Her Whisper is the Lucifer: Sensual Phrase and Its Forgotten Heroine

Sometimes when you read something very problematic, it’s difficult to figure out which angle to approach it from first. That’s the problem I’ve been having for almost two months. Back in January I wrote my introductory post to the shoujo manga Sensual Phrase, and I briefly mentioned that the series was inundated with issues. Well, it’s time to get into one of them.

Aucifer Kaikan PhraseWhile I don’t love Aine as a protagonist/heroine, I do admit that she’s an important shoujo heroine overall and that her character arc… existed. I want to say it was “good” or “meaningful”, I really do. Writing it off completely would be doing it an injustice—she does learn how to be comfortable with herself, and that’s one of the most important things in life for anyone—but it’s not satisfying in the way you’d want it to be, especially after all the suffering she goes through. In fact, it’s almost illogical that she does come to be comfortable with herself. I say illogical because for large portions of Sensual Phrase, it doesn’t feel like the story is even about her.

In fact, it could be argued that while she is the quote-unquote lead of the story, Aine really is just a tool to be used by the men of the series. Any arc of the story that seems targeted towards exploring Aine’s growth inevitably ends up turning into motivations for the men in the story while leaving Aine with barely any character progression for herself. To go along with that, when the audience gets a look at Aine’s inner thoughts, we barely get any reactions from her about the situation; instead, we see her worry about what the men around her will do or what would benefit said men. This isn’t to say that these sorts of actions can’t give way to good character development, but when this is the only focus, it starts to lose meaning and the character becomes nothing more than a prop.

Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault under the cut.

On a micro scale, there are a number of men who use Aine as catalyst and transport for their own woes. Lucifer’s manager Hitoshi Takayama’s feud with rival record label director, Kaito Yoshioka, only comes to a head and is resolved after Aine is repeatedly and brutally raped by Yoshioka. Takayama ends up overshadowing Aine’s own loss of self-worth with his anger at not being able to protect Aine, in addition to his crush on her that comes out of nowhere (especially since the audience was led to believe Takayama was homosexual from the time of his introduction).

Much earlier, rival band Jesus’s lead singer Tomoyuki ends up taking away all of Aine’s agency for almost an entire volume by brainwashing her into thinking she’s his sister, who had previously passed away, much to her brother’s distress. Even after she regains her sense of self, Aine basically brushes the incident off and tells Tomoyuki to get help and never do it again, with little to no impact on her character. Beyond this, there are a few more dudes that use Aine to get at her boyfriend by “stealing” her and making up some ridiculous reason why she has to write for them and not Lucifer—which end up in no character progression for Aine and her learning nothing except that people want her lyrics, and she can’t write them as well when she’s not writing for her boyfriend’s band.

Tomoyuki Kaikan PhraseWhile all of these are certainly problematic, add them all together and you could rename the entire series “Sakuya and His Big Throbbing Man-Pain”. Almost everything, and I really do mean almost everything, is done to fuck over Sakuya, Aine’s boyfriend. Every plot point, even if it pretends to star Aine, is written so that Sakuya’s reaction is the focus.

It could be argued that since we’re seeing things through Aine’s eyes, and that Sakuya is the most important person to her, that this writing is intentional. Even if that’s true, that doesn’t magically save it from being complete and utter bullshit. I hate to go back to it, but the sexual abuse from Yoshioka is a perfect example of this. Aine feels unsuitable for Sakuya after the horrid event; she feels impure. Dirty. Broken. In fact, she doesn’t even want to see him. However, instead of trying to be remotely aware of the situation, Sakuya decides that the best course of action is to go murder Yoshioka. Sakuya, as well as the author, completely ignores what effect murdering Yoshioka would have on Aine. It even takes Sakuya’s brother—who we’ll get to in a bit—to tell him to, you know, think about his girlfriend. But even then, it’s not framed in a way that Aine is the important one—it’s framed so that it’s Sakuya realizing he has to be a better man. Aine’s pain in this situation becomes all about Sakuya. And don’t kid yourself, her recovery is all about Sakuya, too.

Uh, great, but isn't this supposed to be about Aine?

Uh, great, but isn’t this supposed to be about Aine?

This is eerily reflective of an earlier event in the manga, if you can believe it. In the second volume, Ralph Grazer, Sakuya’s brother and CEO of the record company where Lucifer is signed, wants to see Sakuya crash and burn. Why? Because their father liked Sakuya better. And to do this, of course, he kidnaps Aine and threatens her with rape until she writes lyrics for another band. Aine, despite being the focal point of this conflict, ends up being completely inconsequential. You could have replaced her with that painting of dogs playing poker and it would have had the same effect (minus the abuse). Aine does play a bigger role in this—she does actually make a couple decisions that add to her character—but in the end it’s still about Sakuya showing his brother who the better man is, and Aine reinforcing how great Sakuya is.

Any good story is bound to have side characters that have their own things going on in the background. That’s good; that’s what makes fleshed-out characters in addition to a fleshed-out world. However, when the main character’s struggles and growth are being hampered by spending too much time on the other characters, problems arise. Aine is clearly supposed to be on a journey of maturation and self-realization, but all the audience ends up seeing is Aine being tossed around by the men in her life. Sure, she grows from that, but she also ends up being a side character in her own story, because every thought she has is turned into what the other characters are doing or restating what’s currently going on in the story.

Honestly, I didn’t read the story for anyone else but Aine, so I felt incredibly cheated when I was treated to story arcs upon story arcs of Aine sitting on the sidelines so she can work through everyone’s man-pain. Aine deserved better than this, and frankly, so did Sensual Phrase’s audience.

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About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.

1 thought on “Her Whisper is the Lucifer: Sensual Phrase and Its Forgotten Heroine

  1. Pingback: Her Whisper is the Lucifer: True Love or Abuse? | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

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