“I’m Not a Monster, You Are!” Self-loathing and a Wolf Guy

You should read Wolf Guy – Ookami no Monsho, it’s awesome, in a grisly, manly, action-filled display of ferocity. This post is not an endorsement of the manga, for that you had better read this badass post by Omisyth. But if you’re too lazy to check that out, you probably don’t deserve this work. You’re lucky I’m feeling generous so here’s one good reason to read Wolf Guy:

gwolf_guy_v02_188

A (were)wolf takes on a crazy fricking lion in a park in Yokohama! Now READ IT, if you don’t then be warned that there are spoilers from this point forward.

While it is nothing new to read about  story of a character who deals with how different he is from other people, it can be quite interesting reading how he deals with how superior he is to other people. He knows it, and has contempt for those who are different (read: weaker) than he is.

Inugami Akira is different. He is a werewolf, but does not think of himself a monster. A monster is, to deep insult befitting to those who hurl it. He is a wolf, to him a noble animal. I find it rather comical to raise animals in a hierarchy or value system by anthropomorphizing them. Calling a wolf ‘noble’ – a completely human concept only traps the speaker within his own humanity. This is another important conflict in Inugami.

I find this very interesting. Humans ascribe value to non-human things by giving them human traits and attributes. What is to be noble anyway? Take away the heredetary definition, it means the subject possesses many outstanding qualities. This is general enough, and not necessarily anthropomorphic. But let’s look at the qualities of the wolf. (c/o Wikipedia)

Physical:

  • wolf weight and size can vary greatly worldwide, tending to increase proportionally with latitude as predicted by Bergmann’s Rule. In general, height varies from 0.6 to 0.95 meters (24 to 37 in) at theshoulder. Wolf weight varies geographically; on average, European wolves may weigh 38.5 kilograms (85 lb), North American wolves 36 kilograms (79 lb), and Indian and Arabian wolves 25 kilograms (55 lb).
  • wolves rely on their stamina rather than speed for hunting. Their narrow chests and powerful backs and legs facilitate efficient locomotion. They are capable of covering several miles trotting at about 10 kilometers per hour (6 mph), and have been known to reach speeds approaching 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph) during a chase. One female gray wolf was recorded to have made 7-meter (23 ft) bounds when chasing prey.
  • Wolf saliva has been shown to reduce bacterial infection in wounds and accelerate tissue regeneration.

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to ascribe nobility based on those physical characteristics.

Behavioral:

  • Occasionally, single wolves are found in the wild, though packs are more common. Lone wolves are typically old specimens driven from their pack or young adults in search of new territory.
  • While most breeding pairs are monogamous, there are exceptions.Wolves will usually remain with their parents until the age of two years. Young from the previous season will support their parents in nursing pups of a later year. Wolf cubs are very submissive to their parents, and remain so after reaching sexual maturity.
  • Wolves are territorial animals. Studies have shown that the average size of a wolf pack’s territory is close to 200 km2 (80 sq mi). Wolf packs travel constantly in search of prey, covering roughly 9% of their territory per day (average 25 km/d or 15 mi/d). The core of their territory is on average 35 km2 (14 sq mi), in which they spend 50% of their time, Prey density tends to be much higher in the territory’s surrounding areas. Despite this higher abundance of prey, wolves tend to avoid hunting in the fringes of their territory unless desperate, due to the possibility of fatal encounters with neighboring packs.
  • The majority of killed wolves are dominant animals, due to their greater assertiveness in confronting other packs. In rare cases in which a stranger is accepted into the pack, the animal itself is almost invariably a young specimen of 1–3 years of age, while the majority of killed wolves are adults.

So, the old and the weak are driven out of the pack and end up dying alone. They are often monogamous, and the kids are submissive to parental authority. They perhaps do not efficiently use their territorial habitat due to conflict avoidance. The weaker wolves band together to kill the stronger wolves.

By what standard can we say that the attributes above are outstanding, and abundantly so?

Inugami Akira likes being a wolf, and imagines himself noble, by distinguishing himself as not human. He identifies certain behaviors observed from human beings, and to not do such is to be noble. Among these are ‘taking pleasure in violence,’ (that is, bullying and beating up others), war and murder. These behaviors are to him, are those of a monster. The wolf is noble the way humans would like to be called noble, and humans are monsters the way they vilify the wolf. This is the truth of Inugami Akira’s life.

In the encounter between Inugami in werewolf form and the lion, Inugami viewed it as a fight between noble being and monster. The lion is monstrous in its crazed violence because captivity broke him. Captivity in a zoo, for the pleasure and gratification of humans caused the lion to lose its nobility and become a monster. Inugami blames this squarely on humans, and sees this as evidence of their monstrosity. A lion in the wild will not, at least in Inugami’s imagination, kill for the sake of killing. It will avoid fighting unless truly threatened. The lion in the park was beyond all this, and Inugami had to fight it to the death.

The principal antagonist in the manga is Haguro, the son of a yakuza boss. A powerful physical specimen, Haguro survived multiple gunshot wounds as a child, and has a disconcerting lack of ability to display emotion. This physical power and this lack of emotion inspired others to call him a monster in awe. Haguro rather enjoyed his reputation as a monster and relished displaying it in acts of brutality and violence upon his enemies and subordinates.

Then Inugami decided to reveal his true form to Haguro. It was an enlightening experience, to say the least.

wolf guy c45 1 & 4 wolf guy c45 2 & 3 wolf guy c45 5 & 6

Haguro laughed at himself with disdain after Inugami spared him. He now knew what a true monster is like. Now see here, Haguro sees monstrosity simply as the capability – in terms of physical tools to render violence upon others. Inugami sees monstrosity as the willingness to do so. In Inugami’s thinking, only human beings have this kind of will, independent from a survival instinct, a will that is gratified by the infliction of harm.

The thing about Wolf Guy, is that the conflict really isn’t between two monsters. It is more the conflict within Inugami – that he is confronted with the fact that he is human too, and has a need for humans. He hates humans and himself, the human part. More than anything this attraction and need is represented by his homeroom teacher Aosaka, who in turn is rather helpless against her own attraction to Inugami.

twolf_guy_v05_198

It certainly would be if I didn’t include at least one image of Aosaka-sensei.

What is a monster? Wolf Guy wouldn’t be the first, or even the best manga to raise the question. However, the path to the answer is full like the moon that makes you howl while reading; full of voluptuous violence, and something like the opposite of aggression and yet produces the same effect.

Notes:

Anthropomorphizing is ascribing human traits to non-human objects (e.g. “not even the rain has such small hands”); the subtext here is that even as we distinguish objects from humans in a value hierarchy, we end up giving it very human qualities, only positive.
This post is part of a series called Showing a Bit of Character, requested by ilikewhiterice last April 30, 2010. You can read the guidelines and make your requests here.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, first impressions, showing a bit of character and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to “I’m Not a Monster, You Are!” Self-loathing and a Wolf Guy

  1. Heinsia says:

    oh new layout ~
    easier to read ^_^ is it just me or this layout is similar to Landon’s btw ?

  2. From your description, it’s got a sort of Devilman-ish feel to it. Sounds interesting. I think I’ll read it.

  3. Omisyth says:

    From up to where I’ve read, I love the shift in Inugami’s character as he slowly realises that his pride and actions of superiority are hurting the innocent “monsters” around him. It seems to me that he thought there was a seperation between nobility and humanity – now that he’s starting to realise the two aren’t mutually exclusive, he can achive true noibility by taking the high road and not antagonise (however passively) others.

    • Yeah the realization that he was unnecessarily provoking the ‘dogs’ was a big one, and the cost was horrendous. Seriously that scene was awesome and intense, and it’s really on him isn’t it?

      What also interests me is the older werewolf, who I can’t really figure out if he’s really just looking out for Inugami.

      What I don’t want to happen is for Haguro to somehow gain supernatural powers himself. I think that would be lame.

  4. Robert Weizer says:

    i really wanted to say this is Tabata and Yuuki of Akumetsu and Shin Mazinger Zero fame before looking it up.

    damn, I’m good. gonna go check this out right now.

  5. Skribulous says:

    Awesome manga is awesome, unfortunately I could never look at images of werewolves again without being reminded of Courage Wolf, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

  6. itsubun says:

    This post is quite a pot of gold in which you have mixed quite a few treasures of thoughts here. It sounds me to that Inugami’s main struggle is the dialectical relationship between himself as the monstrous human and the other side of him as the noble beast. But isn’t his idea of the wolf as a “noble” creature rather a romanticized idealization of wild animals? I don’t know if you remember, but a few years back a woman’s pet monkey suddenly went crazy on random day – probably because she fed it anti-depressants meant for humans – and ripped her friend’s face off. I think the lesson to be learned from this ghastly incident is that real animals are first and foremost simply wild animals, and that by keeping them in captivity, we are the ones who become too comfortable with our role as the masters. Which is what I see happening in this narrative. Although Inugami is a werewolf, he is more humane than some of the actual humans in the series. But herein lies the trap, because at the end of the day it is yet another narrative that fulfills the fantasy of human mastery over nature. It is the human side of Inugami that dominates over the animal side. Take “How To Train Your Dragon” for example, wherein the lesson is that humans CAN indeed live in peace with animals, only if the animals are made to be subservient to the humans.

    • Yes! That’s the trap indeed.

      Look at the lion he fought. It is crazed, a beast that has ‘lost it’s nobility.’ The thing is, I’m not sure if the narrative is self-aware. The reason why Inugami doesn’t come off as preachy, is because he runs monologues most of the time. Also, he is filled with such contempt that his harangues don’t come off with the arrogant but falsely interested in you kind of bullshit.

      Personally, I don’t think we can escape this dominance business.

      On the conceptual level, anything good imaginable will be relative to human values. This way anthropomophism is inescapable.

      On the biological level, we’re the top predator and we’re unchecked. There is no noble ‘stewardship’ among sharks, and there is none among lions. We have advanced intelligence that fool us enough that we can actually overcome our biological determinism.

      We can get away with thinking we’re better than our genes some of the time I suppose.

  7. 2DT says:

    Very cool. I’ll have to read this myself before I can leave a more substantial comment, but I’m reminded of the novel “Life of Pi,” which describes in great detail how animals live in captivity, and how our notions of freedom and bondage simply don’t apply.

    The best example is the ape who wouldn’t leave his cage, even when it was left open. “Poor animal,” an observer might say, “broken by captivity.” But that’s naive– if you lived in a comfortable home with regular meals and all your needs taken care of, would you want to risk stepping outside, into a strange world with unpredictable dangers, just to be “free”? Well, maybe, but that’s because we’re human.

    • Oh I really loved ‘Life of Pi’ though somehow all this talk of manly nobility reminds me more of ‘The Old Man and The Sea,’ another book I’ve taken to quite intensely.

      The ape would probably enjoy the freedom, but only if it meant it could keep his quarters with the regular meals among other comforts.

  8. Chrisa says:

    I’m just glad that Wolf Guy exists because I’m so sick of this whiny vampire crap. I always thought werewolves were cooler than vamps because it’s more of psychological manifestation of the civilized man vs. the bestial nature that we are descended from. Vampire stories seem to be about the fear of living forever and the sexual aspects of desire, puh-lease, living forever seems awesome and we all know that we’re horny. But the hardest thing about werewolf stories is that it’s hard to sustain the theme and make it a good, involving story. Not to mention, if you involve sexuality into the story, you get the added theme of bestiality. Very icky things to deal with that.

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