by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Kemono Jihen ?
In 1913, author May Sinclair wrote of Anne Bronte's 1848 novel The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, “the slamming of [Helen's] bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England.” Although Kemono Jihen isn't technically comparable to what is now considered the first feminist novel, Sinclair's words echoed in my mind when Akira slapped Yui in the finale of that show. The moment is, in its way, just as important in the context of its story as a woman taking a stand against her abuser. Up to that moment, Yui is making the argument that he somehow deserved to be taken over by the nullstone and to suffer because of it. His reasoning is that the snowy village, the home of the yuki-onna and yuki-onoko, was destroyed by his hand, and he has all of those deaths on his conscience. In his mind, Akira doesn't need to suffer anything because it was Yui who had always taken all of the suffering onto himself. The pain is Yui's, and so too should be the punishment.
What Yui is not, and perhaps is unable, to take into account is the fact that what he did was pushing back against the women who had abused and raped him. Looked at in another light, what he did was self-defense, because they had been continually assaulting him from the moment he reached sexual maturity, and then tortured him emotionally by telling him – falsely – that they had killed the brother he tried so desperately to save. It's frankly amazing that he didn't fight back this way before now, and that he allowed the nullstone to do it for him, perhaps knowing that it would eventually kill him, too, says a lot about how conflicted he remained. Akira's slap, therefore, is him doing his level best to force Yui to wake up. Perhaps because he's lived in the modern world, he understands that Yui isn't to blame, even though he won't be able to stop blaming himself for everything that happened. And if Yui won't listen when Akira repeats his own words back to him, he's just going to have to make him listen. Akira's entire story arc has been wanting to be useful, helpful, and to be with his brother. Forcing Yui to actually hear him is the culmination of all of those things.
And it's a good thing we get some sort of solid ending, because most of the rest of it is basically, “read the manga, kids!” (I would! Please license it, someone!) Not that it necessarily feels unsatisfying, because it does still give us some solid clues and answers. With the fusing of the nullstone and the lifestone (and didn't you just love Kabane spitting it up to save the day) into a shape that could clearly hold more stones, we learn that both are the direct result of the history of kemono and humans in Japan. Only the most powerful inherited the stones after a series of historical incidents, so Kabane's parents might be less “dead” and more “missing because they're trying to thwart Inari or an unnamed big bad.” He's got a clear path to look for them now, and one that might be able to help shape the future of human/kemono relations – something that we know can work out, not just because of Kabane's parents, but also that episode about the bakeneko and her man. Not that Inari's giving up, but honestly, I can't think of anything less effective than putting poor little Kon on the job. At least we know she'll be eating well and sleeping indoors for a while.
So this is how Kemono Jihen's anime version ends. Akira and Yui are happy and Yui has a fighting chance now. So does Kon, off on a road trip to Shikoku with Inugami and Kabane, which will hopefully result in Kemon Jihen 2: The Quest for More Kemonostones. Inari's still up to no good, and Nobimaru may be a bit more familiar with her dirty methods, Mihai's got his game back, and Shiki…I'm a little worried there, actually. But it isn't a terrible spot to wrap up on, and we did get a nice GeGeGe no Kitaro Easter egg in there, so while I could (and do) wish for more, I think I can call this a series well done overall.
Kemono Jihen is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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