Webs of Feminine Seduction in Hyouka and Amnesia

Everything about her ensnares the senses–the silky strands that strangle the heart, those eyes which see into the depths of the soul, her overwhelming sugary scent, a voice dripping with promised wantonness, and her ravenous appetite for sweat and flesh.  She oozes sexuality, and begs satiation from any one willing.  She is the jorougumo, the spider woman, and she has skittered underneath the doorways of currently airing Hyouka and Tasogare Otome x Amnesia.

Mythology
Japanese mythology warns of a 400-year-old giant spider with the capability of transforming itself into a beautiful woman.  Even analyzing the kanji making up the name, “Jorōgumo is written as ‘絡新婦’ (literally meaning “binding lady”) or ‘女郎蜘蛛’ (literally meaning “whore spider”)” (Wiki).  Her victims are spun into her silk webs, for either her or her sack of children to feed upon.

My first encounter with one of these creatures was in xxxHOLiC kei, where Watanuki Kimihiro has his eye devoured by a jorougumo.  What particularly struck me about her was that she was not strictly a villainous character.  Despite her seemingly ill treatment of Watanuki and the Zashiki Warashi, she does not take what she has for granted, nor does she act out without reason.  Watanuki incurred a spider’s grudge in his thoughtless act of brushing apart its web.  The jorougumo is simply taking proper action.  Her later reprimand of Watanuki’s unnaturally selfless actions bespeaks her own inability to be selfish due to the nature of what she has become.

This sympathetic aspect to xxxHOLiC‘s jorougumo really raises a question about the inspiration for the ancient myth.  I cannot help but see it as a twist on a woman’s limited influence on the man or men of the household.  Much as the spider sets up her web and draws victims to her, the housewife is expected to stay home and tend to its duties and her children.  I find it only reasonable that the next course of action for an attempt at control is to make a move through someone who does have power–namely, the man.  And yet for these actions, these women are pegged as conniving and lustful.

Yuuko: A Reflection of The Beholder’s Fears
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia hosts one of the most unique female protagonists of this spring season.  Yuuko is also one of the first self-proclaimed ghosts that I have seen in an anime, as others usually are not revealed to be so until other characters have carried on for quite a while in the belief that they were alive and tangible.  At first glance, she appears to be a high school student like any other, albeit more attractive and sexually confident than what I would normally expect.  This is the appearance that the viewer and the male protagonist see.  However, alternate appearances are revealed through the eyes of side characters Momoe and Kirie.  To the former, she is the classic image of the white-clad ghost; to the latter, a mixture of cracked and rotting flesh at one moment and a spider seductress in another.

While the more horrific sides are argued to be mere reflections of the believers’ fears, it’s still difficult to shake away the above sight when remembering Yuuko’s fervent desire to forever remain by Teiichi’s side.

Eru’s Ensnaring Emanations
Most recently aired Hyouka is, for all intents and purposes, a high-school-set mystery.  And yet, there’s something uncanny in the overly shiny eyes of its characters, and, in particular, Eru’s ability to enchant Houtarou in a scene of rapidly growing and entangling hair scattered with luminescent flowers.  The striking quality of that scene upon the audience is evidenced in numerous other bloggers’ initial impressions, where the same screenshot seems to be circulating from post to post.  Even I admit that it was extremely difficult to resist using that same image here, since it perfectly displays the web-like resemblance of Eru’s hair.  Is her ability to sway Houtarou’s decisions an indication of a manipulative personality, or are we to attribute it as a sensation of Houtarou’s own feelings of attraction to her?

Additional reading:
A Dusk Maiden’s perception” by chaostangent

 

23 thoughts on “Webs of Feminine Seduction in Hyouka and Amnesia

  1. I don’t know with Yuuko’s character being unique. Besides her entity being weird and having different characters see her differently, her character, or at least the one Teiichi and us the viewers, is pretty plain.

    What I like about Eru though is that through animation, her curiosity is amplified greatly which is really interesting to watch. Though imagining that her hair is tangling you is sorta disturbing in a way.

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    • I think what enchants me so much about Yuuko is how much she reminds me of Bakemonogatari’s Senjougahara. She has this playfully sexual way of teasing Teiichi that I find really attractive.

      To be honest, I really don’t think Eru is ominous in any way; it was just her hair that kinda gave me the heebie-jeebies when I made the mistake of envisioning what it would look like in real life. :p

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      • I don’t know Senjougahara is more playful, more sexual, more tasteful, more witty, has a way with her words without having to show off her body too much. Plus her head has a few more screws loose than most people. Yuuko’s plainer in almost every single aspect.

        Plus Senjougahara’s interactions with Araragi can go on for episodes and I wouldn’t be bothered by it all whereas Teiichi’s personality is almost nonexistent and all his interactions with Yuuko are just him being flustered at how sexy Yuuko is.They’re too plain!

        It’s just my opinion though.

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      • To which you are certainly entitled🙂

        I wouldn’t take too much stock into my statement yet, though, since we’re only a few episodes into the show. There’s plenty of room for Yuuko’s character to develop. I merely find her more fun compared to some other females of this spring season, who shall remain unnamed for now.

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  2. There’s another side of the spider: in Greek Mythology spider becomes a vain woman who weaves and provokes Athena /Minerva on a weaving contest. The goddess transforms her out of jealousy or punishment, whatever way you want to see it, into a spider. I’d say that spider women are seen as destructive and vain but in truth they are victims themselves. If we try to make a feministic analysis this could simply turn out to be that men are scared of women’s inner strength and/or beauty and thus demonize them. Perhaps this applies to both anime. I haven’t watched Amnesia, but it’s not impossible that the spider motive speaks for the protagonists’ insecurities towards women. You already have pointed out to connections with fear, but I suggest something more concrete (although I might be wrong). For example, Houtaro who has a pretty dull life, suddenly has to encounter the feelings stirred within him by Eru. Eru thus develops spider-like characteristics as a projection of Houtaro’s insecurities towards his new state of heart.

    As for xxxholic’s Jorougumo, I don’t think she shows sympathy, rather than hates spineless people and there’s also the big theme of the manga: prices. As a youkai she’s part of the nature. She won’t take more than it needs to be taken, she won’t break the balance. Then again, she might have in mind that she better be on Yuuko’s good side- perhaps?

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    • Thank you for pointing out the Greek variation of the spider woman! I knew of quite a view variants from other cultures, but didn’t want to go too out of control talking about them since I wanted to focus more on the two anime :p I like the conjecture you make about the scene between Houtarou and Eru–it really does make a lot of sense. His later re-attempt to peak her curiosity supports his change of heart.

      When I spoke of xxxHOLiC’s jorougumo, I didn’t mean that she showed sympathy towards the characters, but that her plight is sympathetic. I can relate to her point of view and life and the way in which she scolds Watanuki for not prizing himself more. I apologize if I didn’t make what I mean clear right there. Balance is certainly a good way of explaining the give and take that goes on, for both youkai and in Ichihara Yuuko’s shop.

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  3. It’s always nice to learn new things. Both you and your reader taught me a few things. My first thought of female spiders came from The Lord of the Rings and the book of Tolkien’s I’m not gonna embarrass myself bt mispelling.

    The anime sound somewhat interesting. They do sound like the type I might watch. Though this was more about the characters than the anime as a whole so I’m not to sure.

    Speaking of anime by now I’m sure you’ve noticed I don’t know much about anime. I was wondering if I could ask your opinion on about eight anime I can watch on my phone.

    Oh! And when I read the title I assumed it was gonna be about Folktales From Japan.

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    • Ahhh, yes, I remember Tolkien’s spider–Shelob, was it? There’s more that could be said about her that can be found in some of his other texts, I believe.

      Since you watch anime from you phone, I would check and see if you can access Crunchyroll. They have a good number of simulcast anime going on right now, which you can watch for free as a regular member. Some top ones I would recommend from them are Kids on The Slope, Space Brothers, Tsuritama, and perhaps even Tasogare Otome x Amnesia.

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  4. Yep! That’s her. She actually played a big role near the beginning of that world.

    Thanks for the suggestions and link. I’m actually a member of Crunchyroll, but my phone isn’t smart enough for the videos there. The only site I know of that my phone can play videos on is Youtube. Furthermore my screen is too small to read subtitles so I’m further limited to dubs. I have a short list of options I’ve found, but I don’t know much about any.

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    • Hmm, well that really sucks about the subtitle thing; I didn’t even consider that. Are you able to watch Netflix on your phone? If you have an account, they have a nice variety of dubbed anime. Of course that won’t include any currently airing shows, but there are plenty of great older ones out there.

      And sorry about the late reply! I’ve been immersed in the Guild Wars 2 Beta for the past day.

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  5. I thought the whole Jorougumo arc to open xxxHOLiC Kei was excellent and I’m glad you were able to link it to Tasogare Otome x Amnesia in the parallels of seduction and its issues. What’s interesting to constrast these two is that Teiichi didn’t do really anything to attract the attention of Yuuko yet she came on full-force to him (probably because she’s so lonely rather than out of retribution like Jorougumo mythology).

    I also just read an amazing post over at ChaosTangent that touched on a bit of similar topics as you did with Yuuko and the beholder’s fear. It looks at perception in anime with Yuuko as the subject and goes into quite a bit of detail on it and includes a few other anime, too. Here’s the link: http://chaostangent.com/2012/04/a-dusk-maidens-perception/ Hope you enjoy!

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    • I really don’t know what it is about Teiichi that attracts Yuuko so much, other than the fact that he sees her as a normal girl. It’s very strange to me how sexually forward she is, though I’ve been chalking it up to her being ages old (similar to maybe Holo of S&W and her extensive knowledge).

      Thanks for sharing that link to Chaos Tangent–I’ll be sure to check it out!

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  6. For Hyouka I like it and dam It’s no surprise Houtarou fell under Eru’s spell. Not even a stone-hearted person like him could have resisted the charmes of her. She seems a bit too naive for her well-being but she is a polite and apparently smart girl so that’s not a too severe flaw.

    The animation at the ghost story scene with the usage of water-colourish techniques was beautiful. However like you said it felt a bit slow but its only episode one, im very much looking forward to the rest!

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    • This season really is turning out great, even these late-starters ^^ We’re already one anime down for the spring (Ozuma), and starting up one that is just as interesting! We also have quite a few fascinating females this season, not limited to just these two. What a bad time for me to try to slow down on anime and focus on finishing my thesis :p

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  7. I think the issue you raise “Reflection of The Beholder’s Fears” is also relevant at a meta-level. You mention that the spider is often thought of as malicious, but that isn’t a necessary interpretation, even if it is common. It should also be considered that any interpretation of the imagery used (in anime, for example) is *itself* an interpretation, and thus, possibly, as much a reflection of the beholder’s fears as the imagery itself.

    In other words, when Eru “ensnares” Houtarou, it *might* be a reflection of a man’s fear of a powerful woman, but that itself is an interpretation, and thus might be more a reflection of the fears of the interpreter. Perhaps being “ensnared” is a positive thing for Houtarou. Alternative ways of thinking about being “ensnared”: connected to (literally “tied to”), embraced by (literally “wrapped up by”).

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    • Very nice angle! That discussion would have definitely fit in well, and I’m sad that I overlooked it. The hair scene with Eru and Houtarou certainly didn’t feel malicious to me, especially with the blossoming flowers. My one concern was that her attitude and Houtarou’s quick decision reminded me a bit of Tsuritama and Haru’s powerful water gun. I thank you for giving me some ideas for a follow-up post!

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  8. I do think it’s more about Houtarou’s being charmed by Eru, rather than watching Eru in a manipulative way.
    Eru is more like a child in my eyes, curious, energetic, unwavering!

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