This week’s a little different folks. You probably noticed that I usually do my character studies on tragic characters that don’t tend to escape the storyline unharmed. This can be a little problematic since I favour goofy comedies with lighthearted plots. I’ve been running low on subjects, so I’ve adapted the theme a little.
Sakie Sato, dedicated teacher and resident succubus of Interviews with Monster Girls certainly doesn’t come to any harm during the course of the series, but it’s a stretch to say her life has been nothing but fun and games. Sure, she may be on an upswing, but she’s definitely had to overcome some hardships to get where she is.
I realize that a CGDCT show may not be the first place you think of turning to for feminist messaging. This is probably why I was so very pleasantly surprised by how deftly the character of Sakie is presented. Obviously, the show didn’t go into too much depth, but it still attempted to depict a nicely rounded image of the succubus’ plight that draws many parallels to certain real-world issues. It should be noted that although problems are presented there aren’t much solutions offered. It can seem a little grim at times.
A little context for those who may not have seen the show, and a reminder for the rest. In the Monster Girls universe, Succubus are a species of monster girls who develop their “powers” unpredictably around puberty. Essentially, at that age their bodies start to produce an aphrodisiac pheromone which has a drastic effect on anyone who is susceptible to it ( i.e. who is attracted to women). The succubus themselves have little control over this (just like most of us can’t really control our internal chemistry). At best they can take certain measures to reduce the effect as much as possible.
In practice this means wearing clothes that conceal their bodies completely and hide their figures, even in stifling hot weather. Not wearing alluring hairstyles (although what is alluring depends on the beholder). Avoiding situations where they are alone with a member of the opposite sex or when they would be surrounded by a lot of them. For instance, taking the first train in the morning to not ride during rush hour. In practice, this renders the succubus more or less a self-imposed prisoner.
Moreover, so as not to risk any potential complications that may come from having a succubus around, many employers will avoid there is an unspoken understanding that they are not welcomed in certain public venues. A succubus cannot expect to find a long term steady relationship and is very unlikely to ever have a family of her own. Even friendships are difficult. As a result, many succubi become completely isolate and hopeless. Some lash out against society ending up criminals and outcasts, some try to make the best of it by taking advantage of their powers, further increasing the prejudice against them. It’s never quite spelled out, but it is implied that some simply can’t accept the grim future in store and don’t make it.
Of course, this is fiction. It’s taking it to the extreme and exaggerating to prove a point. But you have to admit, some of these things do sound depressingly familiar, don’t they?
And in this sad state of affairs, enter a very unlikely hero. Shy, sweet, unassuming and completely unstoppable Sakie. Now that’s what I call a best girl.
What made Sakie’s character really stand out in my mind is the balanced and somewhat disarmingly earnest presentation she was given. Considering everything I described above, it would have been easy to turn Sakie’s into some sort of figurehead. A spokesperson for CAUSE. That would have been devastating to the character and probably a great disservice to the show in general. What makes Sakie’s effective at getting any sort of message across is exactly the fact that she’s so much more than that message.
Instead of a classic martyr to the cause, bemoaning the injustice of her circumstances, Sakie’s is a trooper. A kind and gentle soul doing the best she can with the lot she has. Her problems and obstacles are painful and unfair, occasionally she buckles a bit under the weight of it all, but they’ re not insurmountable. Neither is she the only one with trials to overcome.
We don’t see a militant warrior fighting for a subjective justice. We see a real person trying to find the best possible path in life. And when she has moments of weakness, we see those too, in heart wrenching detail. But that’s all they are, moments.
This girl fascinated me in her normalness. I actually recognize her. I’ve known girls like that. Insecure because they’re seen as outstanding. Self conscious over things they couldn’t possibly control. And trying to figure it all out without having any clear answers to offer.
What’s more, never once does Sakie’s, or the show itself, place any blame on those around her. It’s clear that the men affected by her presence are just as unwitting as she is in the situation. Yes the restrictions placed on succubi seem terribly unfair but not entirely unreasonable. At the very least it’s easy to understand why these would exist. On the other hand, the narrative presents those that make an effort to get past that aphrodisiac effect as heroic and wonderful.
It’s possible that once again I’m the one that’s been too dense to pick up on a common message. However, whenever I do notice these appeals for justice and equality, there’s usually an aggressive tone to them. A notion of immediate and drastic change. There are people who are right and people who are wrong. As these are complex and difficult issues they get oversimplified down to two clear sides and grey zones are unacceptable.
For me the character of Sakie is more powerful than such a simple message. She’s an appeal to sensibility and kindness. A hope that we can figure out how to make the best possible world together. Not only because it’s right and fair and all that hoopla… But because if we don’t, we may miss out on getting to know some truly lovely monster girls and that would be a real shame…
I rarely write these types of opinion pieces on my blog. If you’re a frequent reader you probably have a good sense of my values but I rarely go on about them. I tried my hand at a mildly feminist post a long time ago.. Let’s just say I hope I’ve improved. This said, much more interesting than writing about the subject, I would love to read your views on it. Do you think a stronger more uncompromising message is what’s needed at this point. Or do you think like me that now is precisely the time fora softer more inclusive approach?