I’ve had trouble with playing games lately. For one thing, I have personal obligations, mainly the day job and working on my own projects in hopes of escaping the day job. I was playing through a game, but I honestly don’t think it’s very good. However, because said game doesn’t even have double digit reviews on Steam, I can’t do my critique in good faith because look, I’d just be kicking a little guy down. So, instead, I decided to write about something that I’ve been re-reading on my commutes to work.
cw: abuse and suicide (also mild spoilers; I tried not to get too into the nitty gritty)
Takopi’s Original Sin is a short manga by Taizan 5 that ran for just a humble two volumes worth of chapters. Definitely not as long as your typical series, definitely longer than a one-shot, Takopi’s Original Sin hits the sweet spot of a short story in manga form.
Takopi’s Original Sin follows a Happian, a member of an alien species whose goal is to spread love and joy throughout the universe. Unfortunately, the first human they meet, who dubs them Takopi, presents an uphill battle. This human, a girl named Shizuka, lives a miserable life without much parental support and is bullied horribly at school by a girl named Marina, with a boy named Azuma the only one willing to try to help her. However, Shizuka’s given up on getting help at all, only finding solace in her dog Chappy, the only thing her father left her. Takopi tries their best to fill the void.
One day, Takopi finds Shizuka beaten horribly and Chappy gone. They give her a cool rope gadget to cheer her up, but it leads into the most well-known thing about the manga: Shizuka hangs herself toward the end of the first chapter.
In a desperate attempt to save her life, Takopi turns back time with one of the happy gadgets they had been blessed with. It’s an uphill battle, but hopefully, they can prevent Shizuka from committing suicide and bring happiness to everyone… right?
Takopi’s Original Sin is a downer dressed up in a cute art style with a deceptively adorable mascot character clearly out of their depth. However, despite the dark tone of the series, Takopi tries to pursue the vibes they embody. The series is hardly like Goodnight Punpun in that there’s a clear definitive light at the end of the tunnel, but the ride through that tunnel is bleak.
A fundamental part of Takopi’s Original Sin is how parental abuse can shape people. Without a stable parental support system, Shizuka completely falls apart when she’s separated from Chappy, either committing suicide or becoming unhinged and willingly committing crimes for the sake of attaining happiness.
Marina’s treatment of Shizuka meanwhile stems from her unstable family life. Shizuka’s mother is an escort and Marina’s dad’s been openly cheating on her mom to sleep with her.. Marina’s mother in turn abuses her, and since she can’t really do anything about her home life, Marina instead displaces all her frustrations on Shizuka, unfairly blaming her for the troubles in her own life.
Azuma in the meantime suffers emotional abuse from his mother, who openly chides him for being less than perfect in spite of being respected by everyone else. She openly withholds displaying love toward him and dangles a reward that she never gives; the one time she finally does, it’s framed as a punishment, with her justifying it as a consolation prize in that she’s decided that Azuma won’t amount to anything. In turn, this causes Azuma to form an unhealthy connection to Shizuka in a desperate attempt to get validation from someone.
Really, one of the morals of Takopi’s Original Sin is that abusive parents aren’t shit. The thing with the characters is that they’re ultimately just reacting to things that are out of their control, and with the unhealthy mindsets their home lives instill, they all wind up being on some level of Joker.
But where does that leave Takopi?
Takopi is a helplessly idealistic figure, acting like a mascot character from a much happier story. They have trouble recognizing the signs of trauma and abuse around them, sometimes making problems worse since they are figuratively and literally alien to the things going on. They suffer their own trauma when they realize that they can’t easily solve everyone’s problems, and that not everything is pure.
Azuma, the least troubled (at least, comparatively) of the kids is thus the one to deliver the message that every person has their good and bad aspects – a message that Takopi comes to instill. Most characters’ more selfish and unhinged attributes are a direct result of how they’ve been treated. And while Marina’s mom is clearly emotionally and physically abusive, it undeniably comes from a place of pain. Even Takopi themself isn’t immune from the philosophy Azuma says, because while they’re trying their best, their absentminded nature leads to them doing some real bad stuff.
Does that mean you can turn those mostly bad people good? Nope. In fact, the parents are not shown to change – or at least, they don’t get worse. Rather, the solution for the kids is to avoid letting the bad aspects of their parents define and shape them. And they do that simply by forming bonds with other people
This could even be seen in the series’ slight dip toward hopefulness in the middle of the series, with Takopi acting as a connecting glue between all the characters. For a brief glorious moment, all the living characters are friends. That only splinters when past sins catch up to them, with Shizuka trying to cash in on a toxic codependent relationship toward Azuma that winds up alienating him.
Really, everything only truly becomes better when the characters form healthy relationships with each other, allowing them to cope with their circumstances. In facilitating this, Takopi accepts the idea that they can’t truly make everyone happy – but they can do the best they can. Takopi, acting as a narrator, ends their existence in the story by wishing that the kids all grow up just fine, now that they’re no longer alone.
Their last message is also functionally aimed at the reader, which makes sense if you consider the circumstances Takopi’s Original Sin was written in. The manga was written during the years of the pandemic (well, I mean it’s still ongoing but you know what I mean) and is in fact directly referenced within the story itself. Covid represented a time of isolation for a lot of people and a lot of families fell apart, either through loss or people becoming insane conspiracy theorists with regards to the pandemic. With that in mind, Takopi’s final reassurances that everybody will be alright through the bonds they made in spite of their circumstances hits even more.
It’s a real comfortable read with a good emotional climax. Maybe you’d find the ending to be a bit rushed in terms of narrative, but I really do love Takopi’s Original Sin. Hell, with how short it is and how easily available it is, why not read it?
Since Takopi’s Original Sin, Taizan 5’s been working on The Ichinose Family’s Deadly Sins, revolving around an amnesiac family. I have not started reading it yet, but Takopi’s Original Sin leaves a good impression, so I’m sure this will shape up into something good.