Warning: Contains spoilers!
When you are perceived as different in society, what identifies you? Maybe it’s the traits that make you “unique.” Or maybe it’s how close to “normal” you are. There’s a curious balance of acknowledgement and empathy, limited not just to how others treat you but also how you treat yourself. Such questions underlie episode 4 of Interviews with Monster Girls.
Talking with Takahashi about the Snow Woman Kusakabe, the succubus Ms. Satou places a vase of hydrangeas on a table. Although the flowers are never explicitly mentioned, they appear prominently during Takahashi’s and Ms. Satou’s conversation, a palette of bright color against the gray clouds that mute the empty room.
In Japan, the hydrangea stands for a number of things. Apology. Heartfelt emotion. Deeper understanding. Gratitude for understanding. These are elements that haven’t yet appeared in the episode, but five minutes later they will set the tone for the rest of it.
At the end of last episode, Kusakabe overheard other girls talking about her behind her back, how she wouldn’t give the time of day to a boy and was probably stuck up. She cried by herself in the stairwell until Takahashi found her.
Kusakabe, however, wasn’t really crying because of their words, but rather because she rued the fact that she was a demi. Being a demi—being so different from normal people—was already an incredibly painful point of contention for her, an unacceptable part of her that is only compounded by the high school girls’ idle gossip.
Thanks to a stand from Hikari, the girls end up apologizing for their behavior. Hikari apologizes for wording things too harshly. Kusakabe apologizes because she realizes she’s still very much bothered by her demi nature, and so avoids contact with others. In the end, as the hydrangeas seemed to foreshadow, these high school girls were able to form a mutual understanding.
But is this enough? When she confronted the girls, Hikari made sure to qualify that she would stand up for anyone who was being bullied, demi or not, and no matter who was doing the bullying. She looked past the demi nature of demis, affirming that despite some differences, demis are still people.
While her intent is good, it also looks past the fact that demis are still demis. The second half of the episode touches upon these issues through a heartfelt conversation between Takahashi and Himari, Hikari’s protective and non-vampire sister.
For example, others, meaning well, say that Hikari “is just like a normal high school girl” despite being a vampire. This statement both implements a stereotype on Hikari and dismisses it. On the other hand, never talking about her vampireness out of politeness is just another rebuttal of her nature.
In the end, Takahashi concludes that there’s a precious balance. Too much focus on what makes demis demis, and you won’t see the individual behind them. Too much focus on their humanity, and you won’t understand their troubles.
With the help of Ms. Satou, Takahashi would like to guide these high schoolers on their way. They encourage the demis to talk to one another, or to them if need be. Growing up is difficult, but these demis, like hydrangeas, are already quickly blossoming.