Last year around Christmas, I wrote about Celty and Shinra because Christmas is for lovers! This year, I’m keeping the love theme going and I’m going to celebrate one of my very favourite anime mothers, Sachiko Fujinuma from Erased, because Christmas is also for families!
I have written before about Sachiko. She remains one of my favourite mother characters of all time and media, and really just a great character all together.
Family dynamics are messy and complicated but also fundamental to our experience as people. Even through they take the backseat to romantic or even platonic relationships in anime (and most media) we still have plenty of chances to explore them through fiction. But of all the possible relationships, I find that mother/son tends to be the least exploited and often takes a very grim turn indeed.
This is why I latched on to Sachiko and Satoru. Their interactions where by far the best part of Erased for me. More particularly, Sachiko’s unwavering show of strength and love made a deep impact on me and regularly brings the series back to the forefront of my mind.
The fantastic thing about Sachiko as a character, is that she defies classical archetypes. She’s not the pure and comforting Mother Mary type. Her imperfections are laid open for all to see and she isn’t infallible either. She’s not a martyr or at the very least, actively refuses to be one. She draws the line and keeps her son, and pretty much everyone else in check. She takes responsibility for her action and decisions, never hesitating to take matters into her own hands. Finally, she isn’t the overbearing weight that pushes her kids to insanity as popularized by Hitchcock.
She’s a balanced, flawed and complex individual like the rest of us, which makes for an outstanding character indeed.
I must say that unlike the characters I usually feature in my studies, the narrative clearly admires Sachiko as much as I do. Not only is she lovingly developed and given and active role in the course of events, but the story itself insists on how truly admirable Sachiko is. The really special part is, she manages to be both the knight in shining armor and the damsel in distress! Now that’s impressive.
I’ve talked before about Sachiko’s devastatingly beautiful devotion to her son. Her measured approach of unquestioning support and though love are a tour the force we can all learn from. She cared for a comatose child for over a decade, by herself, without ever giving up hope and she nagged and bullied that same kid around when he was wasting his life away, propelled by the same nurturing instinct.
I’ve mentioned her indomitable strength when standing up for a lost little girl and taking care of Satoru’s friends. She is not someone I would want to be lectured by. In many ways she reminds me of my own mom. That’s a huge compliment you guys!
SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 1…
What I haven’t mentioned at all, is that she’s the dead mum trope. Sachiko gets killed at the very beginning of the series and this serves as a catalyst for all the events in Erased. It’s a little disturbing how short-lived anime mothers are. Even when one is part of the main cast, they still find a way to off her in the opening act! We had already seen a bit of Sachiko’s sass and fabulous personality, so I was disappointed when it seemed that she was just the plot device sacrifice. I realized that the time travelling storyline would allow us to explore the character more but still, tradition would dictate that Satoru would rediscover his loving and patient mom and this would simply drive him further on.
You see, heroes can only be heroes when they have someone to save after all. And Sachiko fit the bill. I saw it all play out in my head. Satoru, armed with hindsight and desperation would unravel the mysteries of the past, save Kayo (who would naturally fall in love with him), and his now tender loving mother would not have to die in the present. Also, he would buy her a house with the money he now makes as an executive at the publishing company…. It was all quite clear.
Erased did not care about my plans at all!!! Those of you who have seen the series know that exactly none of that came to pass. You know, as I’m writing this I have to say: Erased was a pretty good show. I just reassessed it in my mind.
In particular though, when dealing with Sachiko, it managed to not only upend but possible reinvent the classic trope. Sachiko is a damsel in distress. She quite literally needs Satoru to save her life and her death is the driving force behind the plot. But she’s far from a prop, in fact she in turn saves Satoru time and time again. Her own strength and capabilities dwarf the actual protagonist’s at every turn.
Throughout the dénouement, she serves ad mentor and rescuer to the main characters on a regular basis and yet, still remains Satoru’s initial motivation.
Because that’s what a good parent is, everything. They push us forward while making sure we never fall off the edge. The keep us safe but let us make our own mistakes. The impose consequences so that we learn, but shield us from the harsh world. We often find it annoying…
And because these are feats of wonder that happen every day, it can be difficult to show in a story. Sachiko is a great mother to Satoru. She did absolutely every contradictory thing it takes to give her son his best chance. She was also a fantastic mother to the plot overall, serving contradictory roles as needed and never asking for anything in return.
I think that’s pretty amazing! Get your mom something great for Christmas, she’s a hero.