The Opposite of Love

"Thorny Trap" overwhelms the viewer with Kaname’s attempted rape of Hikari. Is there some cultural difference which understands this sexual violence differently than I do? I have no idea. Let’s instead accept that it is repulsive, and meant to be understood as such.

Kaname’s rape represents two things. One is the resentment of those over shone by the light of the campus stars. Kaname is jealous of Amane, and seeks to get back at her by hurting Hikari. We will see Yaya succumb to this resentment herself in a later episode. So the world is set up in a certain way, where certain people share a destiny, an elective affinity, which necessarily shuts other people out, to which they respond with an act of resentful will, love corrupted into its opposite. But Kaname’s actions are also tactical, a part of the school politics that attempts to influence the makeup of the upcoming Etoile election. The anime sets off the personal and the public, to raise the question of how they are to be reconciled. Both Shizuma and Amane seem early on to choose a withdrawal into solitude and an avoidance of public responsibility, a choice which the narrative overturns by seeking to integrate both back into the relations of love. Kaname shows us social politics overwhelming personal relations. Her actions amount to a Clausewitzian policy, where love is simply school politics in another form. The anime’s revulsion of Kaname’s attempted rape amounts to a complete rejection of that theory.

Note that the Etoile election signifies the perfect fusion of personal love, of the two Etoiles for each other, and of public function, as they together perform the social role of Etoile. The ideal is that both spheres enhance each other. And so Hikari and Amane will become Etoiles, in the spirit of that ideal. That Nagisa and Shizuma do not indicates love’s impatience with the quotidian, the wish to throw off the ordinary for the ideal of its own making, its own passion, beauty, and experience. In the end romance chooses itself, ascends into its own heaven, and leaves the social world behind. That may not be Nagisa’s final choice, nor even Shizuma’s–the very last images of the anime show us Shizuma and Miyuki walking together, with Tamao holding Nagisa back behind the corner: all the ordinary social friendships endure–but when Nagisa and Shizuma choose each other to love each other, that is the choice they are deliberately choosing. That is the whole point of Shizuma’s dramatic appeal to Nagisa to elope with her right at the point of the election’s resolution, where Nagisa throws up the election for Shizuma’s sake, for the sake of love. Strawberry Panic is first and foremost a romance.

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