Throughout our lives we are constantly reinventing ourselves. It’s human nature to evaluate what works and adjust accordingly. This is no easy task, and we are all fallible creatures, so we make mistakes. This is the story of Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, or HenNeko, and it is our story as well.
HenNeko features deeply flawed characters. The protagonist, Youto, is a pervert whose objectification of women is his primary driving force. His only obstacle is the hard-nosed perfectionist track team captain, who has misidentified his lame attempts to cover his lechery as hard work and dedication. He soon meets a younger girl who lacks the self-control expected of her by society. The cast is finalized by the addition of an attention-seeking girl whose concern for appearance is so great that she sacrifices all else to maintain hers.
Youto realizes that his attitude towards women is not socially acceptable. He puts up a facade of being a normal boy. It’s difficult to go against one’s nature, but he feels trapped in the very front he’s built for himself.
Chances are that you know your imperfections intimately. Humans have adapted to be risk averse and to focus on imperfections. This allows us to identify threats and personal shortcomings. Thus when we notice our own flaws we are quick to blame. Worse, we are also often quick to judge even though we may be ill-equipped to do so.
Youto mistakes his problem of lechery and misogyny with one of honesty. He wishes to be more honest about his feelings, so that he might escape the consequences of his actions. He casts these wishes at a local cat shrine, rumored to have the power to help him. Instead, he finds that his problems have multiplied. By solving the wrong problem he fails to escape his responsibilities and also becomes a complete social pariah. His compatriots all make similar mistakes. This is a story of taking the easy way out and the hard way back.
We are all guilty of such errors. It’s part of the learning process; one that continues throughout our lives. For children, especially in the formative pubescent years, these mistakes come frequently. Those are trial runs for the mistakes we will make later in life. Mistakes in our education, careers, relationships, loves… Even in blogging we make mistakes.
Youto’s reaction to his predicament after the botched wish lends itself to greater empathy than his original problem. Through circumstance he has joined forces with others who wish to change. He claims that his goal is selfish, but actions speak louder than words. His actions show a somewhat complex character whose intentions are far more altruistic, as he often puts the feelings of others ahead of his own.
If the mistakes are the setup, then the interest lay in the reaction. Thus far, the reaction in HenNeko has been to forge new bonds of mutual interest, and to attempt to undo their mistakes without hurting any others. Forging new bonds is great. This is one of the best ways to benefit from a bad situation. However, the attempt to undo their mistakes shows very little character growth. It’s true that they now know of the consequences of their actions, but true growth would be to think of the mistakes made and attempt not to repeat them. Subsequent wishes to the cat shrine show a willful disregard for the circumstances that got them into this mess. Yet we must remember that these are children, and not every lesson can be learned the first time.
When our choices let us down we are judged most by our reactions. I’m reminded of the axiom of customer service that a mistake can cost you a customer, but a proper response can earn you five. Mistakes are opportunities, and we can make the most of these opportunities by treating them as such. A perfect dining experience might leave an impression, but a ruined dining experience will leave a bigger one. (Remember that we are primed to notice the negative and then avoid it.) Should a mistake ruin the experience, the management has an opportunity to show compassion and perhaps make the rest of the evening special. This is forging new bonds, but it is not an undoing of a mistake.
Thus we continue on, imperfectly. Our hope is that we will learn from our mistakes and that we will benefit from our learning. Here. In our lives. And maybe even in HenNeko.
7 responses to “Reinvention in HenNeko”
And once again I find myself with a hanging jaw after reading an Altair and Vega article. I haven’t watched HenNeko (I’m more of a manga person), but you got to (what appears to be) the heart of it, and in the process, dare I say, to the heart of ourselves, in such short space and time.
I can’t say I know any other group of writers that’s this big and puts out consistently meaningful and relevant pieces. Altair and Vega, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s incredibly important and you guys are fantastic at it. Thank you for this article, for past articles and for articles to come. Really.
Thank you. Truly. I’m glad I could join such an inspired group of authors. We have a great community around us as well. Thank you for being a part of that.
What about Tsukiko, though? She hasn’t tried too hard to get her facial expressions back. Granted, the story’s not over yet, but she seems to be treating it as being (for the most part) exactly what she needed, rather than a correction of the wrong sort. And yet she has grown at least a bit, I’d say. The extra bit of magical restraint has helped her learn how to express herself better—she just can’t use her face to help here, so has to stick with her words and actions. Perhaps correcting her past mistakes wasn’t such a bad idea in this case? Or perhaps instead she’s learned from this mistake as well?
Please forgive any spoilers in this response.
As for Tsukiko, she has tried to get her facial expressions back. It was perhaps glossed over, but just after Youto is able to recover his facade the focus turns to Tsukiko. She comes ever so close to recovering her expressions, but she sacrifices them in an effort to make her sister happy.
I think we can read a few things into this: 1) That Tsukiko still hasn’t sorted out her issues, so she is not ready to accept her true self yet. 2) Tsukiko is afraid that the connections she’s made are due to the change in her personality, thus if she reverts to her true self she will lose her new friends. 3) The director is having too much fun with Tsukiko’s deadpan.
You’re right, though. There’s a bit of Tsukiko accepting her changes happening. Also, it showed a lot of maturity to make an altruistic choice and sacrifice her emotions for her sister (twice!) There’s actually growth in all the main characters, so this isn’t entirely unprecedented. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that correcting her mistakes is a bad idea, though. It’s a bad idea to be unable to express yourself and physical cues are important as well.
I’m a fan of reason number 3, personally.
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