(Fair warning: This entry mentions a major plot point of Denpa Teki na Kanojo/Electromagnetic Girlfriend.)
The last few days I’ve been playing the catch-up game, because even one week away from the computer means the shows I want to watch start building up. I saved Railgun for last, because it’s never failed to entertain. While that’s still true right now, once again I came away from Railgun a little disturbed.
Let me paint a picture: A boy gets bullied, extorted by thugs in his school on a regular basis. But instead of seeking help, he internalizes his hate, obsesses over power and becomes a mad bomber: a terrorist and would-be cop killer. He’s even willing to target young girls and put children in danger. How wretched—obviously the passive-aggressive little punk deserved to get bullied in the first place. Right?
Or how about this: A girl is raped and beaten by her neighbor, a mentally ill man who believes he is protecting the world from alien imposters. Thinking no one will help her, she decides to follow him on one of his “missions.” She quickly becomes addicted to the thrill of photographing the victims before he kills them, and eventually she becomes her rapist’s controller, encouraging his madness to continue the game. Even without him, the girl discovers a newfound taste for violence and death, inflicted with garrote wires and aluminum baseball bats.
I wish I could say this is a clever “the abused becomes the abuser” meme, but I don’t think it is.
Bullying was a problem for Japanese schools all the way back in the 1980s. Bruce Feiler, the author of Learning to Bow, noticed it when he was teaching during the very first years of the JET Program. I read that book when I was a child, and now here I am to find that 2009 Japan isn’t any different.
Just last month, for example, I listened to an English speech given by a girl who was a victim of bullying. She described being shunned by her classmates, receiving graffiti and death threats in her mailbox, and yet the most shocking part to me was that she blamed herself for not being sensitive enough!
Victimization is treated differently here. There is some value to it– nobody gets completely off the hook just for being a victim. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like there’s a parade of media (Railgun, Denpa Teki na Kanojo, certain episodes of Shigofumi, almost the entirety of Jigoku Shoujo) that tries to justify violence against others by implying that they brought it on themselves. Victims are rendered weak or evil, and bullying appears to walk a very fine line between catalyst and pre-emptive punishment.
I can’t stand that. But it is what it is.