「六月 / てんとう虫の木①」 (Roku Gatsu / Tentouchuu no ki ①)
“Chapter 50 June / Chapter 51 The Ladybug Bush (Part 1)”
「てんとう虫の木② / てんとう虫の木③ / 想い」 (Tentouchuu no ki ② / Tentouchuu no ki ③ / Omoi)
“Chapter 52 The Ladybug Bush (Part 2) / Chapter 53 The Ladybug Bush (Part 3) / Feelings”
Let me preface this post by saying, I’m so sorry. The delay comes from losing my laptop charger, then having no proper contingency plan in place. Any remaining energy had to be redirected towards similarly affected legal studies, which unfortunately took precedence over Random Curiosity. However, a fantastic person offered me their laptop this weekend, so here I am! Not exactly the ideal scenario, but better than nothing. Now dear readers, if you could forgive me, that would be great. And for these misgivings, I owe everybody an apology, especially my fellow colleagues. Special thanks to Choya, who helped gather screencaps for episode 3. While we’ve never met in real life, my platonic love for you is seriously off the radars!
So we’ll actually be forgoing a quick recap of the previous episode. I believe that the narrative structure really lends itself towards exploring the underlying theme in one fell swoop – and that would be the topic of bullying.
I think it’s always good to talk about personal experiences when approaching these kind of sensitive matters. After all, like many people, I have also been a target of bullying. I won’t deny I was frickin’ dumb in more than one way, so make what you will of it, but I was no saint when it came to arrogantly flaunting my superior knowledge. However, these incidents mostly took place in primary school, and overall weren’t too bad. Back then, I was chubby and book smart – two traits that seemed to mark me out as a target, and which seem to have worn off with the passage of time. Although physical violence and racism were sometimes deployed, for the most part, my bullies resorted to denigrating remarks. But with the hindsight of a few years, I’m actually thankful towards them. If anything, I became a stronger and better person, who could somewhat empathise with the plights experienced by others. Not that I ever learned how to shut my mouth.
Fortunately, that was the worst of it. Hina saved Rei from the darkness, and I was saved by the selective grammar school which I applied for. I was spirited away from quite a miserable life, and found myself in a fun and friendly place. My emotional needs were provided for, and meaningful challenges came to me on a daily basis. You see, this is the reason why I choose to stand by selective grammar schools, in spite of the fact they are often purported as elitist institutions. Some kids need that safe space to thrive, and while these places remain a reserve for the affluent middle class in the UK, I’m under the impression I can’t have been the only one from a less privileged background who was rescued from what felt like a hopeless situation. That said, I do concede that others were far less fortunate compared to me. I’ve heard of many horror stories that would echo the cruelty that Hina and Chiho were subjected to.
Now, I just want to clarify that I’m up to date with the manga, so I knew what was coming. In fact, I even made a point of it in the Fall preview. However, nothing could prepare me for seeing the bullying, and getting my heart torn to shreds. Hina and Chiho are both such good and sweet-natured girls, that I’m positively disgusted by how badly they were treated. In other words, they’ve done nothing wrong, and didn’t deserve everything horrible that came their way. I think it would be disingenuous to pretend this isn’t a common occurrence in real life, because it happens so much everyday in our world. So I ultimately despair at how humans can treat each other like this, and like Rei, I despise my lack of agency in these sordid affairs. Rei might have been there for her, and it was really cool of him to run after her, and try to cheer her up. But the fact of the matter is that he couldn’t stop Hina from becoming emotionally fragile, and we could see she prone to losing it at any given moment.
Shaft really took my breath away, where they vividly animated exterior and interior emotions, in order to express these sentiments. But what broke me most was seeing Momo burst into tears. She’s just a little kid, who doesn’t understand the serious implication of Hina’s situation. Yet she still waddled over, and I kid you not, that face and those tears completely shattered me inside. Good thing grandpa appeared. I’m not surprised that Someji stepped up to the plate, and as the only adult who hasn’t let Hina down, he is totally right in validating Hina’s actions. We should remain proud of her, because it takes real conviction to stand against bullies, knowing you might receive backlash yourself. Even though it didn’t change the outcome, I’m sure Chiho will truly appreciate Hina’s efforts for the rest of eternity. I truly wonder, do these bullies forget how much it hurts for others, because of the agony hidden within their own hearts?
It’s very difficult for me to get wholly invested into caring about people who are not real. Which is why 3-gatsu deserves props for managing it, because everyone feels life-like to me, to the point where I’ll make a bold claim. Umino Chica has masterful understanding of what being human entails,and she can freely elicit intense emotional reactions where her characters are concerned. Who hasn’t been in a position where they have been bullied, or been powerless to stop a dear person being bullied? She honestly relates to us in special and wonderful way, and I know there’s more to come. It looks like Kiriyama is still trying to figure out a solution, and considering that these episodes merely scratch the surface, you can look forwards to one heck of an emotional roller coaster we’re about to embark on.