It’s so easy to blame ourselves for things we have no control over. Maybe it’s a way of claiming a little power anyway, albeit in a fairly negative sense. I caught myself doing that yesterday, when my twenty-year-old cat Fiona had to be put down: logically, I knew that she was just really old; emotionally I questioned and re-questioned what could make it my fault. I don’t share this just to make you sorry for me, but because that’s what Itsuka and Nagomu are doing this week in Deaimon. Itsuka is the most classic example of it – as she recalls the snowy day when her father left her at the confectionery, she remembers specifically that he asked her if she wanted to eat zaizen, a type of soup. She said yes, he took her to Nagomu’s place, and the next thing she knew, he’d abandoned her there like a puppy in a cardboard box. We can see that she’s aware that her agreeing to go out for soup didn’t actually have anything to do with her father leaving her; In scenes leading up to the memory, we see Itsuka recalling how he was caught in a downward spiral, getting quieter, having trouble finding work, dragging her from place to place in the city as he tried to find a way out. She knows that all of this was going on, but in a bid to establish some control over her own destiny, she attributes his decision to leave her to that one, fateful question about soup…because if she can’t blame herself, then she’ll have to blame the one person she wants to see more than anyone else: her father.
It is interesting that the absent man (who I’m 99.99% sure is also Nagomu’s senpai) plays such an outsize role in the story. While it isn’t on the level of Toru’s mother in Fruits Basket, which is the ultimate example of the space taken up by an absent character, he’s still very much at the root of both Itsuka’s and Nagomu’s motives and feelings. Assuming he really is the same person, it was his words to Nagomu and his decision to leave Kyoto that influenced Nagomu’s own life choices, choices that we could argue that heted regret at least a little judging by the alacrity with which he answered the call to return home. Of course, in Nagomu’s case we also have to factor in the overheard conversation where his father thought that maybe he shouldn’t continue in the family business, so the letter may have felt like a revocation of that statement – like Nagomu was worthwhile after all, in his family’s eyes. But the fact remains that Nagomu kept playing the guitar in hopes of finding his senpai again, much like Itsuka haunts the train station. This man is the author of their dreams, and if Nagomu has managed to find some reconciliation in his own mind, that’s just because he’s older and has had more time to get there.
That may also be why he’s able to help Itsuka in the end of the episode. Nagomu’s been where she is, and a piece of him is probably still right there with her. So he’s able to recognize what she’s going through, and he understands what a snowy day in February may symbolize for her. Yes, he’s taken to heart his parents’ request that he try and be a father to Itsuka, but he also truly wants to do that of his own volition now. She’s hurting, and that’s really the one thing Nagomu can’t stand: someone in emotional pain. That may even be part of why he doesn’t realize Kanoko’s feelings, because she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. Neither does Itsuka, of course, but he can relate to her situation a little bit better. And for her part, Itsuka is starting to open up to Nagomu, to see him as a part of her new family. “Dad” may be pushing it, but he’s at least reached “weird but well-meaning older brother.”
Taking on the guilt and blame we don’t need to is so easy to do. If Nagomu can help Itsuka keep moving forward and learn that she doesn’t have to own the bad things in order to exert some control over her own life, that would be one of the best possible endings to their story.
Deaimon: Recipe for Happiness is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.