Character Take-Away: 01 – Akane Minagawa Part 1

akane1

I love analyzing anime. More specifically I love analyzing interesting characters and trying to take their perspective back with me after I finish their story. For the last few years I’ve been trying to think up a good means for writing about that experience. It’s kinda creepy getting inside the head of a character, especially when that character is an antagonist and those are usually the more interesting characters. It’s also a lot of fun and so I’ve decided to stop theory crafting and just go for it. Thank you everyone who encouraged me to blog more. This is your fault! ❤

Blogging like this is an experiment for me. I will attempt to get into the psyche of a character, but ultimately I’m limited by myself. The character I will be able to present is the character as it resonates with me. I’d love to hear from you and how your views on a character are different from mine. I’d also like to hear ideas on how to spin a character and come up with interesting perspective. Don’t expect posts like this too frequently. As fun as this is I don’t know what I’m doing and they are a lot of work.

I picked Akane from Scum’s Wish for this first post because of comments on various sites by fans confused how anyone could act or become like Akane and I think I can help explain what makes her tick, plus it’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about in my free time for the last few weeks anyway. Getting inside her head isn’t too hard for me. I have a harder time analyzing a character like Ecchan, who friends seem to relate with, than I do Akane.(They don’t relate with her, they just think she is hot. >_>)

Originally I planned to write up a single post when Scum’s Wish ends, but I’ve decided it will be more fun to split my impressions in half and have something to add to the conversation now. Feel free to join in on that conversation! The one thing I ask is you don’t share manga spoilers with me. I’m curious about the manga, but intend to finish the anime first. Fair warning before we start… I don’t hate Akane nearly as much as I feel like the story intends.

Half Way Impressions

Who wouldn't be tempted to fall for her? Good thing we know better!

Who wouldn’t be tempted to fall for her? Good thing we know better!

Akane is a fascinating character, one I haven’t been able to stop myself from thinking about since our introduction to the way she thinks in episode four. Part of the reason she is so fascinating to me is that she reminds me of myself, or more accurately something I feel I wasn’t far off from becoming at one point in my life.

I have a calculating personality and so it’s not much of a stretch for me to imagine how an equally manipulative personality might work. There is a certain addicting allure to turning the world around you into a series of games that you draw other people into. I don’t think of that as an inherently evil thing. The monstrous part of Akane’s game is that she has it setup where she is the game master and all her players are unknowing, uncaring or unwilling participants. The only one allowed to feel fulfilled by Akane’s game is Akane herself.

The game is designed to send Akane on a power trip. Love, sex, affection and even the destructive emotions she inspires in others are all part of her power trip. She is indulging in and enjoying all of them without a care for what it might do to her. She says she doesn’t need a reason, but she has a justification. “Being desired feels good.” Every time the story puts us in Akane’s head she gives a justification for her actions.

Akane doesn’t act interested in living up to her own sense of justice. She has essentially given up on her own sense of justice and borrows from other people. At the very least she refuses to apply it to herself and is unable to enforce it. If justice is important to her and she abandoned it anyway then I expect she feels robbed of dignity and is compensating for that.

Emotions don’t follow reason. Logic can be used to explain feelings, it can be used to manipulate them, but not control them outright. Akane’s gone off the deep end indulging in terrible feelings. She acts contrary to how she feels because she enjoys the negative feelings. She says that she feels envious of people who can fall in love and I think she is telling the truth. Envy seems to be a primary motivation for Akane.

Akane says that she can’t fall in love because she loves herself too much, but that doesn’t make sense when we consider how she acts towards people who are affectionate toward her. Akane is only interested in someone if that person is valued by someone else. That could be considered narcissistic if Akane cared to be admired by the people she is manipulating, but Akane isn’t motivated by personal admiration or superiority, she is motivated by tangible power. She is infatuated with being desired, but isn’t interested in being valued directly. That’s not narcissism, right?

Narcissism is a personality disorder I don’t fully understand and Akane might have it, but what I do understand of the disorder and the primary way I identify it is by people who can’t take criticism very well and suffer from an inflated ego. Akane doesn’t feel herself to be superior which is a big part of why she is so interesting to me. It leads me to believe she acts true to how she feels and it’s the way she thinks that is the dissonant part of her personality. It means the kind Akane act comes naturally to her and isn’t an entirely fake persona, although I’m not sure if Akane herself realizes that or not.

The way Hanabi sees Akane is not the way Akane thinks of herself.

The way Hanabi sees Akane is not the way Akane thinks of herself.

If I’m on the right track, Akane’s love for herself is more accurately a love for feeling good than a love for her identity. Her feelings and the way she thinks about them are childish. She is closer to a sociopath or psychopath than a narcissist. I should point out that I’m not a psychologist and so not an authority on disorders, but I can look up symptoms online and see that Akane doesn’t entirely add up with symptoms for any of the above mentioned disorders.

Akane makes the most sense to me as someone who believes herself to be a terrible person and has decided that everyone else is just as bad or worse. The one exception I’d expect her to make is for ignorant people. In her own words “boring” people. I suspect that boring means ignorant to her. It’s someone who isn’t playing the game with her because they don’t know any better.

Akane has such a tight grip on her own emotions that there is no room for someone else to stimulate them, or at least no one who acts in a predictable fashion. She sees Hanabi’s self-righteous attitude as hypocrisy and wants to destroy it to further reinforce her own position in the game she is playing. Maybe she wants to help or enlighten Hanabi. Akane’s focus is clearly on her own feelings, but she does seem to think she is doing Hanabi a favor.

When I hear Akane say she feels envious of people who can fall in love I am immediately suspicious that she is a prisoner of her own game. She doesn’t know how to end that game without destroying her own dignity in the process and probably only got as far into this game as she has because she was never willing to consider giving it up. I know why she revealed herself to Hanabi and the reason is simple. Akane isn’t looking for salvation or hoping for a way out. She is bored and lonely.

Akane understands the desire to look under the hood of human interactions when she feel you aren’t supposed to look and finds it thrilling. When she sees things playing out the way she predicts she wants to find out if she can change the result. She finds her own antics interesting because she can look left when she is supposed to look right and say no when expected to say yes. It’s a childish game, but not a hard one to understand I think. It’s all aimed at making her feel powerful.

There are few things more isolating than always being a few steps ahead of the people you interact with. Akane says people aren’t interested in identity and I am immediately suspicious she feels that way because of how easily she calculates outcomes in human interaction. What she identifies as a lack of interest in identity is actually her own invisibility.

Akane feels like no one is interested in her identity because no one can see it, or at least that is how I suspect she felt as a teenager. Even if someone where to see her modern identity clearly I’m not sure Akane would recognize that. Especially not from someone interested in her because of attraction or admiration. I’m not sure if Akane would recognize her identity even if it were accurately represented by someone else. She hates the thought of getting her identity stuck. Akane is the type of person who would rather be thought of as evil than risk becoming a boring player in another person’s game.

Akane abandoned her own sense of justice, probably because she couldn’t live up to it, so someone who admires her is someone with a poor sense of judgement. I’d expect her to feel like they were acting possessive for wanting to spend time with her and be unwilling to trust anyone other than herself. Her sense of reason is likely damaged by her indulgence in the game she plays. You can’t reason with a drunk. Something like that.

Becoming antagonistic to fill the void left by hollow interactions with people is something I understand. You really don’t need a reason for it beyond valuing yourself. The logic is pretty simple. Negative feelings > No feelings. Then once you indulge in negative feelings you realize they are actually stronger than positive ones. If you enjoy that… The temptation to become Akane starts to make sense I think. The capacity is another thing entirely, but then all of the characters in Scum’s Wish feel like they are living in a perfect storm.

I’ve no desire to justify Akane or the way she acts and Akane herself probably wouldn’t care either way, but I can understand the boredom that comes with simply allowing things to play out as they should. There is no sense of engagement when you know how something is going to play out and routinely demonstrate to yourself that your predictions are accurate. So instead, Akane uses those predictions and twists them for her enjoyment.

Akane says she didn’t feel guilt on her first power trip, but that seems more like a lie she told herself than something we should believe. She wouldn’t remember it vividly enough to point it out if she didn’t feel it. A more accurate representation of emotion would be that she easily squashed whatever guilt she did feel in favor of her power trip. She thinks she sees something similar in Hanabi. She might even feel like Hanabi deserves to be punished for acting like her, though I doubt she allows herself to think of it that way.

If not guilt maybe hatred is at work?

If not guilt maybe hatred is at work?

In looking for an explanation for how Akane became the way she is, I think it’s easy enough to see her childhood memory as a snapping point. She looks at it that way herself, though I expect Akane would more likely describe it as enlightenment. She was lonely and found a way to fill that loneliness by amusing herself at the expense of the people who didn’t understand or see through to her identity. She didn’t think she was in the right for it, but it didn’t matter. No one could pass judgement on her anyway. They didn’t know.

Since her snapping point Akane has become comfortable with living in dissonance with how she feels. Her feelings are more like that of an innocent child than an adult. She short circuits her own reasoning by saying the way she acts feels good and relies on the affection of other people for value and comfort. She can’t value that affection unless it’s aimed at someone other than her and she is stealing it. Akane is nihilistic.

My initial analysis is that Akane is primarily motivated by loneliness, envy and maybe hatred, though she absolutely refuses to aim that hatred at herself. I’m doubtful she even knows what jealousy is. Her actions that seem like jealously are motivated instead by the joy of crushing something important to someone else or maybe the thrill of victory. Akane is more of a nihilistic warlord than a woman scorned. It makes sense to think she isn’t very good at understanding jealously.

Akane’s power trip is a means to fill the hole left by her disconnect with people, or at least it was originally. She isn’t going to feel jealous of people she never felt connected with in the first place. She does it because it feels good and she has long since thrown caution to the wind. She has accepted her position as a villain and would do so again if given the chance to start over. She has no reason not to be the villain. As far as she is concerned no one is interested in her individuality in the first place, including Akane herself. That’s kind of sad…

The biggest question I have for Akane is why she desires to feel powerful so strongly. If it’s not guilt then what is it? She can say it feels good all day long, but so do plenty of other things. It almost seems like she is disgusted by the game she herself is playing and wants to crush anyone else who joins in. The fact she became a school teacher despite her dislike of spending time on a routine supports that.

It’s as if Akane considers herself valuable the way spiders are useful for eating other bugs. I can’t help feeling Akane is actually the most naive character in this anime, even potentially beating Kanai at hopeless naivety. It all feels strangely accurate to life, the emotions if not the characters themselves. I can’t bring myself to hate her.

Note to self: If I end up falling for this character it will be because I’ve convinced myself she is tragic. DO NOT DO THIS. I would have been head over heals for Akane when I was Mugi’s age and wouldn’t be enjoying this anime much at all… Sadistic girls aren’t appealing to me, but the tragedy of it all is irresistible! … I guess I’m wired wrong in the head too, just in my own way.

“Time passes equally for everyone. It’s up to you whether your life is boring or not. The bell dictates timetables, when you arrive at school, when you leave school, after school, going to bed early, waking up early. Time needs to be divided to be visible. This place dictates so much. The number one thing I desire. Something that will break the mundane routine of everyday life. Freedom.” – Akane’s Wish.

How Other Characters View Akane

Mugi

Poor Mugi, I don’t want to see what this story is going to do to him. He admires Akane and he hates himself for it. I’m not sure how I’d go about trying to help someone like Akane become a more positive existence, but I’m fairly certain admiration for the monster she has intentionally become is the worst way to go about it. If Akane were to give up her game her innocence would rival Moka’s… Would Mugi even like that version of Akane? I doubt it.

Hanabi

Hanabi feels hatred and disgust toward Akane, but most of all she is jealous. Hanabi actually might be able to beat Akane at her own game if jealousy is as much of a blind spot for Akane as I think it is. Hanabi has a strong sense of justice which is something Akane lacks, but I expect her to abandon it in trying to beat Akane. She just might introduce jealousy to Akane. In a weird way it’s Hanabi’s inner child that has what Akane and Hanabi both want. A love that they are comfortable making a part of their own identity. I suspect that is where the theme of this story will take us anyway.

Hanabi has the world to lose and little to gain for competing with Akane. The opposite is true for Akane. She is probably at the limit of how much she can isolate herself from other people and her games are becoming more extreme as she grows bored of the people she manipulates. They are both kryptonite for each other. Akane needs someone to take her down a notch, but Hanabi? I’m not sure. I have a feeling the second half of the story won’t be kind to her.

Ecchan

Ecchan views Akane as one of several rivals for Hanabi and really isn’t that different from her I think. The biggest difference I spot between the two of them is that Ecchan’s personality split off in a masochist way where Akane split off in a sadistic way. Ecchan has decided to give her own identity meaning by devoting it to Hanabi where as Akane has decided she isn’t interested in her own identity and just wants to feel good about herself.

For some reason Ecchan irritates me more than Akane does which seems to be an opposite reaction from everyone else I’ve talked about this story with. I’d like to hear conflicting interpretations. I know I’m not being kind toward Ecchan and I kind of am with Akane? I didn’t intend that when I started writing this post, but I’ve started feeling sorry for her. That isn’t fair to Ecchan so I’ll just go ahead and point out that I’m having a hard time sympathizing with her.

Kanai

Kanai is clueless… Or is he? We don’t know that much about him at the moment, but I can take other bits of the narrative and guess where he might fit in. Kanai doesn’t play games. He doesn’t even stop to consider them when his own feelings are on the line. His interpretation of Akane as a kind person who reminds him of his mother might be the thing to actually hurt her. He might resonate with her if only because his impression of himself is nearly identical to Akane’s impression of him.

What a cruel twist it would be for Akane if she actually falls in love with Kanai.

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2 thoughts on “Character Take-Away: 01 – Akane Minagawa Part 1

  1. Huh, I swear you’re from the future. “Would Mugi even like that version of Akane? I doubt it.” You were right on the money for that one. “What a cruel twist it would be for Akane if she actually falls in love with Kanai.” The first one I kinda expected, but that one? I always thought of Kanai as someone else playing Akane’s little game, and never expected that to be the ending. I don’t know how you even guessed it though. Anyway, I found your analysis to be very useful, as it gave me a better view of Akane. I’ve always known briefly how Akane thought, but your explanation gave me in more detail, her ideals and feelings. I think you’re a pretty smart man, and keep up the good work with these.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you got something out of my analysis. I had a lot of fun writing this up. I’ve been meaning to write more I just haven’t made the time.

      Honestly I’m a bit surprised myself by how accurately I called the whole Kanai thing. I guess I got a bit obsessed with the little details of this story between episodes. I loved how it all played out.

      Like

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