I was not expecting such a dark take on the tragedy existing in Ijuna’s past. To think that what led Ijuna to commit her servitude to the Imperial Empire was not her desire to gain vengeance on Shura but rather the fragility of the human mind being brought to the point of hopelessness and despondency. In the state of perpetual torture, her psyche broke and began being shaped by the twisted narrative of despair. In the pit of darkness, Shura became her light and guided by the desire to end her suffering, her mind warped her perception to conjure illusions of affection. The nature of her pure soul became dyed by such anguish and served to fetter her mind from recalling a reality outside such torment. Ijuna was psychologically broken down and brainwashed by Shura into championing the corrupt and inhumane actions of himself and the Imperial Empire he seeks to shape.
The psychological damage done to Ijuna was more than I could surmise. I presumed she retained her senses after being captured and her current role as Shura’s secretary was but an act where she bided her time until an opportunity arose to turn on Shura. Yet, what happened to Ijuna was far graver, traumatic and tragic than I anticipated. Ijuna’s psychology was twisted and her emotions were distorted by the ceaselessness of despair washing over her day after day, agony after agony, torture after torture, abuse after abuse. The excruciating nature of her torture by Shura all but left Ijuna in a state of pieces and numbness. Ijuna was purposefully conditioned and brainwashed to serve Shura. Such a change isn’t temporary, it is permanent. Even when Ijuna is separated from Shura and she is rehabilitated to the point of recovering some semblance of her former self, the shadows of such darkness will remain. Those memories, those scars, those emotions, those fears, that level of hopelessness will always be a part of Ijuna.
What makes it worse is how Ijuna was taken to a point where she interweaved Shura into a concept intimately central to her heart – the red string of destiny. She believes Shura represents such a position and breaking Ijuna’s hold from such a personal value will be extremely tough. I don’t doubt that Laguna will bring Ijuna to her senses but I fear what struggles Ijuna will have to overcome going forward on her path to recovery while reconciling everything Shura did, what she did and what she felt. How can you feel you know yourself when you don’t even recognise the self you should know? Deep down Ijuna may not want to behave the way she is but when such a fragment of yourself is buried under layers of suffering, pain and agony, how do you hear it?
When Ijuna is saved, will Laguna remain with her to help her recover and overcome the darkness that will constantly visit her every night? Will Laguna’s presence there help? Or will Ijuna require a more structure treatment performed by Sister? And if Ijuna does travel with the Edens crew while undertaking treatments by Sister, will being in the presence of others suffering from trauma such as Jinn and Kleene, help her acknowledge and filter her trauma? I do believe that having others who have gone through similar types of suffering would help Ijuna open up and release the pain swelling up inside her from memories of her time being tortured and abused. Considering the significant condition Mashima-sensei has connected with Ijuna, I don’t believe he can just sweep her story away with simply defeating Shura. The journey to recovery for those suffering like Ijuna requires a more thoughtful and delicate approach. I hope Mashima-sensei covers such a topic with respect as there is tremendous value in conveying such a tragic story like Ijuna’s where hope and optimism exist at the end of that dark dark tunnel.
Laguna may be incapacitated for the moment but he does have the ability to nullify his opponent when they shed a tear. I suspect as Laguna continues to plead with Ijuna and open his heart to her, Ijuna’s heart will react in kind. She did care for him deeply in the past and such feelings still exist in her heart even though drowned out and buried by all the agony currently consuming her. Laguna understands the situation and knows what he needs to do. He does not intend to just defeat her but to save her. Laguna may have stated that his only goal was to take down Nero but in the face of such tragedy, he will resolve a new path forward, one where someone he cares about is not lost to the Imperial Empire. Not again.
The existence of Laguna’s friend who was killed by the Empire is incredibly interesting. Who were they and what were they to Laguna? Will Laguna share his story with Ijuna to help him connect to her? Ijuna seems to be aware that such a reason is why Laguna joined the Oasis but she is not exactly aware of the finer details of Laguna’s past. Will Laguna’s story make Ijuna realise that the one connected to her by the Red String of Destiny isn’t Shura? In order for Ijuna to save herself, she will first need to let her [distorted] feelings for Shura flow away. What will save Ijuna will be the bond she has with Laguna.
After this chapter, I don’t see much hope for Shura in walking the path of redemption. Even if he were a victim of Nero’s treatment or lack thereof, Shura was still making decisions for himself and everything he chose to do bears his ownership. With what he put Ijuna through, such actions aren’t inconsequential that they can be ignored and redeemed. Shura is villainous and without question distorted. The mind that dictates his actions is sick. When you add what he has done to Witch, I can’t see a path forward where Shura makes the shift to the light. I honestly don’t know what to think about the development with Witch – is she really dead? Surely not! I have convinced myself heavily that Witch will survive and my mind at this point in time can’t comprehend anything else besides Witch surviving. The image of her tortured and lifeless body grates against the hope of my heart. I refuse to believe the path apprehension directs to. Very much looking forward to the next chapter.