The mayor is a princess, the princess is the mayor.
I’ve long been rather enamored with monarchy as a concept. Although I recognize the system’s historical tendency to be abused and the way it withholds actual control of governance from the people, examples of benevolent and strong monarchs represent for me a kind of noble platonic ideal that even the best democratic leaders will never achieve for me. There’s just something about a king, a queen, a prince, or a princess who truly loves their people and works tirelessly to serve them that I find inherently attractive.
Hime Yarizakura, despite her name, is not a princess. She is a mayor—a public servant rather than a monarch. However, despite her democratically oriented title and the surrounding worldbuilding context of elected political leaders (see: Morio and Kohime’s battle for the election in episodes 4-6 of Hana no Uta), Hime’s stewardship of Sakurashin also contains an element of inherited nobility. She is a fascinating blend of royalty and democracy—as is perhaps fitting for the leader of a town made up of both humans and yokai—and it is out of the matrix that the core of her beautiful personality arises.
“One, be loved by the people. Two, be loved by the town.”
Let us turn to Hime’s democratic persona first. When considering the differences between the ideas of democracy and monarchy, one key point is distinguishing democracy is that elected leaders are, or ought to be, of the people. That is, unlike royalty, they possess no innately special identity—rather, they are chosen from amongst their peers and their authority is bestowed upon them willingly by the people they lead. We are of course speaking of ideals here, but such is the leisure fiction grants us.
Hime-as-mayor is something of a populist figure, although the social structure of Sakurashin is such that making such a definition of her leadership style divorces her from the real-world implications of the label (hooray for fiction!). While key figures like Akina do represent their own, independent interests, the town as a whole is more or less free of class structures—conflicts are brought to it by outside forces, rather than internal strife. Thus, because of the solidarity within her town, when Hime acts, she acts in a pure form as a representative of the people, with all the weight of responsibility and unity of purpose this implies.
Additionally, as we see time and time again, Hime’s governance habits bring her into close contact with the people of the town. These tendencies, combined with her youth, ultimately result in a close relationship between Hime the mayor and the citizens of Sakurashin. Although Hime bears certain responsibilities as mayor, she is also supported by her people in a way that recalls the old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The boundaries between Hime-as-leader and Hime-as-citizen are very thin indeed, as Sakurashin nurtures Hime even as she leads. The contrast between the way Hime patrols her town and the image of the noble on horseback riding through the fields is stark. Hime is not just a ruler; she is a part of the community, and is thus loved by and within it. In action and integration, she is a true leader of the people.
“Three, be loved by the dragon.”
Although Hime is, certainly, democratic leader in some ways, her office also draws on certain factors which align her more with royalty. Her name aside, Hime’s actual acquisition of the office is tightly tied to her grandmother’s prior service in the role; that is, an element of inheritance is in play. While the specifics of Hime’s ascendency to the mayorship aren’t fully fleshed out (we know Akina tuned her grandmother, that her grandmother provided coaching for her before her departure, and that she asked to have everyone’s memories of her yokai nature sealed away), what is clear is that becoming the mayor was not simply a matter of electoral victory through aptitude. In other words, Hime comes to power in a fashion that aligns itself with royal or noble succession.
Alongside these basic facts draw the mythological aspects of Hime’s identity and mayorship. The third requirement of being a good mayor for Sakurashin, as spelled out by Hime’s grandmother, is to be loved by the dragon. What exactly it means to be “loved by the dragon” is rather vague, but it seems to me that the dragon’s love for Sakurashin’s mayor is predicated on the mayor’s love for the town. It is not simply enough for Hime to be loved by the town and the people; she must love them in return and prove herself worthy of their affection. As Hime herself is said to be a human form of an ancient dragon, her use of the Dragon Lance is thus proof of her royal right to rule. But, of course, the most important piece of the puzzle is that she first demonstrates her capacity to rule well.
This, she does with nobility, dignity, and grace. Final stance: Great Fireworks! The dragon lance roars “as if spurred by imperial wrath.” Its authority, drawn from the depths of the earth, is hers as the land itself accepts her as worthy of her name.
The Wielder of the Dragon Lance
Both democratic leaders and royalty are bound by certain responsibilities. Those elected by the people must fulfill the requests of those who put them into power, and those gifted by God, the universe, or blood with rulership subject to the sacred duty to lead with benevolence and generosity (noblesse oblige). Although Hime’s role as mayor is given via the latter mechanism, as someone so closely intertwined with her citizens she also carries the former responsibility on her young shoulders.
It is by these twin duties that Hime’s mayorship is informed, and her fulfillment of them both is evidence of the strength of her character. Because of the unique nature of her situation, Hime lacks the traditional royal’s distance from her people. She walks among them, yet also stands in front of them as a protector, acting out both states as is required by the situation. Her choice is deliberate and free—she accepts and lives out both duties as a true mayor and a true princess. It is evidence of a girl far stronger than her small body and youth would indicate, and therein lies the true core of her charm.
Hime is neither perfect nor all-powerful. She eats more than she should and can be emotionally fragile. Despite that, she devotes herself to being the best mayor she can be, is loyal to her friends, willingly puts her life on the line to protect her people and her town, and, perhaps most impressively, is capable of asking others for help. These strengths, amidst her faults and weaknesses, are those of someone truly worthy of being the wielder of the Dragon Lance and mayor of Sakurashin.
 Hime is cut from the Maka Albarn mode of kind and strong girl. Her only limiting factor is the scale of her deeds. Maka saves the world by being Maka; Hime has only a town to protect. This is not to discredit Hime in the least, but there’s a reason Maka is my all-time favorite anime character.
 The reflections in this post were at least partially inspired by the recent death of Thailand’s King Bhumidol Adulyadej. The news podcast I listen to has done a number of reports on his life and the impact of his death in Thailand, and I found the clear love his people had for him extremely moving.
4 thoughts on “The Democratic Nobility of Hime Yarizakura”
I’m not that fond of the concept of royalty. I’m more of an anarchist at heart (though I don’t believe its workable in the real world). My ideal looks like lots of people living for themselves, but with each other, so they all influence each other. Oddly enough, Hime works very well under that world view, too. This town seems more like a refuge for oddballs and outsiders than anything else, and Hime is every bit as quirky as the rest of them. I can’t resist her scarf (and the sweet story around it). Finally:
Tsun tsun dere tusndere tsun tsun…
(Aside: I’m the only person I know who actually prefers the first anime to Hana no Uta. Hana no Uta does a lot of things better (especially the visuals in general), but it also has more childish character designs and more obtrusive fanservice. Plus the presentation in the first anime is more… dry, and thus suits me better.)
Scarves are very likely my greatest anime character design weakness, bar none. I love wearing them myself, but give them to anime characters of either gender and they just explode with appeal (and yes, the story is lovely).
I definitely prefer Hana no Uta personally, but I enjoyed the 2008 anime when I watched it (mistakenly thinking it was Hana no Uta LOL). It’s got its drawbacks and I definitely was glad I watched the 2008 version first (the tsundere song gets a lot more attention there, justifiably!) because it increased my enjoyment of Hana no Uta.
Interesting article. The character sounds very neat. What show is this, though?
Oh, yeah, I guess I never said that! The show is Yozakura Quartet, specifically Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (there’s a 2008 version which I’ve seen and enjoyed, but I liked Hana no Uta better by far).