「融解レイン」 (Yuukai Rein)
No no no no no.
I am generally no good at horror. Just do not have the mentality for it. I think a large of this weak constitution is because I want happy endings too much. That is not to say that bittersweet endings do not have their own compelling flavour, but in general I always root for the protagonist to suceed, for good to triumph over evil, for the guy to get the girl. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much never what happens in horror. Horror — proper horror, not just zombie-action flicks — is ultimately about disempowerment, whereas most happy endings are empowering, or at least uplifting. The two run counter to each other. In fact, looking for and yearning for happy endings in horror stories usually leads viewers directly into their trap; the more we seek an escape from the protagonist’s plight (and they’re always in some sort of plight, the harder the despair hits when, inevitable, there proves to be none.
Perhaps that’s why my only emotional response to this episode was, ‘No no no no no.’
Mind you, I more or less knew what was going to happen. It had to happen. Two weeks ago I talked about how even though Satou and Shouko’s friendship ending because of Shouko was heartbreaking, it was probably healthy for Shouko to escape Satou’s vortex of madness. On the flip side, it was also clear that if she didn’t gracefully exit the stage when she had the chance and continued associating with Satou then her risk of a Bad End dramatically increased. Still, I wished her well, especially since her fate was, narratively, tied to Satou’s. If Satou was ever to be turned back to the light side, her only Luke Skywalker was Shouko. Conversely, if Satou turns on Shouko, then her fall will be complete. Of course, we were shown specifically at the beginning of the series that Satou’s story does not end well. Still, I naively hoped that Shouko may somehow escape her destiny. In fact, Happy Sugar Life invited us to hope, to embrace the idea of redemption, teasing us with a possible route to a happy ending. In fact, Happy Sugar Life almost cheats, using all the usual anime tricks to misdirect the audience. It puts on an emotional insert song. It hams up the imagery. And, importantly, it doesn’t show us Satou’s crazy eyes, which we had up to now relied on to be Satou’s warning lights. And then, in a swift act of betrayal, Happy Sugar Life kills Shouko. Happy Sugar Life had always been content with doing its bloody business off stage, but Shouko’s death is entirely bared to us. I must admit, as much as I was prepared for it, the scene still had its effect on me. It was graphic. It was brutal. But most of all, I was chilled by how cold-blooded it was. Many anime deaths are more gruesome, perhaps, but it just goes to show you don’t need gore to be dark.
So Shouko is dead, but of course she is. She was merely human — refreshingly human, in a show like this, but still just human. Satou is a monster, and horror monsters cannot be fought and cannot be defeated, let alone by one armed with nothing but righteousness. On that note, this is the point of no return for Satou, no? She’s crossed the moral event horizon. Killing the artist in what was arguably self-defence is one thing. Murdering your friend in cold blood is another. Satou slew her own salvation with her own hands, and from now now on there is nowhere to go but downwards. I do wonder how, though. Shouko did what she did out of love. Satou will not go down easily, but perhaps there would be suitable irony if she is undone by love in the end.