+++ Thoughts on the Pigtailed One
was donated by Blade.
I'll come right out and note at the outset that I've been a complete Keiko
mark since I saw the first 13 episodes, even though she didn't really
-have- a personality at that point. Must be the hair. ;p That being said,
my thoughts on The Pigtailed One...
Keiko always struck me of being something of a darker version of Wakaba, a
sort of "there, but for the grace of God (Dios?), go I" character. She's a
fast friend (or so it seems) and hanger-on of one of the school's best-
known female personalities, and has, unbeknownst to said personality, a
huge crush on one of the most popular boys at school. Like Wakaba, she
doesn't really think she is worthy of associating with the object of her
longing, but also like Wakaba, her desires are too strong to be easily
quenched and eventually lead to her downfall.
The difference is that Keiko is not played for sympathy like Wakaba is (her
episode is fairly sympathetic to her, but nothing like Wakaba's, and her
other appearences don't usually put her in a good light). This is not
particularly surprising, because Keiko isn't the nice sort of person Wakaba
is (although I don't think she's as bad as certain well-known fanfic
authors do). However, the different light she is shown in allow for a few
interesting things to show through.
Keiko appears to be in the same mindset with regards to her position in the
school as Saionji is (eventually) with regards to the duelling game: she's
very much aware she's a pawn, without much influence among the higher
powers except to be pushed in one direction or another. Not only is she
aware of this, she accepts it and makes the best of it, and seems to be
reasonably content with this life (at first). Her impetus for being around
Nanami is not because she thinks it will give her a chance with Touga
(which she considers more or less impossible), but just to be near to him a
little more often than she could be otherwise.
This seems odd, because from everything we see of Touga, it is not
remarkably hard to get into romantic liaisons with him. Most people assume
that, knowing all the girls around Touga, she somehow dreams she can be the
"one". This is actually correct, and looked at a little further, is one of
the keys to her character. Keiko, despite a longing for Touga that all but
rules her life (considering that she loathes Nanami, how much does she do
that does NOT come back to him?), is not willing to take the steps
necessary to get a relationship with him, instead voluntarily sticking with
her observer status granted by proximity to Nanami.
I'm not sure Keiko could actually answer the question if put to her, but
the simple fact is that either consciously or unconsciously she has refused
to become just another of Touga's harem, to be used and discarded at his
whim. She'd rather be nothing to him than someone like that, even though
she has no real expectation she -could- ever be more to Touga then that.
Hopelessly quixotic as her desire might be, she sticks with it, refusing to
give up her secret wish (by dating someone else) or settling for something
less (by giving in and having a fling with him). Admirable or pitiful,
depending on how you look at it, but it is something more to her than just
being Nanami's main henchbitch.
This connects to another facet of her personality...her dignity. Hard to
believe; she's a sycophantic toady, right? But if you look more closely,
you'll notice that in -most- of her actions, not just the Touga situation,
Keiko always tries to carry herself with as much dignity as possible.
While obediently praising Nanami when necessary, she seems to try and avoid
bootlicking in public (her comments about her to Miki in episode 6 are
telling). She carries out face-slapping "missions", but is inevitably the
leader (and slapper). She NEVER publically gushes about Touga, even when
he's present. And she seems to work twice as hard as the other two
(handing out invitations to everyone in the school in the Black Rose ep,
zipping around in roller blades encouraging Aiko and Yuuko to work harder,
etc), with the underlying idea that if she's going to be a toady, at least
she's a better class of toady.
This gets even more interesting when we see the hints to her position at
school, unrelated to Nanami. Aside from obviously being the leader of the
Terrible Trio before Nanami came along, she's also a member of her dorm's
self-government association (as noted by Nanami). In fact, she seems to be
inclined naturally towards a leadership position; not very charismatic
perhaps, but hardworking and having a forceful personality. The latter
even hints she might have some aspiration to a place on the Student Council
(and, perhaps, with Touga still there?). So why make all that secondary to
her place in Nanami's entourage? Well, none of THAT will let her hang
around Touga, at least not right now. It doesn't even elevate her high
enough in status to catch his attention. And for Keiko, Touga comes before
Addressing her nasty tendencies...now, we never see the three of them
pulling a slapping incident for any reason other than Nanami's presumed
orders. Which does not really exonerate Keiko...even if her natural
inclinations aren't in that direction (and they probably aren't, since it's
indicated Keiko's experience in fighting is zilch), she does it willingly
enough on Nanami's orders with no hint of regret. This ties into her
willingness to do anything for the chance to be near Touga, of course, but
also into the other previously discussed facets of her personality. Keiko
protects her dignity by making as convincing a pretense as possible for the
incidents (even when the pretext is an obvious lie), but doesn't seem to be
deluding herself as to her real position as an intermediary in these
attacks (as might be inferred if there HAD been non-Nanami-related slapping
incidents). It's just another thing she has to do for the privilige of
occasionally seeing Touga. She might even take a certain ironic pleasure
in it, humiliating others and thus lowering their status, and in so doing
compensating for her own feelings of inferiority. It's a lot easier to
believe you're superior to Anthy Himemiya when you're slapping her around.
All of this leads into the incidents that take place in "Romance of the
Dancing Girls". First, the rendezvous with Touga in the rose garden.
Ignoring the fact that this scene was so obviously planned by Touga that he
probably invited Keiko out, she has a few reasons for breaking her previous
habit of not falling into the trap of being yet another of Touga's harem.
Nanami is gone from the Kiryuu household, and her and Touga are
(apparently) not blood relatives. This seems to be common gossip
throughout the school, and the henchbitches, having been the ones that
inadvertently set the whole shebang in motion, are certainly aware of it
anyway. Keiko probably believes that with Nanami out of the picture she
has her only chance, miniscule as it might be, to get into the sort of
lasting relationship with Touga she desires. This impression would be
further helped if Touga, as seems likely, is the one that picked this time
to approach -her-.
But there's more to it, even if Keiko doesn't seem to realise it at first.
This is revenge. This is a chance to pay back Nanami for all that
degradation and contempt in the most telling way possible. Normally, just
going out with Touga isn't a big deal; Nanami is angry about it in
Troublesome Insects, but only because Keiko is one of HER followers.
Dozens, possibly hundreds of women compete for Touga's attention and
generally get a piece of it, and Nanami seems only mildly irritated. This
is not just because she knows trying to stop him would be futile, but
because she is secure in the knowledge that her relationship with Touga is
unique and special. His lovers come and go, but in the end Nanami is still
there, enjoying a relationship with him that they can't hope to match.
Now, of course, things are different. Nanami's relationship to Touga
(which has been rotting away from inside for the entire series anyway, and
probably long before) has finally shattered, and the whole school knows it.
And now, suddenly, she finds Keiko and Touga together. This is bad (for
Nanami) for the same reasons it was back in episode 21, but now there's
more, too. First, it's obviously what Nanami would consider a base
betrayal. Instead of trying to support Nanami, Keiko sees an opportunity
to take advantage of her situation and grasps at it with both hands. But
the second ramification is probably the most important, and the truly
telling part of the plan (which is the one that finally breaks Nanami,
after all). Keiko's timing, and the conversation, make her more than just
another girlfriend for him. Touga isn't just hanging out with her...he
deliberately rips into Nanami, not just further destroying their current
relationship, but poisoning one of the few things Nanami still cherishes:
her memories of their happier, earlier times together. Not only is this
cruel in and of itself, but Keiko's presence amplifies the situation.
Nanami's gone, so he's picking her up. She's a REPLACEMENT for Nanami.
She's a replacement, it seems, that he was just waiting for an opportunity
to trade Nanami in for. And Nanami realises those implications.
"I won't forgive you even if I'd forgive everyone else!"
"I know you can't help going out with women. But please, anyone but her."
As for Keiko herself, she undoubtedly was not hard to coerce into the
situation. Although she almost certainly had some suspicions that this
sudden interest had to do with Nanami's actions (she'd have to be
incredibly stupid NOT to), personal attention from Touga sweeps that aside.
No matter what her rational mind might tell her, that's as nothing before
the fantasy that she's never dared to hope for before. Interestingly, at
first she is NOT hostile towards Nanami, and is quite understandably
worried about the repercussions if she finds out about the rendezvous. But
that's before Touga dismisses his relationship to Nanami, and Nanami
herself, as unimportant, tiresome burdens. Touga is clearly aware of both
Keiko's desire for him and her smouldering resentment of Nanami, since this
little speech nicely hits her on both levels. Her immediate reaction is
subdued...again, given how realistic she is about her situation elsewhere,
she almost has to suspect she's being fed a line (and a pretty preposterous
one at that). In fact, at first she seems to draw away from Touga ("You're
scary. So cold..."), as if realising this was really a mistake and he's
only using her. Then Touga, apparently sensing this, half-amusedly
challenges her on exactly that assumption ("If so, what are you going to do
about it?"). At that point, she throws caution to the winds, suddenly
brightening and enthusiastically agreeing about Nanami. It doesn't matter
that this is far, far too good to be true...she can't bring herself to walk
away from even the slightest possibility of it. This is all of her dreams
Then Nanami enters, and after slapping down Keiko, implores her brother to
go out with someone else, anyone else, anyone but her. This, combined with
Touga's earlier words, are the straws that break the camels back. Having
thrown away everything she had for this one impossible chance at Touga,
Keiko realises that, paradoxically, Nanami no longer has power over her.
That, coupled with Nanami blatently implying that she's a low-class nobody,
is too much to bear. And so she strikes back (flattening her...wow, she
never did THAT to Anthy ;p) and lets out a torrent of the bitter resentment
she's so carefully bottled up until now, hitting Nanami where she knows
it'll hurt her most ("How are we any different!?").
Afterwards, when encountering Nanami, Keiko (having resumed leadership of
the trio, another none-too-subtle sign of her intentions to replace Nanami,
and very reminiscent of how they betrayed HER previously) picks a fight
with her. This could be seen as just spite, but I think it's more than
that (as noted before, she certainly has no natural tendencies towards
fighting). No matter how satisfying the previous incident was, it was all
realiant on Touga. Only they know the words he said about Nanami...if she
makes up with him, and he dumps Keiko, her gains evaporate and she's left
as the nobody Nanami said she was, without even the position and hopes she
used to support herself previously. She can't bear the thought of that.
She has to strike a blow at Nanami while she still has her precarious
position of power, do something publically and on her own initiative,
something that gives her some sort of perceived status over Nanami no
matter what happens. Beating the hell out of her would do nicely.
Unfortunately for her, Nanami's just back from the Ends of the World...
In the final analysis, Keiko is still not even close to being one of the
nicer people in the series, but I like her anyway. Why? Well, aside from
my usual taste for unappreciated minor characters, I think the series hints
at more depth to her than what is obvious (as if THAT'S different from any
other character). Like Wakaba, she's a relatively normal person surrounded
by extraordinary people, and wants in some small way to shine like they do.
Her "all or nothing" resolve about Touga (even if he breaks it eventually),
and her dogged attempts to retain the shreds of her dignity despite being
in an extremely undignified situation, give her a certain sense of nobility
that sets her apart from the legions of other Touga-worshippers. One of
her few unblemished virtues is being a good, hard worker, and not in the
least bit lazy, as shown by her extracirricular involvement, tireless
efforts to set up the party in ep #21, and ability to do Nanami's Student
Council paperwork (something which happened more than once, I would highly
suspect). Her devotion to Touga is arguably the strongest of any character
to another in the series...her entire life revolves completely around him
(directly or indirectly), and even though she has no real hope of achieving
her secret wish through these efforts, there doesn't seem to be anything
else she feels is worth working towards. Despite these passions burning
under the surface, she remains entirely self-controlled through most of the
series, not giving into her love for Touga or her hatred for Nanami. She
willingly witnesses and perpetrates some fairly nasty things due to her
relationship with Nanami, which is a strike against her, but it is also to
be noted that outside of her influence Keiko doesn't seem to have much of a
cruel streak (when we see her away from Nanami, she invariably acts benign,
and usually seems cheerful). Like Saionji, it seems that there might
actually be a decent person in there, if Keiko could just let herself
become it. Does this excuse her actions? No, but if niceness were one's
only criteria for liking characters, we'd all be Tatsuya fans. ;p
I noted Keiko is not presented in as sympathetic a light as Wakaba. This,
I believe, is because she's not supposed to be seen in the same light.
Wakaba elicits sympathy easily...but Keiko is a character that one is
supposed to pity, a subtle but important difference. The life Keiko lives
is a hollow lie. Her relationship with Nanami is a facade covering
smouldering fear and hatred on both sides, her long-time "friends" were
shown to be willing to leave her in an instant. She acts as she would not
naturally and presents herself as she is not naturally, and all for the
sake of someone she's sure will never love her. She knows all this, but
refuses to break. She goes to extraordinary lengths to protect the
tattered shreds of dignity that give her some worth as a person, and she
refuses to compromise on the purity of her dream of Touga (at least, until
he directly tempts her, which under the circumstances I doubt anybody would
have expected her to resist).
In a nutshell, she's sacrificed everything she is and everything she wants
for something she can't ever have, and she knows it. This isn't admirable,
but in her ferocious dedication and the lengths which she is willing to
endure, she makes of her actions something, if not noble, then at least
worthy of some respect. Like her, hate her, or be indifferent to her, but
her love isn't shallow and her will isn't weak.
She's just a "normal" person at Ohtori, which in and of itself is probably
deserving of pity.
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