「傷だらけの君にエールを」 (Kizu-darake no Kimi ni Eiru o)
“Shout-Out to The Tattered”
Haebaru’s character arc finally came to fruition as a deeply touching Ode to Motherhood regarding a mother’s eternal love for her child, reminiscent of Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou (Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms) and Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children). My heartstrings were pulled and tears were shed. Yet my question is this. Does this episode actually absolve her from past transgressions?
The Case For
Let’s cut to the chase. Being a single mother is ridiculously hard. Perhaps even more so in Japan. For all my love for anime, gender inequality is rampant in Japan. According to the OECD in 2017, as cited by Wikipedia, while women hold 45.4 percent of Japan’s bachelor degrees, they only make up 18.2 percent of the labor force, and only 2.1 percent of employers are women. Even with good education, it’s clear women there are not having the same access to opportunities.
According to the UN’s Human Development Records in 2017, the country still lacks female voices in parliament, compared to similar Asian countries: Japan ranks as fourth lowest within the 51 highest developed countries. In terms of women in the labour force, Japan has the sixth-lowest score. They have the same education level and skill as their male peers – sometimes even higher as shown by the medical exam rigging fiasco – but somehow can’t find their way into the workforce. I’m not saying Haebaru is completely locked out of finding a job. Rather, she has these unique societal conditions which turn the pressure on her up to eleven on top of the burden of being a single mother to a young child.
Haebaru lost her original job because as clearly shown by the anime, a group of men pressured her manager to fire her. Additionally, Japanese societal expectations for mothers to be disproportionately involved with the upbringing of their kid. Why couldn’t the husband do his fair share of work, before choosing to divorce her? Why divorce her when she got put into that horrendous situation from his lack of support? That’s not love. That’s just evil and it’s too bag there are many male scumbags out there. They exist. My ex-coworker’s father is a ridiculously wealthy man who never paid a penny in child support to his struggling mother.
That makes what Kukuru did before even worse. A desperate Haebaru came to Gama Gama, hoping to learn what she could to improve her job security in a field she loves, knowing her child is totally dependent on her. And Kukuru essentially tried to pull the rug from beneath her – it’s no wonder Haebaru doesn’t like Kukuru one bit.
The Case Against
One’s own trauma does not justify being nasty towards other people. I understand Haebaru’s insecurities are deep-seated based on psychological trauma, and knowing she is everything her child has in this world. But Haebaru could have been more patient and way less dismissive of Kukuru’s grandfather as well as Gama Gama. Before this reveal, we were all pissed off at her bitchiness and way of looking down on Gama Gama.
Even if she believed Kukuru was born with a Silver Spoon in her mouth, being handed the Aquarium on a platter, she could have been respectable to an eminent elder within the Aquarium community. Not to mention for all of Kukuru’s faults, it’s hard to overlook that girl’s quality of caring so much and giving it her all. As the older one in this situation, she also could have been so much more mature in her way of handling things. As a senior member of staff in a completely unrelated division, she could have simply chosen to ignore Kukuru rather than make life difficult and escalate tensions. Surprisingly, you can justifiably dislike someone without trying to maliciously spite them.
What About Kukuru?
We can all agree that what Kukuru did was indefensible. However, in a similar vein, we can also all agree she did not come from a place of malice – and immediately exhibits huge guilt when she comes across the truth. That her actions and selfish desire to become an attendant again could very well have compromised Haebaru’s employment situation, and potentially put Haebaru’s son in a precarious position.
What do mother animals do when their babies are in peril? Activate their defence mechanisms and become aggressive. Haebaru’s spiteful reactions suddenly become understandable. She was exhibiting the natural defence mechanism of protecting her baby chick. In one fell swoop, I no longer dislike her and just feel really really sorry for her. Being kind and well-meaning for all her immaturity, this is the same understanding Kukuru comes to as well. Having lost her parents at a young age, she knows just how much a parent’s love matters to a young child. Just how much a parent is the whole world to their child. We can clearly see how much it punches Kukuru in the guts as the guilt gleams through her eyes, knowing just how much of a villain she has been – even if unintentionally.
I think most normal people would try to hash out the differences upon discovering the truth. Kukuru? She demands to have a baby so that she can understand Haebaru’s experience. Which is truly some one of a kind response that undoubtedly comes from a place of good faith. Kukuru learns that handling a baby AND holding down a full time job is ridiculously hard, allowing her to gain respect for Haebaru and the doctor. That resolution alone allows her to rest her grievances and seek out amnesty. Only Haebaru is the first person to make an apology – which just shows to me she is capable of being a bigger person.
For me, Haebaru is a single mother who has done everything to ensure her child turns out okay despite the burdens she bears. Even though Tingaara has some internal issues to iron out, it’s clear to see the director has a heart of gold, seeing how he reassured Haebaru that she was a valuable part of the task force and wouldn’t need to worry about hiding her child and mothering needs. That kind of leadership makes me hopeful the teams have a capacity to reconcile and become a cohesive, functioning unit without petty strife.
With Kukuru and Haebaru finding mutual ground and putting their past behind them, things are looking extremely hopeful going forwards. If it continues like this, to answer my beginning question, I would consider the past transgressions resolved. Easily the most beautiful and excellent episode of Shiroi Suna no Aquatope to date and I must really praise the masterful storytelling PA Works managed to create, giving us mischievous sparkles of their hey days.
Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading this post and see you all next week!
Note: Apologies for the delays. I was in attendance of London MCM Comicon throughout the weekend – post coming soon!