[Seven] In defense of Enta Jinai (again) — Sarazanmai

Enta, you beautiful idiotic trash child.

Of the three Sarazanmai leads, Enta Jinai was the one who received the most criticism and backlash, particularly while the series aired.

This is, in large part, because Enta is the worst.

Enta is the type of person who would take on a hall monitor or student council position to pass judgment onto others while breaking the rules himself, often in a much more calculated way. He protests Kazuki Yasaka and Toi Kuji’s actions on the grounds that they’re morally wrong, but then does even more morally dubious things when he thinks no one is watching him. He’s self-righteous in a particularly repugnant way because he preaches but rarely practices outside of keeping up necessary appearances.

This is also, in large part, why Enta is so relatable. It’s not simply that he’s not perfect, it’s that he’s actively terrible at times. His struggle with his genuine romantic interest in Kazuki doesn’t make his actions right, but it does make them understandable and deeply empathetic, especially since he obviously does some things out of the goodness of his heart and others out of petty one-upmanship and emotional manipulation.

All too often we rush to place characters (pun intended) into boxes. Boxes make them easy to understand. Boxes compartmentalize and sort characters by whether they’re primarily good or bad people. Yet, Kunihiko Ikuhara’s characters are rarely so easily sorted. Even the most “evil” of characters who work to uphold the existing status quo are often revealed as victims of societal pressures themselves. If they’re not morally grey in some way, then they are physical manifestations of the system itself, like the three judgmens of Yuri Kuma Arashi. There’s a reason why Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu are cops: they’re literally and figuratively helping a toxic system.

Enta is the type of character that forces us out of sorting characters as “good” or “bad.” He seems like he’s not as over-the-top as Kazuki (who crossdresses in a convoluted plot to be closer to his brother) or Toi (who is involved in drugs, theft, and violence all for the love of his older brother) and then he manipulates an entire situation in an attempt to emulate his daydreams. When it fails, he wonders why it failed rather than reflecting on why it was wrong. As viewers, we likely lack something as dramatic as Kazuki or Toi’s respective family problems which involve untimely car accidents and gun violence, but Enta’s problems are comparatively smaller in scope — he’s jealous of his sister’s gregarious, outgoing nature and often feels isolated and neglected — and more engaging because of this. Enta perpetuates the same toxic cycle that has consumed Reo and Mabu — he’s the most direct example of a proto-Reo/Mabu — showcasing that the most unassuming or normal of people can easily be caught up in societal bullshit. He cannot be “othered” or separated from our personal experiences as easily as someone like Toi.

Late during Sarazanmai‘s run, I wrote a defense of Enta. My feelings for this wonderful disaster of a young man have only grown since then. Here’s to you, Enta.

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