「砂糖少女の原材料」 (Satou Shoujo no Genzairyou)
“What Sugar Girls Are Made of”
I suppose this counts as a reveal episode. We finally find out why Satou is the way she is. Although it turned out that Satou didn’t actually murder her aunt, it’s probably safe to assume that the rest of the faceless theatre exposition can be generally trusted. Satou was an orphan. She went through her childhood unloved. And then yada yada deranged aunt and Satou somehow became the love-Terminator. This was a part of the manga that I didn’t feel fully satisfied by when I read it. For starters, trying to explain Satou must ultimately be a futile effort; her vague background that makes us question whether she is truly human is what makes her unnerving. Even with her background revealed, I’m not entirely convinced that it was all that flipped her crazy yandere switch. Surely, it’s an insult to orphans everywhere to imply that not having parents naturally results in a fundamental infirmity in one’s soul. I mean, Satou could have become the Batman after losing her parents, but she went for the ‘kidnap children’ route instead. And ths is skirting over how she apparently went unloved after her loss, which is a lot to gloss over. Was she socially isolated? Was she abused? Her aunt must surely have loved her, in her own twisted way — that woman loves everybody, for better or worse (actually, definitely for the worse). Additionally, how much influence did Satou’s aunt have on her? They share the crazy eyes, but evidently Satou finds her aunt distasteful and goes out of her way to protect Shouko from her. There must be more to the Satou story, though I don’t know if we’ll get it.
Why did Satou reveal her aunt to Shouko anyway? Shouko was suspicious of Satou’s ‘boyfriend’ situation. She wanted to know what was going on. She wanted to help. But of course, Satou doesn’t bring Shouko to Shio. She brings Shouko to her aunt. And I wonder why. My first thought was that Satou was just being her usual cagey self and deliberately misdirecting Shouko. After all, that’s basically what she was doing to her teacher as well; it’s sadly in character for Satou to trust nobody and manipulate everybody. At the same time, though, we also get the impression that Satou’s aunt is not somebody she bandies about lightly. If Satou is capable of feeling shame — which is debatable, but bear with me — then her aunt is the closest thing to a secret shame. Sure, she keeps Shio a secret as well, but she does it out of pragmatism. If it wasn’t for the entirely criminal nature of their relationship I’m sure she’d be positively proud of her pure, sweet love. But there is obviously something about her aunt that Satou despises, but she still reveals her to Shouko, of both her friendship and her resolve.
Shouko fails, not because she’s a particularly bad friend, just a weak one, and in her moment of weakness she couldn’t quite bring herself to stare into the abyss and not blink. This is another point, furthering our discussion last week, where there may be some cultural disconnect between a Western audience like us and Happy Sugar Life. Families don’t seem to be as tightly bound over here than it may be in Japan. On my part, I have had friends and acquaintances with family who are kooky, unpleasant, or even criminal. I don’t really judge any guilt by association. For good or ill, we’re just bigger on individualism and personal responsibility here; probably very Protestant ideas. In Japan, it seems, the sins of the father persist longer. Even if Shouko really intended to stand by her friend, there was still enough of that cultural programming to keep that from being easy.
And so Satou and Shouko’s friendship, like everything else wholesome in this story, crumbles. It’s a tragedy in itself, and rather heartbreaking to see Shouko despair at her own weakness. In the long term, though, perhaps this is for the best. We know things that Shouko does not. It’s probably unhealthy to expose oneself to Satou’s distilled crazy for too long, especially when we already know that her story is not going to end well. Those caught in this web meet only meet ill fates or go mad in the face of it. Perhaps it’s best that Shouko leaves this dark business well enough alone, and remains just a normal girl. I would, of course, be disappointed if she ends up being written out of the plot from here one out. But I’d also be glad that she managed to escape.