Having recently finished Kyoukai no Kanata, the character of Izumi Nase stands out to me as the most interesting character. She heads the Nase clan of Dreamshade slayers (Dreamshade being the favored translation of youmu), which makes her responsible for all supernatural phenomena in the city where she resides and its environs. Her younger brother and sister also have major parts to play in the story, but they do not bear the same burdens as Izumi Nase. In essence, they get to lead normal high school lives; yet, they are not unwilling to involve themselves in dangerous situations for the sake of their friends. *Spoiler Alert in effect from this point on.* Izumi would have done well to involve them more thoroughly in her struggles, for one suspects she would have made fewer errors of judgment. For two of which, Izumi Nase loses the respect of her brother and enters a self-imposed exile.
Though I refer to Izumi’s deeds as errors of judgment, one would be hard pressed not to consider her a villain. Despite us seeing several Dreamshades who strike us as rather human, she considers all Dreamshades as crops to be harvested or game to be bagged. (In her defense, most Dreamshade hunters hold to this attitude.) Also, she orchestrates the worst obstacles our heroes need to overcome. Hiring Kuriyama to assassinate Akihito, causing Akihito to lose control of the Dreamshade inside him, and necessitating Akihito to rescue Kuriyama from a sealed world effectively peg her as the main villain.
Yet, one cannot help but see good intentions in these dark deeds. Her intense sense of duty as the head of the Nase family leads her to act in the way she does. But, she places too much responsibility on her own shoulders. One is reminded of Kenshin Himura. However, a crucial difference between the two lies in Kenshin separating himself from his dear friends in order to prevent them from coming to harm, while Izumi has no qualms about risking even family members for the sake of what she deems to be the greater good.
(Couldn’t resist adding this clip from Hot Fuzz. A spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie.)
That duty has an excess might strike one as surprising, especially if one has the same mind as Robert E. Lee: “Duty is the most sublime word in the English language.” But, perhaps the best example of the misdeeds caused from an excessive sense of duty might be one of Lee’s most famous opponents, John Brown. The evils of slavery gnawed at Brown’s soul. His frustration with the seeming permanence of the institution led him to move from legitimate actions like influencing public opinion against slavery and aiding the Underground Railroad to the crimes of murder and fomenting an unsuccessful slave revolt.
In a similar way, Izumi sees the danger posed by the Dreamshade residing in Akihito’s soul. As a Dreamshade living in her town, taking care of this monster falls under her jurisdiction, and inaction never appears as an option for her. The Dreamshade must be destroyed to prevent it from emerging one day and wreaking havoc upon humanity. If it Akihito should one day lose control of it, the destruction it causes will lie on her head! She deems merely keeping a close eye on Akihito and sealing back the Dreamshade when necessary too dangerous. Although, Akihito neither has done anything deserving of capital punishment nor wishes to unleash his Dreamshade on the world, Izumi’s lack of faith in others and divine Providence impels her to ensure the destruction of Akihito and the Dreamshade at all costs. (Of course, the anime never mentions Providence, but people who worry too much forget that not even a single hair falls from our head without God’s knowledge.) Like John Brown, her sense of responsibility spills into hubris.
On the other hand, what saved Kenshin from using unjust means–resorting to his manslayer self–during his battle with Shishio? Other people. Without his friends telling him not to turn over to the dark side for an illusory strength, he would have fallen to the temptation. Izumi, on the other hand, stands tragically alone. She does not delegate authority in such a way as to give people freedom of action nor does she confide in others about her plans. Therefore, she herself turns to the dark side in both taking in a Dreamshade into her own body and resorting to assassination to solve problems.
Yet, her very misguidedness calls for forgiveness. The world we live in does not forgive weakness, which leads to people falling into the trap of relying on themselves too much. As a matter of fact, that her own brother rejects Izumi at the end almost corroborates her notion that she rises or falls on her own strength. A brother should be more inclined to forgive a sibling than disown them! One can only hope that Izumi discovers that she cannot rely entirely upon herself in her exile.