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> Thoughts on the Pigtailed One

This analysis 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 anything else.

    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 come true.

    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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