Image Source: テレビアニメ「十二大戦」公式 on Twitter

Toshiko Inō is one of the competitors in the Zodiac War, and with all she’s done in her past, she seems to be absolutely irredeemable as a character. However, while I don’t see her actions as “forgivable,” I do find her to be a pitiful—and even sympathetic—character.

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first episode of Juni Taisen: Zodiac War]

Toshiko was raised by a father who ended up winning the previous Zodiac War. Since childhood, she had been forced to kill countless numbers of people in cold blood with no mercy. When she succeeded, her father treated her with disdain. When she showed sympathy to her enemies, she was verbally abused. Years and years of dealing with this, and who gets chosen to participate in the Zodiac War? Her little sister. And damn, her little sister sure was excited to get chosen.

This was her entire life.

Toshiko had nothing else but her father’s orders and expectations. That was literally the only thing that kept her together when she had to kill people over and over again—something she obviously had hesitation in doing. She didn’t want to kill the soldier who surrendered. She let him live and brought him back with her, but he was killed in front of her eyes by her father.

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War Is Half Fate, Half Monogatari

What Toshiko did to her younger sister is unforgivable. In cold, lingering rage that she did not get chosen for the Zodiac War, she began to break her sister down. She started by taking the one thing that meant something to her sister—the guy she liked—and then made her sister kill ruthlessly to fill the hole in her heart. When it was all said and done, Toshiko became the one person her sister relied on. This reliance led to her doom.

Does this dynamic sound familiar? It’s the exact one planted into her mind by her father. Some might say that she could have made different choices and not been a total psycho bitch, but this was literally everything Toshiko knew. She put her entire life on the line believing that her father would one day acknowledge her, and ultimately was betrayed. There was no emotional support keeping her stable, and thus, she lost her mind. And in the end, this belief in her father and want for acceptance brought her to an unavoidable death.

Image Source: テレビアニメ「十二大戦」公式 on Twitter

Toshiko didn’t have a choice in what family she was born in or what her upbringing was. Rather than having too many expectations, Toshiko was broken by the lack of expectations she was given. In my personal experience, it’s much more painful to not be expected anything from or needed than to have too many people expect things from you. With so much trauma and abuse since childhood only to have everything you’ve worked for to be given to someone else much less experienced, it’s no wonder Toshiko’s mind broke.

In her official character profile on the official Japanese website even, it notes that she takes a large amount of lovers and is looking for more. Toshiko was seeking acceptance. She wanted to be needed by someone, anyone. And I don’t know about anyone else watching, but Toshiko’s desire to be wanted made me sympathize with her, even if just the smallest fraction. In my mind, Toshiko was just as much of a victim as her sister. She just didn’t have the sanity left to scream.

JUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR began airing on October 3. It is viewable with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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