The beginning of Kannazuki no Miko is something a little uncommon; all three parts of the love triangle already know each other, but haven’t expressed feelings beyond friendship. The events of the first episode change this for both Chikane and Souma, though Souma effectively has a head start because he’s much more direct.
At first, Himeko and Chikane’s relationship seems barely changed from the secret friendship they already had, and Chikane tries to support what Himeko wants even if it’s being with someone else, but she gradually grows more conflicted about it.
Even while seeing their relationship as friendship rather than romance, Himeko views Chikane in an overly idealized way. But Chikane herself would be the first to say she isn’t perfect, and even take it too far into the opposite direction; it’s never explicitly spelled out, but Chikane suffers from some degree of internalized homophobia. Chikane also simply assumes (falsely) that Himeko, who she idealizes, could never have such “dirty” feelings in return.
In fact, it’s interesting to note that Himeko saying she’s realized Chikane is a mix of good and bad is associated with her romantic feelings, in contrast to many other series where idealization is associated with romance.
Alright, I’m going to be talking about Chikane’s actions in the later part of the series next; major spoilers obviously, though to be honest, this main one is the “Rosebud” of yuri.
Ultimately, self-directed hate is Chikane’s tragic flaw. It is not only a major factor in why she doesn’t let Himeko know how she feels until she is doing things that really are bad, but also likely contributes to the direction of the plan she chooses after remembering her past life. (Miyako’s attempt to deliberately exploit it certainly shouldn’t be discounted, of course.)
Once Chikane realizes that one of the miko has to die, and remembers that she herself killed Himeko in their previous life, she comes up with a self-sacrificial plan. A combination of guilt and self-hate would seem to make it easier to accept that this plan involves being “the villain”. I’m not disputing that her motivation was to save Himeko out of love, but I am saying that the fact she saw herself as “guilty” anyway made it easier for her to cross certain lines. In the end things do go the way Chikane intended, with herself dying so Himeko can live (and Orochi defeated, of course).
In what’s probably the most infamous moment in the series, the last thing Chikane does before fully revealing her “betrayal” is sexually assault Himeko.
This has sparked some very polarized responses. Do good intentions and the final result justify what Chikane did?
On one hand you have people saying “yes”; they say that Chikane did it to make Himeko hate her and willing to kill her, that it was to save Himeko’s life, and to sum it up, that it was a necessary evil.
On the other you have people saying that certain things can never be forgiven, and therefore condemning not only Chikane, but also the series for having it happen, and sometimes even Himeko for still being able to love her after it.
However, there is one fact that the vast majority of people discussing this (but especially the defenders) have a tendency to overlook: what happened in episode 8 of the anime didn’t accomplish the goal that allegedly justifies it. It did not make Himeko hate Chikane, or even once think about revenge; Himeko did not want to kill Chikane at that point, or at any point outside of the very brief moment when she actually did, which was provoked by what Chikane was doing right then; an impulse sudden enough that the relevance of anything that had happened earlier is questionable.
I think Chikane believed that that everything she did was a necessary evil, but she also wasn’t exactly in the most stable state of mind at the time. Good intentions don’t prevent bad judgment; it didn’t help, it only made things worse. Chikane may have realized this herself after the fact, but it’s hard to be sure about that from what we see; but she certainly didn’t think that it should be forgiven.
Now, as for Himeko seeming to forgive it too easily, I can see that, but I also don’t see where she would have made it clear if she didn’t. The one real chance to address it came before Himeko was ready to deal with it, in episode 10. She sees Chikane acting like nothing happened and thinks she can do the same (until Chikane gives her the invitation and says she’ll kill her); that’s not forgiveness, it’s denial. In episode 11, learning that Chikane’s “betrayal” was for her sake is pretty overwhelming and Himeko forgives everything in the moment; but who can really say it wouldn’t have come up again if they had gotten more time together afterward?
It’s also worth noting that all the Orochi heads, including Miyako and Girochi, are purified in the end; while it’s justified by events being altered, it still reminds me of how often former enemies are easily forgiven in anime. So my impression is that, despite what I have seen some people say, there was no intent to specifically minimize what Chikane did.
If it seems like I’m spending a lot of time on that subject it’s both because I don’t want to be misunderstood, and because it is the most debated thing in the series. But too much of the debate has been framed as a choice between two options; either approve of what Chikane did, or hold it against the series. I do not accept this dichotomy because I reject the premise that the series presents it as positive. It could have been clearer about showing it as wrong, but unlike some interpretations it never suggests it was right. This is my interpretation; Chikane was willing to cross any line for Himeko’s sake, but she crossed one she didn’t need to.
On a less minefield-like note, the whole reincarnation romance theme manages to give the same series both a tragic ending and a happy one, thanks to the post-credits scene.
Next up: mecha and homages