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It’s likely I wasn’t the only one struck by the awkward inner monologue that Tenzo carried out when wandering around London with his lovely “Dame Scarred” in Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere episode six. The show had been building to this point piece by piece from her introduction as a mysterious cloaked figure way back in the first episode. As Tenzo Crossunite learns more about her, he slowly falls for her, leading to his desire to break the Testament starting with episode eight.

But let’s focus on the scene in the Tower of London. As “Dame” prattles on about the history of England and her place in it, Tenzo finds himself continually distracted by her body. The show, of course, gives a helping hand by ensuring that she gets in all manner of suggestive poses in the course of the interview (this is Horizon, after all). Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that this is typical pandering directed at the audience. But here, what’s more interesting is Tenzo’s reactions, because the show positions him in a way that we can blame this problem on how boys look at sex. Thanks to porn.

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Tenzo’s reaction to seeing his crush in inviting positions is one of cognitive dissonance. He seems to be unable to reconcile his lust for her with his growing emotional affection; and I would posit it’s because of an objectifying sexuality on his part. Notice how each inner monologue concerns itself with a single asset or pose, and that each of these observations concerns and incites feelings of shame in our intrepid ninja. On one hand, he can’t seem to keep his eyes off her, on the other hand it makes him feel awful. I’m gonna claim that this is indicative of a problematic sexuality.

In the first season, Tenzo was part of a group of perverted students who could be frequently seen discussing the merits of women’s differing “assets” and perusing gravure magazines. While there’s nothing wrong with admiring beautiful women per se, it’s clear when we see him interact with “Dame Scarred” that his sexual desire wants to break her into pieces and consume her. But he seems vaguely aware that this is somehow wrong. This reaction could be the result of a number of conditionings that have worked to alienate him from his desire.

First, it’s worth noting that besides Toori and his Sister, most of the people in Horizon’s version of earth still have an awkward relationship with sex and love. Honda stammers when asked about it. Suzu Mukai and Nate Mitosudaira have a streak of modesty. And clearly Toori’s nakedness upsets people. In this environment, it’s not surprising that Tenzo’s unsettled by his lustful thoughts, but perhaps his problem is more acute.

See, he can’t see his lady love as both a person and an object of desire. Or, at least not at first. He eventually learns that he loves and desires her, thus pushing the series forward, but at first he has a lot of trouble. It’s striking to me that this arc matches so closely to many men and boys’ views of women, and that it conforms to concerns about the “friend zone”. The fact that current mainstream porn works so hard at dehumanizing its stars (men are also reduced to body parts to make them even less intrusive) seems to align with this problem of being unable to lust after a woman you respect.

So what does this mean? I think it means that even anime is vaguely aware that porn is NOT a comprehensive sex education. The fact that Tenzo’s arc is central to this season and that it seems so familiar should point us towards considering our own outlook towards the opposite sex, and maybe how proper education might change it.

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