**Spoilers for Skip Beat manga + this is a long post**
A couple days ago OWLS did a little tag game on Twitter for Intl Women’s Day, where we had to post who our favorite female characters were. The first character that came to mind was Kyoko from Skip Beat. I’ve loved her for almost 10 years now and even as I wait “patiently” for the next manga update, I get emotional for her struggles in life.
Now, if you’re wondering why I’m mentioning Kyoko, it’s because the OWLS blog tour for March deals with “Sanctuary” and Kyoko was the first person I thought of in terms of the topic
Sanctuary is a term that’s been popping up on TV lately, what with certain parts of the US going downhill. We have shops and restaurants that are now viewed as Sanctuaries for immigrants and professionals ready to help anyone who needs help. People don’t want to go outside because they fear getting lashed out at because they’re a minority (or getting deported). Just the other day I heard that parents didn’t even want to take their children to school because they were afraid! And then there were others who would get midnight visits from “the police” and so the sanctuary of home (our physical home and our minds) is now in jeopardy.
Kyoko reminds me of that endangered sanctuary.
Kyoko’s Sanctuary is Destroyed
When we’re first introduced to Kyoko, we learn that she’s been through the ringer in terms of love. She was tricked by the guy she liked (Sho) and kept as a maid while he tried to rise in the ranks of the music industry. He made her believe that they were an item and that she was special. Of course, all of that goes down the drain when she overhears him talking to his manager, saying he only kept her for her usefulness (maid)
But instead of backing down and letting this depress her, Kyoko challenges Sho, saying she’d get revenge on him by rising even higher in the industry. This becomes her goal in life and so she enters the world of showbiz.
Or at least she tries.
We quickly learn that this experience really left a scar in her being. Yes she was angry and she didn’t let the issue depress her, but it changed her. Physically she started to pay more attention to her clothing. In the beginning we only really see her with pants, a generic sweater, she doesn’t do her hair, and she keeps away from the things she wants, constantly overworking herself. In Sho’s words, Kyoko is “plain”. After the Sho Incident, however, Kyoko cuts her hair, dyes it, and looks (overall) more girly. She’s so different from what she used to look like that not even Sho recognizes her when he bumps into her at a gas station!
Emotionally she was also hurt. She locked away her emotions for love because she didn’t want to be hurt again. She detests her old self for being a lovestruck fool, which she constantly mentions throughout the manga, especially when she meets Pochi.
And we see that this mindset affects her goal of trying to beat Sho when she Epically Fails an audition.
Kyoko had to react to the person who ‘calls’ her and it just so happened to parallel with her life: a guy who wants to get back together, he apologizes for being so egocentric and only now realizes how much she loved him
And she can’t even pretend to be okay with it. Sho had hurt her to the point where the word “love” triggered her emotions and she could do nothing more than hate. Even during this incident, she only realizes what she’s done after she’s destroyed the phone and immediately tries to apologize.
In this way her Sanctuary has been destroyed
Of course, this isn’t the only hardship she’s had to struggle with (though it is the first we’re introduced to)
We often see that when remembering, Kyoko’s caretaker is a woman in a kimono who is teaching her how to be a proper nakai and future okami*. When she does remember her mother, it’s usually Kyoko being pushed away vehemently and we can assume she’s been abandoned by her mother. Even while at LME, when her mother’s permission is needed for her passport, the mood becomes dark and it’s revealed that Saena doesn’t care what Kyoko is up to.
Saena even denies her existence on TV
Kyoko is a very giving person when it comes to love. When she was younger she did her best to try and please the people around her. Her academics were nearly top notch because she wanted to please her mother, she learned everything she could from Sho’s mother at the Ryokan because she wanted to be accepted by her, she stopped crying in front of Sho because it made him awkward, and she worked three jobs for him so he could attain fame.
Her whole life, Kyoko has done nothing but give to people and it’s only until recently where she’s decided to start anew and live for herself. Hearing Saena deny her existence was another harsh blow to her being. They may not have been close, as Saena did everything within her power to keep it that way, but she was still her mother and Kyoko wanted her acceptance.
The two people she loved the most had discarded her and undermined her existence
Even though Kyoko has suffered through this, she keeps on fighting and trying to find happiness, but like everyone else, she needs help sometimes.
One of the ways Kyoko keeps sane is through her memories of “Corn” and the stone he gave her (which she also named Corn). Whenever she’s experienced something painful, she immediately goes to the stone, believing it takes away the negative/sad feelings. Like the time with Saena, before she runs out of the house, Kyoko goes to her room and grabs Corn in hopes of feeling better.
But it’s not just the stone that helps but the memories. As a child Kyoko was considered a crybaby. Every time she was sad she’d burst into tears and after some time, even she realized it was a burden to others.
Her sanctuary became the woods where she met a faerie prince
And as time passes she also uses Ren as her Sanctuary. It initially starts off with her making impressions of him with her Ren dolls and randomly calling him up when she was troubled, to fully using his presence as comfort. Considering how their relationship was at first, him being her sanctuary seems crazy, but as we learn Ren IS Corn so it makes sense. Plus, there’s the added benefit of talking and getting some misunderstandings off their shoulders that brings them closer
But there are two sides to this Sanctuary. While Ren does bring her comfort whenever he praises her, acknowledges her acting, listens to her, gives her advice, and overall pays attention, he also unsettles the emotions she’d locked away after Sho hurt her.
She starts to realize that she probably can love again
Overall, to me, Sanctuary is more a state of mind than an actual place. For Kyoko, her Sanctuary initially resided in Sho but after that relationship was destroyed, she found comfort in the memories of Corn and the stone he gave her. Even as a child she’d started to go to him when she was troubled because he didn’t make her feel like a burden.
As an adult who only sees love through lens of hatred, Kyoko slowly starts to find Sanctuary in Ren. Seeing how passionate he is about being an actor makes her realize that she can create a new Kyoko with the things she’s learning and experiencing now. Ren begins to heal all the cracks she’d been living with.
She’s still hurt and she still struggles, but her heart is slowly being mended with the help of the people around her
There are also many other characters in Skip Beat who have lost their inner sanctuary. Ren finds sanctuary in his identity of “Ren Tsuruga” because of regrets he’s been carrying for years (plus Bo). Saena finds sanctuary in her job because she’d been hurt like Kyoko when she was younger. Maria found sanctuary in Kyoko and her
brutal honest words pertaining to her mother’s death. And really the list goes on and on.
Thanks for reading this post, which was not supposed to be this long! I decided to stop it here because getting into other people’s troubles and sanctuaries would probably take up another 1,500 words (and I doubt you all want me to keep spoiling such as amazing manga series)
If you haven’t already, please check out Arria’s post about sanctuary in One Piece (Status v Nakama). Also, Stephanie over at Anime Girls NYC will have their post up tomorrow. For all the previous (and previews of the next tours), check out the schedule!
* I looked this up. If I’m not using the terms correctly, please let me know!