This chapter is well constructed. The pacing at which information is revealed was spot on for maximum impact. The first thing we have is the horrific scene at the rabbit pen where 4 rabbits have been tortured death or near death. We then meet Hikaru. Hikaru is presented to us as mild mannered boy who endures the bullying of the class calmly even though he clearly bothered by it. We know he was the caregiver of the rabbits and at this point the reader is trying to make the connection between Hikaru’s bullying and his rabbit pen. He seems upstanding - so the tendency is going to be to wonder if the rabbit pen was aimed at him.
But then it is revealed he has been taking out his frustration by torturing the rabbits he has been charged with taking care of. This instantly puts a new perspective on Hikaru for the reader - he stops just being a victim but also a perpetrator of bullying. We the reader also have to face the thought that the most plausible perpetrator for the horror at the opening of the chapter is Hikaru himself. We the reader have a character who is seemingly barreling down a terrible path of senseless violence put here because of ostracization and bulling.
After a scene where Hikaru lashes out and projects a bunch of his insecurities on Marie, who probably would have been largely sympathetic to him, Hamlen shows up and they enter into an agreement. Hamlen will turn his tormentors into rabbits, so that the rabbits he is torturing are no longer innocent but actually the objects of Hikaru’s pent up anger. I think this moment in the story is when the story says Hikaru reached irredeemability. He rejects Marie who is a force of compassion in the story, and instead is easily lured down the path of revenge. We as readers can make the connection that rabbits at the start were actually humans. We see Hikaru as an irredeemable murderer, who has become worse than anything that ever happened to him. He is the most terrible sort by-product of the cruelty of society.
But that isn’t even the final re-frame of Hikaru. After he has killed his classmates-turned-rabbits it is revealed in the scene between Hikaru and the Principal that the incident that triggered the bullying - the bullying that is currently framed as the reason Hikaru started down this dark path - was that Hikaru was bullying his classmate and being an honest to good braggart asshole. And he has at no point taken time to reflect on how his actions then led him to current situation, or even made enough of a connection to label his actions as bullying. No Hikaru is surely the Irrational Evil Intent mentioned earlier in the story, he considers his violent actions blameless, but any slight against him is full on sin.
By controlling the timing of the information in this way we the readers experience the “decent” of Hikaru, who was basically already evil from the start. And I do think we are supposed to think of Hikaru as unsavable evil. I think this especially because of the scene where he rejects Marie - the symbol of Student Savior for the reader - but also because of the specific reveal that Hikaru lacked the ability to reflect on his own hubris. If you look at the most comparable character so far - Takeshi - you can see clearly that Takeshi remained “good” despite the sin of his past and his immature ideals because when push came to shove he could see how he had been wrong and genuinely wanted to make amends.
In a story that is largely about bullying in general, this is an interesting short to appear. Again, it is really very clear that Ryuukishi has spent a lot of time reflecting on bullying as phenomenon and its effects. The interesting thing here in particular is that the first bullies we encounter in this story used bulling to ostracize Irrational Evil from their society. Which if you think of ostracization through history, this is its social function. Its basically a lizzard brain way people deal with deviation from norm and protecting ones in-group from potential threats. It is usually presented as something more terrible than the crime that incurs it warrants, something that occurs unjustly to good people who dared to be a little different. Modern stories thrive on the narrative of the weird one no one likes secretly being the righteous hero. But here we see a case of the classmates scorn being “correct” in that they may have very well been reacting to that irrational evil intent that was Hikaru reflexively. And it is shown that it is likely Hikaru would not have had the guts/stomach to kill humans without the demons delusion, so if he had never made an agreement with Hamlen Irrational Evil Intent would have been contained to the rabbit pen. What do we as readers feel about their bullying in light of Hikaru’s true nature?
Practically speaking ostracization and bullying are bad. They are often applied to groups and people who do not even approach deserving it. These tendencies are in line with those that have spurred the greatest conflicts of our time, and we should be trying to harder to at least tolerate each other. And even though I still firmly think this afterward, here we are also having to face the fact that even if we aim to create a society that tries to save everyone, reality is that not everyone can be saved.
Hikaru is punished by Higanbana, forced to face the reality of his crimes and then seemingly doomed to a lifetime of rape at the hands of the most innocent of his victims. I was hoping he would be torn apart by them when it reached this point. This is worse, and a lot more horrifying. I It was another really good use of information reveal honestly. By ending the chapter with Hikaru’s punishment instead of any kind of a short epilogue scene Ryukishi is intentionally ending the story in a way where he wants the readers to reflect on the implications of characters like Hikaru and come to their own conclusions as opposed to offering a solution through narrative. In a society where we do not have demons who can punish evil with magic maybe there is no solution for people like Hikaru?