Serial Reason | Denpa Teki na Kanojo, a Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching. For clarity’s sake, I’ll emphasize this: the review isn’t meant to be so much holistic as it is coverage of what I believe is of core importance to the show. 

Elements  of this essay take from some of Sigmund Freud’s ideas. That being said, the inclusion of those elements are not meant to be a total affirmation of everything they believe.

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Occasionally, news organs will report a sensationalist spate of grisly crimes with the perpetrator caught or the perpetrator at-large. Well, bombings, rapes, murders, etc. aren’t sensationalist per se, because when they happen, they can happen with all the perverse gruesome details people can imagine and probably more. What is sensationalist about this whole business is the “pundits” it spawns that attempt to make sense of all this, and of those “pundits,” there are many that say it’s futile to make sense it all, to make sense of the perpetrators’ motives and mindsets. No one in their right minds would perpetrate these these kinds of actions.

What’s less extreme, but still abnormal are individuals that we may more commonly encounter, in schools perhaps, that, nonetheless, exhibit very pronounced idiosyncrasies, ingrained beliefs and habitual behaviors beyond what could be considered conventionally shy, forward, etc.

Whether extreme and dangerous or strange and inconvenient,  by conventional, societal views, these people are beyond reason people defy reason.

Or they seem to. Denpa Teki na Kanojo serves to demonstrate, some of these people might actually be comprehensible, but in a different way.

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Through a series of events involving one supposed delinquent beating up all the other resident delinquents (out of self-defense), Juu Juusawa stands as the de facto (and unwitting) delinquent king of his high school. It’s a title unwanted. Juu would rather divest himself from this reputation entirely and lead a trouble-free life, but contrary to his desires, he’s confronted by this really strange girl. She claims that he and her are reincarnated versions of a literal king and knight of medieval days past, and she’s come back through time and space to serve as his vassal once more. Juu’s understandably disturbed by this delusional confession (maybe it’s her bangs that’s not making her see right), but try as he might, he can’t get rid of her. Her dedication (or obession) is such that she even goes so far as to break into his upper story apartment to be by his side.

The “Denpa” in Denpa Teki na Kanojo literally means electromagnetic in Japanese. Describing someone as “Denpa” attributes a characteristic of delusional. “Denpa” is tied together with “Kanojo” which literally means girlfriend. All put together, the title translates as strange, crazy, and delusional electromagnetic… girlfriend.

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All the while, a series of grisly murders have been occurring. Passerbys beaten on drizzling nights within an inch of their lives before having that last inch strangled out of their throats, and the communities shaken with fear. That fear’s exacerbated when successive images of the victims’ last moments, “snuff shots,” are posted in the Internet’s dark image board recesses. Their faces are desperate, pleading turned to despairing with each successive picture. A black eye here. A cheek bruise there. Hemorrhaging from every head-wise dimension, their necks are strung up with wire geraut. Eyes bloodshot dart and hands broken are writhe until everything goes limp, and the lasting impression Juu takes from them are terror etched into their facial features.

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These murders hit home, or more specifically just outside Juu’s home as he happens on a friend fell prey and on open display, a happy image of her juxtaposed with the terrified one he witnesses for. This girl, Ame Ochibane (“Ame” means “Rain” in English, by the way), happens to be at the scene of the crime, holding the bat that bludgeoned his friend to death. Visceral traces of gore are still splattered on the bat’s surface.

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In a morbidly fascinating use of double meaning, “Denpa” also makes reference to a series of Japanese serial killings that involve murderers claiming they were influenced by the electromagnetic waves permeating the air.

In addition, there may perhaps be a third meaning behind the use of “denpa” in this show, a bond that ties Juu and Ame together.

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At the heart of this show’s limited run is its constant discussion of “rationality” and “irrationality.” What constitutes it? The prevailing societal view on “rationality” is intimately tied to the concept of objectivity. Society operates under and influences its socialites’ worldviews with a set standard of decency. People are called by society to be generally decent to their fellow man and woman. This standard constitutes reason. After all, societies can only really function when people aren’t killing themselves, and people need functional societies to provide essential services to them such as safety. People who act alien to this “rationality” of established decency must be alien themselves. They are totally nonsensical. Totally “irrational.”

They possess no reason. Zero reason.

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Framing “rationality” in the context of a serial offender, if serial criminals like those in this show (criminals that commit the same crime over and over in a particularly specific fashion, commit atypical displays of harassment and homicide) were incomprehensibly “irrational,” then they’d be easy enough for competent law enforcement officials to deal with. After all, “rational” policemen with their reason would produce arrests in a quick, foregone conclusion. To be fair, there are probably criminals who are completely psychotic, that commit crimes without the faintest trace of lucidity.

There are others that exhibit a surprising degree of sobriety in their misdeeds. There are others that are a clever. Many possess varying degrees of aptitude as forensic escape artists. There are others that are meticulous. Many possess varying degrees of exactness as human meat butchers. They seem to be fascinated towards certain objects or routines to the point of fixation. They exhibit patterns of action, behavioral idiosyncrasies, modus operandi. Outside of personal blunder or dumb luck, detectives attempting to capture serial criminals, to a certain extent have to think like serial criminals. They have to identify and anticipate their moves, suggesting that serial criminals are  nonrandom and even predictable. For what reason then would the unreasonable take actions that seem to suggest reason? That’s the point though.

They possess reason. Serial reason.

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Serial reason’s my second-hand phrase for neuroses, as opposed to psychoses. As opposed to psychotic behavior, neurotic behavior can characterize behavior outside that of the criminal. The reason for Ame’s assertion as Juu’s loyal vassal from time and space has less to do with her being a reincarnated knight from ages past (though that’s not terribly uncommon in anime), and more to do with a serial narrative that, contrary to reality, she embraces as her “rationality.”

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“Rationality” in the context of the show is ultimately illustrated less an objective diviner as a subjective lens. It is a lens people wear to figure out who they are in the world and how they should act in light of the goals they want to pursue in the world they perceive. Thus, the “irrational” may not so much acting alien to humanity as they are acting alternative to society’s values.

While convenience and consensus may drive societies to declare certain actions, behaviors, and beliefs as “rational” and “irrational,” society’s values are ultimately arbitrary ones. Consider that in another society, the societal standard might be completely different to the societal standard we are used to. Consider that in another age, like the medieval, the societal standard back then could be completely the reverse to the societal standard now. It is not a fact that this person or that person is acting “rationally” or “irrationally,” because those people may see the world differently. They may see the reason, however awful, derived from their place in that different world as completely “rational.” To argue with them based on a different world premise is unhelpful if the aim is to diagnosis and cure the problem their beliefs, behaviors, and actions cause. They will fanatically insist they are right and everyone else is wrong.

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Consequently, to counter serial reason, like detectives have to do with serial criminals, we must operate cognitively on their level. We must use their reason to identify who they think they are and anticipate what they will do next. We must use their logic to answer what their responses would be to a puzzle they have to work through. We may even need to exploit the holes in their own “rationality” or even hijack their own “rationality” to turn their own constructs of reality against them.

Or, for the milder cases of serial reason such as the case that characterizes Ame, without abandoning one’s own conception of “rationality,” we can use the “rationality” of these others in order to better get along with them.

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How do individuals that possess alternative worldviews adopt these ways of looking and engaging with reality in the first place?  A related question is what permits these serial individuals to commit to beliefs, behaviors, and actions that are morally repulsive to the societies they live in? Mutilations and murders are deeds that, if committed by normal socialites, would cause a significant deal of mental stress and discomfort because of societally set standards of decency. The issue is less that these people disagree with these standards consciously and more that they’ve been subconsciously conditioned for years (including perhaps some of our most formative ones) on end with these values to the point where any deviation from these values would cause people to reflexively recoil. Cognitive dissonance, the mental struggle of reconciling between two different moralities, should be at work, but serial individuals are somehow able to commit atrocities without pause. Why is that?

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It leads back to this phenomenon of fascination becoming fixation. People become so consumed in their deviant obsessions that in the full transition from one worldview to another that they either are able to, consciously and subconsciously, justify or even mandate whatever methods they believe are necessary to use in order to fulfill them, including the most atrocious ones.

People can unlearn their conditioned reservations completely in order to overcome them, but what happens in the show and what happens more often in life is that people make conditions. They tailor exceptions based on specific rules. They participate in moral disengagement and permit themselves to commit terrible deeds towards other people contingent to certain contexts supported by logic derived from their alternative worldview.

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Denpa Teki na Kanojo’s direction illustrates a great understanding of creating uncanny atmospheres. The uncanny is fitting in light of a narrative filled with characters you meet whose demeanors and reasonings are human but, at the same time, seem slightly off, and it’s off-putting for us.

For example. the show constantly hearkens back into this CG animated image of a female manikin holding a sign, placed within a cel animated background. The manikin may not be doing any harm itself (the manikin’s just a manikin in this case), but it sticks out. It feels unnatural and, consequently, unnerving. The contrastly alien detail provided by the CG and the efforts made by the camera to zoom closer to it accentuates the manikin’s uncanniness. Shots of the manikin are juxtaposed to other scenes to certain developments within the characters or plot, communicating an ominous thread.

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The detail of these two particular shots exhibit an almost photogenic likeness just in the nature of how defined lines of certain structures are illustrated. They’re not quite photogenic, however, what with the artificially shadowy framing of both images focusing the audience’s eye towards the center and the pastel-like qualities of some of the surfaces that otherwise confirm that they were images that were drawn. The realness of some portions of these shots and the unrealness of others clash with each other in a sort of cognitive dissonance of their own, like there’s something tense and stressful about what I’m seeing.

There’s all these many colors that you could otherwise make out clearly here shrouded shadings that seem to point to a blue hue. It’s not drowned in blue, however. It’s arguably not even quite that color, and while dull, browns, greens, and yellows are still noticeable, again clashing with this blue hue , like there’s something off and discomforting about what I’m witnessing. It doesn’t quite communicate despair, and yet I’d argue it’s not even communicating melancholy, although there is this oppressiveness present. The objects in these images are somewhat worn, somewhat chipped, and somewhat dilapidated, but not entirely. Corruption is probably the more operative description.

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The show makes simple but purposeful use of light and shadow. Notice in this shot this person. She wears dark clothes and is shrouded completely in darkness, as opposed to the cat. The cat’s illuminated and freaking white. The dull blue color palette and dilapidated detailing remains the same as the last two shots.

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The show also makes interesting use of positioning. Notice how where this person is position and how this person is shaded. Notice how the angle by which this person is shot. She’s positioned at the bottom of the stairs, with part of her torso and, more importantly, half of her face covered in shadow. The steps going up on the left are enlarged emphasized by their proximity to the camera, with the scale of this girl being comparatively small. This diminuativeness is further emphasized by the shadowy framing focusing the audience’s eyes on her and the stairs. She’s position just  a little north and a little east from the center, upsetting the balance. This contrast, in addition her placement on the bottom floor, gives an indication of how powerless she must feel.

The dull color palette and dilapidated detail remains the same.

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If the subtitles didn’t already give it away, this person is just about to have a revelation that transitions her worldview from that of other socialites to one of serial individuals. Notice how in the course of this revelation, more than half her face is still consumed in shadow. It’s not a healthy transition, nor is the “rationality” she soon afterwards assumes. The shadowy framing remains, and the theme of corruption is maintained.

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She’s not wearing completely dark clothes anymore, but her bottom is darker skirt than her top shirt. To literally, as well as figuratively, mark her transition from a view of the world in which she is powerless to a view of the world where she is powerful, she is repositioned in the two shots of the same setting above, from the stairs’ bottom to the stairs’ top.

The dull color palette and dilapidated detail remains the same.

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The show contains a decent amount of animated action here and there, but the show also has a lot of talking, a lot of said talking dedicated to speculating and debating about the serial crimes and serial individuals that commit them. The show’s able to portray all this imformation concisely, fluidly, and dynamically while keeping in line with the uncanniness of the show. Discussions about a harassment case at hand in the images are are interrupted with an odd shot of this condominium mailbox with streaming red fluid. Everything else in the show looks otherwise normal. As the discussion turns to how the harassment is escalating, we’re treated with another shot of the same mailbox with the same mailbox, but from a different and more intimate camera perspective.

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At this point, the audience should understand that the discussion of escalating harassment is related to this mailbox. They may even already understand what’s inside that mailbox, but there’s probably that little voice in our heads that’s horrified that the harassment went that far to perhaps even the point of disbelief. No where does the discussion never directly addresses this mailbox, and yet suspense builds and builds with each new shot of this mailbox with this streaming red fluid until it’s finally opened and the emotional payoff is achieved.

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The show suffers from pacing problems. The amount of run-time each episode in Denpa Teki na Kanojo are allotted is lengthier than the average episode, but the fallback from trying to cram what should be a multi-installment arc into one episode is evident in just how fast some of the events in the show run, especially towards the beginning when the show also has to contend with introducing the cast. It partially takes away from the suspense of the thriller and horror elements. Decent suspense requires some of the slow and escalating moments that the show simply doesn’t have the time to invest in.

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Non-expert pundits on newscasts and students at schools may be tempted to dismiss deviant beliefs, behaviors, and actions as the stuff of the unreasonable and insane. Some of these “unreasonable and insane” individuals, perhaps many of them, may not be actually deranged. They may actually have reason behind their actions. Alternative reason. Serial reason.

For law enforcement or interpersonal relationship reasons, to deal with serial individuals, a few criminal, many not, without this consideration in mind, it would be a disservice. A disservice to them, and a disservice to us.

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