I’m adverse to reality television. Although there’s no denying the allure of watching a personal activity from an impersonal position (this is essence of fiction, after all), in the end all reality television is just assurance to the naïve viewer, claiming that the feelings they feel from watching can only be as real as the source. But more importantly, it willfully places the viewer in the place of the voyeur, obsessed with the false lives of actors. It’s an obsession which even extends outside their required timeslots, as actors act just as shallow as their television counterparts off the air. Underneath the hard partying lifestyles and McMansion housewives lies only discomfort, as the fans are forcibly made out to be voyeurs. There’s nothing more fake than reality TV.
The central gimmick of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is Sasami’s passiveness in the face of both the gods and the ordained who are constantly rushing to her side in an attempt to control her or protect her from outside influences. She’s lazy, but at the same time powerful, two traits which draw countless others inside her personal space. And it’s in this wrestle for control and stability that things get a bit chaotic: entire cities turn to chocolate, video games end up controlling our heroine’s destiny, and so on. Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a clash between guardians and voyeurs, two roles which unavoidably spill into each other as time goes on. Sasami’s laziness is both a result of the two sides colliding and her “unmotivated” stature is only a result of other’s goading.
A Necessary Obsession
To clarify, I don’t mean voyeurism strictly in an erotic sense (although that certainly applies in the context of Sasami-san), but rather in a more universal application: gazing into another’s intimate moments and gaining insight into their lives as an outside observer solely for entertainment. Although the act itself is arguably unethical and selfish, it’s a false promise of a seeing a different, yet more interesting reality outside of the viewer, and it’s that warped perspective which makes it so fascinating and emotionally involving. The allure of privacy and the desire to invade it haunts the characters of Sasami-san: to the omnipresent gods and observant holymen, voyeurism and stalking is an unavoidable factor of life and a duty which must be done.
Knowing that others take interest in one’s life can be a bit flattering, but when others start deriving entertainment or gratification from watching over someone, things get dicey. No one exactly likes having their personal space intruded upon from afar and directed by unwanted individuals. I fall somewhere in the grey as well: I don’t mind interdependence and thoroughly enjoy the company of others (nor do I mind working under bosses or reasonable guidelines for that matter), but I quickly grow disconcerted when colleagues peer over my shoulder at every given moment. To put it mildly, it’s simply uncomfortable to have someone watching your every move.
During a wild spy mission on Sasami throughout the city, it is revealed that even Tsurugi, the once omnipotent creator of lesser gods, fears the very thought of aliens watching over her outside of her. Although this is played off for a couple cheap laughs, it reveals a rather valuable truth about the nature of our characters: no matter how much they enjoy or partake in the observation of others, being observed by others only brings sheer discomfort and annoyance. The universe as seen by Sasami is undergoing a crisis of privacy, where there can be no intimate moments between any characters. Whether in Sasami’s own room or trying to find quiet place at the spa, there’s no escape from the watchful eyes of others. Much similar to Tsurugi, although Sasami loves to spy on her blissfully unaware brother, she’s constantly smothered under the weight of her friends and family who constantly intrude.
Subverting Authority and Exerting Inner Control
Obsession comes not from exerting too much power, but rather too little. I’ve been on both sides of the “ogre tyrant” and I’m confident to say that each is equally unpleasant. Acting as the ogre tyrant drives everyone, including myself, insane and works as a poor motivator, as people will only do enough to not got fired or yelled at. For me, it is far more productive to “let it all hang out” and within that Dionysian mode of living, finding true control. In the core myth of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the tale of Amaterasu and the cave, it was not chaos which drove Amaterasu into her cave but rather Susanoo’s fixation on control, his resulting frustration from not being able to reign over his equal. And contrarily, what draws Amaterasu out aren’t rigid rules or punishments but rather merriment, laughter, and ecstasy. Real control and productivity are not made from a gross fixation on order, but instead extracted from our most Dionysian values: our emotions and our ambitions.
As seen in Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the line between the voyeur and the rigid, staunch protector is a thin one. While the latter leans towards the altruistic side as the other falls in, well, the opposite direction, the two are never distinguished from each other at the core level. They are both seen as two sides of the same coin: whether for the protection of the individual or for the entertainment of others, they obstruct the privacy of the individual without remorse. Both are intrusive and both are a tough sell. At the characters’ worst, these all-powerful, omnipresent god figures are controlled just as much by their controlling behavior as those they seek to control. From the ED, another segment which is often cashed in for a couple quick laughs, we can tell that their efforts are fruitless and counterproductive: Sasami-san sings only when unpressured and on her lonesome. Despite claiming otherwise, she does it not because she has to, but rather because she can.
But what Sasami-san@Ganbaranai does encourage is, for lack of a better term, tough love, offering some guidance but otherwise allowing others to fall to their own devices. To quote Futurama, when you do things right, people won’t be sure if you’ve done anything at all. It just takes is a pinch of restraint.