「罪の味、罰の味」 (Sumi no Aji, Batsu no Aji)
“The Taste of Crime, the Taste of Punishment”
Is Shio a positive influence on Satou? On the one hand, as broken as Shio may possibly be, she’s still, from all that we’ve seen, still basically a good little girl who has done no wrong. Maybe she’s not exactly the perfect angel that would make for a messianic redemptive figure, but she’s still basically the only good thing in Satou’s life and the sole source of any positive emotion in Satou. To be precise, Shio’s the source of any emotion in Satou, good or ill, but on the balance isn’t that a good thing? Sure, love drives Satou to do some distasteful things but without love she’d probably be a psychopathic robot which isn’t that much of an improvement. Sure, she has a very twisted sense of right and wrong, but at least she has one. Perhaps without Shio she’d be more unrestrained, and without constraints she’d be more sinister than she is now.
The difficulty in assessing Satou is that she isn’t just crazy. When a character is crazy they’ve lost their grip on reality and we as the audience are free to write them off. But Satou is still strangely sane and perhaps a bit too rational. We’ll spend more time diagnosing the pathology of Satou later on, when Happy Sugar Life has shown us more of what this girl is and how she got this way. For now, Satou is alien. She does not think like we do and operates under her own value system. It helps Satou’s case that she is always juxtaposed with legitimately unhinged people. I mean, unlike Mitsuboshi, Satou has never drooled over Shio. In fact, aside from the kidnapping and the murder, Satou and Shio’s relationship is always portrayed as unbelievably wholesome, and they only show their personal dysfunctions when apart. Yeah, I know, capital crimes are a bit much to just brush aside like that, but you get what I mean, right? If we didn’t have all these loons buzzing around Satou to bring out her dark side you’d hardly tell that she wasn’t actually human. When they do, though, it makes for an interesting dynamic. Somehow, compared to the obsessive stalker, Satou seems far more sane. At the same time, though, she’s also rather less sympathetic. It goes to show, as much as we favour rationality, it’s the quirks in the brain that make people feel human.
So far, though, Satou has only really been juxtaposed with crazy people. But now, we’re building up to perhaps a confrontation between her and someone who is, by and large, normal. Satou’s friend (names are hard) has thus far been portrayed as more or less a down-to-earth high school girl; how would she react to a potential revelation that Satou has indeed abducted a little girl? Sure, she apparently has family issues (everybody must have issues in this show, apparently), but relative to the rest of the cast she’s supposed to have her head on straight. If and when her version of sanity and Satou’s collides, that should be pretty interesting. There’s probably no way it can end well in a show like this, but for morbid folk like you and I who chose to watch Happy Sugar Life, more the better, right?.