Healer Girl a.k.a The Temple of Karasuma?

Healer Girl kind of makes me uncomfortable. That isn’t to say that this show isn’t fun, or worth watching, because I definitely think it’s both most of the time. I could just as easily shrug off my misgivings and enjoy the show at face value for the songs and cute girls. There are just certain aspects about the story and its world that wave big red flags and have me questioning the creator’s beliefs and motivations.

The first episode, “Kana Fujii, Healer (Apprentice)!”, burst onto the scene spewing flowers and birds with its exuberant singing. Listening to Kana was like receiving a shot of endorphins straight to the heart; you couldn’t watch the opening scene without dancing with your arms spread Cinderella-style. The biggest shock? The songs continued through the duration of the episode, and even ramped up in frequency in subsequent weeks. This was a full out musical assault on the unexpecting, a first in a desert of musical anime.

Yes, those are mini Kanas flying around in the background

My fear was that despite the show’s description we’d have something more along the lines of an idol anime, with our characters “healing” people’s hearts through song as more metaphor than reality. That turned out to not be the case, as our girls are healers-in-training in a world where song is a legitimate form of alternative medicine. Accepting this reality is vital to enjoying this show–if you cannot, then everything they do and represent comes across as a little bit crazy. It’d be like me opting out of life-saving surgery in favor of spiritual healing, or trusting prayer as some kind of armor in place of a vaccine. Why go to a conventional hospital with its impersonal metal surfaces when I can stop by a clinic that feels more like a home and have someone serenade me to health?

There are even some lyrics that are troubling once you actually pay attention the words, descriptors of song as “natural” and “pure”. What does that make other forms of healing–unnatural and impure? Again, it’s easy to let the melody glide right over you without actually paying attention to the words, but then what is even the point of writing lyrics if there isn’t any real meaning or message behind them? I realize I’m asking a lot of questions which I try not to do too often, but for works like these I honestly can’t help it. That’s just how conflicted I am about my feelings towards Healer Girl.

Karasuma students assisting a surgery by singing to help the surgeons focus

So let’s go ahead and look elsewhere than at the songs: the Karasuma Phoniatric Clinic.

phoniatrics
noun, plural in form but singular in construction

pho·​ni·​at·​rics | \ ˌfō-nē-ˈa-triks \

Medical Definition of phoniatrics: the scientific study and treatment of defects of the voice

Merriam-Webster

This combined school and clinic is where our girls learn first hand about musical medicine. Their instructor, Karasuma Ria, splits her time (equally?!) between teaching, practicing, and sleeping. Initially I found some of the students’ adoration of her borderline cult-like, but later revelations about Ria’s scholastic accomplishments and professional clout lends credibility to her fame. It isn’t hard to imagine the Karasuma Clinic as a cover for a Karasuma Cult given the attitudes and attire of her student disciples–they wear white robes for goodness sakes! I still cannot understand the design behind their uniforms than perhaps some weird take on choir robes. And then there’s the student demographic sitting squarely at an impressionable young age. Get them while they’re young and mold them to your image? It might seem like I’m stretching, but then when you experience the desperate frequency of Reimi’s fawning over her much older teacher, it feels like a physical relocation is in order. Thankfully, Ria does not encourage the affections and instead typically keeps a fairly large distance between herself and the students outside of her professional role.

A typical Reimi fantasy

Another note of interest is the focus required for healing, which we see in a few different forms. One more familiar instance is when we witness a surgeon lose his composure in the middle of a procedure. Another occurs when trainees Sonia and Kana attempt to assist a pregnant woman. The dangers of both feel equally life threatening. In the case of the students, their singing initially helps the young woman with her pain, but then their forgetting to include the unborn child in their song results in an imbalance.

This is the most threatening side we’ve seen thus far of singing despite medical malpractice being an ever present reality. Karasuma reminds them that the wrong vision can have poor results and that a lack of emotion weakens or even negates any positive side effects, but we don’t ever see the actual consequences of failure. What happens when the singer doesn’t have the full picture with all its little details in mind? What if they let personal emotions or discomforts color their voice? Can they directly affect the patient in a negative way? I’d like to see or at least learn about the possibilities, but I’m not sure if those are within the scope of this anime’s storytelling.

We’ve still got at least a month left until the end of Healer Girl, and despite my misgivings I know I’ll be sticking around until the end. I love the pure joy they display in their singing and how they seem to truly wish to help others. I want that healing heart to come from a place devoid of ulterior motives or messaging. When we’re sick, tired, or just in need of some comfort is when we can be at our most vulnerable, and we want to completely trust our care providers. I might only trust Reimi as far as I can throw her, but there’s always Hibiki, right?

You didn’t think you’d get away without a cultural festival, did you?

Watch Healer Girl on Crunchyroll.

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