Otaku Queer: Chikane Himemiya

Well, since I gushed about a queer character last time, I figure it's time to get more critical with the next subject. However, I wanted to stay positive, so I decided to go with a character I really like, yet is so horrifically mishandled that I can't believe someone allowed her to exist like this. For this installment, I'll be going over the messy history of one of the most mishandled characters I have ever seen, Chikane Himemiya.

Now strap in, because this particular character hasn't just been in one series, she's been in three, and one of them had an anime that significantly messed with the material. Chikane Himemiya is one of two heroines of Kaishaku's yuri/fantasy/mecha manga series Kannazuki no Miko, translated in English to the far more boring title of “Destiny of the Shrine Maiden.” I will have words on Kaishaku a bit later (and I will have many, MANY words), but as for Kannazuki no Miko itself, it was a series that gained a surprising following because it was so open about all the gay. See, this was a yuri series released in the early and mid 2000s, back when yuri was a rarity that didn't have a Love Live around as the big market perpetrator. Gay guys were fucking EVERYWHERE, but gay girls were usually shoved to the side in one-shots, timid adaptations too afraid to go full gay, or quickly canceled series. Kannazuki no Miko was only two volumes, but it stuck around, especially in the west, and especially because if its anime adaptation.

The series itself was a poorly thought out mess, but a fun one. A normal girl named Himeko Kurusugawa discovered that she was the reincarnation of a shrine maiden that helped seal away the great demon Orochi many eons ago, and she's needed again to summon a god to fight back the beast. Chikane, the school's princess of sorts (she comes from a rich family), grows a friendship with Himeko and quickly falls in love, and the anime also makes it very clear that she's the other maiden alongside Himeko (the manga made this a late series reveal). Side by side with the main plot is a love triangle involving the prince of the school, Soma Ogami, who is in love with Himeko as well.

I'd normally complain about guys in yuri works, but Ogami ends up being a genuinely nice and supportive person who has no ill feelings towards Himeko going with Chikane and finishes the big bad for them so they can have a private moment at series end. He also doesn't really erase Himeko's sexuality, which is coded as bisexual, and just generally does a good job of helping the gals out when they need it. He's an actual welcome member of the cast who even gets his own little sub-story (though it ends up underdeveloped).

Really, the reason the series works despite its many, many, many flaws is Chikane. She's the only character who feels like a fleshed out person, because she has motivations and goals beyond generic “I wanna be better” or “I wanna protect.” Chikane has fallen madly in love with Himeko, and she's unable to admit her feelings because she believes she's already picked Ogami. When the Orochi mess starts, she uses it partly as an excuse to get closer to Himeko, whom she already meets with in secret for lunch, by letting her use her home as a safe place. She constantly acts creepy when Himeko isn't aware, mainly looking at her, and she shows she's incredibly protective when she scares off a bunch of bullies with just one nasty stare. She balances a line between being creepy and being relatable, thanks to the scenes with her and Himeko talking or doing stuff together, and we get a real sense that she does genuinely care about Himeko as a person and not just as an obsession.

By the time the series end, we discover that Chikane has full memory of her past life, which included killing Himeko in a ritual to rebirth the world, and it's suggested this isn't the first time this has happened. Chikane and Himeko are stuck in an endless cycle of tragic love, and Chikane has realized this and begun to hate the god that gave her this endless bloody task. But what makes Chikane so great is that she realizes this. She knows she can never do what's necessary to stop Orochi anymore, so she tries to create a scenario by pretending to become the embodiment of Orochi to give Himeko a chance to become the strong willed person she always knew she was (Himeko accepted her death in their past lives for the good of the Earth, for example). He actions are incredibly flawed, but make a lot of sense from a character standpoint, and seeing her and Himeko finally get their happy ending at the end of the anime remains one of the best ends I've ever seen. The manga reincarnates them as sisters as the cycle continues and I thought that was dumb and stupid so let's skip over that.

The two were so popular among Kaishaku's output that they became supporting characters in a crossover work, their lesser Tsubasa if you will, called Shattered Angels. It wasn't a particularly good series, mind you, but Chikane and Himeko got to be gay for the entirety of it so that was nice. But Kaishaku also brought them back for one other series ...aaaaaaaaaaand now we need to talk about the many elephants in the room.

See, Chikane handles her evil bluff not by just betraying Himeko ...but assaulting her.


Would it surprise you to learn that Kaishaku has done porn, and the anime director would go on to work on High School DxD?

Despite all the good ideas Chikane's story has, this one point ruins almost everything the series tried to do in one fowl swoop, and I fully understand why anyone would dislike or hate this franchise after that scene. I like the anime a great deal, but even I have to admit it would be worlds better if they didn't decide the rape as motivation thing was the way to go. It's also arguably too dark for Chikane. I get the idea behind it, make the viewer question Chikane's motives, but a stolen kiss and swing of a sword would have done that perfectly fine and be far more effective without grossing out the majority of the audience.

But it gets worse, because Kaishaku's spiritual successor to Kannazuki no Miko, Zettai Shoujo Seiiki Amnesian, remains one of the worst manga I have ever witnessed, and by far the worst possible way to bring these characters back. This manga is a baffling exercise in pornifying a non-porny series. I mean, there were a few risque moments, but even that sexual assault scene was handled with some drama and class. Here, we have a rapist comedic relief (WHO'S ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS) and a crossdressing sadist bounding up and raping Himeko IN THE SECOND GODAMN CHAPTER. There are so, so many bad things in this series, but the absolute snow job done to the leading girls would make me wonder if this was even the same creative team, if not for me being familiar with the rest of the trash they made.

Scan groups gave up on this one six years ago, almost nobody liked it. There was attempted rape in every other chapter, and due to an idiotic clone plot, Chikane was introduced basically as a sexually aggressive Goku. She was also still a lesbian, but weirdly did a lot of non-lesbian stuff for fanservice, like seductively eating phallic objects. Kaishaku tossed out all pretense and made awful porn (CHIKANE'S EX GIRLFRIEND FUCKING SLAMS HER AGAINST A FENCE TO REMIND HER SHE LIKES IT ROUGH TO TRY AND RESTORE HER MEMORY), and that comedic rapist I mentioned, Date, is the physical embodiment of the series worst sins. HE. KEEPS. TRYING. TO. RAPE. THE. LESBIANS. CUE LAUGH TRACK. I could go on and on about the bad decisions beyond the creepy fetish stuff, but then we'd be here for many paragraphs more.

What Chikane became is a great example of some big problems yuri faces in Japan when it comes to being mainstream, which I will continue with once I decide to talk about Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid again. There's a mistaken belief that you have to skive things up to get attention, usually by tossing in something het or using popular smut series tropes, like GODDAMN ATTTEMPTED RAPE. It's a shocking misunderstanding of why the genre has a following in the first place, and the exact wrong way to try and make a yuri work more sexually charged. In practice, it destroyed someone who was once one of the most well known lesbian characters in anime back in the 00s.

Chikane is such a frustrating character, but damn it, I still really love her. I haven't seen a yuri with a character quite like her before or since, and there are so many interesting directions you could take her morally complex personality. At the same time, you can't ignore the reality of what she became, which has made Kaishaku one of my great hated names among manga artists. I mean sure, they made one of my favorite characters ever, but they also ruined her in most vile way possible. Still, they couldn't completely destroy her, and Kannazuki no Miko had some influence on the yuri scene, especially in giving it greater exposure to western audiences. It's just never going to get a revival after that horrific second act.


  1. Well. This has both put me off and been wonderfully educational on probably the biggest yuri influence of the 00s (at least in the West?) lol. But it's still nice to hear about it's strengths to have an idea of 'why' it's so big and somewhat important ^^;

    1. Chikane is high on my list of characters I want to protect from their creators. She deserved so much better.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts