I have said in the past that we can be drawn to characters who are similar to ourselves or have the qualities we admire. In contrast we are often most annoyed by the characters who have the same flaws we hate about ourselves. On that note Saori Chiba is a fascinating character to me and a highly personal character. In the Wandering Son anime other than a few flashback she comes off as an outright little monster up until very recently. I find her behavior detestable and pointless as it only hurts herself and those around her. That said I can’t say that I could not easily see myself doing the things she is doing in the show. In fact I have done some of the nonsense that she does so it makes it all the more pertinent, powerful, and painful.
In the manga we see Saori start off as a cheerful if somewhat self-centered and eccentric character. She really changes after she is rejected by Shuichi after he just confessed to Yoshino. She becomes a much more sullen character often lashing out at anyone who she sees as a threat. Her friendship with Yoshino quickly turns toxic as she not only blames her for rejecting Shuichi but also for being the object of his affections. While she obviously cares for Shuichi and often tries to do things for him she hurts him just as often and sometimes she is very deliberate in twisting the knife with her stabs at him. She is mean Makoto because she knows she can. She also becomes very standoffish and blunt with everyone else at school except the few of her friends who still stand by her like Kanako and Chizuru. The more she lashes out the more isolated she seems which in turn makes her lash out even more. She seems trapped in a cycle of misery as she tries to pull the people around her down with her.
I know that everything she is doing is wrong because they are all things I have done in the past. As someone who has been rejected and dumped Saori feelings are all to familiar. You see those around you who seem so happy and often it can seem so undeserved. You see people who have succeeded where you have failed, who have been embraced where you were rejected, and those who have even thrown away what you have wanted most. It can fill you with a sense of envy, hated, and self loathing. With nowhere for these feelings to go they can easily manifest as anger for those who you think have what they don’t deserve and towards yourself for being inadequate for obtaining what you desire. These negativity tends to drive away others which only compounds how you feel. You often find yourself regretting your outbursts but find them unavoidably welling up inside of you. Like an addict you wish to stop but can’t help giving into the craving. You want someone to save you but few people will come close enough and put up with your antics to do so. You wish to save yourself but if you had the emotional tools to do so easily you would not be in this mess.
In the end Saori is not a hopeless case. In recent episodes she seems to be repairing her friendship with Yoshino and even mellowing out a bit. She still seems to cold and antagonistic but she has shown bits of kindness again and she seems to be moving towards moving on. As Narutaki said interestingly enough she is probably the character who has undergone the most growth even if she had to rocket straight down to get closer to moving forward. She is beginning to learn that as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in the quote that gives this post its title she will get nowhere continuing the patterns that got her where she is. Only put letting go of the past can she move towards the future. I still can’t say I like Saori Chiba but she is one of the most personally realistic characters I have seen in quite a while.