is a bright guy and a great friend. He’s helpfully lent his mastery of Japanese to this site many times in the past few months, and all of the Japanese artists I’ve been able to contact have been through his aid. Besides that, he’s very sweet, and a great hand at languages. Springtime is honored to host the product of his musings on his favorite characters and pairings.
Background on Sensui
Shinobu Sensui was a former Spirit Detective. He was born with very strong spiritual abilities, which led to demons going after his life. He therefore associated demons with evil, and was thereby selected to become a SD sometime between the ages of 5 and 13 (it doesn’t really say when in canon; you just get shown him as a 5-year-old boy and a 13-year-old SD doing his work). However, at the age of sixteen, two things happened that would change his life forever. The first was the chance meeting of a yaminade (shadow demon, basically) named Itsuki, which he had run down and tried to kill. However, Itsuki prevented Shinobu from killing him by making the last request of wanting to watch the last episode of his favorite TV drama; it turns out that Shinobu watched the same show. Not soon after, Itsuki became his Spirit Detective partner and lover. The second was an incident at the Black Black Club they were sent to investigate, in which human businessmen were brutally killing demons and bathing in their blood for entertainment purposes. Shinobu’s fragile mind couldn’t take all of the carnage, and he eventually turned his views on humanity and demonkind 180 degrees, bringing him to his present position (and leading to his stealing the Black Chapters tape, which showed every single act of inhumanity against man and demon alike, from the Spirit World files). Later we find out that he opened a gateway to Demon World (with Itsuki’s help, of course) because he was suffering from a terminal illness and wanted to die with dignity.
I got my first dose of Sensui by reading the fourteenth volume of the manga. I had heard things in the older parts of the YYH fandom about a canonical gay couple, one of which was a former Spirit Detective with multiple personalities. Needless to say, I was extremely intrigued, and when I read the manga, I instantly fell in love with his character and his motivations for doing things. But my Sensui-mania really struck when I purchased the corresponding arc of the anime: his character overwhelmed me, and I thought he was the coolest thing, not to mention attractive and with a kickass voice in both versions (Japanese and English, although I was a Rokurou Naya fanboy for the first few weeks of watching my DVD’s- I actually prefer Robert McCollum’s delivery now upon listening to the entire dub).
I didn’t know what to expect from all of his different personae, seeing as the Japanese don’t usually have the amount of compassion for mental illness that Westerners do (because of their “the nail that sticks up must be hammered down” philosophy) But I was underestimating Togashi-sensei: I ended up liking all of his personalities, even the ones that were supposed to be repugnant and despicable.
I will now go through a very brief presentation of the different personae mentioned in canon (only four out of the seven) before I get to the meat of the analysis.
Minoru- The personality we meet first in the series. He is an “orator”, or, in other words, the personality that persuades people to do things. In my opinion, “cult leader” is a more apt description of this persona, as he will do anything to make people believe what he does. He has a very seductive air about him, intellectually if not sexually.
Kazuya- A tough-talking, sadistic Yakuza-thug-type with a gun in his arm. The very first personality besides the original one to develop because of Sensui’s immediate need for violence in carrying out his goals and in atoning for himself.
Naru- A crybaby female personality that only shows up in front of Itsuki. She is the emotional outlet for Sensui (as “boys don’t cry”), as well as (some would argue) an outlet to mock women.
Shinobu- The original persona. Very different when he was a Spirit Detective to the present day. As a teenager, Shinobu was decidedly morally upright, as well as introverted, but extremely powerful. The present-day version of this persona is the most powerful being in Human World; post-traumatic stress disorder seems to have changed his personality so that he appears to be less sane than he was in his youth. He has mastered Sacred Energy, which very few humans can attain in place of spirit energy.
Mr. Sensui, Will You Ride My White Horse?
The very first thing that drew me to Sensui, I must say, was that I recognized a very Western archetype in him: that of Satan or the Antichrist. His birthdate (6/6/67, containing the number of the Beast, “666”), his personality (cunning, deceitful, seductive- ‘Minoru’), his codename (“Dark Angel”- meaning an angel that has fallen from grace, like Lucifer and his army), the fact that he essentially operates a religious cult to induce what we Westerners would call the Apocalypse (except for the major difference in that believers as well as nonbelievers will die for all eternity, for in Sensui’s eyes, all of mankind have fallen short of his grace), and that he ultimately has seven personae and ten people that are involved with him (q.v., the “seven heads” and “ten horns” of the Beast of Revelation). Also of note is that Sensui has characteristics which have been or are currently viewed as “sinful” in Western society- he is homosexual [we’ll get to that more in-depth later], and, if you watch carefully, you will note that he is also left-handed.
However, since this is a Japanese program, and Christian elements are just for show, these traits, which are unanimously viewed as evil in Western society, are used as a lens through which Togashi shows us the blurriness between good and evil (and likewise the parallel construction of human/demon, since Sensui originally felt all humans to be inherently good and all demons inherently evil in his SD days). The most blatant examples of this are when Itsuki discloses his (seemingly) benevolent nature to a young Shinobu by saying that he watches a certain TV program, and Shinobu responds in kind, saying he watches it as well; and Yuusuke’s metamorphosis into his toushin form during the last battle against Sensui (he felt guilty for killing Sensui, but that’s what Sensui wanted- for a very strong demon to kill him to atone for his sin and guilt- and aforementioned strong demon happened to be Yuusuke).
In short, I see Sensui like the Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost- someone who has rebelled against not only the highest authority, but all authority of any sort, forming his own version of morality and thumbing it in people’s faces, all the while tempting the very same people to follow him and make his world a reality.
Seeing Sensui Through Rainbow-Colored Glasses
Yes, Yu Yu fandom, Sensui is gay. (I think I hear very angry voices in the background…)
Now, whether or not he started out that way is up to interpretation. Note that Sensui has a very strong set of beliefs, even after he decided to exterminate humanity. He may have started out as heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual, but might have changed his sexuality to fit his very strong beliefs in the extermination of all humankind. The logic would be that, since women create babies, he would be a massive hypocrite if he ever considered sleeping with a woman. There is another side to fandom, however, that states Sensui was homosexual from the get-go. They point to his spiritual abilities as evidence (GLBT persons are seen in many cultures to be spiritually gifted), and also that there seems to be a parallelism not only between the timeframe in which he met Itsuki and the timeframe he lost his faith in humanity, but also between straight/queer in concordance with the good/evil and human/demon dichotomies presented earlier. So it is entirely possible he may have started to doubt himself and his morality because of his sexuality, and receive even more support that something is intrinsically flawed with humanity from his dealings with the Black Black Club and his viewing of the Black Chapters tape. I myself take a more moderate viewpoint, in between these two: he was asexual until he met Itsuki and the whole wheel started turning for him.
Sensui is one of my favorite queer characters, not only from anime and manga, but from all media. The reasons for this are manifold. Excepting Naru, his gender presentation is very butch, as well as his being the strongest person in Human World and knowing eight different styles of martial arts, as opposed to other gay males on TV who are depicted as a physically weak “camp” stereotype. He and Itsuki have equal footing in their relationship- there is no stereotypical “seme” and “uke”. Last, but certainly not least, I like that his sexuality is only one of his many personality traits, instead of it being the personality trait. In other words, he is a complex, fleshed-out, ultimately sympathetic character, a kind of twisted Everyman through which we see the human condition- you can ignore the fact that he’s gay while watching the show, even though it’s there. Compare this to many other gay male characters- their sexuality defines their personality, unfortunately.
So…Does He Really Hate Humanity?
Believe it or not, this is a question that the fandom has been asking itself from the get-go. Some people have been saying that he used hatred for his own species as an excuse to find someone strong enough to kill him. In other words, he merely thought of others as completely disposable FOR NO REASON while reaching for his real goal to die in Demon World, and the ending of the Sensui arc was rather an asspull. These same people tend to be angry that Sensui “won” even though he died.
I heartily disagree. Sensui hated humanity because he hated himself. He was always trying to live up to an extremely high standard, unachievable by anyone (even someone as ridiculously powerful and intelligent as he was), and seemed to always be angry at himself for falling short. Growing up as he did, where he was Spirit World’s darling and could do no wrong, he began to believe he was perfect and everyone else was beneath him. When Itsuki showed up, he began to wrestle with the idea that he, too, was flawed and not as perfect and invincible as he had once believed. This reached its peak during the Black Black Club incident, and, since Sensui’s mind was so resistant to new ideas, he turned on his fellow man, asserting that it was they who were the corrupt, flawed ones, while inwardly hating himself for being imperfect and being no better than the other humans he encountered that night for killing demons. Sensui states this when he tells Yusuke and his friends that he says, “It felt like a part of me was going rotten”. This, in my opinion, is the ultimate origin of the other six personalities, as well as Sensui’s death wish.
As for him “winning”, I am of the opinion he didn’t really. Neither side won. While it is true that Sensui achieved his ultimate goal, and that his ideology colors the rest of the series, it is equally true that fundamentalism of any stripe (Sensui’s or Enma’s, for that matter) is an ultimately futile position to hold in the YYH universe. Humans and demons are equally good, and equally evil- or have the capacity for both, so they are not so different from one another. Any and all labeling of either species as purely good or purely evil is inaccurate and misguided- remember that there is a Chapter White as well as a Chapter Black. One of Sensui’s main character flaws was that he was too blinded by his fundamentalism and black-and-white worldview to see what was really going on, and he paid the price with the corruption of his mental faculties and descent into villainy.
In short, I feel that Sensui was, in a way, projecting his own vast (in his mind) inadequacies onto the rest of his species, found proof of his opinion via Chapter Black, and this is ultimately the reason he hated humanity so much, and also that he neither won nor lost, but was shown to be partially wrong.
Conclusion: Sensui, Humanity, and Myself
At the end of the Sensui arc, I felt very sad when I watched Sensui die. It felt as if a little bit of myself was going, because I finally saw an anime character I could relate to: someone who was idealistic and yet unable to live up to their ideals; someone who was sick and tired of stupid human behavior and wanted to do something about it; someone who was hit in the face with an unbearable truth, and was recovering from its impact; someone who had a humongous ego, and a sense of self that opposed everyone else’s sense of self, but very little pride in himself to back it up; ultimately, someone who was an outsider to ‘normal’ society due to various factors beyond his control. I realized something: that Sensui was me, and that’s why I liked him, because he mirrored my ego and the vulnerabilities thereof, plus he had things that I wanted: good looks, physical power, et cetera.
I shall end my essay on a quote which connotes the sadness of his departure, and also the situation I find myself in often, as well as a very insightful comment from a YouTube user about his image song:
He had a lot to say
He had a lot of nothing to say
We’ll miss him…
I should hate him, I should hate everything about him, but I don’t. I abhor what he tried to do and what he intended to do, but on a level I respect him. He’s saw humanity’s worst of the worst. It’s like a child watching murder rape, greed, and so much more. His legacy shows narrow mindedness and ignorance can be a root for evil. His job as spirit detective exemplifies this. R.I.P Shinobu.
-SuperLightdragon @ YouTube