ember_keelty: (utena for her)
[personal profile] ember_keelty

Let's do this!

The thing for which Sayaka takes the most flak from fandom is her relationship with Kyousuke. She gets called clingy. She gets called yandere. She gets treated as though her attraction to him were the core of her entire personality.

None of these things are true. In this post, I will be addressing the lattermost.

Sayaka does love Kyousuke and she does want to be with him. There's no denying his importance to her character arc. But her conflicted feelings about him are only emblematic of the much larger conflict that defines her character. The question that Mami is asking her in the panel above is just one variation of the question she struggles with in every aspect of her life. And note: "both" is not presented as a valid answer.

In the anime, after the first time Sayaka is shown visiting Kyousuke, she has a moment of solitude on the way down from his room in which she curls in on herself and says, out loud, to no one in particular, "I am a bad girl." She's just spent her spare time visiting an ailing friend in the hospital and her money buying music to make him feel better, but there's a part of her that wants his gratitude and love, so she's bad. To Sayaka, an act cannot be good unless it is entirely selfless. Helping people doesn't count if you get or even just hope to get something back from it.

It gets worse when Mami dies. Before that happens, Madoka gets a chance to see some of the vulnerabilities she kept hidden, but Sayaka never does. To Sayaka, Mami was a saint and her death a seal of canonization. It gets worse still when Kyouko shows up and more or less presents herself as the physical embodiment of selfishness and appetite and greed and all of the things that Sayaka hates most in herself and tries to repress. So of course she responds by repressing them harder.

Then she loses Kyousuke to Hitomi, and they all come bubbling to the surface anyway. That's why she falls into suicidal depression: not because she didn't get the boy, but because she considers herself a failure at being a good person. The revelation about soul gems hits her at just the right time to convince her that she isn't a person at all and doesn't deserve to be loved, or even to live.

Remember the scene where she cries into Madoka's shoulder? It begins as her crying about Hitomi "taking away" Kyousuke, but once she gets going, what comes out is entirely unrelated to that. "I can't face Mami like this," she sobs. That's what's at the core of her misery: that she hasn't been able to live up to her ideal image of herself, which is what Mami has represented to her ever since her death.

That's why she starts refusing to use grief seeds to purify her soul gem. All she can do to make up for her own perceived inadequacies is to throw herself entirely into helping other people — and she still believes, perhaps more than ever, that helping people doesn't count if you get something back from it.
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January 2014

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