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Old 2010-12-10, 09:21   Link #39
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Hamburg
Age: 50
Deconstructing Ayatsuji - An Attempt to Put Together the Puzzle Pieces

After episode 23, Key Board and me have been discussing Tsukasa alot, trying to make the myriads of puzzle pieces of her fit, in an attempt to explain what made her the way she is, and to understand why she's acting the way she does. In the end, I believe we managed to figure things out and make all puzzle pieces fit, so I'm trying to summarize the results in the correct temporal order, because I believe it's making her development more easy to understand.

Disclaimer: Neither Key Board nor me have played the game. I have read the manga, but in several aspects this is actually more a hindrance than a help, because the manga muddles some key scenes of hers. Nevertheless, this analysis may still turn out wrong, several aspects are assumptions and conjectures. Review it and make up your own mind. Sorry that it got so long.

The True, "Inner" Ayatsuji

Tsukasa's true nature is that of an exceptionally smart and capable girl that has a strong drive to excel. She doesn't suffer fools lightly and can be scathing and biting when angered. She has a very domineering attitude, which in conjunction with her take-charge approach and her sharp tongue can come across as very harsh and confrontational/unlikable. She is very perceptive and quick-thinking, able to assess solutions to problems and weaknesses of others rapidly. With her teasing streak she enjoys to apply these skills to mess with Junichi.

Her inner motivation is to get ahead in life, and to prove herself by excelling over all others. She draws self-affirmation out of her performance and success as class representative, and later, as festival committee chairwoman. She is exceptionally dedicated and prideful, and therefore, she'd rather work herself to death than admitting failure. It should be noted though that she does _not_ extend this harshness to Junichi, she's been sending him home several times. This indicates a caring side towards others which she does not extend towards herself.

The Birth of the Facade, the "Outer" Ayatsuji

It is not quite clear when she developed the polished facade she has been wearing almost all of the time, but we believe we can make an educated guess: The key is Yukari, Tsukasa's kind-friendly, yet airheaded and oblivious elder sister.

Almost certainly Tsukasa's harsher personality set her on a collision course with Yukari. She seems rather like a simpleton, but is quite likable. We believe that Tsukasa's parents will have favored Yukari and admonished Tsukasa for her unfriendly attitude. Tsukasa in return will have resented her parents' favoritism in spite of her own better performance, and this would extend to Yukari aswell. This would also explain why Tsukasa reacted so negatively to comments about her sister, particularly positive ones.

With Tsukasa's perceptiveness and ability to adapt, she will have realized that she couldn't leave her aggressive, confrontational and sarcastic personality unchecked and public, or she would make enemies which would hinder her self-defining desire to excel in life. Therefore, she had the perfect solution: She developed and perfected the "Facade".

By consciously assuming the exterior of a kind, "perfect" girl, who would not make enemies, smile, perform admirably, never get angry, work hard and get things done without frictions, she would be able to pursue her primary goal successfully. Unfortunately, it would stifle her emotional and social development. Her facade wouldn't connect to genuine friends, because she wouldn't be genuine either. Therefore, her success would rather isolate her, and forcing her to lead a grey life without happiness. She had noone to share happiness or sadness with. No real person would listen and appreciate her successes either, and the admiration of "the society" were only an insufficient surrogate.

The Birth and the Function of her Diary

We believe that this was the function of her diary, which she so desperately guarded. Here, the Inner Tsukasa was writing down her life, her frustrations, and her thoughts which she couldn't share with anybody. In a way, it was her way to deal with whatever gave her a hard time. Some kind of offline-blog, talking to herself. It also explains why the contents would be damaging enough that she "couldn't come to school anymore" if they'd ever come out.

We could see in episode 3 how much she was annoyed at the laziness and pettiness of the three bitches. Her Facade would have never allowed to show her anger - instead, it rather demanded that she would go through a humiliating insincere teary apology, sacrificing her (absolutely justified) anger and pride for the sake of ultimate success. In the past, she probably would have made an entry in the diary - this time, she did it in person, with disastrous results.

This is how Junichi uncovered the "Inner" Tsukasa - when he picked up the diary. Tsukasa believed that he had actually read it, and that there was no need to maintain the Facade towards him anymore. It also proves that Ayatsuji has no split or bipolar personality: The Inner Tsukasa is always in control - she was able to drop the Facade in a second.

The Junichi Effect

But now, something completely unexpected happened: Unlike what she encountered in the past, Junichi accepted the Inner Ayatsuji. While initially she just wanted to intimidate him into keeping the secret, he stuck around her voluntarily. He obviously enjoyed being with her, he even said so. So mystifying!

He was enjoying being with HER, with the true Inner Tsukasa. She found the acceptance she was denied in the past, and she could STILL accomplish things. So she decided to try going with less and less of the facade. Even after she snapped at the Three Bitches and gave them a verbal whiplash, and the retribution seemed to come the day after at dodgeball, something even more amazing happened: Not only Junichi, but even new friends came to her defense. And Junichi didn't reject her either. This could be working!!

The Burning of the Diary and her Confession

This was when she decided to give her true, Inner personality a chance. The burning of the diary right before her confession was a highly symbolic act. "I don't need the diary anymore, I now have HIM to talk to instead."

The form of the confession indicated that she still had ALOT to learn when dealing with people. "Please become mine" isn't exactly the romantic textbook form to do it, but the genuine and even slightly desperate way she elaborated her thoughts and intentions was honest and touching. She was nervous because she was risking alot - it should be noted that she burned her diary FIRST before asking him. What would she have done had he rejected her confession?

Catastrophe - Miscommunication Kills the Inner Ayatsuji

When we start to analyze the key scene of episode 3, we should remind ourselves that Junichi doesn't know anything about all this. He only wants to help Ayatsuji achieve her goal, a full success of the festival, but he has no clue about the demons that haunt her, and he knows nothing about Inner and Facade, no matter how much he might say or think that he understands Tsukasa.

So late at night, Tsukasa stays back to work even more, sending off Junichi under a pretext. But she's exceptionally relieved and glad to see him there, willing to help her out - after all, she's under tremendous pressure, since she decided that she wouldn't use Facade to manipulate people into helping her anymore. And this is where Junichi is stepping on a huge landmine.

To better illustrate the catastrophe on the meta-level, I will add a second dialog line in Italics to circumphrase what Tsukasa was hearing and trying to say.

J: Don't you think we should ask for everyone's help again?
J: We need the help of the Three Bitches to succeed.

T: Huh? Are you being serious?
T: Oi, you can't possibly be serious!

J: Well, we won't make it at this rate.
J: I am. Otherwise you're going to fail.

T: Umehara-kun and the others are helping already.
T: We got all the help we could get without hypocrisy already.

J: But I'm sure you know their help alone isn't enough!
J: Not enough! You know we need the power of the Facade!

T: I'll work all night... I'll do anything if it comes down to it!
T: NO WAY! I can do this without faking. I can do it!

J: And what if you collapse again?!
J: No way you can pull this off as you are!

T: Anyway, I won't ask for help.
T: I just stopped with the Facade! I CAN'T DO THIS!!

J: Why not?! That's not like you! Aren't you someone who confidently handles situations like this?! Actually, you'd take care of it even-
J: What happened to you? You used to be so great before! You could pull this off in the past! Without your Facade, you can't do ANYTHING anymore!

T: What do you mean, not like me?! You think you know anything about me? I'm asking you what you think you know!
T: For the love of god, do you even understand what you're saying here? Do you love the Facade, or do you love me?

J: But I do know. You're giving it your all for the Festival. That's why you should apologize to everyone and ask for their help again.
J: What a silly question, the Facade, of course. Anything for the final victory, what else? So fake an apology and rope them in!


J: Why? Why do you say things like that even though you know?
J: If you know me, as you say, how can you tell me to do the opposite of what I'm trying so hard to do?

What Junichi achieved was essentially to tell Tsukasa that her true, Inner personality was insufficient. He liked her Facade, not her. Naturally that's not in the remotest way what he REALLY wanted to say. But this is what she heard. A catastrophe born in miscommunication.

The Broken Ayatsuji: Hardcore Facade up to Self-Denial

After the guy she loved rejected her true, Inner being once more (her parents were the first), the heartbroken Tsukasa gives up. The saying is "once bitten, twice shy", and that was the second bite she got. So she tries to purge the remains of her true, Inner personality for the sake of a successful festival! And to stay close to the guy she has feelings for! He wants the Facade! So be it. I'm obviously worthless anyway.

This is why Ayatsuji started to talk about that "stubborn girl" that doesn't "exist anymore". While in the past, she was wearing the Facade while she felt she had to, she is now trying to deny her real personality and BECOME the Facade. The Inner Ayatsuji is trying to commit emotional suicide and leave the Facade behind. Isn't that what you wanted? Let's kiss and celebrate!

Chilling and terribly tragic.

How to Undo the Damage

Junichi has picked up that something terrible happened, and that the girl he loved has somehow disappeared ("Where did the Ayatsuji-san I fell in love with go?") - the hope is that he can somehow make heads and tails out of the situation, and that he can convince Tsukasa that it's indeed her INNER personality that he loved. That she's the victim of a catastrophic misunderstanding, and that things are not as they seem for her.

This, in itself, is quite a refreshing deviation from the usual formula of asymmetrical romances between a peculiar, strong-willed girl and the default male lead. Normally, it's the "Taming of the Beast" to make love happen. Here, it's the opposite - Junichi needs to resuscitate the beast in Ayatsuji.

Final Verdict

Presuming that this analysis is mostly correct, kudos for an exceptionally interesting character study. The only downside is that 4 episode were far too few to properly develop things - there are too many puzzle pieces to collect and put together for this complicated story to work. 6 episodes would have been much better.

I should add that with the complete picture, several aspects from the manga, which I filed away under "she's a really multifaceted and mysterious personality" suddenly become much more clear and understandable. So, in a reversal of my first note, I now rate the anime above the manga. It also fits like a glove with the ED.

This is the result of several hours of post-reflection and discussion. It's _impossible_ to do all this while watching. What were they thinking? ^_^;

Other than that, what a fascinating arc!
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