revengeisalie: (That I'm strong for myself.)
[personal profile] revengeisalie
Sooo being very involved with pretending to be Rin on LJ for the sake of pretendy funtimes, I often engage in thinkythoughts about her character and her place in the overall narrative of Blade of the Immortal. And recently, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment concerning that, which I am now going to share with you! Yay!

Thus here it is: an essay investigating Rin's character arc as a coming-of-age story.

This is something I came to think about this while trying to figure out how Rin views herself. From the very beginning, it's pretty obvious that Rin's vendetta is her life: it's her primary motivation in anything she does, to the point that it cuts her off from any other pursuits she might be enjoying were she not so focused on this one thing. So the starting point was "Rin defines herself by her vendetta".

Then it occurred to me that another great factor and motivator for her is Manji. She is very emotionally attached to him and will do absolutely anything to protect the guy, that she has amply proven.

Is Rin then defined by the people whom she has a strong attachment to?

That's just the thing. When the story starts, Rin is sixteen years old. At this time, she has been living for the sake of achieving revenge for her parents for two years, ever since she lost them. It is probably safe to say that up until her fourteenth birthday, Rin's identity consisted of "daughter of Asano Takayoshi and Toki".

She has not had time to be anyone else.

Elaborating on that, she carries out her vengeance in that very function -- for her parents, as daughter of her parents. As a child.

And because that one purpose fills out her life, it has become a stand-in for growing up -- both in the narrative and the metanarrative. I have sometimes asked myself why she's so hesitant about killing Anotsu, why she doesn't just get it over with, this is exactly why. She can't. To her, it's not just about killing a guy; it's a journey, and one along which she has to engage with the world on her own terms. A journey of self-discovery, over the course of which parameters get changed as she gets feedback from the people around her and faces issues that previously weren't a factor in her life, in which she has to find out how to respond to them.

So if the place she started out on was childhood and the vendetta is the growing up, then whatever the outcome of that vendetta will be is the destination: it means becoming a full adult and leaving childhood behind for good. It means becoming Asano Rin as Asano Rin. Thus, the question of whether or not to kill Anotsu becomes a question of "what kind of adult do I want to become?"

Until she knows this, can be sure of this, she cannot kill Anotsu. I have held the theory before that part of her needs him to be around. He has ruined her childhood, but in a strange way, he has also become a thwarted symbol of it. And as long as he's around, she won't have to move on, won't have to lay anything to rest, won't have to let go of her pain. Before, I wasn't thinking so much about whether that means the consequence of it has to be her killing him, and by now, I'm starting to realize that in the end, for her coming-of-age narrative to come full circle, it is almost imperative for her to let him live. Because it means the greater departure from her original self, the self that wanted to kill him in the name of her parents. Thus, it means the greater growth.

What it means is that she has to find the point where she can say "it's done".

In this light, it also becomes very interesting how Manji keeps encouraging her to stick to her guns and just kill Anotsu; considering he also expresses a wish for Rin to remain a child for a while longer. And in fact, the manga keeps establishing that Rin goes through the greatest amount of growth when she's separated from him, making Hyakurin's early words to her true: "You'll never become strong if you let yourself be protected by a man." On the other hand, Manji, as said before, represents a new motivator for Rin: particularly in the prison arc, he becomes the center and the goal of her actions. While she grows the most when away from him, she ultimately wishes to be reunited to him; while at the same time, this story arc seems entirely disconnected from the revenge arc.

This reminds me much of what I read in a Japanese essay about the traditional model of lifestyle for women: that they will always have someone to answer to. As children, they obey their fathers; during their working years their husbands; and finally, in old age, their sons. They are always defined by someone else -- by the men in their life. Perhaps, then, Manji symbolizes this traditional feminine role and the desire to find comfort in it. (Because, let's face it, when everything around you tells you you should be one thing, entirely rejecting it can be a damn scary prospect.) Furthermore, he mirrors her story, as he represents both ends of it: childhood by his words, adulthood (in the "traditionally feminine" model) by his role in Rin's life. Though one should note that the being-defined-by thing is mutual in their case: while Manji represents an option for Rin to become his somethingorother, at the same time much of what defines him is his role as "Rin's bodyguard". But that is a whole other essay or two, I feel.

Also note how Rin initially did seem to think it would be merely a matter of hunting down Anotsu and killing him; I find this very telling if one considers that many children and young teenagers want to grow up fast and seem to think it's a relatively easy thing to do. This is certainly true of Rin on the non-metaphorical level, too.

BUT I DIGRESS my point was that Rin's waffling makes perfect narrative sense (beyond "WELL IF SHE KILLED HIM RIGHT AWAY THERE WOULD BE NO STORY") and it's good and necessary that she waffles.

Also she'd probably love waffles.

THE END.
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「浅野 凜」 Asano Rin

February 2016

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