「楽しい方がいいよ」 (Tanoshī kata ga ī yo)
“Might as Well Have Fun”
Call of the Night continues to be a fascinating mess, and I use that word (both, actually) as a compliment. It’s messy on purpose, as I noted last week. Emotionally messy, morally messy, thematically messy. For me at least (perhaps it would be different if I’d read the manga) I’m still not totally sure what I’m watching. There are a lot of directions this story could go with these characters and yes, some are messier than others. I get the sense in watching it that most of what I’m seeing is not what it appears to be (one example most prominently).
What I do know is this – this episode had a more sinister feel to it than what came before. And that’s despite it being rather innocuous superficially but again – not as it seems. I think the first question we have to ask here is this: why is Nazuna having Kou give Shirakawa-san her massage? Is she simply being lazy (which wouldn’t be out of character)? Maybe, but – and I know this is a loaded term – the vibe here was that she’s grooming him. For what end? Well, fill in the blank as you see fit. Not knowing what Naz is apart from most obviously “vampire” makes the question hard to answer.
What is a vampire in this mythology? They suck blood, okay. They can go through solid walls, we now know. Based on this episode alone, one might make the case that being a vampire in Yofukashi no Uta is a stand-in for never having to grow up. That basically defines Naz as we know her, and it encompasses most of why Kou-kun wants to be one. He doesn’t want to go to school. He doesn’t want to fit it, to be a cog. And she’s certainly not one herself. He wants the joy of the night (and yes, I remember the thrill of it from my teenage days when it was fresh and new) to remain as exciting forever as it is right now.
Shirakawa has an interesting role in all this. She’s a very nice person, clearly – and thank goodness for that. Hopefully we can agree, it is not appropriate for a 14 year-old boy to be giving a 24 year-old salarywoman he’s just met a massage. She knows as soon as he tells her his age, and she’s worried for him – you can tell. But Kou, being an innocent child, is completely open and honest with Shirakawa-san – and she finds it disarming. He reminds her of what it was like before the weight of the world fell on her, and of how heavy that weight feels now. Kou offering to make her a vampire was so sweet, honestly – and it really freaked Nazuna out a little. Shirakawa also marks another human who responds to Nazuna’s true nature in rather blasé fashion, in the end.
All this serves as a firm reminder of just how much a kid Kou-kun still is, though how Nazuna feels about that is unclear (and crucial). The next night she urges him to come up with some fun suggestions to spice up their night, and after some very classic 14 year-old notions – arcade, karaoke, movie – he comes up with “night pool“. This is something obviously very adult, very different from the world he knows. It’s highly sybaritic, the sort of place one imagines vampires hanging out in a more traditional modern vampire story. And it’s sensory overload for Kou, who remains very much a human teenager.
Why does Kou dislike this experience so much? The obvious reason we’ll get to shortly, but I think also because it shatters his illusion of the night. This is not the world of perpetual adolescence he loves so much – this is adulthood, thrown in his face and flaunted. Both are forbidden fruits, but this is not the fantasy he”s cultivating for himself. And then, there’s Nazuna being hit on – natural enough – and responding in kind (not so much). She dismisses it as “teasing” but this was a moment where I thought Nazuna’s treatment of Kou crossed over into mean-spiritedness. She showed a cruel streak here, enjoyed it a little too much. There’s nothing inhuman about that of course, but it is rather unsettling as one looks forward in the story.
Akira-san worries about Kou, and Shirakwa too. And well one should worry about him – more than ever, this episode makes us feel as if he’s in way over his head. He’s putting himself in Nazuna’s hands completely, and even if she weren’t a vampire she’s not done nearly enough to prove those hands are trustworthy. Kou wanting to remain true to himself is understandable, even admirable, especially in a society like Japan with so much pressure to conform. But wanting to remain frozen in time as an adolescent isn’t healthy, and putting his fate in Nazuna’s hands is a leap of faith whose stakes are far higher than he’s capable of understanding at this point.