, someone who was a half-youmu, but is supposed to be completely mortal now. The use of reflections, noise, and overlays in this episode seem to signify multifaceted nature of Akihito’s existence and the continued mystery surrounding his ability to house the vast, world shattering powers of Youmu that Izumi describes as a natural phenomenon, one that appears to wipe with world of its pain and suffering, a reset if you will. That he was able to contain that power implies that Akihito is far from a normal human being, even when the Youmu has apparently been removed from his body. Furthermore, his ability to hear the constant cries of the Youmu – at least it seems implied that the deep noises he, and Mirai hear are the sound of the Kyoukai no Kanata – suggest that even though it is no longer in his body there continues to be a strong connection between him and this implied mass of destruction. Also, Izumi’s description of Kyoukai no Kanata as a natural phenomenon which appears whenever the mass of hatred and resentment in the world has reached its peak points to a very different view of Youmu in general. Unlike the masses of pain, hatred, and resentment that the Spirit Hunters seem to assume they are, perhaps the Youmu are merely another part of the world, a natural occurrence like plants, insects, and animals.
The appearance of Akihito’s mother, Kanbara Yayoi, and the hints and cryptic clues that she provides to him, and his friends further strengthens the idea that the Kyoukai no Kanata, and even Akihito are far from normal existences. His ability to assimilate the shadestone and use its power to reach beyond the boundary to where Mirai is implies a connection between the Youmu, Mirai, and Akihito that has yet to be fully understood, and may well be a clue to Akihito’s abilities and perhaps his entire existence. What we are left with is a singular relationship with the power to change the world, either saving it from destruction, or condemning it for its past transgressions. For all of her scheming and meticulous planning, ultimately Izumi must give way to Akihito, Hiroomi, and Mitsuki – she may be extremely powerful, but she no longer has any answers to the strange, dangerous, and startlingly beautiful spectacle that lies before her eyes.