by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Kemono Jihen ?
No matter how bad you thought your last family reunion was, it can't possibly hold a candle to Shiki's. After the horrible revelation last week that his uncle was using his mother in an attempt to breed a “golden web” (a spider kemono who spins gold), things only get worse this week when all of those failed breeding experiments come out of the woods to defend Uncle Akio from Shiki – because unlike Shiki, their “uncle” (who I hope to god isn't Uncle Dad) is the only caregiver they've ever really known.
There's something very sad behind the terrifying visual of caterpillar-spiders, ape-spiders, and wolf-spider hybrids all swarming around. Akio clearly only cares about them for their defense of him, and a piece of him doesn't even understand that what he's done is wrong: when he tells Shiki that these are his brothers and sisters and that they can even speak words that they most often heard from Kumi, there is little to no malicious intent behind his words. Whether he really thinks that poor Shiki is going to be happy to hear abominations crooning “I love you, Shiki” in his mother's voice or if he's trying to throw him off balance isn't entirely clear, but there's still something unsettlingly despicable about the entire statement.
None of this is to say that we shouldn't love our relatives who might be different or even monstrous to the outside eye. We absolutely should – but that's not what Akio is asking Shiki to do here. He's using Shiki's half-siblings to try to shake his nephew up enough that he won't follow through on hanging him. They're not his nieces and nephews in the same way that Shiki (and Aya, the little girl we saw last week) are; they're kemono he can use for his own purposes, just like he used Kumi to create them in the first place. They're a means to an end for him; it's just that right now, that end is “not dying,” whereas the end he has in mind for Aya is securing his legacy as the discoverer, or possibly creator, of the panacea golden web.
It's almost certainly no coincidence that the color of the fabled cure-all is gold. Akio's madness in pursuing it is akin to that of the alchemists of old – people who sort of stumbled on chemistry while trying to create the philosopher's stone which could turn lead into gold. Aya, for him, is that stone, and while he does call her by name when she shows up on the scene, the way that she introduces herself is strikingly different. Rather than saying that she's Shiki's half-sister (which she certainly is), she says that she's “the golden web.” Essentially she dehumanizes herself by naming herself to be a coveted object rather than a person, and she'd only be doing that if that's what she's heard most often from her guardian. When we discover that not only has Akio hidden her golden cocoon so that she can't take it and leave him, but also used that cocoon to keep Kumi alive but in a comatose state just in case he does lose Aya, it's horribly obvious that his greed for a lasting legacy has far outstripped any love he may have felt for his niece(s) and nephew(s). Kemono are things to him, not people, and that, more than anything, is what drives Shiki and Aya away.
That Shiki has determined that his uncle doesn't need to die in the end is an interesting statement. Inugami tells Akio that he's “resigned” to occasional killing, although he doesn't like it, and when Shiki tells Kabane that he doesn't need to kill Akio for him, he's siding with Inugami over not just his uncle, but also the Inaris of the world, who eliminate obstacles rather than leave them to eke out their own existences. It's hard to say who has the right of it, because left alone, Akio absolutely could come back to bite Shiki and Aya. Does not killing him make Shiki a fool? A humanitarian? Or just someone who can't come up with a better way to say, “You mean nothing to me?”
I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that thanks to Nobimaru, no one will ever have to worry about Akio again.
Kemono Jihen is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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