In K4. The Return Faith demands an explanation from the Biggest Bird, the creature who rules the afterlife. The Biggest Bird lets her visit reality, where she meets Jay, bringing us up to speed with the previous chapter.
Again, I’m running out of topics for commentary. I can’t spoil too much about the afterlife, and there’s only so much to be said about non-linear storytelling. So this week, I thought I’d talk about the distribution of male and female characters in Akayama DanJay.
In ‘reality’ most of the characters are male. Dan, Jango, Michael, Bob, and Leo have more narrative importance and screen-time than Faith, Beatrice, Eva, and Lilly. Meanwhile the afterlife is ruled by a giant bird who seems more maternal than masculine, while worms—thinly veiled phallic imagery—struggle to become worthy of joining that bird. The story-within-a-story, LuLu’s Space-Time Acceleration, has primarily female leads in Princess Lucia and her daughter Lucille. Akayama DanJay‘s mortal plane is generally masculine and its alternate realities are more feminine. If you believe The Da Vinci Code, ancient Christianity featured the concept of divine femininity; certainly The Divine Comedy where Dante seeks Beatrice can be read this way.
The double-character DanJay bridges the genders and dimensions. When Dan was obliterated, he was reborn as a two-year-old girl named Jillian; Jillian reasserted a masculine identity when they took the name Jay. Jay straddles mortality and death by visiting the afterlife and meeting the dead.
Jay hears of his previous life’s struggle with death, anxiety, and femininity. After his father’s suicide, Dan obsesses and beats himself up unless he’s with his fantasy of ideal love, Beatrice, who has barely a passing interest in him. When he accidentally smokes centipede and goes to the afterlife, Dan is a gnashing pile of teeth which decomposes into ten thousand worms. A tangled pile of worms is an obvious image of frustrated masculinity. It’s this frustration and anxiety which keeps Dan from the Mountain.
Faith and Beatrice immediately enter the Mountain after their deaths, as symbols of femininity. In fact, Beatrice is barely more than a symbol (which is somewhat fitting in a Divine Comedy allegory). If Beatrice is the purest, most unattainable vision of love possible, then Faith, who returns from death to tell the tale, is mankind’s only chance to unite with that vision of love. Through Faith, the unattainable is attained.
But also lurking in the afterlife is the largest worm, Anihilato, a massive, overgrown tumor of masculinity. Anihilato refuses to join the Mountain and in fact claims to own all sentient beings. The Biggest Bird seems to accept Anihilato’s existence and even integrates it into their cosmology: they say, “When I find worms I cannot swallow, I know Anihilato will eat them for me.” In an otherworldly sense, the Biggest Bird keeps Anihilato because the concentrated masculine energies are sometimes necessary to open stuck jars.
In another section I said that fundamentally speaking, gender is just a thing humans made up. The only reason I can talk about masculine energy and feminine energy is because people who know those words understand what I mean. I can say Anihilato is masculine despite calling it an ‘it’ because it’s phallic and muscular and aggressive. I can say the Biggest Bird (or the Heart of the Mountain, or Bug Bird) is feminine despite calling them ‘they’ because they encompass maternal aspects, having birthed the Islands of Sheridan and the matriarchal birds who live there.
The afterlife in this story is therefore divided by the Biggest Bird and Anihilato along generally engendered traits. Only DanJay, whose dual life has shown him a little bit of everything, has the potential to integrate those opposites.