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Analysis: Kami-sama no Memo-chou

Ugliness and Strength

Not physical ugliness, but the "ugliness" of one's own dark side being a source of strength. The world as shown is ultimately a dark one where people have to resort to ugliness to accomplish anything, even something good - ugly methods, ugly words, ugly deeds. Violence, lies, humiliation.

Narumi can't do anything at first, considering himself detached from the rest of the world, unwilling to get into the muck of living (even if he wouldn't phrase it that way himself). It's when someone drags him down to Earth that he starts participating, and he's most effective when he steps up and takes part in the ugly world that he'd so disdained. Trying to hold back, and hold to a more ideal view, only causes more problems.

He wins the help of a violent gang leader by becoming his "brother" and accepting that he's part of Souchirou's gang. He shows Nemoto that he's not completely forgotten by learning Nemoto's tricks and humiliating him in baseball. Trying to make peace between Souchirou and Renji does nothing, and he has to help dig up some dark secrets from their past to end the conflict. Narumi is only effective when he lets himself be an ugly person doing ugly things.

Souchirou knows he's ugly. He doesn't shy away from it. And it makes him strong and effective. If Souchirou sets out to do something, he will do it, because he's not afraid to resort to violence, lies, and other unpleasant things. Renji's gang only manages to get to him when Souchirou's spread out his gang while trying to do and protect something legitimate, the band's performances. Being less ugly, by moving into legitimate works and also protecting Hison, is what made him vulnerable, and he paid for it in blood.

Alice is perhaps the "purest" character in deeds and intentions for one reason: she assumes more ugliness onto herself than she has, attempting to carry the weight of the whole world's darkness. She blames herself for being not smart or fast enough to solve all the world's problems. She quietly drowns in the ugliness of a whole planet... and comes out never having to lift a finger against another, with some harsh words (admittedly, very harsh words) the cruelest violence she does. She doesn't even lie when she wants to keep someone from knowing something, instead flat-out refusing to inform them further and locking them out. Wallowing in the world's ugliness makes her purer and cleaner than anyone else in the series.

And at the conclusion of the Angel Fix case, when confronting Ayaka's pathetic junkie of a brother coming down off his high and desperate for a fix? Narumi beats him. Narumi hauls Toushi to his feet only to knock him down, then jumps on him, beating him until the others have to pull him off lest Narumi kill Toushi in his rage. It's Narumi's ugliest moment in the series, and yet with the way the series has danced around the question of Ayaka's own purity in this ugly world, with how Toushi was involved in Ayaka's unintentional staining of herself, with how the viewer has been invited all along to identify with Narumi as he delves into this side of the world...

It's ugly, but it's also a little cathartic. Not just for Narumi, but for the viewer. And it's something that suggests to the viewer that maybe they're not too clean and pure, that any sense of satisfaction in that moment is bought with complicity to Narumi's ugliness.

Even the relief at the end of the darkness of the anime's Angel Fix arc comes with a cost. When Ayaka awakens it's as we learn of her own little dark side, the lengths she would go to just to preserve her rooftop "sanctuary" created with Narumi. It was, as Alice describes it, "for self-gratification." That Ayaka would attempt suicide to drive away any change, an act that's ultimately very selfish and causes no end of emotional violence to those around her. Even being drugged doesn't excuse it, because it was her own will to do this - Angel Fix, like LSD, builds its hallucinations out of "set" and "setting," or mindset of the user and environment (look at Narumi's bad trip which is triggered when he's reminded of Ayaka). You take out of it what goes into it. Ayaka already intended on doing something drastic when she was drugged.

There may be idealistic moments, even some happy victories, but overall in this series you're either ugly or you're ineffectual. Only ugliness gets anything important done.
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