You know what really grinds my fucking
gears? Mami hate. And not just standard “Oh I don’t like Mami, she’s a bad person” hate. I mean the absolutely fucking putrid and toxic approach this sub has to Mami. You can’t fucking discuss her or express a positive opinion about her character or impact in the series or you get downvoted to oblivion. Every meme has some element of either pretentious righteousness or downright fury. People circlejerking the fucking shit out of the Mami hate. “HuRr DuRr MaMi TrAsH!” kinda fucking bullshit
Mami’s one of the best fucking characters in this show. She’s a bad person, she’s manipulative, she’s vindictive, she’s probably psychopathic. And you know what? She’s fucking heart-pounding to watch. Because she’s a fucking antagonist, and a damn fucking effective one at that. She hasn’t shown up in almost a hundred fucking chapters and people are still shitting their pants about her. That's impact! That’s narrative weight! That makes her a great fucking character
Last time I spoke about a girl who wasn’t essential to the plot. Today I’m talking about a girl whom the plot can’t exist without. If I needed to reduce the series down to three characters, it would be Kazuya
, and fucking Mami
And there’s gonna be spoilers for the fucking manga. I don’t know how much yet because I’m writing this with a goddamn vengeance. So go read the fucking manga. I’m gonna make you think about shit, appreciate more than just “durrrr cute girl cute” or “me hate girl because me no like girl”. You’re going to develop some big brained fucking takes after this piece.
Sit down, we’re going on a fucking ride.
Remember those three questions I brought up in the Ruka article? The one where I called her a shitty Mami knock off? Let's look at what happens when you can sweep the board and answer yes to all three. Here’s a refresher.
- Do they advance the plot in a way no other character possibly can?
- Do they build upon the themes of the series in a way no other character possibly can?
- Do they offer additional insight into existing characters that no other character possibly can?
Let's start with the first question, shall we?
Does Mami advance the plot?
Mami advances the plot more in one fucking arc that any other character who isn’t Kazuya or Chizuru. Which I mean you’d fucking hope those two would have the biggest impact, but I don’t think you realise just how much Mami is playing in the big leagues. To show you that, we’re gonna take a look at “The Girlfriend and the Sea”
So, we just got done with the izakaya scene, and now we’re all heading to the sea. Kazuya, Kibe, and all his university friends are going to the beach. That means Mami’s coming along for the ride. You also know who that means isn’t
coming along? Chizuru. Because this is early KanoKari and Chizuru has no friends. You know what that means? The Threat of Nanami Mami.
Can we look back on the izakaya scene again for a bit? Need a refresher? Here you go.
What can we tell from one minute of Mami? She’s a manipulator, and a skilled reader of people. She knows exactly what buttons to push to really break someone, to bend them to her will. She absolutely minces up Kazuya and manipulates him into apologising for her. Am I going to go into depth? No. Because I linked the fucking anime for a reason. Yuuki Aoi elevates the texts and explicitly shows you every detail just how Mami operates. The facade of a bright, bubbly personality. The raw malice
layered in her delivery. Her flawless, non-stop execution of a verbal beatdown. Her ability to be utterly unflappable in the face of a screaming Chizuru.
Nanami Mami is a force of nature.
And what does she want to do during the beach trip? Break Kazuya and Chizuru up
. Her aim is to get between the two heroes' budding relationship. And how does she do that?
First, she gets in Kazuya’s head
. She gets him alone, and puts herself front and centre. She then appeals to him
. Mami knows just how effective the nice act can be, and she deploys it to ruthless effect. She “apologises” about the izakaya incident, ruminates on their “enjoyable memories” and plants the seed of her manipulation
. One quick conversation and she has Kazuya right where she wants him
. Oh, look who shows up, with friends too
. But with this, brings the arrival of Kazuya’s friends. That's no good for Mami
, and she immediately seeks to isolate him again. We also get in on the plan
. She wants dirt. Thankfully Kibe gets him out of there and yadda yadda yadda Chizuru
. Smelling blood in the water, Mami refuses to let them get out of it that easily
. Exerting control over the situation at all times.
Regaining control over the situation, she isolates Kazuya again
. Planting the second seed of her manipulation
. Now, all she has to do is wait. Now all she has to do is wait. For this
. All she has to do now is sit back, wait, watch the fireworks
. And this is where her manipulation really pays dividends. Confused and overwhelmed
at what's happened, Kazuya breaks again. Now everyone, including Chizuru, knows how much real estate Mami occupies in Kazuya’s mind
. And she gets to maintain the high ground
. The Impact of Nanami Mami.
Chapter 12. Keep that in mind. Chapter 12 is the moment when Mami leaves her mark. One of the best ways to really gauge how much of an impact a moment has is to see how long it reverberates throughout the plot. Think Nina Tucker from FullMetal Alchemist. What happens to Nina sticks with Ed and All all the way up to the final encounter with Truth. So, how long does this one Mami moment reverberate throughout KanoKari?
“Your ex, Mami, was it?
” When discussing Kazuya’s Girlfriend Quest™, Mami is still the
serious contender. Kazuya still places high emphasis on the feelings he had for her, and it's clear to both of them how much she still matters. While Kazuya’s own feelings are morphing from love and infatuation to obligation, Chizuru’s still clearly shook
. After Kazuya declares that his feelings aren’t ones to be thrown away lightly, Chizuru hides her face from us and moves to leave. That's visual medium speak for bothered.
“Kazuya is serious! Are you?
” Still thinking that Kazuya is serious about Mami, Chizuru gives us a rare outburst and pleads with Mami to be serious about Kazuya’s feelings for her. The normally composed and well kept Chizuru is moved to an emotional outburst
, still under the impression that this is what will make Kazuya happy.
“What do you think?
” Now, this ones gonna take some context. End of chapter 137, we see that Chizuru is once again, bothered
. She can’t get to sleep, and is implied to have not been able to get much sleep
, if any. Whatever is bothering Chizuru, it’s serious. We can tell because we get what many leading KanoKari experts are terming “That fucking look
.” Then she brings up Kazuya’s Girlfriend Quest™. No prizes for guessing what’s eating Ichinose Chizuru. And after a bit of waffle about how not loved
Ruka is. Kazuya drops an interesting line. “The next person I introduce to [his family]... will be someone I love from the bottom of my heart
”. Now, Kazuya knows who he’s thinking about. We know who Kazuya’s thinking about. Who does Chizuru think he’s talking about?
“... What about Mami-san?
That's no coincidence. Kazuya talks about someone he loves deeply, and Chizuru’s mind goes to Mami. In chapter 138, 126 chapters after The Girlfriend and the Sea (hell, a full 60 chapters since her last actual appearance), and Mami is still affecting the plot and the characters around her. How much? Guess what happens after Kazuya finally writes her off with a “I hope she’s happy”. Happy, sleepy Chizuru
And this isn’t even Mami’s stand out moment. The izakaya scene, the Rental date with Chizuru, whatever the fuck the payoff for Mami following Nagomi on Twitter is gonna be, all far more memorable moments than The Girlfriend and the Sea. But even her quieter moments are felt
throughout the series.
How does Mami build on the themes of the series?
If you’ve read anything I’ve written about this series, you’ve probably figured out
that for me, the core themes of KanoKari are the importance of vulnerability; the role of, and what it means to be, family; and mutual support and growth. Themes that are explored brilliantly through our main cast. Kazuya shows how allowing yourself to be vulnerable lets you grow closer to others; the loving and enriching nature of family; and how by giving and receiving support, you can better yourself and those around you. Chizuru shows how difficult being vulnerable can be, and what it takes to allow yourself to be vulnerable; the importance of family and how critical it is in one’s life; and how it’s impossible to make it through life alone.
What does Mami say? Mami shows the dangers and effects of rejecting all of these (mostly). Mami shows what happens when you close yourself off and refuse to be vulnerable; she shows what a toxic family life can breed; and she shows that only looking out for number one gets you nothing. To be fair, there are assumptions in there. A lot of them. Because above all else, and probably the biggest testament to how well she showcases not being vulnerable, Mami is a mysterious character. She plays her cards tight to her chest. She never shares, never reveals.
Nanami Mami is an enigma. The Mystery of Nanami Mami.
So, what do we know about Nanami Mami? Like, really? Well, we know one thing. Nanami Mami has one singular weakness.
Now, I’m not saying that just in the “Nanami Mami is in love with Kazuya” sense. Because I mean, yes
. She is
. I’m talking in the sense that Kazuya gets
to Mami. He gets under her skin. The character who has everyone, including the readers, quaking in fear and shitting their pants, is susceptible to Kazuya.
I mean, seems odd saying that a couple paragraphs after showing off the video where she verbally flays him and breaks him. But the only times Mami has ever been thrown off, the only times we’ve ever seen anything other than the cold-hearted operator that is Mami, it’s been because of Kazuya.
When her friends tease her about not being over Kazuya, she reacts very defensively.
When Kazuya brings Chizuru to the izakaya, it’s the event that provoked her whole outburst.
When Kazuya stands up to Mami, we get one of her very few instances of the white eyed surprise gaze
, and as Kazuya storms off, her emotions are shown on her mouth
. We can see how much that whole night really gets under her skin
here. When Kazuya doesn’t come to see her at the pool for the completely rational and sane reason of being hospitalised after saving Chizuru from falling off the boat, she is obviously bothered by it
. And when Ruka goes on her “Stay away from my boyfriend” rant and she leaves the karaoke place, she looks like she’s about to kill someone
Actually, can we talk about that Ruka beatdown for a second? As much as I wanted her gone, now that she’s here, it does offer us some insight into just how much Kazuya, and Kazuya related topics get to Mami.
The claim that Ruka and Kazuya are a couple (which, highly debatable), is one of the few things that surprises Mami
. While she is able to regain her composure quickly
, Ruka is able to follow up with the blow that puts her properly off kilter. “You’re his ex, aren’t you?! Too bad! Because I’m his girlfriend now!
Nanami Mami is shook.
Ruka deals out some high quality whoop ass, Mami remains stunned, unable to get her composure back until Ruka finishes. While the blacks are able to return to her eyes, she still takes the entire rant caught like a deer in headlights. She’s forced to sit there and take it while Ruka unloads. “What’s your problem?!” “Having second thoughts? Regretting how it ended?” “You’re over and done!” Scathing words, words that attack the one thing we know is important to Mami, her obsession with Kazuya. After Ruka finishes up, she attempts to throw out one last Hail Mary
. But when Ruka doesn’t budge
, Mami… gives up
Let me repeat that. Mami gives up. And that’s the last Kazuya sees of her (as of chapter 165). The Consequence of Nanami Mami.
Of all the themes we notice in the series, the importance of family, mutual support, how difficult it is to properly connect with other people. There’s one theme I put front and centre in all of my analysis, in all of my readings, in every aspect I view the series from.
The key to connecting with people is Vulnerability. Only when you open up, can you let someone in.
You may think that’s because of the success Kazuya has when he opens up. You may think it's because of the struggles Chizuru has with Vulnerability. You may think it’s because Ruka misunderstands how to be vulnerable and struggles with considering others, which stagnates her. You may think it’s from the fast friendship Sumi and Kazuya form, where assured spaces of vulnerability allows the two to grow and help the other process their emotions. But you’d be wrong.
The reason why I believe it's such an important theme is all because of Mami. Nanami Mami is the only character in the series who refuses to be vulnerable. She even rejects the suggestion that she should be vulnerable. When Chizuru confronts Mami about Kazuya’s feelings for her, she pleads with her “Did you ever actually let him love you?
” She’s directly confronting Mami about whether she gave Kazuya an honest chance, whether she properly opened up to him. Mami’s response is to actively shut Chizuru out
. To Mami, not being vulnerable isn’t a struggle, it isn’t something she can’t do. Not being vulnerable is a decision she makes. That decision has a consequence.
Nanami Mami is the only girl who grows apart
Think about it, at the start of the series, Mami is the most important person to Kazuya
. In the early stages of the story his struggle is coming to grips with his lingering feelings for Mami
. Even as far as the beach arc, we can see how much of an effect Mami has had on Kazuya
It’s starting at The Girlfriend and the Impulse, where we see just how big the series intends to make this theme. Starting off Kazuya’s… period of self reflection. His feelings of lust and infatuation for Mami dominate the pages and have presence in the panels they’re shown in
. Once Kazuya’s feelings for Chizuru manifest, they shrink, becoming almost insignificant
. As Kazuya tries to fight his rising feelings, they overwhelm the page, and his fantasies about Mami, reflecting on shared moments of vulnerability
, moments of caring, kindness and mutual support
. Until one person
dominates his thoughts.
The next time we see Kazuya reflect on his feelings for Mami. “To be honest, I don’t even understand anymore, you know… if I like her or what…
” Kazuya doesn’t speak highly of his feelings for her, but of his sense of obligation to his promise to make her happy. He speaks more towards his sense of obligation to the promise he made
The next time after that. “To be honest, part of me is happy. I really feel like I’ve shed some baggage
.” While Ruka expresses concern that she may have offended Mami, thinking she might have hurt one of Kazuya’s friends (aside: it takes Nanami Mami to make Ruka think of Kazuya’s feelings for once). Kazuya’s focus is on reassuring Ruka that things are fine. His final thoughts? “Meh, either way, I’m glad Ruka is back to normal
The last time we see him think about Mami (as of chapter 165)? “I hope she’s happy.
I hope she’s happy.
And what is she left with? Regret
. Ruka’s words echoing in her mind, she shuts them out. Mami won’t even let herself be vulnerable with herself.
Does Mami offer additional insight into existing characters that no other character possibly can?
It would be quicker to list the number of named characters Mami doesn’t
shed some light on. We even gain insight into minor characters like Kibe through Mami. But, most importantly, we learn so many things about our main characters through Mami. The Infatuation of Nanami Mami.
One thing to keep in mind is that Kazuya isn’t in love with Mami. Kazuya is infatuated
with Mami. It’s not that he constantly has fantasies that are pornographic in nature
, it’s that they’re his only
real fantasies about her that he has on his own. The only thought he has about Mami that looks towards the future
is one that Mami planted in his head
. When Kazuya reflects back on the time they spent, it focuses on the attempts at connection
, rather than what is to be gained from those connections. When we see him reflect on his feelings about her, it’s all about his connection to the relationship. “This is my soulmate sent by fate’s hand
’ When he blows up at Kibe after “breaking up” with Chizuru, it’s about how he was hurt when Mami dumped him
Just like someone else. Kazuya’s feelings for Mami are Fish Love. Which is ironic because Kazuya properly cares about his fish.
This is why I was so fucked off during my Ruka rant. The arc of infatuation vs love was Kazuya’s
arc. He struggles to understand what love is
. His feelings for Chizuru are different in a way he can’t understand
. While he recognises that he can change through Chizuru
, he still attempts to reject and deny his feelings
. Then when Ruka shows up, he just… gains the understanding. Nothing changes about Kazuya, he just suddenly knows.
But let’s not get sidetracked. This is about Mami and Kazuya. So what else do we learn about Kazuya through Mami? His growing steadiness.
In their early encounters, it’s easy to see just how much Mami can turn his world upside down
. We’ve seen what she can do in the izakaya, but even on the walk home when she has her pleasant act up again, he still crumbles into a bubbling mess
. At the sea, we see the full extent to which she has him wrapped around her finger as discussed above.
Their next encounter is during the date with Sumi. While he’s still obviously unsettled and uncomfortable around Mami, we see him starting to show signs of his steadying feet
. He’s bothered, but he still has his own sense of self. He’s able to keep rational and come up with an explanation to smooth things over. It’s Sumi not getting the hint that undoes him in this encounter.
Their next encounter is at the start of The Girlfriend and the Night. While she surprises him by popping the fuck out of nowhere
, he’s able to brace himself for the attack. When that doesn’t come, for the first time around Mami, we see him relax
. He’s able to calm down and compose himself, confronting her with his honesty and sense of justice by calmly apologising for lying to everyone and putting himself in a position to accept all the blame. Look at his eyes. Those are strong, resolute eyes.
Their final encounter (so far), we see him surprised she one again appears the fuck out of nowhere
. However, once it’s explained how she knew about his work and what she’s doing here, he’s completely fine. We can tell that because we get a couple glances at him through Ruka’s eyes
. Outside of Ruka acting like a loose cannon, he handles Mami completely fine
Through Mami, we’re able to see clearly and unambiguously how much more confident and self assured Kazuya is able to act and present himself. While he still has a long way to go, Mami allows us to see just how far he’s come.
But Kazuya isn’t the only character who gets the Mami spotlight. The Reflection of Nanami Mami.
I’m sure by now you understand how I feel about how Mami is an integral and influential character when it comes to Kazuya. How I feel the plot line of infatuation vs love is much stronger when portrayed through Kazuya and his feelings for Mami, as opposed to with Ruka and her feelings for Kazuya. How Mami feeds into the core messages of vulnerability and opening up and connecting to people. But I haven’t touched on the crux of why I believe it really, truly would work so well.
Nanami Mami is a distorted reflection of Ichinose Chizuru.
What, were you too busy being pissed off you couldn’t waifu the blonde girl that you didn’t fucking notice? Were you too busy screaming “NO MAMI GO AWAY” at your precious screens to pay attention? Good fucking thing nothing gets past this bitch.
Nanami Mami is an actress.
And probably the best one in the series to boot. Thats right, shots fucking fired
Chizuru. Now, when I say Mami is an actress, I’m not saying that in strictly the same sense that Chizuru is an actress. Mami isn’t auditioning and trying to star in any films. To Mami, life
is an act.
There are three times in the series that we’ve seen an honest Mami. Two of those are when Mami is alone
. Everything else is an act. A performance. A facade. The bright and cheery girl at the izakaya
. The concerned girl at the beach
. Kazuya’s cheerful college friend
. The inquisitive ex-girlfriend
. The girl who blames herself
. The comrade-in-arms
. All a fake performance. A means to an end.
And what does she hide behind this performance of the approachable, kind, concerning girl? Jealousy
. Mami uses her performance to hide all of her negative emotions. To hide her desire to lash out and hurt. Is she driven by kindness? By concern for others? Fuck no, it’s the complete opposite.
But using a fake persona to mask your real emotions… remind you of someone
? Chizuru is everything that Mami is not. The girl who relies on the cold, strong persona
. The iron lady
. And what is she trying to hide? Kindness
Which is why the most exciting, revealing, and insightful scene in the manga, is the third time we see the real Nanami Mami. The first time she shows her real self to another person.
“Butt out. You mind your own business, and we will mind ours.
Oh, you thought it was a fucking coincidence the two actresses would reveal so much of their true selves to each other?
Let's rewind a bit. Back to when These two reminded Ruka who the real plot relevant women in this series are
. Starting off the encounter proper, Chizuru is trapped
. Cornered like a rabbit. Completely at the mercy of Mami
. And Mami is going to Make. Her. Sing
(in case you didn’t get the symbolism of the karaoke scene). And, after some literal singing, she tries to get just that. Only Chizuru’s got a nice fallback
. This puts Mami on the attack
. She directly calls out the lie. Directly attacking the lack of intimacy between the two
in this make believe game of pretend lovers. “You don’t even love him.” “Kazuya pays you money,” “Then you go and plaster that fake, lying
smile on your face.” Ichinose Chizuru is called the fuck out
. And it cuts deep.
The loss of words, the clenched fists. Chizuru is bothered
. Mami fleeces her and displays to us just how much, this early in the story, how Chizuru is fuelled by her own misconceptions about the rental relationship. She can’t respond because she can’t deny it. She doesn’t think Kazuya loves her
. She thinks she’s holding him back from getting a real girlfriend
. She thinks nothing can come from this make believe game of pretend lovers
. And Mami shows us all this before the text spells it out for us.
Pleased with herself, she leads them to the bridge. She takes one last opportunity to gloat
. This allows Chizuru the chance to bring up the one guy who gets behind both of their facades. Kazuya. Trying to wring the others feelings for Kazuya out of them, we get this absolutely haunting line
from Mami. “I’m just thinking that maybe while you were pretending to be Kazu-kun’s girlfriend.... You actually fell for him?
” An absolutely haunting line that calls back to back at the Karaoke parlour. And we see Chizuru’s patterns come out to play. She hides her eyes, showing she is struggling with her emotions, and she dodges the question
Nanami Mami has Chizuru’s number.
Chizuru can’t hide around Mami. So she says fuck it
. Which leads to one of the most revealing outbursts from Chizuru this side of The Girlfriend and The Boyfriend. We learn the importance she places on love
. We learn she views the concept of forming deep emotional connections as a struggle
. We learn just how dedicated she is to pursuing happiness for Kazuya
(even if she is barking up the wrong fucking tree for that). We also get the one quote that will be called back for the rest of the fucking series whenever Chizuru struggles to open up to Kazuya
. Oh, and we also get her finally calling Mami the fuck out on her own struggles
to be vulnerable and open up to people.
That’s when we get the third time Mami has shown her true self
, and the only time it’s been shown to another person. What, you thought this wasn’t
symbolic? The two actresses letting down their act around each other? Don’t need to put up an act when you’re looking in the fucking mirror.
And here we have two incredibly similar characters given the same advice
. They both perform fake personas in their real lives, they both to some degree want the same thing, but they have different approaches to vulnerability. Guess which one gets closer to Kazuya
The series just taught you a fucking message that no other character could.
So many Mami scenes, and not a single one of them is inconsequential. Not a single one doesn’t explore our two leads in more depth. Not one of them doesn’t further along the plot. Not one of them doesn’t enhance the themes of the series.
Nanami Mami is the Essential Antagonist.
Now. I’m not saying you have to think Mami’s a good person. I’m not saying you have to want to waifu Mami. But I will not sit here and fucking watch this incredible fucking antagonist get fucking dragged because “mean girl makes your dick limp”.
respect just how much she adds to the series, how integral she is, just by existing.
respect how complex and deep she is as a character.
respect Nanami Mami.