Oh my, well that was definitely a route! And it was just as good as I remembered it being. Mad props to Chika Shirokiri for making a story that’s just so raw and so real and such a blast to read.
Now, onto my impressions for my second readthrough of this route, after so many years. One thing I noticed about this route is that there are just so many scenes that only make sense in hindsight. Like, why did Futaki go crazy over Haruka’s erasing the blackboard (because at that point we didn’t know that the rumor was being spread and Futaki was also bothered by it), or why was Haruka acting strange and smelling like mint (because it wasn’t Haruka, dumdum). Heck, if there’s any mystery that was never explained in this route I guess it would have to be…
What in the world did Komari and Rin do during their study session that caused Rin to turn into a lazy kitty??
Joking aside, I felt that this was one of the best parts of the route as it helps to really get the reader into it and start thinking about everything that’s happening, instead of just sitting around like a reader, waiting for whatever to happen next. Really gets you more involved. The best part was with the whole masquerade, with hints after hints being subtly dropped here and there. It’s the kind of thing where if you really weren’t paying attention, it wouldn’t show itself… But if you were, you’d immediately notice something wrong.
Although, they do take it to a different extreme, especially in the new bad end. I don’t quite remember the details, but in the original release, failing to notice that Kanata is masquerading as Haruka gets you a bad end that just subtly shows you that you should have payed more attention. This new bad end goes for quite a while, leading to a brand new scene; playing with doggies, going to the nurse’s office, and a big reveal in the rain. While it was dramatic, I felt it a tad unnecessary, and preferred the subtlety of the original.
Now that my impressions are done, I came here for a specific purpose. After all, I do owe @Aspirety a counter-argument.
Now, when I argued against this point, I definitely felt that something was off… Aspi wasn’t wrong, for sure. But there was something wrong because I felt that I never understood it that way. Heck even @Kanon points it out:
This is a horrible message, yes. But why did I never notice it before? Well, I thought this was one point that I wanted to make sure that I understood before I proceeded with everything else. I even had to skim through the whole route a third time just to get it… and you know what, I think I understand it even better, and it’s even more powerful to me. So, let’s get onto it.
There are no evil ones in this world
So what exactly does this mean? Well, wording is very important here. She does not say “there are no evil people”; she says “there are no evil ones” (in japanese she uses 誰も as opposed to, say どんな人も). Let’s stress the ones here. My understand ties in to something Riki said earlier:
“struggling against an unseen chain whose links had been long forged by other people. A chain whose links were sharp as blades.”
And that’s when it hit me: there really are no evil ones in this world. As much as fiction tries to imply, there are no supervillains; there are no evil masterminds; there is no single person who is, by themselves, evil. However, evil takes a form: it is a form forged by the small ill thoughts of many people who you would not consider evil. It is shaped by the situation and background of many people. And this evil is the most powerful evil of them all. The evil that, you don’t notice as it slowly creeps into society, so you let it pass. Until the point that it becomes too out of hand for anyone to be able to do anything about it…
And this is what I think the message of the route is trying to say:
Haruka constantly tries to find the villain: somebody to hate. Somebody that she can push the blame on. But can she really do that? It’s easy enough for us readers to label the “Saigusa Family” as evil but… who exactly are these faceless “Saigusa family” members? The head of the family who controls everything? The bitchy aunt who always judges you? The kind but stern uncle who gives you an extra piece of candy but later that night hits you with a belt?
This is an entire family we’re talking about, and it would be pretty much impossible to point out one single person as a “villain” in this story. At the same time, we would not be able to label every single member of the family as “evil” or a “villain”. Each and every single person in this family has their own story behind their harsh mask. Maybe their story is just as deep and harsh as Haruka’s and Kanata’s. Or maybe it isn’t. But can we really so easily judge them as evil?
At the same time, don’t we think the same way too? Whenever something bad happens we always find somebody to blame. Whose fault is it? Who made it like this? Why is it so bad? Some people find a scapegoat, maybe in a leader. Maybe even blaming a faceless divine being with questionable existence. And you know what? Finding this entity to blame is just sad.
By the end of the story, Haruka gets over this:
"No one is in the wrong… So I don’t have to hate anyone…"
And this is what the route is trying to tell us. Stop the hate. Stop trying to find somebody to blame. Yes, there is evil in the world, and YES we need to do what we can to stop this evil. But nothing comes out of hating. In fact, fighting this evil with more hatred just breeds even more hatred that swirls and creates an even longer and more dangerous chain that grows into an evil that becomes even more unmanageable.
What we need is understanding. What we need is forgiveness and the willingness to come to an agreement. And what we need is the ability to determine when we are wrong and the ability to let other people know and agree when they are wrong, without simply hating these faceless beings.
This reminds me of a movie I watched recently, entitled “Look Who’s Back,” a dark comedy detailing a what-if scenario should a famous fascist dictator come back to life in modern times. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched it yet: The movie portrays Adolf Hitler as very human. A human with horrible ideals, yes, but not the kind that would go on a rampage and start killing Jews left and right. But a human that sees the problems that other people see in the world: he points out the stupidity of television, the looming danger of immigration, and other issues like this. And he convinces normal, everyday people that their hatred is justified, in a comedic manner, even. By the end, we are reminded that Hitler wasn’t able to amass the entire Germany by shouting his own hatred, but by amplifying the hatred of normal everyday people. He alone may have had evil thoughts, but this evil was only able to grow through the forged links of hatred added on by the common man. And his evil wasn’t any worse than the kind of thoughts we hear from some conservative politicians, heh.
As much as I don’t want to bring politics into this topic, I hope you’ll let me for a minute. It is 2017 and I am left speechless whenever I hear stories of fascism, racism, sexism and general hatred for people. And how do people respond to that? Well, of course, very antagonistically. They respond with a lot more hatred. And the worst part is that this just aggravates the other party, causing even more hatred. I’ll be honest, I don’t like where things are going, and I just think so much can be done more to help bring understanding into the world.
These people that we see that fight against what is right and go against the common good are people that we know. They are our family, our friends, the people we went to high school with, or the people that we work with. I don’t think we can, by any means, call them evil. But they have looming thoughts that, when built into a chain, will become something dangerous enough to break our entire society. We can’t just choose a scapegoat to push our hatred on; that if this sole evil were gone, the evil will be gone. But we fail to understand that this evil is pushed by others who we wouldn’t be so quick to blame. And the only way we can stop them is not by pushing our hatred for these people, but by understanding them. By letting them know that they should stop hating and that the people that they hate need to be understood. That the people they hate are not evil.
It’s very optimistic of me, I know. And I know that it may even be impossible to bring this spiral of understanding to the whole world. But I think I can start it by myself. And who knows, if I can convince somebody else of this idea of understanding over hatred, maybe they can do the same. It all starts with us, after all.
I hope that I was able to give more insight into this controversial topic. Well I did get a bit too passionate there at the end, but if it helps get more people to understand and bring this message into heart, then perhaps I may have succeeded in getting even more people to value this wonderful route