Somewhere, in the organized clutter of a half-furnished attic, between a box of musty orange life preservers, musical instruments, and yellowed paperbacks, there is a bureau that my parents have with a drawer for each of their children: one for me, and one for my younger brother. Along with our respective awards and achievements, there are various pieces of artwork, photographs, journals, and homemade knick-knacks of little to no consequence – our hand-colored paper Mighty Ducks Monopoly game, for example – and among these are a series of felt badges (similar to what one would find on a Boy Scout uniform or Girl Scout sash) with the name “Braves” on them.
Braves was a club that my brother had the dubious honor of founding – the only two members being myself and him – which was designed to test our strength and willpower.
Basically, we would punch each other until one of us cried. The person who cried first lost.
“You used to cry so much! Then one day, you just toughened up!”
-Hachiman to Koto, Kyousogiga, episode 2
Crying being synonymous with weakness is still ubiquitous, long past my brother and I testing out each other’s fortitude and “manliness” (in spite of the fact that I am decidedly not male). When a tearful Koto clings to Inari in the second episode of Kyousogiga, “Welcome Little Sister,” he tells her that if she doesn’t like the rumors that surround her existence – specifically her being taken in by Inari, and her questionable lineage – then she should dutifully attend her lessons, toughen up, and make them eat their words. As Koto is shown challenging schoolyard bullies in the next scene – wholly encouraged by Inari, who only pauses her to comment on her fighting stance – she takes his words to heart. Inari frequently leaves her while he goes off to work, and she learns to send him off with a heartfelt smile.
“Wildly curious, and with the eager enjoyment of Life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood, when all is new and fair, and when Sin and Sorrow are but names — empty words signifying nothing!”
-Lewis Carroll, when asked for a description of Alice’s personality, from “Alice in Wonderland”
Koto has plenty of questions and secrets, most of which she doesn’t know the answers to herself. She is unlike Alice in that regard – who is portrayed as being untroubled yet bored – or my brother and I punching each other in the backyard when left to our own devices. Her father figure (and presumed father) in Inari has to frequently leave her alone, due to his position at the shrine, and her mother is completely absent from her life. Koto doesn’t have time to be bored, as she is constantly dealing with the scrutiny of others and the trickle-down effect from these rumors: being bullied at school. To his credit, Inari makes it abundantly clear that Koto will make her mother proud, and that her mother is one who would love her, were she able to be present.
The climax of the episode comes when Koto discovers Inari crying to himself in front of an ink painting of the black rabbit. It is here that she changes her ubiquitous cry of, “I have a secret.” to, “We have a secret!” said in an infectiously joyful manner (to give credit where credit is due, Rie Kugimiya is wonderful as Koto). The scene switches back and forth from the time Koto discovered Inari crying, to Koto’s own discovery and limited interaction with the specter of the rabbit. It’s difficult to know just how much Koto understands about her own situation; however, there’s a wonderful peace that settles upon her following this discovery of her father’s supposed weakness through crying.
Koto, and Inari, are both stronger following their tears, not in spite of them. After all, Alice cried a river while in wonderland, and she still managed to make it back home.