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Hit Me, Shinra! One More Time!

March 28, 2010

I’ve lost a lot of respect for you, Celty. A few minutes ago you seemed to be a liberated monster who no longer needed your head to know your place in the world, and now you’re a befuddled mess of a girl who falls into the arms of an abusive asshole after he confesses to you that he’s been manipulating you for years. You must have been watching the Lifetime Movie Network just as much as you’ve been watching those UFO TV shows, and you’re all the worse for it.

I’m not sure what to think about Celty’s situation. It isn’t that I’m against her having a moment of weakness and falling for Shinra’s tricks. This isn’t about the depiction of stereotypical abusive relationships. What concerns me is that Durarara!, as a series, is condoning this sort of relationship.

Shinra is an asshole. I’ve said it before, but it warrants repeating. He thinks his deceptive, manipulative behavior is justified because he’s doing it out of love. He withheld knowledge pertaining to Celty’s head when he knew full well that she wanted to find it. I had a roommate in college who pulled that sort of crap with his girlfriend. She lent him a CD. After a few days she wanted it back. He knew it was in his CD player. I knew it was in his CD player. He outright lied to her and told her he had no idea where it was, claiming that he may have lost it but that he’d look for it later. It was a petty little ruse that he thought was perfectly fine because he claimed to like her. No, dude, it’s just pathetic. I waited for the dude to leave and gave the CD back to her. My roommate didn’t much care for me actually respecting his girlfriend and denying him his little mind game of “love.”

If you love someone, you don’t go around screwing with their emotions like that. You don’t toy with their feelings, making them feel one way when you know full well that they want to feel another way. That’s just fucked up. Yet Shinra and others like him think it’s perfectly OK to pull that crap because they feel love towards the other individual and know that if they do it enough the target of their affections will cave in and reciprocate that love. That’s exactly what Celty does. She falls for his contrived confession, which plays out like Shinra had it rehearsed for ages, and collapses in his arms. The problem with this scene is that it’s portrayed as a genuinely affectionate, romantic moment. There’s no hint musically, visually, or whatever that Celty’s been played. No menacing background drone or anything like that. The “camera” lingers on their position the same way it would if it was framing two people genuinely in love. Everything about the scene suggests that their relationship is a good thing born out of genuine romantic feelings.

What we have here is no different than the relationship between Ladd and his gal pal in Baccano! He was a genuine sadist and she was a genuine masochist. She, honest to goodness, wanted Ladd to kill her someday. She got genuine sexual and romantic oomph from that pain. But Baccano! never led us to believe that this sort of relationship is OK. When Ladd would go on one of his tirades, the scenes usually emphasized the violence and menace behind his actions, and they never led us to believe that we, as an audience, should accept his actions as anything other than some fucked up shit wrought by a fucked up murderer. An awesomely-portrayed fucked up murderer who was my favorite character from the series, but he wasn’t meant to be someone you rooted for. Everything we’ve seen in Durarara! leads me to believe that we’re supposed to root for Shinra and his twisted sense of love for Celty. The bit where they trade punches and Shinra claims them to be “marriage kisses” could have easily been framed in a menacing way, but the way Celty’s body was shot made it seem like a sensual moment.

Are we really supposed to accept this as OK? I’m hoping something arises later that knocks some sense into Celty, leading her to behead that bastard Shinra (Or worse. Preferably worse.).

All of this goes for Mr. Head Fetish and his No-Longer-Frankenstein-With-Celty’s-Head girlfriend. The girl is an obsessive stalker who breaks into his apartment because she fell in lust with him during the high school entrance exam. He’s a nutcase who’s in love with a head-in-a-jar and was willing to murder multiple someones over it. Yet Mikado tries to rationalize their feelings for one another, claiming she isn’t really a stalker and accepting the dude’s apology after he tried to kill him. And, again, there’s no real sense in the way the story is told that his callous, selfish “love” for her is wrong. He outright admits to the fact that he only likes her because she looks like that head, and he admits that the instant he can have the head back he’ll dump her. She’s just as crazed, since she knows the dude tried to murder her, but she doesn’t care. This is the sort of behavior that gets people on death row, it isn’t the sort of behavior that’s supposed to be accepted as perfectly natural. But Durarara! seems perfectly OK with it.

Like I said before, I’m not against the depiction of this sort of stuff. I do get worried when I’m watching something that tries to justify such behavior. I dig Black Lagoon and other violent anime because it never tries to tell me that Revy killing dudes is somehow morally right. Revy knows she’s a murdering criminal. She knows she’s doing bad things. That’s just the way her life’s played out. Black Lagoon doesn’t moralize her actions, it merely presents them. Durarara!’s heading in a direction I don’t like. It’s presenting behavior that would be considered morally wrong, yet it tries to convince us otherwise. It’s the same sort of thing that pisses me off about Ruroni Kenshin or Trigun. Kenshin and Vash are people who cling to their distorted perceptions of pacifism despite what common sense would dictate. I don’t mind their sort of viewpoint, so long as the series in question doesn’t try tell me that their view is the way to think Book of Bantorra did a good job of this with Noloty and her naive take on pacifism. She was presented as a good person who died for what she believed in, but never did the series present things in such a way that it was preaching to us the virtues of her beliefs. Ruroni Kenshin and Trigun did just that. People like Wolfwood were punished for believing in a way that contradicted the views of the lead characters.

Based on this episode, I’m afraid that Durarara! might try and go down that path. If someone tries to convince Celty that her feelings for Shinra are born out of his manipulations, are we going to get a big speech about how she doesn’t care what Shinra did so long as he “loves” her? Based on how things played out between them, that’s exactly what I think we’d get.

And what irks me more is that some fans seem to agree. They think the whole Shinra/Celty thing is romantic. That’s kind of scary.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2010 4:20 PM

    Agreed 100 percent with this post. Shinra just turns my stomach, and his behavior is undeniably assholeish, and there is no way in hell that scene between the two is in any way romantic. Yuck. That whole scene just about took me out of the episode, haha.

    With the Seiji/Mika relationship, I’m a bit more mixed . . . Mikado’s speech struck me as so lame, corny and out-of-place that it seemed like intentionally ironic for it to be delivered to such a screwed-up couple. Like it’s a moment of dark humor rather than something intended to be romantic (which is what the Shinra/Celty scene is clearly trying to be). However, I definitely don’t get the same feeling from them that I got from Ladd and his girlfriend. Especially at the end, there seems to be at least a half-hearted attempt to make the whole thing seem sort of romantic, which strikes me as mean-spirited, and not in the dark, funny way.

    I mean, Seiji beat Mika pretty badly, and she’s coming back for more . . . but Mika is sort of portrayed as having “won” (her wink to Anri), which is, uh, not entirely healthy, to say the least. Maybe Anri will do something later, although from what we know about their relationship, Anri and Mika weren’t really THAT close.

  2. March 28, 2010 5:16 PM

    First about Shinra, I dont think manipulate is the right word to use, all he did was hiding/lying to Celty. What did he do to abuse her, manipulate her ? Do you hate him so much that you think it up yourself ? Though I agree that Shinra x Celty scene didnt feel right, forgiving him so simple after 20 years of nightmare made me lose my respect for Celty too.

    And about Seiji x Mika, Durarara!! didnt make it perfectly normal, all it did was presenting, normal or not is for the viewer to decide. Mikado was probably weirded out and tried to rationalize that situation to accept it, since there is nothing he could do about it also they are his classmate. And he must be relief that everything is over, everybody is still alive and healthy. That doesnt mean it’s normal but it’s how things are in real life. Human accept the most weirdest think and nullify it by leaving out the weird part/ rationalizing it/ ignoring it so they could live peacefully.

    On a sidenote if you dont have any problem/complaint with yandere girls, sick love stuff for fanboy and still ranting about this Shinra, Seiji with how fans accepting them you’re quite a hypocrite.

    P/s: sorry if my comment is confusing since I’m not good at English.

  3. March 29, 2010 5:53 PM

    First off, this post gave me a weird sense of deja vu. :shivers:

    I agree that CeltyXShinra rub me the wrong way, but they have from the beginning. I think it is very interesting that you bring up MikaXSeiji as another example of a pattern, however. I think the parallels between Celty and Mika are intentional. Seiji and Shinra are both selfish bastards whose professions that their love is more important than other things (even the feelings of those they profess to love) make me wanna puke. By extension Mika’s acceptance of Seiji’s violence against her as a price for her love does seem to parallel Celty’s acceptance of Shinra’s lying. If you think about it that way, there was some framing of the event to cast it in a creepy light, because we can easily compare the two mended relationships within the episode.

    About Mikado: I agree with the earlier comments by Heinsia and Shinmaru that his comments might not be what they seem on face value. That is, it could just be the awkward thing you might say when you wish you weren’t personally witnessing something that effed up.

    At any rate, if I were Celty’s friend, I would tell her that Shinra was no good for her, and probably risk losing her friendship as a result. If I were Mika’s friend, I might think about saying something, but probably wouldn’t for fear that Seiji would kill me (or a least stick a pen in my leg).

    Which brings me to my conclusion, Shizuo is the man! Not only did Shizuo righteously give it to Seiji when Seiji proclaimed his selfish love a couple of episodes back, but he would be a much better match for Celty than that toad Shinra.

    Oh, one last point: @Heinsia, you make a good point about yanderes, as I probably would give a female version of Seiji more leeway. In fact, I thought chibi Anri with a knife was really cute.
    http://img63.imageshack.us/i/anriyandere.png/

  4. Landon permalink
    March 29, 2010 6:20 PM

    “Yandere” is suck a lame term. I prefer “bitch.” Using any other words comes off as trying to water it down. I also don’t like otaku terminology, which should be pretty obvious since I do my best to avoid using it. Hell, I don’t like using “otaku.”

    And it isn’t the least bit hypocritical. I never said I hated Shinra as a character. He’s an asshole. He’s a bastard. He’s also a pretty awesome character. I LIKE him because he’s such a scumbag. I love rooting against him. I want to see him DIE for what he’s done. I wouldn’t waste my time with such a post if I didn’t have some sort of vested interest in the discussion. I don’t like it when Durarara! tries to play off his behavior as GOOD. That’s what’s rubbing me the wrong way.

    I love seeing amoral and/or insane character so amoral and/or insane stuff. I don’t like it when said amoral and/or insane behavior is presented as something to be admired. Shinra’s behavior is fucked up and evil. Celty’s behavior is irrational at best and self-destructive at worst. I don’t mind SEEING it. I DO mind when a series wants me to believe it’s anything BUT insane, and that’s the vibe I get from Durarara! We’ll see how it plays out.

    So yeah, if the roles were reversed I’d be just as harsh on them. That doesn’t change the fact that I like psychobitch characters. Liking a character doesn’t equate approving of their their actions.

  5. Demifiend permalink
    April 19, 2010 5:23 PM

    You’re forgetting another aspect of it that’s extremely important.

    Most of the relationships in this series are twisted in the sense that they are based more on projection of ones own desires in an obsessive manner, rather than being based on true love for the other person.

    Shinra and Celty’s relationship is the only one that goes beyond this. He genuinely loves her and accepts her for who she is – even despite the fact that she has no head. He doesn’t glorify her as a perfect angel, or expect her to live up to some standards of waifu perfection.

    He just loves her the way she is, flaws, imperfections, and all.

    Yeah, he deceived her at first, but he’s been completely forthcoming since then.

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