Author Topic: Relationships between ShiSafu and NezuShi concerning the Japanese society  (Read 903 times)

Ahiku

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Knowledge is power

The Japanese educational system is one of the most efficient and successful among the industrialized countries. Ever since the Meiji period (1868-1912) education paved the way for security, influence and a top position. Otherwise there is the risk of developing an education-orientated mass society where even children are harshly competitive, despite the fact that Japanese children also experience an excellent character education in school. Even in kindergarten (“yōchien”) and elementary school (“shōgakkō”) they learn how to be in harmony, teamwork and obedience. They are respectful towards their teachers and classmates and learn how to work very disciplined.

Education is money

There is an elite educational system in Japan - elite universities, high schools, even elementary schools and kindergartens. Elite schools collect the academic crème de la crème and send the majority of its graduates to top national universities like Todai, Waseda or Keiō Daigaku. Those schools select their students through rigorous entrance examinations and cost a hilarious amount of money. So – if you want to be elite, you have to pay for it. And you have to learn. Not to mention the pressure for those children… There are a lot of tutoring schools (“juku”) and those are not mainly for those who are too stupid and need a little bit more attention. No, they are for those who are already good but want to be part of an elite school or another very good educational establishment. So the good ones become better and those who are weak fall by the wayside.

Especially when they are weak and poor… I’m not quite sure about this part – but I think I remember that there aren’t that many scholarships and stuff like that. Most of Japanese people I know work part time besides their studies so they can afford going to university.

No. 6’s elite system

The Japanese educational system really reminds me of No. 6’s. I guess the only big difference is the welfare program. They don’t have to pay and the kids enable their families to live in absolute security and prosperity. As a quid pro quo the city facilitates values or better to say it brainwashes even the smallest ones so that they grow into responsible, functioning adults with a ready-made way of thinking for the interest of No. 6’s society. No wonder those No. 6 genius children are so weird – they must be pretty pressured as well. Maybe even in the same way real Japanese children are… I guess they also have to perform brilliant scholastic achievements to earn welfare for their families. And it’s even hard enough if you don’t want to disappoint your parents, who spent their whole life to save enough money for your elite education like in Japan, it’s even worse. It’s their (and their families) basis of existence. Karan didn’t seem to work when they lived in Chronos and just was there to look after Shion when he wasn’t in school. She raised him like the city wanted it, like reminding him to read the message he got from the city. (The one about VC-Nezumi!) Well, I guess there are other families with working parents (in top positions) in Chronos, but we just have Safu’s and Shion’s example. Shion and his unemployed (and pretty bored) single mother (but she’s like a normal Japanese mother, staying home while her child is still young…) and Safu and her grandma who’s obviously too old to work and maybe just allowed to live so that she can babysit our cute little Safu while she’s not in school. So No. 6’s strange welfare system may be used as leverage. “Do as we please and we will give you and your family a secure existence. If you don’t you won’t get welfare anymore!” – like it happened to Shion and Karan. Well, pretty strange city. It’s just like: Oh, you’re homeless now? Well, though ****! There’s no welfare program for actual poor people. I really wonder where they stayed after they had to leave Chronos at a moment’s notice.

Okay. That’s another story. Just let’s go back to the education system once more. Like I said earlier there’s a risk of developing an education-orientated mass society where even children are harshly competitive is pretty high, even if they got a pretty good character education. Just look at those manga pages:



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“Safu was often laughed at by classmates for them (her clothes). Even though they were in the same Elite curriculum, the kids would find any small difference and mock or put others down because of it. The hand-knitted scarves and sweaters she wore became a target of ridicule. […] No one understood what consideration for others was, or anything about people’s souls, or people’s dignity. It was because they had never learned about it. Everyone thought they were the chosen ones. The chosen ones were permitted to do anything. People belonged to classes: the chosen ones, and those who were not. Apart from an enormous amount of theoretical knowledge, in the classrooms which were outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, that was all they had learned.” – Volume 2, chapter 4

This is another thing you can compare to the Japanese school system. There’s this kind of bullying called “ijime”. Because of the pressure imposed by school, family and society some of the students search something like a compensating valve. So, like you know in many parts of the West, intelligent children are kind of nerds and get bullied, but Japan is filled with smart kids who think that due to their intellectual abilities or rich parents their lives are somehow more valuable. And they are going pretty far; it’s the primary cause for suicide amongst children in Japan, even really small children, like 10 years old or younger. I could write pages just about this topic… So it’s just a remark concerning “ijime” and No. 6, because it’s also there, even if it’s not that stark like in real Japan.

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“But Shion was different. He knew to treat others with as much respect as he treated himself. He put himself neither above nor below others. He was an oddity. That was how Safu had felt about him.“ – Volume 2, chapter 4

Yes, Shion is different. But he’s not way too different. This kind of education system provokes selfishness and encourages unsocial behaviors. Shion’s also like this, even after losing his elite status.

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“The other reason was that because his job dealt mostly with machines, he didn’t have to talk to people.” – Volume 1, chapter 2

So in my opinion Safu is putting Shion on a pedestrian, because she’s in love with him. Well, okay! He IS a good boy. He’s gentle, calm and nice to everybody. It’s just part of his personality, but he’s not particularly close to another human, expect for his mother and later Nezumi and Inukashi. But that’s another story.

Shion’s and Safu’s relationship

Recently I talked a lot about their relationship with Yuneyn, so following lines conclude a lot of points we’ve discussed about this topic.

Against the statement that Shion and Safu are close friends, it just doesn’t really seem like that. Or better to say, Safu is probably a better friend to Shion than he was to her, if he really saw her as a friend before he thought about it because of her awkward sperm-question. 

I suppose she fell in love when Shion complimented her sweater. In the manga it’s shortly after those kids bullied them because they were allowed to enter the gifted curriculum, in the novel Safu didn’t really remember when it was, but I guess they were also about 11 years old.

The question is: Where they already “friends” before Shion complemented Safu?

Safu always knew that he wasn’t like the other children, that he was special. But I guess they weren’t like normal friends – meeting after school and playing together, hanging out and stuff like that. I must admit that they seem closer in the anime, because there is Shion’s awkward birthday scene that never happened to be in the novel or manga.

Well it was pretty strange – Safu invited Shion to her home, baked a birthday cake for him and her grandma made him a pretty ugly sweater. Oh my god, I love the little sound he’s making when he holds this sweater in his hand and his face in this moment. XD It’s just like: “Oh my god, this thing is incredibly ugly! Helloooo? I’m a boy! Geez! Why is this purple, do you want to tell me I’m gay? And why do I have to celebrate with you and your grandma? Come on!” But he’s a pretty nice boy, so he’s good and gives thanks to them, although he’d rather run outside to enjoy the hurricane. Hey – which 12year old boy doesn’t dream of celebrating his birthday like that? X’D But at least Safu and Shion seem to be more like actual friends in this way. She’s even giving him a kiss on his cheek, showing her early maturity and that she’s in love with him and Shion’s like a normal boy, telling her that this is just like his mom’s kisses. (OMG, poor Safu! XD He’s so stupid, really!) But yes, it’s a part of the anime I really enjoyed, because I can understand their friendship way better than in the novel or manga. They are just pretty reserved there. I really don’t see their oh-so-close relationship.



Here! In the anime she even cleans his pants! So her love confession doesn’t come out of nowhere like in the manga or novel. But well, that’s maybe another point where the anime gets the novel wrong. So in the original series they aren’t like that. They aren’t that close. There’s no body contact between those two. (Although Shion says something about her shoulders when he’s comforting Inukashi, but well, nobody knows if he’s ever touched them…)

Their shyness concerning body contact is another thing you can compare to the Japanese society. In Japan, it’s pretty rare to see people touching each other in public. Some young couples are holding hands… well, yeah. When I visited Japan it was my friends little research theme, so we really paid attention to the behavior of Japanese couples in public. But apart from holding hands there was nothing, no guy stroking a girl’s back, no hugging and of course no kissing. It’s maybe okay for girls to hug each other, or grab each other’s arms and stuff like that and maybe there are exceptions, but mostly they don’t just do it. It’s like I experienced it back then. So if you consider them to be pretty Japanese in No. 6, they seem all right. It’s alright for Shion not to hug Safu before she’s leaving for 2 years and tell her good-bye properly. (Yeah, I also experienced this back then. We parted because we had to take another train and our Japanese friends just walked away without saying good bye…) But still I guess even Japanese people should say good bye to a “very close” friend properly when this friend is about to leave for 2 years. Same for No. 6’s children…

Safu and Shion didn’t seem to have that much contact after Shion and Karan had to leave Chronos. Maybe they called each other from time to time, because Shion mentioned in the novel that Safu once told him she also didn’t like to pledge allegiance towards the city in her institution. So I guess they talked from time to time, but they didn’t meet that often.

Yuneyn noticed something pretty strange: Safu asked after four years why Shion had to leave Chronos. Even Shion asks her why she’s asking that late, as if the author herself thinks that it’s a pretty odd question. Plus, it’s a bit one-sided, but maybe it’s not Shion’s fault. I suppose he’s not allowed to enter Chronos anymore, but at least Safu can visit him. But they just meet in a coffee shop; he doesn’t bring her home, although I’m pretty sure that Karan would love to spent time with Safu, especially when she’s lost her parents at a young age.

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"It has. How many years has it been now? You’ve grown so beautiful. I was so surprised.” […] After Karan and Shion had been banished from Chronos, Safu was the one classmate that continued to treat Shion as she had before. She had also come to this store once.” – Volume 2, chapter 4

So she visited Shion’s new home once in four years. Yeah – they are pretty close. And she even knows it herself:

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“But Shion for the most part, had not even been looking at Safu. His soul had been captured by something else, and he had forgotten about her. For the first time, she had seen this calm and serene boy of few words being ruffled right before her eyes.” – Volume 2, chapter 4

I really have the feeling that their relationship is one-sided, and that Safu has to try hard to keep in contact with this boy. And she never had a chance at all.

Young Shion’s and young Nezumi’s relationship

They’ve just met for one single night – a few hours and they slept most of them. And still they are closer than Safu and Shion after spending several years together.

Shion never met anyone before who was that direct and instantly within a touching distance.

So it was like a completely new world. Even if Nezumi’s a bit violent first, they ended up hugging each other the whole night. I guess Shion gave him what he needed most in this situation, even if Nezumi was the one who initiated their embrace. So Rou and Gran didn’t manage to kill every feeling within this child, even after enduring so much horror. God, he’s a child and he’s so hurt and confused and he nearly was about to die and give up just moments ago. But then he could calmly sleep in Shion’s arms, protected. It’s so heart-warming I want to start crying right now.

No wonder it was such a big deal for him, being treated like a valuable human being. It was like a miracle and he knew that Shion was fully aware of the consequences. Shion touched him very much and who knows what he thinks about how deep the dept is that he owes to Shion after that night.

They both fascinated each other and Shion was really in love with him after that night. I guess he said it himself in the book that Nezumi had stolen his heart… And he sighed and thought about him the whole time just like a normal child. XD

I think both of them fell in love with each other in this particular night. It’s a tiny love and it’s very vague in the beginning. It has to endure a lot of hard things. But it also wants to grow and it grows a lot in the whole series. Of course they have to figure things out… and of course it’s a million times harder for Nezumi to do so and it’s absolutely legit that he’s not done with it after the end of the series. He didn’t have that much time to think about it anyway – they just had way too many other things to do. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t change at all, I mean he is afraid of losing Shion, he even cries because of him, he cares for him so much and from the beginning he’s nearly always the one who’s touching Shion, like caressing his hair, tracing his scar, holding his hand, hugging him, even if it’s playfully, protecting him, teaching him, punishing him… He punishes him because he likes him, because he was afraid and deeply hurt! Ok, it’s not nice that he beat him up and that he used violence against him, but he’s also just scared and Shion’s able to fight back. He’s also hitting him. They’re boys after all. It’s not like they’re dying because of a little scuffle…^^°
I guess it’s even a nice experience for Shion. He lived in some kind of matriarchy and had a lack of male caregivers. So Nezumi is the first. He’s harsh but still caring. It’s really confusing but it’s also interesting. Although I never believed that Nezumi really would be able to kill Shion or he really thought of him as his enemy. He’s already way too protective…even in the novel. Right after the “nose biting scene”, even before Shion’s transformation they quarrel and after they crash against one of the bookshelves the first thing Nezumi does is to ask Shion if he’s alright. Oh yeah, I also ask my enemies if they’re alright after trying to hurt them. LOL! And he’s stroking his hair right after Shion nearly died… I don’t think normal guys would do something like that. XD So I guess he already likes him more than he thinks. I mean it happens pretty often that he is really lovingly when it comes to Shion.

And he doesn’t seem to realize it. I don’t think he’s like that to every other person as well. So he definitely likes to touch him, even when they barely know each other. So no way he’d be able to kill him, I just see growing love. XD He’s struggling a lot but the feeling is still growing. And even if he’s a bit violent once in a time, Shion seems to be okay with it… I guess Shion doesn’t want to be handled with kid gloves anyway. Apropos handle – I really like the way Shion is able to handle Nezumi. He’s just absolutely okay with the way Nezumi is, he doesn’t try to change him and he just confuses him from time to time. XD He’s a pretty tough and impressive character.

Now, let me get back to Safu. Like I said, she had no chance at all. She never had.

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“Safu was dear to him. She was precious to him. But it was different from the amorous sense ― it was more serene, more deeply connected. He loved her like family, like a close friend. Whatever kind of love it was made no change to the fact that he cared about her.” – Volume 3, chapter 5

Well, too late, huh? I’m not really sure if she really was that precious to him. With the benefit of hindsight I just can see that he didn’t really care for her and that he must have a bad conscience because she’s gone. Or maybe he realized it too late that he should have valued her more. Those lines are more like an excuse to his own conscience, that he really loved her and that they were close friends. And that she was dear to him. I think he also would have gone to the Correctional Facility without Safu being captured in there, just to accompany Nezumi and to help No. 6. Fact is that he got over Safu’s death way too quickly. Okay, maybe he cried afterwards, it’s not that we had knowledge about everything in the novel…

I just hope he really cherished her and not just because he felt guilty.

With that I want to finish telling you my two cents concerning this topic. Gosh, I wrote way too much! I’m sorry if there are any mistakes in it, I’m no native English speaker and I’ve never tried to analyze something in English like that. Hehe! :D 

The quotes are from the amazing 9th ave translation, of course! ^^

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listenforthelove

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Interesting points you make there, especially with the comparisons to Japanese society! You're right, it's absolutely reminiscent of the Japanese educational system. I wonder if it's intentional (if No. 6 is where Japan once was - I don't think any countries we know were mentioned save for the UK in the anime? But correct me if I'm wrong here), or if it's because of Asano writing from her own cultural background. It's a little hard to tell. Or maybe it's both, as a commentary on the real situation.


You're right, there's a very distinct lack of interaction between Safu and Shion, though of course we see them through each other's eyes rather than omniscient view, colouring the image a bit. Safu can only think about Shion because she's in love with him and is worried for him, but Shion has got other things on his mind for most of the time, like I don't know, trying not to die. Though it IS very interesting how worked up he gets at the thought of Nezumi being around, even four years later, after just the one night. (I silently wonder just how often he's freaked out before, thinking Nezumi might be around.)

I guess Safu and Shion mostly kept in touch via phone or internet, rather than meeting up in person a lot, likely because they were busy and living in other sides of the city, though it's still strange that Karan has not even seen her in four years. Maybe Safu wasn't really allowed to go there, hence them meeting up elsewhere? She had to be home again before curfew after all, so maybe they just didn't have a lot of time to meet up in person after school and work. Hm, though I just searched for Safu in volume 3 and realized that Karan is going to visit her house in Chronos, so you'd think Safu would be allowed in Lost Town in return.

As for Safu only asking after four years just why Shion didn't enter the special course, I chalked it up as a combination of need for exposition and Safu probably figuring back then that it was something he didn't want to talk about (or even couldn't). But you're right, it's odd it takes her four years. Maybe she asked before and never got an answer, but only now decides to persevere until she gets one because she figures it's been long enough?

Shion, to me, seems to regard her more like family, like he says - someone who's been around for forever and will always be around, even if you don't talk to them very often. That doesn't mean he loves her as less than a very good friend, but it's more like he's taking her presence in his life for granted, a relationship you don't really have to work at because you're already connected. They've been around each other since the age of two, after all. His reaction when he finds her coat is genuine, and I don't think it's just guilt - he's already upset before he realizes all the implications.

But it's pretty hard to judge their relationship in the novels at least, because we see so little of their time together there compared to the rest of the story, and Shion is pretty preoccupied in the moments we see from his perspective (like dead bodies on his mind, always fun stuff). I do think the fact that they've known each other since they were two comes into play here. Nezumi was different: Shion met him for one night when he was twelve, Nezumi was new and exciting and came from somewhere else. Safu has been around for as long as he can remember, in the same environment. She's safe and he's used to her being around. Safu is just - there, so she's  'there' in the narrative; no need to built up the relationship since it's always been there already for Shion. Their relationship is more evened out, as composed as the environment they were raised in. Nezumi on the other hand throws everything upside down.


I do think Shion really cherished Safu, but that the narrative just didn't really allow for it to show all that often. He has so many other things on his mind by the end of the novels that the focus shifts away from Safu for a while, plus he saw her just moments before - he even refused to acknowledge she might be gone despite the signs. He'll likely take a while to accept that fact, especially since he was already prepared to not seeing her for two years because of her exchange before finding out something was wrong. But now she's honestly, truly never going to come back, and that's hard to accept. There was no body, she's just - gone. It's so much easier to gloss over that fact, pretend nothing is wrong for a while, since he already wasn't going to see her for some time, and focus on the immediate matters. The blow will come later. (At least speaking from experience, sorry for projecting that onto you, Shion!)


Ack, sorry for the rambling, I hope that made sense and that I didn't say anything strange or out of character for them >_< (I must confess it's been a little while since I properly read the first novels, so I'm relying on memory and quick searches here, ack) Please, absolutely correct me if I'm out of line here!

thesexymaid

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I'm pretty inept at understanding Japanese society, but there were a few things in regards to Safu and Shion meeting up after the whole eviction from Chronos incident. I know distinctly that Safu mentions in her memories that her and Shion met up at his place of work, see here:
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Safu sighed again. She had walked through a forest with Shion once. It was a forest park in the centre of No. 6, however, so all animals and plants were minutely scrutinized and managed by human hands. 'I don't think a place like this should be called a forest,' Shion had said, and grimaced in clear dislike.
Oh, I remember. How many years ago was it? I can remember it so clearly.
from chapter 4 of volume 5
And what's so interesting about this is that she says she can't remember how long ago it was. I always imagined, contrary to the original post, that they did meet occasionally between Chronos and Lost Town, typically in cafes or at Shion's place of work, but also phoned one another. Their relationship seemed casual, not something that they'd bother with every day, but like a general friendship were you make sure to take time out and see each other when you have free time. Especially considering this scene was in the same chapter.

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You looked like you enjoyed being with me, though. You laughed a lot, and you were more talkative than usual. Oh, yes yes. It was only once, but you even said so out loud.
"It's fun being with you, Safu."
I don't think you were lying. You're the kind of person who could never lie.
Shion, do you enjoy being with me?

Yeah. A lot.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could be together forever?
Sure we could. Safu, you're my most important―
You cared for me. You cherished me. But you didn't love me. You didn't feel the kind of desire for me that burned your body with yearning.
Safu, you're my most important friend.
I always felt this scene was really important in conveying the fact that Safu knew where she stood with Shion. A part of her always knew, and she wasn't viewing him through rose colored glasses. Yes, she loved him. She loved him dearly, and she was incredibly human in that love for him. But she understood their relationship, and that being his friend was where she would always stand.
And even in the above quote, she mentions him being more talkative than usual. You can't form a basis of unusual or usual if there isn't consistency, thus, I always believed they met frequently. She never mentioned the whole incident with Nezumi (like listenforthelove said, probably out of understanding that Shion might not want to talk about it).
I always felt that Shion learned more about himself and his emotions in West Block, and essentially in No.6, he was restricted with those, so he wasn't entirely sure how to express his love for Safu (a very platonic one, much like you might have for a sister) then, but if he had met her later, things might have been different. He even had ideas of how he'd show her around and let her meet his friends become a part of their group again. I always felt the fact that Shion saw Safu at all was important because he and his mother were described as being anti-social among the community in Chronos. They were generally called weird in the novels.. I can't find the quote, but I distinctly remember it because I always considered it a very important aspect of Shion's personality and his eventual learning of his true emotions while with Nezumi.

And back on the Safu and Shion relationship topic, there's also this when he finds the coat which, as listenforthelove said, his reaction is very real and very fierce for. This follows that immediately after:
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It was no mistake. This was Safu's coat. It had been a gift from her only blood relative, her grandmother, and even for a boy like Shion, he could tell that it was an elegant and becoming piece that complimented Safu's well-defined face.
"Your Grandma must really know you well, Safu. She always chooses things that look the best on you," he had said.
"Yeah, I guess so. I mean, she's raised me all my life, after all. Hey, Shion― if you were to give me a coat, what kind would you give me?"
"What? I'm sorry, but my wages are never gonna be able to get you a coat as nice as that one."
"I'm just saying, 'what if'? I want to know what you would choose."
"Hmm, tough question."
"Well, think hard. Solving difficult questions is your thing, isn't it?"
Last year, they had walked down a winter path holding this kind of conversation. The rays of the winter sun had streamed through the bare branches and shone down on Safu, making her coat glow dimly. That was the first time he had thought his childhood friend looked beautiful. The wintry sun, the warm smile, the grey coat. It was Safu's. He was sure of it.
from chapter 3 of volume 3

I'm probably just getting a bit emotional considering I considered Safu and Shion's friendship to be a beautiful part of the story due to the fact that.. I felt it was real in the way that they blurred the lines of friendship, family, and relationships in general as many close friendships do. You can love someone desperately but not be in love with them. And I felt Shion felt toward Safu the way I feel toward one of my close friends. We can lose contact for months and then pick it back up like we never lost it. We're not really touchy, but we both, at points, wondered if our feelings blurred into physical/emotional attraction in a romantic way, but if she were ever in danger (I've shown in cases of our friendship already) I would fight for her. I always felt Safu and Shion were in a situation like that, except, on Safu's side, she had a faint hope that Shion could accept her feelings, and if not, she sadly couldn't just toss them away like they hadn't ever mattered.

And you say Shion got over her death, but I always felt that in that situation, he hadn't time to mourn. On top of that.. I think he was focused on the man dying in front of him rather than the woman already dead. He had to focus on the moment in the moment to survive. He hadn't forgotten her. He was just facing a city at war, and then, shortly after, Nezumi's recovery. I have no doubts he cried when he was finally alone again. Not because Nezumi was gone but because he finally was able to feel the loss of everything he knew and saw as his future. I've always strongly believed Shion's analytical thinking and emotions conflict with one another.. so it was only  once his brain stopped constantly focusing on the here and now, that he let the emotions fully wash over him of all that happened. We didn't get to see Shion's breakdown. We just got to see later in Beyond that he was broken. I have no doubt that of course a large portion of that is the loss of Nezumi in his life, but it is also the fact that he failed at what he risked not only his life, but Nezumi's, Inukashi's, and Rikiga's to do. He put the lives of others beneath the life of Safu in his resolve to save her (of course, not by choice, only due to Nezumi saying the were going together but still..). He failed even with that risk, and he's lost his best friend forever. And that sort of thing.. you don't always think about it.. but you carry it on your shoulders. I've always felt that Safu's death was something Shion carried the way that Nezumi told him earlier, that he had to move forward, but remember her from time to time. I always felt that speech was eventually a full circle to Shion's later coping with loss.

But, these are just my thoughts, and I'm ridiculously bias toward the relationship between Shion and Safu and my views on its extreme importance. I know the two of you understand Japanese culture far more than I do, but.. I guess just as a human being with whatever feelings I have, I always felt they were something.. real. Not the unrealistically close friendships you see in dramas where the people can't stop hanging on each other or these.. distant sort of.. admiration built friendships.. but instead they were just two people who could interact with one another openly without feeling restraint, just honest to goodness friends.

listenforthelove

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Ah, you put it much more eloquently than I ever could, thesexymaid. I especially agree with this (I hope you don't mind I copy-pasted your personal story here too for coherence):

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And I felt Shion felt toward Safu the way I feel toward one of my close friends. We can lose contact for months and then pick it back up like we never lost it. We're not really touchy, but we both, at points, wondered if our feelings blurred into physical/emotional attraction in a romantic way, but if she were ever in danger (I've shown in cases of our friendship already) I would fight for her. I always felt Safu and Shion were in a situation like that, except, on Safu's side, she had a faint hope that Shion could accept her feelings, and if not, she sadly couldn't just toss them away like they hadn't ever mattered.

Losing contact and then being able to pick it right back up again is the case indeed, I think - they don't get a lot of time together in the narrative, but their conversations sound easy and the ones you'd have with a very long friend, about all kinds of topics no matter how odd. Safu has been a constant in his life for so long it's just kind of natural, and doesn't need to be pointed out for Shion. I think that's kind of what I was trying to say earlier in a very roundabout way?

But yes, being with Nezumi and in the West Block does allow Shion to find himself more, and his emotions. Both he and Safu were considered a bit odd, though they were still, ehm, controlled, lacking a better word. Like you'd expect from those living inside No. 6 and especially Chronos, at any rate. This incredibly stable life, living day to day life with food and school and preparing for your future, hardly any reasons to be very outspoken. Going to the West Block changed all that and threw Shion in so many new situations.

Lastly, let's not forget Shion listed Safu along with Nezumi and Karan as the three people he could absolutely trust completely. And he lost two of those three in about the same week. We didn't get to see the aftermath, as thesexymaid pointed out, only that it's definitely taken a toll on Shion by Beyond. At least with Nezumi, he can still hope for him to return, but Safu...

Ack, Safu is so very important though. She's the catalyst for the majority of the story, but it's not hard to overlook her importance. I honestly did a bit on my first read through of the novels, though breaking up the story a bit later revealed that yes, things would have been radically different (and probably a lot bleaker) weren't it for Safu and her friendship with Shion. (Though I'd still have liked to see more scenes of them together, if only for personal preference, haha.)


Ah, I should probably add that I was also reasoning from my own feelings when it comes to their relationship, not entirely with Japanese culture in mind, unlike Ahiku above. (Not consciously, but I did pull from my own experiences and thoughts there for a bit, and I haven't grown up in Japan. Slightly derailing the topic there I suppose, oops!) I personally can't really tell if it's a cultural thing that Shion and Safu seem (physically) distant in my/our eyes, or if it's a cultural thing inside the story, caused by their upbringing inside No. 6. (I hope that made sense!) Especially considering other relationships in the story, because as Ahiku pointed out, Shion and Nezumi are pretty touchy-feely with each other, which isn't exactly common in Japan. (I think I've at most seen people sitting with their arms around each other here, and that was in a setting where they had chairs-for-two to enjoy the sunset together with your loved one.)
Some things make me feel the setting of No. 6 isn't supposed to mirror Japan closely, and at other times it does feel very Japanese to me. Guess it's a matter of cultural background, but I do wonder in how far Asano consciously chose for No. 6 to resemble Japanese society. As said, with the school system, it does feel like commentary on the Japanese system, so... Hm, I'm starting to talk in circles here, apologies. Safu feels kind of took over  :-[

 
(Other disclaimer: I've only seen the anime once, so I can't really add to the comments on the anime, I'm super hazy on the details. But the points Ahiku brings up compared to the novel are very interesting, though I do recall I felt their relationship to be a bit more awkward here than in the novels. Again, I'm hazy on the anime, so I'll steer clear from commenting any further.)
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 07:47:14 am by listenforthelove »

Elanra

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Thesexymaid has pretty much said everything regarding my opinion on Shion and Safu's relationship. I've also had a friend that greatly reminds me of Shion's relationship with Safu. She was someone I cared about deeply, someone as close as family to me but we only got to meet a few times a month, sometimes even less and maintained most of our relationship over the phone and internet.
Safu thinks in her chapter with Karan in the bakery in the novels that Shion and her were connected to each other by all means the advance technology could provide. She reflects despite having so many means of communication, she is so far away from getting her feelings across to him. So I am pretty sure when they aren't / can't meet, they were keeping in touch via phone calls and internet conversations. The visual chat scene from the anime is not anime specific alone, it also happens in the novels once Shion returns from his chasing Nezumi down the streets of Lost Town after walking Safu to the station.

I also want to point out that once Shion's privileges were removed after sheltering and aiding a VC, he is not allowed to enter Chronos anymore. Nor is his mother as we see in Chapter 2 of Volume 3. She tries to visit Safu at her home in Chronos after she witnesses her being taken away by the Security Bureau. And was stopped at the gate:

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We are very sorry. Due to concerns for safety, the area past this point is accessible to Chronos residents only. Thank you for your understanding. Further, anyone who passes the gates without a Entrance Permit for Special Residential Districts issued by the authorities is subject to removal from the premises and punishable by municipal law Article 203 Clause 42. I repeat ― Due to concerns for safety...
-No. 6 Vol 3 Ch 2

So, considering that Safu was still an actively efficient member of society in Chronos and was spending most of her time on her meticulously scheduled education, I doubt she had a lot of chances to meet up with Shion on a whim. And yet, as thesexymaid has pointed out, there are several mentions of them meeting up and spending time together somewhere outside anyway, walking together and talking about all kinds of things both Safu and Shion remember as precious memories. So I am quite positive they met whenever they could and every other time, they maintained their friendship through electronic means. In an era like that and technologically advanced city-state like No.6, I doubt that's remotely unusual. I think it makes complete sense that Safu only visited the bakery once, not only because of her extremely busy schedule as a Gifted Curriculum student but also because of how Shion was constantly monitored. I am not saying they were aware of that at the time, but there was an open opposition from the Security Bureau regarding Safu spending time with Shion; someone with impaired judgement bad enough to aid a criminal. It was clearly frowned upon;

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"Your ID cards, the two of you, please." Perhaps he had taken notice of Shion's rebellious attitude. The man wiped the smile clean off his face and demanded their identification cards expressionlessly. Safu passed her silver card to him. Shion silently did the same.
"Your Citizenship Numbers, in order."
"SSC-000124GJ."
"Qw-55142."
The man pulled the cards out of his portable card-reader, and turned to give Safu a slight bow.
"A Gifted Curriculum student like yourself shouldn't be roaming these areas at such a late hour. I advise you to go home."
"I was on my way... I was walking to the station."
"Let me walk you there."
"No thank you. He's going to." Safu clung to Shion's arm.
"I'll take her," said Shion shortly. "That's where we were headed in the first place. Let's go, Safu."
Snatching the cards from the officer's grasp, Shion grabbed Safu's hand, and strode swiftly away. When he turned around some moments later, the man had already disappeared into the bustling crowd.
"That scared me." Safu clutched her chest. "I've never been scolded by the Security Bureau."
- No.6 Vol 1 Ch 2

So, maybe, it was just arranged so she couldn't be spending too much time around in Lost Town. Karan always thinks of Safu as someone very dear to her and a precious friend to Shion despite her not having seen her all but once after they were kicked out of Chronos. That affection has to be rooted to their younger days when Shion and Safu spent every day together and both lived in Chronos, studying for their respective fields.

The parts I've italicized are two mentions of physical contact between Safu and Shion. I can find these scattered across the entire novels every time either of them reminisces or spends time together. And how could we forget that painfully devastating moment of Safu running to hug Shion and him reaching for her only to have her run through him.

I think Shion's feelings for Safu, despite Ahiku-mama's opinion, which I respect, is bare and painfully apparent throughout the novels. Even before he finds out about her being taken away, he often thinks about her and after he learns about it, he attempts to leave Nezumi whom he is so attached to to try and save her himself. Shion openly reflects that no one, not even Nezumi could compare to her and that she is his one and only. And the entire chapter with him talking to Safu in the Correctional Facility openly shows just how much Safu means to him and you can't squeeze all of that in his guilt for not returning her feelings or for not cherishing her more as a friend. Shion himself personally blames himself for these because he is the kind of a person to always blame himself for things he can't change but from an outsider's view, Shion was as honest and open with Safu as he could be given the situations. He never talks about Nezumi with anyone, even his mother and I think he is avoiding it out of concern for them as much as his possessiveness of the memory of him. In the Correctional Facility he is devastated and in such agony over the reality before him, he refuses to accept it. He is in denial and he doesn't want to believe that he can't leave that place with Safu beside him. He is so hurt with her loss he accuses the one person that shared his burden with him. That scene is one of the most excruciatingly powerful scenes in the entire series because it shows Safu meant something so irreplaceable to him, her loss is enough to break him and push him far enough to go against his very nature, nearly betraying the trust Nezumi has put in him. It was one of the most human scenes we see of Shion after his breakdown upon killing Rashi.

I think what leaves a sense of dissatisfaction on the viewers' / watchers' hearts regarding Shion and Safu's relationship is the stability of it. It doesn't call for a fanfare of declarations or explorations. It's an already settled relationship between two people that deeply care for each other. Shion's relationship with Nezumi is the fresh impact to the story, the catalyst to the series of events that changes him. He is the person he falls in love with for the first time in his life. So of course he'll be more occupied with his thoughts of him than his feelings for Safu as a friend. She is something stable and permanent in his life, he doesn't have any confusion or isn't restless regarding his relationship with her. She isn't shrouded away in mystery, she isn't the one that uprooted his entire life and opened his eyes to a reality he had never before seen while making an amateur poet out of him. The only thing about Safu that Shion is guilty of.. is that he took her for granted. He took her for granted like we all do with our best friends. We think they will always be there no matter what happens and when they are taken from us or are no longer in our lives, the pain of it hurts more than drifting apart would because it's dipped in guilt and served with regret as a side dish and that's what humanity feels like. That's what real relationships feel like.
Taking someone for granted doesn't mean we don't love them. It means we are disillusioned with their consistency in our lives. It means we fail to calculate any day could be the last day with them and that makes us overlook subtle signs of change and postpone things we want to say, rain-check things we want to do thinking we will always have a tomorrow. Nezumi has never given Shion consistency and that's why he never had the luxury to take him for granted. Shion loved Safu as his one and only friend and for that reason alone, he will never forget her, because seriously, saying Shion quickly moves on from the loss of Safu puts an enormous hole in Shion's entire characterization in the novels and he becomes someone else entirely without his genuine feelings for her. Safu has a big role in the kind of person he is, she always will. He will never move on from that loss. He will never take anyone for granted again.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 01:24:05 pm by Elanra »
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and hang pictures on the air.

Vox

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Oh man, so many good points! I don't know that I have much to add. But let's see.
I think it's important to remember that Safu isn't just Shion's best friend, she's his only friend.

Quote
Mother and I were very similar. We were both a little over-sensitive, and didn't like to socialize much. The people around us were nice, so nice there was nothing bad to say about them. My classmates, the citizens around us, were genial, intelligent, and minded their manners. No one raised their voice to insult anyone, or treated people with hostility. There were no strange or devious people. Everyone kept up such meticulously healthy lifestyles that even slightly plump figures like my mother's were rare. In this peaceful, stable and uniform world where everyone looked the same, my mother grew fatter, every other word "a pain in the neck" or "dull"; and I began to find the presence of other people oppressing.
(Volume 1, Chapter 1)

It's weird to think about, because Shion and his mother seem so friendly, but in reality both of them are pretty much alone. That's probably why Safu is so important to Shion. She is completely irreplaceable. I agree with Elanra that he's guilty of taking her for granted, though. But really, there was no reason for him to expect that she would be in danger, that he might lose her. While he was getting into his adventures with Nezumi, he expected her to be safe in a completely different town. She came back early due to the death of her grandmother. That was something he couldn't have forseen. Although he knew that bees were killing people in town, he didn't even know that she would be in the vicinity of them. It's quite natural that he should get caught up in his new life and forget about her to some extent. It's as Ahiku said. Safu had no chance.

Now that I think about it, it is really weird that Safu waited 4 years to ask Shion about why he had gotten kicked out of Chronos. It makes me wonder how her feelings for him developed. In the anime, it was clear that she had had a crush on him since they were both kids. But I wonder. I feel like I've sort of been like Safu before. She's a very logical person, who believes firmly in science, and I think that, like Shion, her emotions come into conflict with her rationality a lot. I think that her development of feelings for him was much more gradual than implied by the anime, and that at first she'd think she was just feeling really deep friendship for him. I forget who said it, but the essential question really is what their relationship was like before Shion complemented her sweater. In my imagination, they were strangers beforehand. Shion's compliment brought him to Safu's attention, and she made an effort to start up a friendship with him. Did she feel the spark of love from the very beginning? If she did, I don't think she recognized it.  And when she finally realised it was love, she was afraid of losing that friendship. Maybe she even told herself that she was just feeling the effects of random chemical sparks in her brain, that it was silly and meant nothing, that nothing would ever happen, etc., etc. It's really hard to tell, because the story just doesn't explore her relationship with Shion properly. How frustrating is that!

Quote
"Also my first time seeing you stumble over yourself trying to explain things. That's alright if you have a girlfriend. I don't mind if you've already got someone on your mind. ―No, that was a lie. Look at me, I always try to put up a strong face in any situation. It's a bad habit of mine."
(Safu, Volume 1, Chapter 2)

From these lines, I'd say that Safu is not an optimist about this relationship. Why did she wait until the day before she was going away to tell her feelings to Shion? Probably because she expected him to say no. If she expected him to say yes, she would have asked him a while ago so that they could enjoy being together for a while before she left. I almost wonder if she considered leaving to be a mistake, knowing that she was leaving Shion behind. I also wonder at Safu's permanent return to No. 6 upon her grandmother's death. I think maybe she was glad to have an excuse to come back and be near Shion again. Of course, in the anime she enjoyed being in the other city. But again, the anime was different. And I'm not saying that she was glad her grandmother died, obviously. I'm just saying that her grandmother's death was an excuse for her to let herself act on her true feelings about leaving No. 6.

Ahiku

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Thanks for your detailed answers. It was very interesting to read everything and you pointed out a lot of good examples that Shion actually cared for her.

It was just that something about their relationship bothered me all the time. But now I think it’s what Elanra said – the fact that Shion took Safu for granted all the time. And he realized it too late.  Plus, he wasn’t very nice to her, especially after her awkward love confession. It’s the last time they met when Safu was still alive and he didn’t give her a proper good-bye. (Even though it’s quite understandable, Nezumi stole his heart after all…)  I just feel so sorry for Safu. Shion’s a nice boy, but he’s also pretty dumb concerning his feelings towards Safu, but not when it comes to Nezumi. In the end it’s a part of No. 6’s essence and charm… He’s a human after all, with a mind of his own. He makes mistakes, and he isn’t perfect. He’ll regret a lot of things; he’ll try but also fail. I’m just glad that Safu was somehow able to see thanks to Elyurias that Shion did care for her, and that he risked his life to help her in the end. At least a better good-bye for her than running away while chasing a certain mouse; knowingly that she’ll be abroad for 2 long years… ^^°