I’m going to preface this entire post with a disclaimer that it will be filled with frustrated vulgarities and a section of major spoilers for the first volume. All spoilers will be marked.
From 5 to 9 Volume 1 (5時から9時まで) is the first instalment in Miki Aihara’s josei, romance manga series that follows a young woman named Junkō who is an English teacher that agrees to an omiai (traditional Japanese blind date where individuals meet in order to gauge their marital prospects) with a Buddhist monk. While she felt the encounter was a bust, the monk ended up becoming obsessed with her in a very unhealthy way.
My literal first impression of this book was this: what the hell is up with this mangaka and her works constantly fetishizing the godawful fuck out abusive relationships? Romanticising assholes that are controlling and possessive, and then portraying that behaviour as being a symbol of the characters being “misunderstood yet affectionate,” is severely harmful, unhealthy, and infuriating. For anyone who may be unfamiliar, Aihara is author of the highly anti-feminist manga series, Hot Gimmick. However, I’m thinking this series can give that one a serious run for its money.
I don’t know what offended me more as I kept reading through the volume: the way the protagonist kept falling for the jackass theatrics of a chauvinistic, avaricious suitor, or the fact that the abusive individual is a Buddhist monk, which as a practising Shin Buddhist made me feel so fucking uncomfortable.
Shin Buddhism is very much about compassion and understanding, and equality amongst all individuals. It is about learning to live a life that is without suffering and the best way to do that is to let go of selfish wants and desires. His behaviour is the literal anti-thesis of what is means to be a Shin Buddhist, which I’ll explain more when I get to the spoiler portions of the post.
Upon meeting Junkō, he becomes so wholly infatuated with her to the point where he feels that he is entitled to her entire future because he’s under the misconception that she’s to be his wife. Junkō states multiple times that she is not interested in having a serious relationship with him, let alone becoming his wife, and even asks him to leave her alone. Yet, he doesn’t. Her statements only seem to spur him on even further.
Now, I will admit that Junkō is an extremely fallible character herself. She does send the monk various mixed signals about her interest in him, but none of them ever come close to the lines of desiring marriage or a serious commitment of any sort. She is a lonely person with an array of insecurities and a deep sense of unfulfillment in her life, and all of these things contribute heavily to her vulnerability. They also make her a terrible judge of character, specifically where romantic interests are involved. Simply referring to her as flawed would be quite an understatement. Nevertheless, I’ve known people in real life who have been as messed up as she feels and have also ended up in toxic relationships because of it (I’m one of them). So, to a small extent, I can say this part is somewhat realistic. But, honestly, it only lasts so long before it treads across genuine to outrageously unbelievable.
Somewhere along the way, Junkō starts to see the monk’s (I don’t remember his name and that’s probably because he’s such a horrid person, it doesn’t warrant remembrance) actions as some weird form of affection. As a victim of abusive and controlling partners, I can vouch that I would never equate a person demanding that I re-arrange my entire life for them simply because they are jealous that I’m working with/interacting with people that can develop feelings for me as a sign of affection or love. Ever. Because when someone loves you, they would never want to inflict that kind of harm upon you and they’d never give you such an ultimatum. If someone truly fucking cares about you, they would never participate in something like this:
He pulls her into a taxi to prevent her from going out and meeting with her male friend after work, a person she’s known for a quite a long time, with whom she was going to share a meal or grab a drink. He refuses to let her go the entire time they are in the cab and goes so far as to prevent her from messaging her friend to let him know she won’t be coming. He demands that she quit her job as a teacher and become his stay-at-home wife because he’s jealous of her teaching men who have a chance of developing romantic feelings for her and doesn’t want her around other men. When she blatantly tells him that she has no interest in having a serious relationship with him or marrying him and devoting herself to his temple/shrine, that she wants to travel to places outside of Japan, he agrees to give her space. But then later in the volume when he learns that one of her students is a male, he locks her in a room at his temple to force her to reflect on her actions and to keep her separated from everyone. His goal is to make her reflect on her actions to prevent her from “making further mistakes,” which is just jackass lingo for “falling for someone who isn’t me.”
What part of that sounds sexy? What part of that sounds like he is someone that is trustworthy or respectable or honourable or even a Buddhist?
By choosing to give in to his feelings of intense jealousy, he is exhibiting a very selfish desire, which according to Buddhism is the cause of suffering. He then uses his jealousy as a way to manipulate and control Junkō in ways that make her very uncomfortable and unsafe, and even confused to her own emotions, which is then harming other people and showing a blatant disregard of respect and compassion. None of these things are associated with Shin Buddhism, to name a couple. None of it. If someone treated me this way, I would be calling the police and/or getting a restraining order SUPER FAST! This is abuse. Straight up fucking toxic, sexist behaviour that is damaging and unhealthy, and shouldn’t be romanticised or expressed as love.
I’m not even going to get into the audacious belief that he has that Junkō is the one in need of reflection and repentance. Seriously, not touching that with a colossal titan sized fucking stick. It’s just too easy.
Hot Gimmick was another series by Miki Aihara that portrayed a severely abusive relationship between teenagers in a situation that allowed a young girl to develop feelings for a couple of people that tried to rape her. One of them sexually molests her on more than one occasion, in fact. Those characters were also shown to have acted out for the sake of romantic emotions, jealousy, and/or being misunderstood due to a tragic childhood or tragic experiences, or even sheer sexual frustration (yeah, that’s right, it’s a legitimate excuse in that manga). I would like to say that people who will rape you, beat you, or enslave you, are not doing it out of affection or adoration for you. They are doing it because they have some serious inadequacy and control issues, amongst others, and they need help to change. It is never about loving you or caring for you because when someone fucking cares about you, they will not treat you this way.
The only good parts of Aihara’s work is her artistic style, but unfortunately, even that is not going to be enough to make me pick up anything authored by her ever again. It is so not fucking worth the aneurysms.