I’ve always been strangely fascinated by the emotion of despair or depression in characters. I think it’s one of the most interesting emotions because it’s one that can absolutely cripple a person, yet it’s one that can provide the grounds for change. The angst, the drama, I drink it all up (not a fan of tragedies though, go figure). Although I know you’re all absolutely enthralled reading about by my love of the depressed, I promise am actually going somewhere with this.
I recently picked the manga Skip Beat up again and am absolutely in love with it. Kyoko is one of the more interesting shoujo heroines out there and I, in particular, love her because she’s a person I can really get behind with her strong will and spunky personality. Although she has a thick skin and is a person who won’t take crap lying down, I have to admit, her weakest moments early on in the manga are some of the moments that have captivated me the most when I watch her. To me, they make her more human as her flaws and weaknesses are laid bare.
One of the first times this happens, and one of my personal favorite moments with Kyoko, is one of utter despair for her. She simply seemed to break completely, and I really did feel my heart clench. Having read about 8 volumes of Skip Beat at the moment (I’m so behind T_T), this one scene remains one of the most desolate, but perhaps one of the most important.
Having just been cruelly thrown to the side by a guy (Sho) she’s devoted all of her time and love to, Kyoko is the living example of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Although she’s determined to enter show biz, after failing the LME audition because of her inability to love/forgive, she goes home and realizes that, although she needs love to be an actor or talento, the ability to love is one that is “necessary to be a human being.”
I’ll come back to the significance of those words in a moment, but, first, I want to talk about how Kyoko acted in this scene. At first she’s enraged, furiously tearing her poster of Sho into pieces, blaming him for the loss of her ability to love and venting her anger in a way that we’ve often seen comically portrayed throughout the first few chapters. However, the tone changes quickly as she thinks about the sense of hopelessness and despair she was met with when she realized that despite all the sacrifices, all the allowances, and all the love she had given and made for Sho, he didn’t care about her at all and was more than willing to ditch her for a more beautiful woman. At this point, she starts crying and, for probably the first time since she was unceremoniously ditched, completely breaks down and just cries. The brave and determined face Kyoko has been holding falls apart completely as she finally allows herself a good, long cry. There is no comedy, no light-hearted moment, but, at the same time, there isn’t an overpowering sense of “THIS IS SAD. FEEL SAD.” Her emotions had a sense of relatablity to them that just drew me in. I wanted to give Kyoko a hug; I wanted to tell her Sho’s an ass and that she’ll learn to love again. This part made Kyoko seem human and really made me like her more as a character because of her weakness.
Going back to what she says about love being necessary to be human, I absolutely love it’s placement and it’s meaning. Love is a fickle emotion. It is often the cause of one’s greatest joy and his greatest pain. It involves putting our hearts out in the open and hoping they’ll be treated kindly and with care, something that often isn’t the case. Although I’m sure other animals are capable of love as well (or at least we hope so when it comes to our pets), human love is something that really does define us. It’s often a major theme in our literature and music, and many cite it as a necessity for true happiness. Hate is difficult emotion to manage and, more often than not, tends to dehumanize one, especially in the case of revenge. For the first time, Kyoko realizes that, as much as she may want to, she can’t survive on anger and revenge. Love is necessary. Even if it is hopeless or can only end in despair, it’s something that distinguishes a human from the rest of his animal brethren.
Placement-wise, I love it’s position both on the page and in the story. This revelation comes pretty early on, but it’s an important issue that is something that adds more depth to Kyoko. Instead of being a funny character prone to having angry spirits sprout from her back and who is merely driven to get back at the guy who hurt her feelings, she is presented as a character who has lost something truly important which she must now try to cultivate again. Again, this scene really does a fantastic job of making Kyoko sympathetic and human in a way. On the page, the words are positioned in the space above a Kyoko who has fallen to her knees crying, with the reader only being able to see her from the back. I really love how the words “necessary to be a human being” and Kyoko’s figure are, essentially, the main components of that panel, giving off a sense of isolation or loneliness which really drives home Kyoko’s despair.
Perhaps I’m just cooky, but I feel like this is Kyoko’s true start, her real rebirth. Now that she’s actually “mourned,” so to speak, her loss, she can properly start fresh and try to become stronger, win back what she’s lost, and maybe reap some revenge of her own. Although I think her determination to seek revenge on Sho is awe worthy to say the least, I find her personal growth much more interesting. She is essentially starting over again and creating her own self that doesn’t revolve around Sho or anyone, for that matter, except herself and her own goals and desires. This scene really humanized Kyoko for me and made me want to follow her story and find out how she goes about learning to entrust her heart and feelings to others. The story of her emotional journey and growth is one that I can truly appreciate for it’s look at her triumphs and failures, her strengths and her weaknesses, and why the reader should care. And this one, at least, is rooting for her all the way.