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[personal profile] ember_keelty

I really hate the word "yandere." By definition, it means a character, usually female, who is superficially cute and sweet but psychotically obsessed with and possessive of the person she loves to the point of behaving violently toward him or toward someone she perceives as a rival for her affections. It's also considered a type of moe. In practice, the term gets used to trivialize and fetishize mental illness in female characters with any sort of violent tendencies, regardless of whether they fit that definition. For proof of this, one needs look no farther than the prevalence of images of Ryuugu Rena, whose mental issues have precisely nothing to do with infatuation, on Yandere Daily and other yandere fetishist sites.

Sayaka's mental breakdown is precipitated by her crush on a boy, though, as I have explained, that is not the only or even the primary reason for its occurrence. Even so, I would argue that she doesn't fit the trope any better than Rena does. For one thing, her fall into madness is consistently treated with dignity by the narrative, rather than in the sensationalist and fetishistic manner consistent with yandere moe. For another, let's take a look at whom exactly her violent outbursts are directed at, and why.

Sayaka herself is the main victim. More than anything else, she is self-destructive. She throws herself entirely into fighting Witches, refusing to rest or accept support, and both her body and soul pay the price for it — which she waves off as no price at all, since she considers herself worthless. She tries a couple of times fight to the death with Kyouko, but that's before she really starts to lose her grip on her sanity, and in fact stops at exactly the same point at which her descent begins in earnest. The first time it's an adrenaline response to Kyouko trying to kill her, and the second time it's partly an emotional response to Kyouko's deliberate provocation and partly a horribly misguided attempt to eradicate someone she genuinely believes is a villain and a threat to people's safety. If we really stretch the definition of "violent outburst", there's also the scene where she shouts at Madoka, but that self-evidently has nothing to do with Kyousuke and everything to do with her disillusionment with the life of a magical girl.

That leaves us with the incident on the train. One way to read it is as her lashing out at living effigies of Kyousuke. I don't think, however, that that is the right way to read it. She's certainly projecting her own heartbreak when she tells one of the strangers that the woman about whom he's speaking so cruelly loves him and is trying her best to make him happy, but there's more to their conversation and her state of mind than that. Right before she snaps, she asks them to give her a reason why she should suffer and risk her life if most people are scum like them. To the extent that she's been hanging on until this point, she's been doing so because even though she considers herself to have no inherent value, she believes that she might yet be of value to other people. But if other people are worthless too? That makes her a complete cipher. So, she breaks.

There's another reason I don't believe that she murdered those men out of a desire to murder Kyousuke. That reason is: I don't believe that she would ever, ever want to hurt Kyousuke.

Interestingly, the idea of her going yandere on him is explicitly brought up in the series. Above, I mention Kyouko provoking her into trying to kill her.

This is how she does it. In the anime, she even offers to break him for her. It's a brilliantly cruel line that plays upon both Sayaka's protectiveness and mostly unselfish love for Kyousuke and her painful doubt about her own goodness.

That doubt ultimately proves unfounded. In the final episode, Madoka actually subtly offers her a chance to take back her wish and her time fighting as a magical girl by mentioning that that was the only way she could have rewritten reality to save her life, and she didn't think that Sayaka would want that. Sayaka confirms that, and finally comes to peace with what she really felt in the deepest part of her heart, beneath all of the insecurities and conflicting desires:

And what about her feelings toward Hitomi? I've heard jokes in fandom about her wanting to "go Charlotte on her ass," but I am convinced that she would never hurt her any more than she would hurt Kyousuke. For one thing, she never does, nor does she even say unkind things about her. For another...

Sayaka is a good friend.
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