Waifu Wednesday: Michiru Matsushima

After many months (years, actually, I think) of waiting, I finally took possession of my Grisaia Complete Box today.

As you may recall, I had many, many words to say on the subject of The Fruit of Grisaia and its sequel in a previous Cover Game feature, but I’m yet to explore either the third and final game in the main series or any of the “side” games. Consequently, I’ve officially earmarked some time (maybe after Death End Re;Quest) to cover the remainder of the series.

In the meantime, though, I thought it might not be a terrible idea to give one of the Grisaia girls a bit of a shout-out for today’s Waifu Wednesday. And since I’ve given Amane a bit of favouritism previously, well, today it’s Michiru’s turn.

We’ve previously covered Michiru’s story in The Fruit of Grisaia and The Labyrinth of Grisaia in great detail, so rather than rehashing that I wanted to talk about why Michiru is an appealing character to me.

In simple terms, it’s quite a common trait among characters that I feel a certain amount of resonance with: they have something about them that I feel is relatable somehow. In Michiru’s case, while I do not by any means behave in the highly energetic, noisy way that she does, I can certainly understand the anxiety she feels over believing she needs to “play a role” in order to get through her life.

The concept of having to maintain a public face while concealing your private face is pretty much a universal one. Here in the West, we typically behave differently at, say, a wedding or in a board meeting to how we would if we were sitting around a table drinking port and playing board games with friends. (I am painfully middle-class, in case that wasn’t already abundantly clear.)

In Japan, this concept is sometimes referred to as honne and tatemae, the former representing true feelings and desires, while the latter represents the “facade” you put up to conceal those things. In Michiru’s case, as she comes to trust protagonist Yuuji, she starts to show more of her true self — though she still holds things back — but stubbornly maintains her tsundere persona over the top of it all as a means of play-acting a role and preventing having to confront the world directly.

Japanese drama also frequently highlights the difference between honne and another concept known as giri, which rather than being an individual’s facade, refers to social obligations and deference to one’s “superiors”, a cornerstone of much of Japanese culture and society. As a teenage girl, one might not think Michiru has much in the way of giri to worry about, but there are still things one needs to consider, even at a relatively tender age; although modern Japanese teenagers are a lot more independent and responsible than they would have been in past generations, there’s still the obligation to stay out of trouble, show the appropriate respect to everyone from the people in the year above you at school to your teachers and prospective employers, and generally to do things “properly”.

Michiru is afraid of doing things “wrong” to a certain degree, which left her with an inferiority complex. Physical abuse by people she should have been able to trust in her early years left her mentally scarred to such a degree that she developed a second personality to deal with things when it all got a bit too much for the Michiru one would typically encounter if speaking to her on a normal day. There are things she doesn’t believe herself capable of dealing with, so she retreats into herself and allows this “other” Michiru to take control, tending to find when she “awakens” from the experience that everything is magically that little bit better than it was when she “left”.

In some ways, being able to detach oneself from difficult situations and observe them rationally is an admirable trait, but Michiru has taken this to an extreme; she seemingly “switches off” completely when confronted with an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation, and only returns when that “other” Michiru has sent a clear signal that all is well. A key part of her personal development over the course of The Fruit of Grisaia in particular sees her coming to recognise that this is happening, why, and how she can live in harmony with this “other” girl inside her rather than them being exclusive of one another.

While I can’t say I’ve ever taken things as far as Michiru does in order to deal with matters of depression, anxiety and feelings of low self-worth, I can certainly relate to many of the things that trigger the most extreme examples of her behaviour. And that’s what makes her so interesting and compelling; recognising familiar aspects of her personality, then seeing what they cause her to do in various situations and what the consequences are allows me to relate things to my own life without having to worry about hurting myself or others.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that interactive stories, games and even pornographic games like Honey Select Unlimited can afford us the opportunity to explore ourselves in a safe environment without being at risk. And Grisaia in its entirety is a fascinating exploration not only of interpersonal relationships, but also of how different people handle different types of trauma, be that trauma deeply personal and emotional, physical or a little of each.

Michiru is by no means the only member of the cast who has her own personal demons to confront over the course of the story. But from anecdotal evidence and chatting with fellow Grisaia enthusiasts online, it’s clear that she’s a character who strikes a chord with plenty of people, for a variety of reasons. And whatever your initial reasons might be for taking an interest in her, you can’t help but want to know a bit more as time goes on… just what really makes this girl tick?

Probably not bees. She doesn’t like bees. Not that she’d admit that or anything.

More about The Fruit of Grisaia
More about The Labyrinth of Grisaia

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.

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5 thoughts on “Waifu Wednesday: Michiru Matsushima”

    1. It’s an interesting concept, and explored a lot in a variety of Japanese popular media, both literally and allegorically, so it’s possible you may have run across the idea already even if you didn’t know its name. 🙂

      It’s especially relevant today because young Japanese people are a lot more willing to express themselves in various ways than in previous generations — and that, of course, raises some intriguing questions over whether or not they’ll be able to function effectively in what is still a rather traditional society, or if they’ll be forced to develop a suitable “facade” before they can progress into adulthood.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel like I probably did come across it somewhere.

        In a lot of Japanese literature that I’ve read where the characters have the sort of freedom of expression during their youth, usually tend to outgrow it. After reading your post and comment, I wonder if that is wishful thinking on the part of the more traditional community, or just a sense of inevitability with “old age.”

        Liked by 1 person

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