Reaction Shots: Sakura Gari 4

July 13, 2008 at 8:10 pm (Animanga) (, , )

Look, I even purposely let there be a gap between me reading and me writing about this chapter so I could write something reasonably intelligent.

That is how much I love this manga.

ONWARDS TO SPOILERS!

First I want to go into a little overall thing that I noticed my first read. What I noticed, as I mulled over this chapter, was that Masataka’s brother figures are very similar, and they’ve been inverted, as a result of the previous chapter. Both Matsushita and Souma know that they’re bad news for Masataka. Matsushita’s aware that he’s Yakuza, indebted, involved with anti-government movements. While none of this stops him from accepting Masataka’s money it is enough to make him make Masataka promise to stay away from him in order to keep him safe, clean. It’s a backhanded way of taking care of his brother, but that brotherly instinct is still there, even if a little warped. Leaving his harmonica with Masataka is just another sign of this; he’s leaving Masataka with something of himself that’s not the violent gangster life he’s fallen into in Edo.

Souma, on the other hand, while equally aware that he’s bad news for Masataka has since ceased to try and protect Masataka from his corrupt nature. Matsushita asked for money, involving Masataka, but then made Masataka promise to stay away. Souma had previously denied his attraction to Masataka (one day I will back this up with an in-depth essay, complete with illustrations culled from the manga itself. That day is not today.) and made an effort to keep their relationship non-sexual, platonic. Then, in the warehouse, he totally reverses all of that by raping Masataka, and even though he acknowledges holding Matsushita’s welfare over Masataka’s head to make him stay is low–he does it anyway. He forces Masataka to do and be what he wants (up to and including the use of aphrodisiacs to secure Masataka’s cooperation during sex), he infringes on Masataka’s personal life (picking him up from school) and basically is doing what Matsushita did when he first showed up: pushing his personal corruption into Masataka’s untainted life, and ruining him as a result of his selfishness and greed.

Souma’s attempt to secure Masataka’s promise to stay away from Matsushita only highlights his. Because Matsushita was driven to keep Masataka away out of concern and belief in Masataka’s ability to succeed and be happy; Souma is driven far more significantly by the desire to keep Masataka away from outsiders and with him.<

Okay, now on to your regular running commentary.

1. I CALLED IT. I SO CALLED IT. This only supports my thesis that Souma is incapable of having (or perhaps not being allowed) to have any relationship that is not in some way sexual. While I doubt he’s had sex with his father (I suspect this whole dressing up thing was started as his father drew closer to death, as his father sought forgiveness from himself), just the fact that Souma’s dressing up as his mother for the benefit of his father’s broken heart is enough to push this relationship into creepy sexual overtones territory.

The reasons all of Souma’s relationships end up sexual is because he feels (and this is supported by the attitudes of others towards him) that he is only desirable for his body, as an object. His father only supports this–Souma is desirable as an heir, not as a son or family member. Souma is desirable in the guise of his mother, not as himself. He is an object, onto which people project their desires and lust; he is not a person.

(This is why he kisses Masataka near the end of the rape scene in Chapter 3. Masataka calls his name in an effort to make a personal appeal to Souma the person, but by that point Souma can’t take that. To be desired for something other than sex, to be wanted as something other than an object, is too much for him to deal with at that moment, so he doesn’t.

The rape was his way of forcing his relationship with Masataka into terms he could understand, even though he knew it was wrong of him to do so. But he couldn’t understand their relationship otherwise, except for the fact that he didn’t want to let Masataka go.)

2. Juxtaposition of Souma’s father asking for forgiveness from Souma’s mother and Souma thinking over the memory of the rape–Souma’s lips open in the very last panel. Is he asking for forgiveness too? Forgiveness from Masataka for what he has done, what he is going to do, and his inability to stop, because stopping might mean losing Masataka and he doesn’t want that.

(But he’s already lost what made having Masataka around so special. Does he know that?)

3. Masataka’s memories aren’t greyed out, they’re in full black-and-white. The memory is fresher and more real for him than it is for Souma.

4. Souma filling in “Kill me?” for Masataka. He told Masataka to kill him the first time they met. He knows he’s not doing the right thing, that he’s just going to end up ruining Masataka. He tries to make Masataka go away, tries to scare him off and keep him at arm’s length. But in the end, Masataka didn’t leave and he ended up ruining Masataka anyway and his “Kill me?” is sort of Souma’s way of saying “I told you so.” I told you to leave, to stay away from me, but you didn’t listen, you made me want you, and now look at you (I suspect this is a hollow victory.).

5. Katou is one creepy motherfucker.

6. “I think my brother would like to see you put something in your mouth.” Souma’s shock—he didn’t think Sakurako knew about him and Masataka? But that one statement is an intentional double entendre; it signals to Souma that she knows and her actions signal that she’s not happy.

She’s trying to do to Souma what Souma did to Masataka. Souma had been happy with Masataka, and they’d had a relatively healthy, platonic relationship. But she’s not happy with that, she wants Souma all to herself, so she pulls that apart—casts doubt into Masataka’s mind, plays off Souma’s insecurities and lack of self-worth—in the hopes of driving Masataka away or at least that Souma will cast Masataka aside after getting what he ostensibly wants. (See, she views him like an object too, something to be possessed.). Like Souma (and very early on, Matsushita), Sakurako corrupted Souma’s happiness out of her own selfishness and greed.

7. I recall that in my squeezing over the raw I made note that Masataka’s going to become a battlefield for Souma and Sakurako? Yeah, I was right. The glass was Sakurako’s intent to hurt Masataka—I don’t know if she really hoped he’d be hurt by the glass or if she merely wanted to signal her intent to hurt Masataka to her brother. Either way, the act of her feeding Masataka (as if feeding a lover) is enough to arouse Souma’s own possessiveness, leading him to lick the blood off.

Which totally derails Masataka, because what he wants is for whatever’s between them to remain between them, to be his own private misery. And Souma won’t even grant him that.

(Masataka’s attitude towards Sakurako—at this point nothing indicates that he believes her to be anything other than a sweet, helpful little girl. Which would only make Souma even more desperate to keep Masataka and fend his sister off, because that’d incline Masataka more towards Sakurako.)

8. Souma refuses Masataka’s request. Why? He wants possession and control over Masataka…because Masataka had been a variable, not quite understandable but something he wanted. But now Masataka doesn’t want him but he still wants Masataka and again, I think he’s trying to force their relationship into terms he can understand. Possession? Control? Object of desire being just an object, pliant, no desires of its own allowed? That’s what he understands of relationships involving him, and that’s what he wants of Masataka.

He is a hypocrite, deriding the fact that people want him only for his body and letting that same desire be the basis for his relationship with Masataka.

(Masataka wasn’t even requesting that he stop. Just to keep it private, to give him a way to make his own pain bearable.)

9. Talking in terms of rewards; Souma’s trying to force Masataka into the position of his pet, his plaything.

10. The juxtaposition of other scenes with the scenes of Souma and Masataka is important, but why Matsushita? Is it commentary on the depth of Masataka’s sacrifice; he’s giving up his dignity and freedom, his body and life, in order to aid a brother who has nothing better to do than play cards, carouse with women, and drink.

11. See: Masataka as a battlefield. It’s like Souma’s way of saying to Sakurako, You want me to want you? Keep trying.

12. Souma looks away from Masataka crying. Because if Souma represents everyone he knows and Masataka represents himself, then Masataka has to be an object, to be desired but not loved. And Masataka crying refutes that, states that he’s not an object.

But see, if we carry the metaphor further than Masataka-as-Souma crying and in pain (not just physical, emotional) then states that Souma himself is unhappy and in pain over his own position as an object to be desired. Masataka’s pain reflects his own, and he’s not prepared to acknowledge that he’s not happy, that he wants to be something more than someone else’s plaything. Acknowledging Masataka’s suffering means acknowledging his own, and Souma won’t do that.

Plus, I don’t think he genuinely wants to harm Masataka. See again, forcing relationship into terms he understands and also see, wanting to keep Masataka nearby. I don’t think Souma truly wants to hurt Masataka but he doesn’t know any other way to relate to him, so hurting him is the only way he can.

13. Sakurako and the sword? That’s her saying, You think you can hurt me? I can hurt you worse that you’ll ever know.

Souma’s words (I’m pretty sure they’re Souma’s) about their father coming to see Sakurako suggest to me that his father is as yet unaware of Sakurako’s newfound freedom; also, Sakurako is afraid of being seen because…that would mean being put back into the warehouse? Away from Souma, who she wants?

So Souma’s trying to threaten Sakurako. It doesn’t work, though, because Sakurako knows exactly what buttons to push to tear him apart.

14. “Someone so sinful will be wretched even in love, no?”

Sakurako’s words hit twofold. One, they hit Souma’s belief in his own lack of self-worth as a person, what with him knowing his faults and wrongs and his being bad news. So in that respect they press an old wound, one that’s never healed.

And secondly, being in love? That forces what Souma’s trying to deny to the surface. Masataka’s not a person, just an object; Souma just wants him as an object, not a person; this was never about loving someone, in any way, shape or form.

Except of course, it was. Because Masataka came to love him as a brother, and Souma responded to that and liked it and wanted it and then Souma wrecked that for himself, all by himself. He is wretched in love, and if Sakurako’s right then it’s because he’s full of sin, and if he’s so full of sin then maybe this is all he deserves, the closest he’ll ever have to being truly loved.

15. “If you break your toy, who will be the one crying? And how long will he last?” Sakurako continues to hit Souma’s proverbial nails on the head. Because the implication of the first half is that Souma is too twisted, too corrupt and broken, to ever care for someone other than as a toy; the implication is that he will hurt Masataka eventually if he’s not doing it now, and that’s not what he wants. It’s not what he wants, but what he’s chosen to do and what he has, and I think that scares Souma. Especially when combined with Sakurako’s line about how long Masataka will last.

Will Souma tire of him like he has all his other lovers? Because that means that he never really thought of Masataka as anything different, and that means he’s just as corrupt and tainted as ever; that he can’t ever change or be more than an object.

Or will Masataka break first? Will Masataka leave him alone again? Will Masataka simply crumble, resign himself to life as Souma’s toy? What will happen to the Masataka who had loved him like a brother, the one who made Souma feel like he was worthy of more than lust and desire? “Who will be the one crying” can mean either Masataka is left broken, or it can mean Souma; if Souma’s the one crying then that has to mean that Masataka was more than just another lover or toy to him, but then that means that Souma took something that was good and new and destroyed it out of his own fear and selfishness, and that means he was never worthy of Masataka’s regard in the first place, which means—

Yeah, I’m kind of going in circles here. But do you see what I mean, right? Sakurako’s hitting all the right notes needed to shatter Souma. Souma cannot even compare; he has no defenses against her words. He’s breaking too.

(The cut in his back is Sakurako’s words; the blood signals that her words have hit home and cut deep.)

16. WAIT HOLD UP. Souma admits he’s wretched? Tie it back to Sakurako’s line; he’s admitting that he is in love with Masataka?

17. “It’s already noon, you’ve got a customer.” …Matsushita is a whore?

18. Even though they’re hair parts on different sides, young Souma looks an awful lot like Masataka.

Is there a parallel there between their lives? Souma was once innocent, but was corrupted? Then again, even young Souma bears the same expressionlessness as older Souma does, so perhaps not. But the resemblance is striking.

19. So Sakurako’s always been an albino?

(EDIT: checked chapter one; no, she hasn’t.)

20. Masataka believes that Souma is being driven by the desire to make him keep his own secrets? Talk about breakdown in communication.

Also, re: balance of siblings: at this point Masataka is still inclined towards Sakurako, because his opinion of Souma has been totally destroyed.

21. Oh, god. Masataka blaming himself for his own pain. Not the rape, but the betrayal. No one should have to feel guilty for liking someone and being happy with another person.

Every time I look at Masataka I feel this enormous twist of guilt for being so fascinated with Souma. I’m sorry, Masataka! Please forgive me!

22. Sakurako could easily be hurting Masataka as she knows how to hurt Souma, but she’s not—true, Masataka’s taking the dousing with water without complaint, but he’s also not giving into her words; he makes a fist in the dirt and grits her teeth. She wants him to be desolate and broken, to believe that he can never be clean or free of Souma, but—he’s not letting it happen. I mean, shortly afterwards he asserts his determination to break free of Souma, by getting accepted into Ichikou. Education therefore becomes not only his ticket out of poverty, but his ticket out of wealth, which is to say as Souma’s personal servant.

Schooling becomes his refuge. With school, Masataka can be free.

(EDIT: OH GOD I JUST REALIZED WHAT I SAID. Asian families (my own included) really push schooling as being super important to someone’s life and future happiness. And for Masataka, now it really, really does.

I want to laugh, but I feel kind of sick inside. Oh god. Yuu Watase, you are EVIL.)

23. Again, Masataka resolves to be defiant, albeit in quiet, subtle ways—he closes his eyes, he signals to Souma that he does find Souma repulsive. Which hurts Souma, not that he knows.

See also Mastaka’s hand on Souma’s wrist, trying to push his hand away. He won’t be Souma’s toy.

24. On the other hand, Souma seems to be retaliating by not bothering to hide their relationship as soon as they’re surrounded by the estate staff. Masataka wants to keep the affair hidden, where he can manage the pain and fallout on his own; Souma won’t let him have that.

Masataka retaliates by refusing to give him what he wants; ie. to hear Masataka’s voice. He’s trying to marshal up courage and resolution; trying to endure instead of break. But it’s clearly a struggle not to just give in to what Souma wants of him; he’s biting his lip so hard it’s bleeding.

25. Am I exaggerating when I say Masataka’s frustration with schoolwork is influencing his push to suicide? If education becomes his refuge (one which Souma’s already violated), then not being able to keep up with his education denies him the possibility of freedom.

Spring, with its examinations and prospects of freedom and connotations of new life, starting over…spring is his ticket out of Souma’s grasp.

26. Both Souma and Masataka have reverted to how they were before they met; they’d managed to build something they both wanted, a meaningful relationship that gave them both what they’d never had before. But Souma wrecked that, and in so doing forced Masataka back to that initial mindset of aloneness and solitude, of being unwanted and having only himself to rely on.

27. The song Masataka plays is called Ode to Early Spring, it’s about longing for spring to arrive. He’s being shorn of everything that matters; pushing away friends, school is frustrating, betrayed by Souma, and now even the no-good big brother who happens to still believe in and care for him is gone, leaving only a keepsake.

He wants out, he wants out of this place and life, but—will he ever be able to make it happen?

TL;DR: I LOVE THIS MANGA SO DAMN MUCH.

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3 Comments

  1. lady_black_cat said,

    Wow! I love how you put all that together. I’m starting to love this manga too. I’m so proud of Watase-sensei! :D

  2. Syfh said,

    lady_black_cat:

    Thanks. :)

  3. yukino said,

    wow! I read it all and i understood a lot of things of the manga. Really your reasoning is correct! I know this manga get you so confused and you start to wonder why the characters behave so…..i think it’s because there are a lot of mysteries.

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