「1208号室」 (1208 Goushitsu)
The first eight minutes or so of this week’s episode must have been some of the most peaceful scenes of Happy Sugar Life to date. Happy Sugar Life is usually so full of malice and madness that just having Satou sit around and do nothing for half an episode was oddly refreshing. Sure, the time she spends lovey-doveying it up with Shio are mostly peaceful and plenty sweet, but in the back of our minds we always remember that Satou basically kidnapped an impressionable little girl. In contrast, while we know from the beginning that Satou’s relationship with her artist benefactor will eventually go wrong, while it lasted it was surprisingly wholesome. Unfortunately, this is Happy Sugar Life, and even when being wholesome it makes sure to keep us uncomfortable. The first act of this episode is quiet, with no music whatsoever. Uncharacteristically, it’s shot in the first person, keeping the artist obscured. And instead of having a voice or emotions, he has distorted crackling. Thus we are never allowed to see the artist’s character, only his madness, and that is what defines him. Although he was evidently a very influential figure in Satou’s life and her world view — as much so as her aunt, arguably — we know very little about him, and only experience him mirrored in Satou. And perhaps that’s a distorted mirror at best.
Aside from the impulsive homicide part, perhaps faceless-artist-guy had a point about Satou. Here’s where we need to talk about wabi-sabi, a Japanese artistic aesthetic that emphasises the imperfection in all things. It may all sound like a bunch of pretentious mumbo jumbo, but a great deal has been written on the subject and it runs underneath much of Japanese culture so some familiarity with its ideas is useful for any anime watcher. To be very general, wabi-sabi postures that imperfection is natural, the natural is ephemeral, and the ephemeral is beautiful. It is about finding value in the flawed and the unrefined — and perhaps it’s those very flaws that make something interesting. That, it seems, is the argument regarding Satou. Before Satou found Shio, she was still searching for that special something. She was flawed, still missing something in her life. That gave her doubts and curiosity, kept her questioning, and added an extra dimension to her character. Now, with Shio, Satou feels ‘complete’. She is pure. From that purity of vision comes an unshakeable conviction. That conviction does bestow a fascinating charisma to Satou, as we’ve discussed before perhaps it’s possible to be too pure. Satou’s purity is unnatural, and it is terrifying. In her conviction she is able to remorselessly hurt and manipulate all around her for her singular purpose. A flawed Satou is human. A flawless Satou is a monster.
This all ties neatly back to the ideas of tragedy, and how it is the flaws of the hero that brings them down to earth. From that view, what end awaits Satou? It’s strongly implied that her story does not and cannot end well, but would Satou even care? On my part, I’ve given up on the idea of redemption for Satou. We still have two characters who are still nominally good people (excluding Shio, who is doomed to be the victim), so I guess I’ll hope for happy ending for them. Perhaps a happy ending is, ironically, too much to ask of Happy Sugar Life. I am willing to settle for ‘relatively unscarred’.
Full-length images: 19.