Mitsukazu Mihara’s Early Works
Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m about to get all literary on this blog. If watching me show off my English minor skillz bores you to tears, skip to the end. This is for my library loving peeps. (I’m sure you’re out there!)
I’d like to highlight some of Mihara’s early work that contains dolls as thematic and symbolic material by analyzing the English translation of her short story collection “I. C. in a Sunflower”. ( Warning: some of the content I’m about to cover is a wee bit adult in nature. I will be talking about *gasp* TEH SEX, ABUSE, and MURDER!!! You have been warned.)The first two stories I will discuss, “Keep Those Condoms Away From Our Kids” and “Iron Maiden”, deal with dolls in a more traditional sense, while the third story, “The Sunflower Quality of an Integrated Circuit”, is Mihara’s first exploration of the mechanical servant dolls which would become the basis of her ongoing series “Doll”.
The first story, “Keep Those Condoms Away From Our Kids”, takes place in a near future version of Japan where experimental contraceptive drugs have rendered the current generation utterly uninterested in sex. To save the spiraling drop in birth rate, schools have begun to instigate extreme Sex Ed.,testing students on sex techniques and using porn as teaching material. Despite this subject matter, the main characters of the generation who “just don’t get sex” remain innocent to a degree that almost resembles ignorance, and the overall feeling of the story is not one of titillation but rather one of restrained sadness.
In one scene, the main character, a boy named Irori is struggling in vain to please his parents by getting high marks in his sex class. He practices with a life-like dummy that appears like a modern day sex doll, a permanent smile plastered across its face. The only noticeable difference is the serial number pasted on its thigh, not unlike a modern CPR or crash test dummy might have. In the scene Irori struggles to have sex with the doll while politely calling it “Miss Patricia.” This scene develops Iorori’s character, demonstrating not only his complete lack of sexual interest, but also his innate kindness, unclouded by lust. He treats the human-shaped object, the sex doll, with the same courtesy he would treat a real person by giving it a respectable name; “Patricia-san”. One is also reminded that in our society we are accustomed to sexless dolls, neutered by toy companies to protects our children’s delicate sensibilities. (i.e. Barbie and Ken’s smoothed over genitals and blank-crotched baby dolls.) Mihara totally throws this expectation of ours on its head, showing us an extremely gendered doll (Miss Patricia) and a sexually castrated human being (Irori).
The second story, “Iron Maiden”, deals with the sexual abuse of a young girl, Maako, by her accomplished and charismatic older brother, Yuuichii. When Maako tries to tell her parents about her brother’s abuse, they ignore her, not wanting to even consider that their favorite child would do such a horrible thing. To cope, Maako begins biting things furiously, especially victimizing a baby-doll in her possession. The story follows her to motherhood, where she finally has the happy family she has always desired. But when she takes her old toys out to give to her infant son, she comes across the abused doll, and all her memories flood back.
The story’s conclusion is that even if one achieves happiness in later life, it doesn’t erase the scars of childhood – in some cases it merely sets them off more strongly. As Maako says at the end of the story “Why are some babies loved and others unloved?” it is unclear whether she is referring to her tattered baby doll or herself. And this is an appropriate ambiguity, because in this story, Mihara is using Maako’s baby doll as an outward expression of Maako’s own anger. The doll represents Maako, because it represents the main shaping event in her life: her sexual abuse by her brother.
And on that super happy fun time note, here is where I’ll end it this week, for brevity’s sake. Look forward to the startling conclusion!