Happy Sugar Life: Matsuzaka Satou as Misapprehensive Mother

This will contain major spoilers for this anime.

I was wary of making a review for this, because of the main topic that this show delves into, but it is fiction and watching content that delves into these controversial topics isn’t condoning support for them. Writing a review for this story was and still feels distinctly uncomfortable though. I watched it legally on Amazon Prime (props to Amazon for supporting people’s Freedom of Expression to watch this content), and I was pleasantly surprised that the controversial subject matter was more implied than shown. There’re only ever two creepy things that Matsuzaka Satou, the main female lead, does herself. The creepiest character in the story to me was Mitsuboshi Taiyou, whose internal monologues when he first meets Shiho are just the creepiest and might trigger people since he’s thinking to himself how much he wants Shiho’s body to “purify” him by touching him because he feels “dirty” from being repeatedly raped by his employer, an older woman. Other creepy dialogue involves him feeling like he can go on with life while having Shiho’s Missing Person’s picture in his pocket or when Satou throws a sock from Shiho on his nose (one of the two creepy things Satou herself does) to suddenly make Taiyou obsessed with being near Shiho again in order to manipulate Taiyou into getting Asahi away from finding Shiho. It reflects how throughout the entire story all these various characters feel “dirty” and see Shiho’s child-like innocence as a way to “purify” themselves of the filth of the adult world. It seems like the entire show is filled with maladjusted adults who can’t handle real life and who see this worship of innocence and childhood as something sacred that can “save them” from reality. There’s definitely overlap with purity culture from religions; enough so that there’s a few overlapping themes of Shiho seen as a sort of Christ-like figure that can deliver each of them from sin. While there aren’t any child raping priests in the show, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of this overlap was meant to mirror real life issues that audiences know of regarding real life cases of child rape. Or perhaps even real life people who exalt images of real young girls or young boys being cute for the purpose of ignoring reality.

The other disturbing image is a “blink and you’ll miss it” kiss scene between Shiho and Satou during their nightly marriage rituals where they pretend to get married. It only happens once and very quickly, but it is there and obviously should be mentioned. Apart from that, my initial take away from the story was that Matsuzaka Satou and Koube Yuuna were juxtapositions of each other in relation to Koube Shiho. Perhaps I see too many parallels in stories, but it seemed as if Satou represented a good mother with a violent streak and Yuuna represented a bad mother with deluded ideals. A lot of people’s takeaway from the ending is that Satou has corrupted or traumatized Shiho by the end, yet Shiho is shown to suffer trauma related to her family life where we discover that her mother blamed her for everything wrong with her life and abandoned her on the streets. When you compare Satou and Yuuna’s treatment of Shiho, there’s clear parallels that are quite noticeable. When Yuuna is alone with her daughter Shiho, she just sits around, does nothing all day in an apartment, generally ignores Shiho or shouts at her, and seems to just fantasize about an ideal life that she never had. When Shiho is left alone in the apartment that Satou uses, Satou tries to get there as quickly as possible, plays with Shiho, makes snacks for Shiho, apologizes for her lateness, and generally spends the night like a single mother doing her best to work hard for her daughter. When Shiho wanders into the street before Yuuna pulls her from a moving truck, Yuuna shouts and blames Shiho for it which builds on the trauma that Shiho suffers later. When Shiho wanders into the streets and nearly gets physically harmed by two youths in a park, Satou kills the two people who tried to physically harm Shiho and gets Shiho safely back in the apartment immediately. After the incident, Satou puts an extra lock at the bottom of the door and blames herself for Shiho coming to harm. Satou takes great pains to never burden Shiho with her problems, even to the point of keeping Shiho ignorant causing a fight about the issue of trust between them because Satou doesn’t want Shiho to suffer any further trauma. Whereas Yuuna repeatedly blames Shiho for her life being a mess, increasing Shiho’s trauma, and willfully abandons Shiho in the streets after screaming that it was all Shiho’s fault that her life is a mess. And in fact, this is what kicked off the meeting between Shiho and Satou; Satou saw the abandonment happen, walked over, and told Shiho that she should go chase after her mother so that she doesn’t get lost and Shiho told her that it was better this way because all Shiho brings her mother is pain. Satou gets a good look at her and immediately falls in love with the little girl and takes her to an apartment with an artist whom she believed would be safe to look after Shiho (who is asleep by this point), only for the man to attempt to kill Shiho because Satou as his muse is no longer melancholy in her features but smiling happily, so Satou killed him to protect Shiho’s life and kept Shiho in the apartment to keep any harm from happening to her. It should be noted even at the end of the anime when it is known Shiho fell from a tall building, Yuuna never goes to check on her and simply watches from outside of the hospital. If Satou had lived from the fall, she’d have demanded to see Shiho, came over to check on her bedside, made sure the medical staff was treating her well, and stayed long after in an effort to care for Shiho. Sure, Satou is a violent murderer, but she only ever does it to protect Shiho from being harmed. Even the murder of Hida Shouko was arguably to protect Shiho, because Shiho would simply have been sent back to an abusive, alcoholic father and neglectful and emotionally abusive mother.

It’s quite clear that Yuuna doesn’t care for either of her children, since she abandoned her elder son, Asahi, to be abused by the father while just sitting and doing nothing in an apartment all day. Asahi’s desperate search for Shiho ends-up being the true villain of this story. Asahi solely blames his father for all of the suffering, but it is clear that he doesn’t have a good understanding of what’s best for Shiho. He reveals at the end that his mother poisoned and killed his father and will probably be in jail, so taking Shiho away from Satou will mean they’re left to fend for themselves on the streets and Asahi openly admits the police never cared or helped him look for Shiho. So, while the ending seems like Shiho being corrupted by Satou, it seemed more to me like another parallel whereby after Yuuna abandoned Shiho, she was left with trauma; whereas, after Satou sacrificed her life after making the mistake of the double-suicide, Shiho is instilled with a sense of perseverance and tries to understand why Satou took the blow and the “love” that Satou gave her, which seems to be implied to be motherly. Satou grew-up in a horrible apartment where her aunt let any man do whatever they wanted to the aunt with Satou probably watching it all happen. Satou is said to still not be an adult by her aunt, but she and her erstwhile friend Shouko go on dates with older men to have sex while Satou asked if any of them would love her. It was only when Satou found Shiho that she understood “love”, but didn’t seem to understand it was motherly love until the very end. While the relationship is a complex one, I don’t want to say it should be applauded, as it could be interpreted as a child abuser being a heroic figure, despite only that one scene. Even the marriage ritual Shiho and Satou do is revealed to actually be a family ritual between Yuuna and Asahi affirming the relationship of Mother-Child.

Finally, I’d like to state that I don’t believe Shouko ever loved Satou as she quite clearly believed the worst of Satou, took a picture without Satou’s consent and didn’t understand how much trouble Satou could be in, and basically threw Satou under the bus because she had a crush on Asahi. She just came off as a very naïve girl that got in way over her head. Also, I didn’t like how her finding the apartment was completely unexplained or the dialogue between them being covered over with music as I was interested in hearing the arguments. For that reason, I’d give this story a solid 7 / 10.

Oh, and I thought maybe I should share this excellent rap battle that puts Satou against Gasai Yuno:

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