I wonder which girl has it worse, the one who was lied to, or the one who understands her loved one and cares for him despite knowing more about the situation than the rest?
It matters not if you’re a manga reader or an anime-only viewer; if you care about KamiNomi and its characters, then this week is not the easiest to get through, regardless of how much material is crammed into this one episode. We have the end of Chihiro’s cruel arc, the confirmation of Ayumi’s goddess, a good bit of Tenri and her fairly complicated circumstances, and even the stirrings of something very huge about to take place in Maijima, courtesy of Vintage. But by and large, it’s Chihiro that takes the stage, and Chihiro that hurts the most to discuss.
I feel like I can understand Keima’s incredulousness when it turns out that Chihiro houses no Goddess but has fallen in love with him regardless. He’s alienated himself from people for so long, and been little disposed to care for people who call him things like “otomegane”, that when Chihiro declares she’s loved him since far before her unremembered conquest, he’s baffled. But I like Chihiro’s response to his confusion, that there’s no real reason to fall in love with someone. In a show as concerned with love as this one, and one where it’s treated as a sort of battlefield with proper techniques and strategies, the idea of love as baseless is a very powerful idea, and not one that leaves Keima’s guilt unscathed. He’s so used to the idea of manipulating his targets, so used to leading them to the ending he wants, that when a girl develops true affection for him without his lifting a finger, he’s both thrown for a loop and facing a very dark abyss indeed. This is the sort of development that would crush any normal person, finding someone who loves you for who you are and not your various facades, and being unable to even contemplate reciprocating them or to allow those feelings to persist. Chihiro is dangerous to Keima’s line of work, and not for the immediate repercussions on Ayumi’s capture. She’s a problem because she has no choice but to be shot down cruelly, and she’s a problem because Keima could never love someone like that without incredible guilt; after all, the one thing Keima can’t have is a relationship, so long as he works to capture spirits as a Buddy, and up to this point he’d never even thought about it. A relationship would hurt his girlfriend when he’s out wooing other girls, and a relationship would hurt Keima too, assuming his feelings are sincere. After all, no one wants to cheat on their loved one for a living, and it cheapens the sincerity of such affections. Effectively, then, Keima is as cruel to Chihiro as possible to spare her further pain (despite the massive guilt trip this ensues), but also to spare himself from having to contemplate the loneliness of his existence. That doesn’t mean that Chihiro is alright after this; being led on and toyed with despite having trusted and confessed to someone in complete earnestness is utterly shattering and cruel in the highest extremes, and Keima having a reason for doing it makes it no less terrible for her. I can’t help but want to give the poor girl a hug and put her through the paces of female friendship and solidarity, and it makes total sense to me that Ayumi would stand up for her despite holding complicated feelings about the whole affair. There’s no denying that Keima’s broken Chihiro, and that he’s irrevocably destroyed her loving trust in him for ever, and that’s the most heartwrenching thing that could have happened to either of them.
But on the same token, we have a girl like Tenri, someone who understands Keima far more fundamentally than all the other girls put together, and the only girl other than Chihiro to fall for Keima without need for a capture. But unlike Chihiro, Tenri is more aware of the situation; she knows she and Diana (never mind Diana’s own feelings) have an important part in these plans, and while Tenri might not be as aware as her goddess about the various girlfriends Keima has gathered upon himself, she still knows that he’s doing his best at his job, and that he needs reassurance and companionship as much as any other person might. None of the other girls have such an intimate claim to Keima’s true nature, nor do they really love those things that Tenri does. As she says herself, she loves the Keima “that loves playing games”, not the princely suave character he pretends to be for the others, and perhaps in a way, that’s an even lonelier and more painful predicament than Chihiro’s. It’s Tenri, after all, who has to stand in the shadows, the only completely loyal friend and companion Keima has outside of his imouto/bug demon (that embrace though), and the only girl who loves him despite knowing more about his job than the rest.
Then there’s Ayumi, who understandably is quite angry at Keima for the moment, and there’s also Vintage. The discovery of a sort of spirit breeding ground right outside of Maijima is bad news any way you put it, and it seems that Keima is starting to put together all the pieces to the puzzle as they come along. In the meantime, however, all he can do is move forward with Ayumi’s conquest, no matter what damage his mistakes with Chihiro have caused.