Man, this season’s shows are giving me flashbacks to Mr. Stain on Junk Alley.
There’s a turn of phrase that goes something to the tune of “I love you so much I could just eat you up!” It’s an odd phrase, one that seems to wish harm upon the object of one’s affection, and I am completely clueless as to its origin and intended meaning. What’s just as odd to me, though, is its appearance in not one, but two shows this season, not only as a line of dialogue, but as a major theme in the series. Both Eccentric Family and Silver Spoon revolve to some degree around this idea, and it got me wondering: from where comes that connection between loving something and devouring it?
Continuing the trend of oddity, my first thought on the matter came from a show which used consumption in an entirely opposite context. This season, Hunter x Hunter strongly featured the heroes’ latest foe, the Chimera Ants. To oversimplify a bit, they are essentially a species of giant carnivorous ant that take on the features of whatever unfortunate creature they consume. Now there is no love in the eating here – this is purely bad-guy territory, but it brings to mind an analogy to an actual physical occurrence: the things that we eat, to some extent, literally become a part of ourselves. Does this not reflect, in a metaphorical sense, one of the ultimate ideals of love – to become as one with the object of one’s affection, to make yourselves inseparable?
It’s the closest I can come to making any sense of the phrase itself, short of a pun on the fact that you can “love” food, like loving to eat chocolate or something.
But it’s not like Silver Spoon and Eccentric Family are advocating cannibalism either, so what does the phrase mean to the shows that explicitly use it?
In Silver Spoon, our hero Hachiken’s most important rite of passage in entering the world of agriculture is to raise a pig, which he has named Pork Bowl, and to ultimately make a pork bowl out of it. Through this story arc, the idea of “loving something so much you could eat it up” is presented in a literal sense to represent mangaka Hiromu Arakawa’s mindset towards the agricultural industry, a world in which she grew up. Feeling conflicted about having to slaughter the pig he’s grown to love, Hachiken wonders aloud whether there really can be love for the farm animals destined for dinner plates. “Of course,” replies the farmer, “It’s the kind of love you give them thinking ‘grow up good and tasty’.” There are different kinds of love, the show goes on to say – it’d be sad to kill a racehorse for meat since it wasn’t raised to be horse meat. The love of a farmer, Silver Spoon suggests, is the love in giving of yourself to care for and nurture your animals to help them grow to their fullest potential. For a pig destined to become a pork bowl, it’s the desire for that pig to become the best pork bowl it can be. It’s a strange logic at first glance, but it’s not dissimilar from a parent wishing for their child to be the best doctor or lawyer or plumber or teacher or astronaut or food service worker or whatever that they can be.
I’m a lot less clear about where Eccentric Family is trying to go with the idea, because much of the show admittedly zooms right over my head. The old man in episodes five and six discusses the concept at length in a manner that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around beyond the direct context of the show, but it also manifests itself in the relationship between Yasaburo and Benten in a way that highlights two very different portions of the whirlwind of emotions that love carries with it. Yasaburo, with his strange obsession with Benten, embodies the complete respect and awestruck curiosity that love both causes and is caused by – an unidentifiable yet unmistakable attraction with a mysterious source. In Benten, we see the guilt and regret that comes when the spines of the hedgehog dig in and being so close brings the other to harm, as well as the fear of that inevitability. While they may not be “in love” with each other, per se, their eccentric relationship brings to the forefront many familiar emotions.
So what is the takeaway here?
I don’t know, honestly. It’s probably that the Titans only want to eat people because they love them so much.
Vuc at Altair and Vega treaded similar ground earlier this month, focusing on the same idea of eating in Eccentric Family and Silver Spoon, tying it to the ideas of guilt and dominion.