「ニャーコの行方」 (Nyaako no Yukue)
THE MALE X FEMALE COMMUNICATION CONUNDRUM
Does anyone remember that really cheesy best-selling book from the 90s called “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”? Women and men across the globe found themselves vindicated and seen––heard in their struggles to be understood. The point is, while the claims in that book are extreme, it is undeniable that culturally and historically men and women have clashed in communication styles. Yes, we are different: women go through hormonal cycles that men will never go through which have a profound effect on us; and women will never know how it is to live with as much testosterone in our bodies since puberty as men–as one example. But we’re not so different that we cannot understand one another at all.
In Meowy’s Whereabouts our author wastes nothing in making his statements clear. After a scolding from Makima-san, Power and Denji are taking a vending machine break when the first opportunity to connect presents itself: Power has lost her pet cat that was also her sole companion. As a viewer, my first instinct was to go “Oh, I see, they now share a meaningful connection. Denji knows what she’s going through.” Alas, nope. They get caught up in minor details, unable to look past their own noses. “I can’t understand because you feel that about a cat. I like dogs.” kind of thing. The same failure in communication happens again when they’re sitting in the cable car, on the way to rescue Meowy. Denji shares about how Pochita now lives in his heart, and Power thinks he’s being metaphorical when he’s really being literal. And while she gives him some solid advice on the nature of death as an event and how you should face it head on, this advice is based on a misinterpretation, so he thinks she’s being extremely insensitive and nonsensical. “I don’t think I can ever get along with her,” He thinks. The same happens yet again when Denji mentions his Chainsaw transformation. Power thinks he’s joking, and he makes no effort to rectify her misinterpretation. Again, they clash. Again, they continue to talk past each other.
WOMEN AND MANIPULATION
So far we’ve been introduced to four members of the main cast: Denji, Makima, Aki and Power. And it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the female characters are the ones willing to manipulate and use male expectations against them as leverage to get what they want. They’re also willing to lie without a trace of remorse, to get what they want. At the loss of her cat Power doesn’t ‘realize’ the weight of her betrayal, nor does she feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ about doing it. But she does empathize with Denji for the first time. She actually sees him as a person, an entity with feelings and experiences like her own. Before this, she could only say, “I don’t understand you, I hate humans.”
In an interesting parallel with last week’s episode, Denji finds himself yet again being scolded by Makima-san. But this time it’s Power’s turn to lie–whereas Denji, completely aware he’ll be caught in his lie, bashfully blames Aki’s ‘assault’ on the Nut Devil. Power on the other hand, without hesitation, accuses Denji of ordering her to act. And the more he tries to speak the truth, the more she doubles down. Power only cares about her personal well-being. She doesn’t want to be blamed, and doesn’t want to be the one who made the mistake. Makima also doesn’t care about the truth, she only cares whether they’re achieving the results they’re meant to in order for her to achieve her goals. I should mention that all I’m doing is analyzing what the author is conveying through his characters and the theme’s he’s choosing to address. I also don’t think the author has extremist views that all women are beautiful cold-blooded manipulative harpies from hell, nor is he saying that men are incapable of manipulation and leverage of female expectations. It’s more nuanced than that. I just thought it worth mentioning anyway.
TESTS FOR DENJI
Again, I love an author who doesn’t waste details. As Aki drives Makima back from her meeting, he disapprovingly mentions Denji’s desire to befriend devils and how this makes him unfit to be a devil hunter. This topic comes full circle when Denji faces yet another betrayal (Power), and he gets an opportunity to test his own position on this matter. Squeezed half to death and bleeding internally, Denji stares up at Power and for a moment wonders, “Was I wrong?” The question is immediately disconfirmed. Once again, Denji’s empathy dominates. Through his own personal experience with Pochita gone missing for a day, he wonders, how must she have felt going to sleep every night knowing her cat was in the hands of a devil?
Another stepping stone in Denji’s character development is his realization while fighting the bat devil: patience and pleasantry aren’t going to get him where he wants to go; being agreeable won’t cut it; he’ll just lose things and get hurt. So we reach another level of aggressiveness and assertiveness. You want something? You’ll have to take it. His goals won’t simply fall in his lap by the good will of others. As a sixteen-year-old thrown head first into adult circumstances and questions, he’s realizing that if he just takes people at their word, he’ll often just get fucked. Although sadly for him, I think we’ll see him fall into this trap again and again. After all, delusional are the ones who think change happens at the turn of a key. We’re all susceptible to fall into old behavioral patterns, it’s trial and consistency that make up change. I digress, Denji is having progressive realizations.
IT’S LOOKING PRETTY BLEAK
Here’s something that stood out to me. At the end of Makima’s meeting with the commission’s higher-ups they tell her, “Don’t go getting attached to them [your dogs in training].” I think this is an intentional misdirect on the author’s part. I know it’s quite early on, but here’s my speculative two cents: I never once got a sense that Makima could get truly attached to Denji or Power. She finds them interesting because she wants to see how powerful they are and what they can do. But I suspect this is meant to make people think deep down she actually does care about them, and she has a plan to have them accepted and integrated. Then comes the plot twist: we’ll be shown not only that she doesn’t care, but just how much she actually doesn’t.
PS: Look out for Choya’s comment! As a manga reader he always shares valuable inputs and impressions–I personally appreciate them a lot and think you will as well 🙂
ED3: 「刃渡り2億センチ」 (Hawatari 2 Oku-senchi) by Maximum the Hormone