「裏切りの契」 (Uragiri no Sagi)
“Vow of Betrayal”
It looks like Shinji is a lot more weak-minded that I first thought, although that’s not a bad thing by any means. I find it gives his character more dimension, and it’s far more fascinating to see him trapped in the web of lies he’s created and trying to see him justify his actions rather than seeing him act the part of the perfect little brother. It’s also an introspective look into his psyche, where he’s convinced himself he’s doing the right thing – a traitors’ thought process is a highly entertaining one in any medium since they’re fully in charge of whether or not to act on their morally ambiguous actions. A highly self-centric desire – fear of being abandoned, ambition, etc. – tends to drive their thoughts and most of the time, the fear of abandonment results in a more complex set of emotions than ambition. Ambition is a purely self-serving motive while a fear of loneliness is an issue that presents more intricacies into the proceedings.
In Shinji’s case, he’s clearly driven by the need to belong – it’s pitiful to watch him plead with Aria, and he’s not completely lying when he claims he’s doing this for the good of everyone else. Plot-wise there’s still something missing regarding the severity of the Onikirimaru’s effect on the current situation; character-wise, Shinji’s defection runs somewhat on the same wavelength as Suguru’s. Both have been affected negatively by the spiritual traditions of the village. While Suguru was/is strong enough to endure the consequences and act for the greater good, Shinji cannot. It’s possible his childhood trauma played on his biggest fear, thus amplifying his instinct to be accepted by a community. Perhaps it even caused him to resent the Onikirimaru and what it and the Tamayori Princess stood for. Resentment is probably much too strong a term, actually – they do represent something frightening for him, but he does have genuine feelings of camaraderie for his fellow guardians and Tamaki; it’s more that he believes removing the source of trouble will free them all and allow them to live a life they never had the chance to have. This raises the question of whether or not Shinji knows the Onikirimaru is essentially Takuma. Would he repeat his actions if he knew how closely related the two are?
Now that everyone’s dirty laundry has been aired, the resulting angst will be a fun one to watch. I’m hoping it will give Yuuichi a chance to express himself a bit more, since up to now, he has just been the dependable voice of reason that injects common sense where it is needed. It would be nice to see him get a little more development to catch him up with the rest of the cast. This also applies to Ryou, who is slowly starting to become more and more involved in the thick of things instead of remaining a barely perceptible peripheral presence.