by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Kemono Jihen ?
Please enjoy the cute screencap of Akira and his twin brother Yui. It's almost all of the innocent content you're going to get from Kemono Jihen this week.
Not that this is a particularly gruesome or graphic episode. In fact, all of the disturbing content is implied rather than shown. In part this is almost certainly because of broadcast restrictions and the age of the show's intended audience, but there's more to it than that. Kemono Jihen, as we saw in Shiki's family history, is very good at only showing us what we strictly need to see and letting our brains fill in the blanks. In the case of Aya, that was the question of who her father was. We know that Shiki's uncle bred their mother repeatedly in an attempt to produce “the golden web,” and we saw the children who were the product of her breeding with other kemono. That Shiki and Aya are both humanoid sets them apart from their siblings – and since we know that Shiki's father was human, it's not too big a leap to realize who Aya's father must have been since she's also human-shaped.
That same approach is now being applied to Akira's past, and once again, it's very effective. We knew before this week that Akira had a twin brother, Yui, and that the two are the in-show kemono yuki-onoko, the male version of the snow woman yokai, yuki-onna. (As a side note, while yuki-onoko don't exist in Japanese folklore, there are snow children of varying genders mentioned in Shigeru Mizuki's Tono Monogatari, which adapts a famous folklore text recording tales local to the Tono region. Drawn & Quarterly is releasing it in English.) What we didn't know, or at least didn't realize, was that yuki-onoko are only born once every hundred years, which makes the twins very special. Why are they special? Do I need to give you the talk about the birds and the bees?
It is striking, and perhaps a little bit strange, that both Akira's and Shiki's pasts are caught up in the idea of procreation. But what's more interesting is that both seem to deal with the idea of forced procreation, with the message that it's abusive no matter what the gender of the party being imprisoned. While we don't get a firm answer, there's a very strong implication that the twins' father was locked in a hut similar to the shed Shiki's mom went to “work” in, forced to help the yuki-onna community conceive children until he eventually produced a male heir towards the end of his lifespan. (When we see his fingers, they're those of an elderly person.) That carries with it its own unsettling implication about the twins' future: when they reach sexual maturity, one or both of them will replace their father in the breeding hut and become the stud for the continuation of the yuki-onna species. To that end, the boys are being cared for exceedingly well – they aren't even allowed to feed themselves.
Only Yui seems to be at all aware that this may not be a good thing. Although the twins find a hiker's belongings together, it's Yui who puts the idea of flight into Akira's head, Yui who tells him that they should go find Inugami, and when only one of them can escape, Yui lets Akira go. He's basically sacrificing himself to save his weaker brother (or the brother he sees as more fragile). At this point it's maybe worth remembering that “sexual maturity” in no way equates to “emotional maturity,” because Yui's psyche has clearly been damaged to the point where coming back from what he's experienced may not be possible. I'd be surprised if he hasn't laid waste to the village where he and Akira were born (and I wouldn't blame him), but Akira isn't in a position to save Yui all by himself. Given where we end the episode, his most likely helpers are Mihai or the Inari/Nobimaru duo, and I don't have a whole lot of faith in either party.
But maybe Akira will manage to make like Elsa and let go of his insecurities and anxieties and do what he has to to save his brother. If any anime character could go full Disney Princess, I think it's him.
Kemono Jihen is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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