What Exactly is Ayano’s Happiness Theory?
a Superheroes vs God Almighty piece by The Overlord Bear/Jem De Ocampo
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have expected Ayano Tateyama to suck even worse at being happy in private.
I’m around nine years old as a Kagerou Project fan, but I gotta admit: I haven’t seriously tried to understand what the eponymous idea of the song “Ayano’s Happiness Theory” exactly is until now. I mean, I can blame how heartrending and upending its homey yet grand sound and storytelling are on my emotions, but still, I was a dumber guy back then who wasn’t putting that much effort into being truly wise. And I still got a long way to go even now. But now I can say that I can at least propose a theory of significant solidity about what Ayano Tateyama thinks happiness is supposed to be.
Now, some opinionated context about our star here: Basically, Ayano Tateyama is the Kagerou Project’s best twist character as far as I know (and I should note that I have not yet read the light novels and manga that much yet). Introduced as the plain depressed girl angsted over by some edgy protagonist boy (said boy here being Shintarou Kisaragi) in “Transparent Answer” (or “Toumei Answer” in Japanese), she ends up becoming one of the Kagerou Project’s most memorable characters upon the release of the first song centered on her, that song being “Ayano’s Happiness Theory” (or “Ayano no Koufuku Riron” in Japanese), where she’s revealed to be the founder of the Mekakushi Dan (or the Blindfold Gang in fan translation English) on top of being the adoptive older sister of Tsubomi Kido, Kousuke Seto, and Shuuya Kano, who seemed to be the only founding members before Ayano’s character was further developed with the plot. She’s still the girl who hides great sadness with a big smile in public, but even that became more interesting, especially with how her character resonates with her adoptive younger siblings’, and “Additional Memory,” the second song centered on her, added even more to that by going first-person point of view about her sadness instead of having it viewed through another’s eyes like “Transparent Answer” did.
And that hiding of sadness in her attempts to be happy with her loved ones pretty much defines Ayano’s main conflict as a character, but delve further into her backstory through the song and its music video, and you’ll find that she had a more child-like mindset, optimism overflowing as she cheers up her magically red-eyed adoptive younger siblings with one of her most iconic lines: “Red is the color of heroes.” And I’d like to note that the Japanese here is ”真っ赤の色は主人公の色,” with “真っ赤” being “bright red” or “deep red” or maybe even “blushing red,” while “主人公” can probably be read as “protagonist” in English. In the song, that red is introduced and then later presented as the color of a monster thanks to the work of adults, and whether or not “主人公” implies actual virtuousness, I’m sure a lot of us easily interchange “protagonist” with “hero,” which Ayano and her younger siblings really do as kids in that time she cheered them up. Considering how blushing is unspilt blood rushing lots to the face, it’s like Ayano remembered and emphasized only the fact that blood is the life-giving thing that it’s supposed to be, not the trace of violence we more usually think of it as. And then she leads her younger siblings into attempting roleplays as secret agents, the term also seeming to be interchanged with the term “superheroes” because of the whole evil-destroying and world-saving secret identity stuff heroes – and not just superheroes – are popularly known for. Still, whether or not we consider the four of them heroic, it’s fitting that they call themselves secret agents, especially with the adopted younger siblings wielding eye powers named Concealing, Stealing, and Deceiving.
Of course, it all changes when they become teenagers, their age in the present time of the story. The Tateyama parents get killed by a landslide, Kenjirou (who also stars in the hard and eerie track named “Dead and Seek” in Mekakucity Days) is revived and possessed through the power of Azami the Medusa’s Heat-Haze Daze and the magical snake that instigated that madness (and stars in another hard and eerie track named “Outer Science” from Mekakucity Records), and while Ayano failed to fully understand the conflict of she was dealing with, she certainly knew that her father was doing some very bad things, and supposing that Ayano knew her father’s motives along with whatever research her archaeologist parents had about the Heat-Haze Daze, one can say that she finally realized how little she knew about being a true hero and why people gave and took so much more suffering than happiness. And then she makes herself a tragic figure by trying to counter the plan of the Wide-Awake Snake, that aforementioned villainous magical snake, by practically trying to fight it on her own, which reminds me of how gritty secret agent stories tend to be.
In the last parts of the song, Ayano, who’s likely speaking from the Heat-Haze Daze she voluntarily trapped herself in after all that storytelling, still does not explicitly tell what her Happiness Theory is, showing more concern for the younger siblings she left behind, her only family she can still save without having them killed. Again, she still feels like the sad girl we know her as, with hints of regret showing even in her words of encouragement that go “「幸せ」ってなんだか不思議 / 明日のこと 好きになれる,” which I think can be read as “’Happiness’ is kind of a miracle / I hope you’ll learn to love tomorrow.” And “不思議” can also mean “mysterious” and “curious,” but considering the meanings I’ve managed to read, the word seems to have a positive shade. With all that in mind, I think we can say that Ayano finally formed her Happiness Theory.
And essential to Ayano’s Happiness Theory are family and secrecy. Ayano lives with actual happiness in two parts of the song: the first part, or the story of her childhood, and the third part, or the story of her true maturity. She certainly shares her happiness with other people, especially her family, but it’s always a secret, a hidden treasure she would share to those trustworthy enough. If she has to reveal what it really is, she’s not supposed to make it easy to figure out. Compare that to the second part, the story of her teenage tragedy, where she puts on a facade of happiness while trying to shoulder everything herself. She ends up pushing Shuuya to lie even worse, causing him to do things like attacking Shintarou psychologically. And then Shintarou gets pushed into depression. And of course, there’s also how she left her younger siblings in even more dangerous circumstances. Like most of us foolish humans, there’s a lot about happiness we don’t easily get, and even if she can convince others with her lies about her foolishness, they’ll still be able to feel that something’s not right at the very least. Still, she knows pieces of the truth about happiness, and in hindsight, I shouldn’t have expected Ayano Tateyama to suck even worse at being happy in private. Sure, she messed up like her father did, messing up while rationalizing it with her concern for her family, but Ayano accepted the suffering she was meant to receive because of her admittedly awkward attempts at heroism, and she took it as a chance to properly grow up, also allowing her to confidently and properly wield her Favoring Eyes, which, as far as I remember, makes others feel what she feels, and comes from the Snake born out of Azami’s love.
Ayano’s characterization and development also brings to mind Mary Kozakura, who’s even worse about that sort of thing thanks to her repeated coercion of her loved ones into stagnancy. And we can say what we want about the Mekakucity Actors anime, but it’s quite poetic that Ayano, who also gained the power of making others feel what she feels, does the calming proper in getting Mary to calm the heck down. Mary the womanchild is saved by yet another mature youth with similar flaws, and this time, it’s the mature youth who inspired the first mature youth who saved Mary. And now I see Kousuke’s reservations about the use of his mind-reading power as a natural part of his character, too.
Considering all that, “Additional Memory” makes her seem even more human. But I don’t think it’s as defining as “Ayano’s Happiness Theory,” as “Ayano’s Happiness Theory” shows her at her best, with that best of hers also having her as the most heroic character in the whole Kagerou Project. To be honest, I doubted her worth as a character a lot even after getting hit by her defining song so many times, but I think that was because of my greater inability to believe in God and His power back then.
I mean, like most folks, I struggle to accept the idea of even the hero needing to suffer. I’m reminded of St. Peter believing the opposite of Jesus said in Matthew 16:21-23, which earns Peter a “Get behind me, Satan!” from the Lord. And speaking of which, the Devil is popularly associated with the color red, which is also the color of fire, which is popularly associated with hell. And then I remember how even heaven uses fire. These thoughts came to mind as I thought about “Ayano’s Happiness Theory” even further after attempting to sing it with more skill during my free time on impulse after finding out about, funnily enough, a VTuber with the avatar of an angel Premiering on YouTube a cover of “Additional Memory.” And again, I remember Satan being a fallen angel. But still, whatever the Devil uses to define himself and his forces, God always uses better and perfectly.
So yeah, the evolution of Ayano’s thoughts about the color red, which signified both monster and hero to her, remind me of how Christ turned the Cross, the most humiliating punishment of His time and place on earth, which was also a punishment given to Him unfairly, into a symbol of salvation for us. I mean, we pretty much asked God to go to hell because we thought He belonged there, and funnily enough, the Nicene Creed also has the wording “He descended into hell,” too, which honestly has me feeling like the Jews who doubted Him when He told them stuff like “I am the Bread of Life” and all that. But still, I’d be utterly foolish to expect Him to stay there, and that one of His many manifestations of His perfection is something I’d like to share to you, fellow fools. I don’t know if Jin’s Christian, but whether or not he is, I think Ayano Tateyama can bring to mind Christian ideals pretty well, and the way she describes true happiness reminds me of Christian love, of humbly bearing all the weight of our sins while believing that not only oneself but also our fellow sinners can truly be purified of our sins and filled with God’s virtuousness, which transforms these broken selves of ours into the holy beings He always meant us to be, beings beyond us fools’ best dreams and actions. We’re dyed in red and live with fire, but whether we live as a hero of heaven or as a monster of hell is a choice we must make with everything we have, and either way, we’ll have to suffer, with only one of them being truly meaningful. Thus, the struggle called life is nothing to brag about at all, and the treasure called happiness is something to greatly share with great care. Perhaps that is what Ayano’s Happiness Theory actually is, then.
And sure, most of us fools would protest against the idea that life, especially happiness, is nothing to brag about. And most of us fools may also think that sharing with care means throwing pearls before swine. But happiness really is a miracle, and miracles are nothing to those who don’t believe in them. And miracles happen every single day and maybe even every single moment of our lives. Praise and thanks be to God Almighty very much again, then, and may He keep on helping us all.