So far I’ve gone with the theme of writing about shows/moments in shows which I believe to be important landmarks in my anime watching career in these Remembering Love posts however, this post focuses on a single character that’s helped define this career rather than a single moment, XXXHOLiC’s Yuuko Ichihara. Yuuko is quite possibly my all-time favourite anime character simply because I have never been in as much awe over another person, fictional or otherwise, as I was (and still am really) Yuuko. So of course I had to write about the show which introduced me to her at some point during this project, it’s just my OCD demanded I write about the shows in the order I watched them! Still lacking the time to dedicate myself to anything more than a two-cour show right now, I picked some of the episodes I believe best help illustrate just how amazing Yuuko is. If you’re scared of a little bit of fangirling I suggest you stop reading now!
The first episode I re-watched was the first episode of the shows as I wanted to see if I could pinpoint what it was about Yuuko that first had me fall head over heels for her. Re-watching I thought perhaps it was the way she was framed during the instant you first saw her, or because of the peculiar facial expression she wore when the camera first zoomed in on her face. I would almost call that facial expression regretful but, I can’t think for the life of me why Yuuko would feel sad in that instant when she first laid eyes upon Watanuki. Perhaps even then she knew she’d end up destroying what little hope he had for a normal life, and that made her sad but, I’m not sure- she seems to revel in making trouble for him during the episodes that follow so, why would she look like that? Whilst I may simply have been drawn to Yuuko by the way she looked and held herself initially, the fact I’m still unable to figure her out even now is why I’ve retained this fascination with her.
Episode 6 showed another two, completely different, sides to Yuuko. During the first half of the episode we see a more playful Yuuko who delights in surprising Watanuki with the portal she keeps in a separate room and goes shopping for a bright red bat, (“It makes more of a statement!”) but, though she seems child-like and carefree during these scenes, she constantly has her mind on her job, going shopping for a red bat being just an excuse to visit one of her customers. Her interactions with this internet-addicted customer expose a more dark side to Yuuko. In order to test how committed this woman is to going cold turkey on the net Yuuko questions her motives, seeming to almost sneer at her claims to want to do this for her husband and son, even going so far as to ask “What’s wrong with neglecting your family?” This makes me think Yuuko believes the woman’s responses to be insincere, a product of the society she belongs to. Towards the episode’s conclusion Yuuko states something equally as contentious: sometimes it’s necessary to “put yourself first to help the ones you love”. This idea of having a duty to oneself reminds me of a play I’ve studied for English Literature. It’s called A Doll’s House and was written by playwright Henrik Ibsen during 1879, and one can just imagine how incredibly controversial such an idea was back then! Even now a mother prioritising herself over her children is seen as being incredibly deviant, therefore, for Yuuko to suggest such a thing so matter-of-factly is a little scary! This episode epitomises another aspect of Yuuko that interests me, her ability to switch from childish to genuinely frightening in a matter of seconds- it really throws you off!
Episode 20 was another interesting episode. In this episode Yuuko’s customer is a woman who wishes to dispose of a photo which shows her pushing another woman off a cliff so, obviously, the topic of morals was going to come into play at some point during this episode! What would you do if you were in Yuuko’s position? Watanuki seemed to think it would’ve been best to turn her in to the police but, as Yuuko points out during the beginning of the episode, “When was the last time you knew me to behave like everyone else?” Yuuko seems to operate on a completely different level of morality, one which justifies bestowing punishment on this woman like some kind of god, making sure she is either constantly looking over her shoulder for fear of being caught on camera or spends the rest of her life in seclusion. If, as numerous psychologists claim, we do go through stages of morality, this would mean Yuuko has reached the final stage so few people reach, the stage where we believe we can act outside of the law if acting on our inner conscience, ingrained principles of justice and the sacredness of human life. It’s not just in this episode, Yuuko always tries to do what’s right regardless of the social norms or laws which may restrict so many other people; that makes her pretty special in my eyes.
Those were just a few of the reasons I find myself so bewitched by Yuuko, I could literally write page after page on how wonderful a character she is but, I fear here’s where best to draw the line! Whilst re-watching episodes from the last two shows I chose to write about didn’t seem to change my opinion of them much, re-watching these episodes of HOLiC have really helped me to culture a greater appreciation of the themes it tries to explore, such as our duty towards ourselves and morality, and in doing so, manages to tell us something new about Yuuko every time!