StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

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(Meta) All About Satsu

Recent developments would tend to suggest that Satsu is becoming a major character in 'Buffy'... In fact, if the show were still on TV instead of in comics I suspect she'd be added to the main credits by now. (Instead, she gets to appear on the alternate cover of 8.11, and in at least one more cover in the current arc). The problem, of course, is that compared to characters who appeared for years on the show - and had a living, breathing actor to depict them - we don't know that much about her.

That's not to say she's a non-entity, though. (And there are plenty of compelling characters who only appear on paper... there are these things called "books" which used to be quite popular once... [g]) So as a hopefully helpful guide to people who want to get to know her better, I decided to put together a giant picspam of all Satsu's appearances in the comics, and analyse what they say about her character. Some of which is probably self-evident, while other conclusions I come to might be really pushing the evidence to the extreme. I'll leave you to work out which is which...

I've also re-summarised the discussions I've had in previous posts on the meaning of Satsu's name, how it's pronounced and how it's probably spelled in Japanese.

Comment and feedback is welcome! This post will contain spoilers through issue 8.12, and is extremely image-heavy.

All About Satsu

So far, we only know Satsu's given name (although Scott Allie is aware that people are interested in her surname). 'Satsu' is a Japanese name, which I understand is normally written with the characters 佐津 meaning something like 'helpful harbour' - a place where a ship can rest and find shelter from the storm. However, her name is a pun, because it can also be written with the character 殺 (also pronounced 'satsu') which means "kill" or "slay". My personal fanon is that Satsu's official name, as recorded on birth certificates and so forth, is spelled 佐津; but since becoming a Slayer she's taken to signing her name as 殺 instead. ('Murder' in Japanese is satsujin: satsu meaning 'to kill' and jin meaning 'a person'.)

As for pronunciation, Joss apparently pronounces it 'SOUGHT-sue', most people on my flist pronounce it SAT-sue, and Satsu herself, assuming she's a native Japanese speaker, would pronounce it SAH TSU - with an equal weight on both syllables, the first rhyming with 'father' and the second starting with the same sound that the word 'cats' ends with, and having a fairly short vowel sound rather than an extended "oo". This link goes to a wav file on a Japanese dictionary website:

Is she actually Japanese? She's clearly of East Asian ethnicity ("Hi, nude Asian girl" - Andrew, 8.12), her name is Japanese, she uses a Japanese katana as her main weapon, and her clothing style seems Japanese. On the other hand, we've not seen her speaking Japanese so far. In fact, unlike Leah and Rowena, she's shown a complete lack of a comedy foreign accent, implying that she speaks perfect English. As such, she may be the daughter of a migrant family who were living in some other country such as the USA or Canada. I suspect we'll find out one way or the other when the Slayers go to Japan.

While Satsu first appeared in issue 8.01 - in fact, reading from left to right she's the first character to appear on the page in Season 8 - speaking chronologically we first get to see her in a flashback in 8.11, here:

The image actually tells us quite a lot about her. She's wearing a traditional school uniform - pleated tartan skirt, white blouse, tie - which does imply that she went to school in Japan. On the other hand, the girl standing to the right of the picture appears to be Caucasian, unless she's just wearing odd-coloured tights, so maybe this is a school in an English-speaking country and Satsu just chooses to dress in this way for personal fashion reasons. Notice that she's got a pink stuffed animal dangling from her ear and her tie is pulled loose in the classic sign of middle-class teenage rebellion, so she's not exactly conformist even as a teenager. 

She's still at school in 2003, so presumably she was no older than 18 (94% of Japanese children stay at school until age 18). That makes her four years younger than Buffy, or a year younger than Kennedy, minimum.

The sticking plaster on her knee implies that maybe she's a bit clumsy and accident prone, or that she engages in not-so-genteel leisure activities. The fact that Buffy's voice-over mentions "connection" as one of the benefits of the Slayer empowerment spell specifically in connection with Satsu may be foreshadowing of the connection she will find with her, but it could also be a suggestion that this is what Satsu lacked previously: that she felt isolated and alone until she became a Slayer and found connection to hundreds of other girls just like her. She certainly seems to be crying tears of happiness here.

The lockers in the background of the picture in the comic have been drawn identically to those that appear in this screencap from 'Chosen', which also shows a brown-skinned, possibly Asian looking girl being overcome by the Slayer spell - and, by the looks of it, about to drop those books she's holding and collapse to the floor. Just like Satsu in the scene from 8.11. On the other hand, the two girls are wearing very different clothing... but it's possible that this is artistic licence (or an error) and both scenes were meant to show the same girl. Or to put it another way, Satsu isn't just a 2D comic character but someone who appeared in the flesh on the TV show, and therefore  - according to some - is worthy of being a romantic partner for one of the Core Four... ;-)

Moving on, here's Satsu's first appearance in print: jumping out of a helicopter at Buffy's right hand. Our first impression is that she's an all-action heroine; and also that she's wildly individualistic, having customised her 'uniform' far more than any of her companions. The leggings, the 'Hello Kitty' hat - which seems to be quite impractical, considering she's having to hold it in place as she jumps - the panda head at her belt, the badges (she's a 'Rude Girl', apparently), the bracelets, the little toy animals... the only conventional thing is that unlike Buffy, she's actually wearing the same body armour Leah and Rowena have instead of just a 'Serenity' t-shirt. 

The next images show Satsu's notorious disappearing sword - a continuity error by the artist, unless Satsu's sword really can turn invisible at will. We also see her operating the little web-cam she's got attached to the side of her head; presumably this is feeding the video link back to Xander at HQ. We can speculate one of two things from this. Either it was her idea to do this - implying that she's good with electronics and computer technology - or she was chosen to carry the camera, implying that Buffy thinks she's steady, reliable and is likely to stay close to her. And is not too proud to object to recording wherever she goes. I hope she remembers to turn the camera off before going to the bathroom, taking a shower, or whatever...(g).

We also see that Satsu is respectful to Buffy, calling her "ma'am" - in contrast to Leah who asked "what the hell is she doing?" as Buffy dives straight in through the door.

On first viewing this scene I mainly noticed Buffy's character progression since Season 7; she's developing leadership skills and is concerned about her troops' morale. Here, though, my attention is on Satsu. According to Buffy this is either her first time on combat or at least the first time she's seen dead humans, and she doesn't like it. Her hand goes to her mouth, either in distress or nausea.

During the fight itself Satsu doesn't do very much. Is she frozen in terror at being confronted by a real, live demon? Or is she deliberately acting baity so the demons won't notice Rowena's squad coming up behind them?  In the second panel, she and Leah appear to be examining the dead demon, or perhaps checking it's really dead. They're apparently not concerned about the third one that's still alive and facing off one-on-one against Buffy; clearly they're confident she can handle it.

Here, though, Satsu shows her conscientiousness and attention to detail; she's the first one in the group to see the Twilight symbol branded onto one of the dead soldiers' chests. (Clearly, she also got over her squeamishness pretty quickly). She's also calling Buffy "ma'am" again, and deferring to her superior experience.

And finally in issue 8.01, Satsu watches Buffy at work. Or possibly checks out her bum...

During the big training montage scene in 8.02 (80s power chords optional) Satsu looks kind of focussed, determined and pleased, if also cautious, to be singled out by Buffy for sparring practice - while Rowena just looks worried. She's still wearing her 'Rude Girl' badge but has replaced the smiley face by an 'artist formerly known as Prince' one. Looks like she regularly changes the badges around. Also, notice that all three Slayers have beads of sweat on their foreheads; looks like they've already been working out for a while.

The actual fight doesn't go well for Satsu; in fact, she gets Buffy's boot in her face. Hopefully this isn't foreshadowing.

And the notorious "see me after" panel giving us the first link between Buffy and Satsu on a personal level. Again, on first viewing I was interested in the 'Buffy of it': she's paying more attention to the people she leads in a friendly kind of way, wanting to chat to them about hair style tips. Satsu's reaction to Buffy's suggestion is hard to fathom: is she surprised? Nervous? Wondering why Buffy picked her? Taken aback by the compliment from someone who just kicked her in the face? Overawed by Buffy's skill at just taking on and beating three Slayers simultaneously and making it look effortless?

At the time I assumed Buffy is just trying to be open and down-to-earth with all the Slayers - create a non-hierarchical atmosphere of equals. With hindsight, it's possible she's actually spending a lot of time with Satsu specifically; she certainly implies that she pays attention to the way she does her hair on a regular basis ("Best hair ever"). 

(On a personal note, I didn't particularly like Satsu's hair here myself. :-) )

The zombies attack, and Satsu, Leah and Rowena all get to Buffy's room when they hear the sound of the attack... although they weren't the first Slayers to arrive. Xander seems to think of the three of them as the elite squad... and I assume that's Satsu standing on Leah's left with only the top of her head visible.

Presumably, since Xander is in the control room in his pyjamas and Leah and Rowena seem to be similarly dressed, Satsu is also in her sleepwear here - the green patterned robe type affair. Notice that just as she calls Buffy "ma'am", she calls Xander "sir"; and just like with Buffy in 8.01, she's looking to him for guidance on what's happening and what to do about it. (He doesn't know, or else he's overwhelmed by seeing Renee get stabbed.)

The infamous "kiss of true love" scene, where Satsu is conspicuous by her absence from the picture... unless that's her on the right next to Rowena. (Since Leah and Rowena were sent to the battlements to fight alongside Satsu but they're now here in Buffy's room - and have even had time to change out of their pyjamas - there's no practical reason why Satsu couldn't also be present). 

My assumption is that Willow, being telepathic and magical and goddessy, can sense Satsu's feelings for Buffy. In fact, when Willow says "they might not even have realised it" she could well be describing Satsu's exact reaction as it's happening... she is just now realising that she loves Buffy, not just has a crush on her. Certainly the other part of Willow's pronouncement - that the mystery lover doesn't want anyone to know - is true, as we see from Satsu's "stupid lip gloss" comment in 8.11.

Buffy can only pick one Slayer to accompany her on the mission to rescue Willow, and she chooses Satsu. She seems quite proud of the honour here, but is trying to remain calm: Rowena and Leah both look upset not to be the ones chosen.

Satsu prepares for battle. Notice the 'Speed Racer' lunchbox (a classic Japanese cartoon series) and small plastic dinosaur on the floor next to her bed. One thing that I'm still not clear on is whether Satsu and the other junior Slayers all have private rooms, or if they have to sleep in dormitories and only Buffy gets the privilege of her own room. At first I assumed "dorm" and the other people gathered around watching Satsu are her roommates. On the other hand, if this is her own room then at least eight people have come to keep her company as she gets ready - and three of them are relaxed enough about  personal space issues to sit or lie on her bed - which does imply that she's got that connection and friends she was promised when she became a Slayer.

I assume Satsu is simply being modest or perhaps doesn't value her own ability as highly as Buffy does, thinking that she wasn't the best choice for this mission. (Unless she's nervous about being put in a one-on-one situation with Buffy, especially if she's only just realised the true nature of her feelings for her).

Leah comes across as self-confident: she cheerfully agrees with Satsu's assessment of their relative abilities, but she's also friendly and willing to joke about it. She has, however, noticed that Buffy pays attention to Satsu's appearance: perhaps making her a good candidate for "the friend who knew what was going on even before the two people involved did". She also says "don't embarrass us", implying that she, Rowena and Satsu are seen as a team and the actions of one reflect on the other two. 

As for Rowena, it seems to me that she was sulking about not being the one chosen for the mission at first, then when Leah mentions the possibility that Satsu and Buffy might be killed she looks kind of stricken and upset... maybe she didn't think through the implications of what this means. Satsu's own gaze into the blade of her sword looks determined, and concerned not to embarrass herself in front of Buffy - perhaps in more ways than one. A moment of self-reflection. (ho ho)

Buffy and Satsu make last-minute preparations. Satsu now has a pink teddy bear head attached to her shoulder, so she's clearly been customising her armour even more since her last field mission. And she carries cinnamon lip gloss... she seems to be shooting Buffy a wary look when Buffy comments on the flavour; obviously thinking "uh-oh, is she on to me?"

"Fight with me, not next to me" is one of those classic quotes to be sigged and iconed.

As is this. Of course.

Notice that Satsu has replaced her large round web-cam for a smaller and neater version that clips behind and under her ear... and Buffy's wearing one too. Maybe they've recently been spending more of their ill-gotten gains on fancy military hardware.

Battle is joined. I'm slightly dubious on how practical it is to "go for the wound" instead of killing people when you're swinging around a sword that's capable of cutting a human body clean in half with a single blow, but Satsu's a Slayer. And either her sword is enchanted to reflect the light with a *ting* sound, or she's deflecting bullets with it, which is another neat trick impossible for normal people...

I do like the way she takes time out from fighting the bad guys to grin admiringly at Buffy's combat moves.

Sneaking through the base, following Buffy's lead as usual. One thing I've only just noticed is in this shot, Satsu appears to have a tattoo of some sort encircling her upper arm. It's not visible in 8.12, however, so perhaps it was something the artist forgot or decided to omit. Or alternatively, maybe Satsu applied a temporary henna tattoo or something like that. What's interesting is that Faith has a very similar tattoo in the exact same place. I'm sure enterprising fic writers will be able to draw all sorts of parallels between Faith and Satsu based on this, and what Satsu's possible motives might be for applying a tattoo like Faith's, and what Buffy thought of it...

Satsu engages in some useful teamwork during the big fight with Amy... in fact, it's noticeable that Buffy, Willow, Xander and Satsu all have a role to play in this victory. Satsu is still relying on others to guide her rather than taking the initiative herself, though... (and she's still calling Xander "sir"). It looks like the grenade plan was Xander's idea, and also that it's something they've rehearsed before, since they even have a codename for the move.

An interesting observation here is that as Buffy dashes over to Willow, Satsu is holding the Scythe. Either Buffy passed it to her as she ran past, or she dropped it and Satsu picked it up. In Season 7 (and 'Fray') the Scythe was described as the weapon of all the Slayers, so Satsu has as much right to use it as anyone... but in 8.12 Buffy seems rather more possessive of it. ("The Scythe Scythe. My Scythe.") So for Buffy to let Satsu touch her Scythe is quite an honour. ;-)

And poor Satsu, who in 8.01 hadn't seen a human victim before, is now faced with one after another. However, while she seems quite distressed by it all, she does seem to find comfort in watching Buffy fight; she appears to be positively grinning as Buffy hurls General Voll across the room.

Here's Satsu's only appearance in issue 8.05. Interestingly, she seems to be leading the squad of Slayers coming to wipe out Yamanh of Hoht's army; Buffy is now trusting her with independent command. Since we learn later that Rona's squad is based in Chicago - a city which does have underground caverns - logic suggests that this scene takes place underneath Illinois, and Satsu has travelled to the USA to take part in this mission.

Satsu doesn't appear in the next four issues. However, I think that's her in the pink hat shown here robbing a Swiss bank. On the other hand Willow didn't seem to recognise her in the vision, even though she's met Satsu before, so it's not a positive identification. If that is Satsu then she's a criminal, just like Buffy (and Leah, who I presume is the redhead with the plait).

With 8.11 Satsu moves to centre stage. Here she is dancing with Renee - the first time these two have been shown interacting. That's Leah and possibly Rowena behind her, so she's still hanging out with them as well - and she seems to be having a good time. She's also still got her hair in the do she had back in 8.02.

Out in the field, Satsu gives more evidence that maybe she is, or was, a bit of a klutz. On the other hand, she's apparently more self-confident; she's making jokes and even giving backchat to Buffy: "Do I look amused?" "I really can't say" ("because my eyes are covered in mud so I can't see what you look like"). She also appears to have dropped the "ma'am", at least when it's just the two of them. As for Buffy, she starts off being annoyed at Satsu's clumsiness, but is quickly won over to sympathy for her.

More insecurity is made evident as Satsu jumps to the conclusion that Buffy praising her as a possible leader is evidence that Buffy is going away. Her expression to me looks kind of stoic; perhaps she's embarrassed at the indignity of showing herself up in front of her idol... or she feels uncomfortable with the intimacy of Buffy cleaning her face, especially since she presumably assumes that Buffy's thoughts on physical contact between the two of them are going to be pretty different to her own. She may also be trying to hide her pang of sadness at the idea of Buffy not always being there.

And Satsu is shocked and horrified by the realisation that Buffy knows she's in love with her. She was obviously hoping it would remain secret forever... and she jumps to the conclusion that it was the lip gloss that gave her away. In classic Buffyverse style, the fact that she's fighting for her life against a bunch of vampires is a trivial concern compared to her love life trauma.

Her initial shock and self-recrimination give way to distress as she assumes Buffy's reason for bringing this up is to tell her she doesn't want her around anymore; and she's also worried that Buffy isn't taking her seriously. Some people have made a big thing out of the power imbalance this implies: that Buffy is in the position of both an employer and a landlord, and Satsu is in danger of losing her job and her home. I don't disagree on the general idea, but I think that assumes too much of a formal hierarchy in the Slayer organisation than we've seen so far. I think Satsu's upset by the idea that Buffy doesn't want to see her again, rather than any worry about what would happen to her afterwards. Presumably, if she gets paid at all the money comes from the bank robbery she took part in herself, so it's not like Buffy is paying her salary...

And here Buffy has just recited a long list of Satsu's desirable and attractive qualities that she just happens to have noticed recently. But she's not gay... at least, not so you'd notice. Satsu has clearly resigned herself long ago to the idea that she will have to love Buffy from afar. She was hoping Buffy would never realise that at all, because if she ever found out she'd clearly want nothing more to do with Satsu. The fact that Buffy not only knows but is apparently flattered and pleased by her love is pretty confusing... and then she learns that Buffy's main motivation for warning her off is fear that people who get close to her get hurt, rather than squick at being the object of another woman's desire. In that last panel she looks concerned for Buffy, but also as if she's thinking some new and interesting thoughts about her and their relationship...

Enter Twilight. Satsu's reactions are commendably fast, but she fails to hurt him and is knocked out of the fight in two blows... also seeing her sword broken in the process. Broken by the guy's fist, to be exact.

Her defeat is clearly eating at Satsu... more specifically, the fact that by failing to deal with Twilight she let Buffy herself get hurt. She cries on Buffy's shoulder as the more experienced Slayer hugs and comforts her.

And more girl-girl bonding, with the hand-holding and everything. Not that there's anything specifically sexual in this, at least not from Buffy's perspective, but she's clearly entirely at ease with physical closeness and intimacy with Satsu. We also see that now she's more comfortable and confident around Buffy, Satsu's wry sense of humour is coming through loud and clear. She's also far more concerned about Buffy than about herself, despite the fact that she's the one in the hospital bed.

So what do the two of them do next? Oh yeah, this. :-) Whenever I look at the first picture I always puzzle for a moment over the odd position Satsu has her two arms in until I realise that one of the arms is actually Buffy's... and notice that Satsu's right arm no longer has the "tattoo" it had in 8.04. 

I'm dubious about the magical bedsheet, especially judging by how sweaty they both are; shouldn't it be lying on the floor by now?

Jeanty is drawing Satsu differently here than before: her face is thinner, her chin more pointy than in 'The Long Way Home'. Personally, I do like her new look better. Also, in the first frame, notice how their bodies trace the shape of a heart on the sheets between them?

From the question about how they should handle the morning after, it seems pretty clear that this was a spur-of-the-moment thing, with no careful discussion or soul-searching beforehand. Satsu's comment that she "knows what this is" - and repeating that she knows Buffy isn't gay - does indicate that she's not the naive little innocent seduced into bed that some people have tried to paint her as. She understands the situation, and decided to sleep with Buffy anyway - because who wouldn't, given the opportunity? ;-) 

And she clearly enjoyed herself. I've commented before that "you did more things than me" suggests that Satsu was really into this, really enthusiastic and enjoying the sex for its own sake, while Buffy was more going through the motions because she didn't want to disappoint Satsu. Satsu's comment "you were amazing" definitely suggests that she didn't mind being the more active partner - quite the opposite: the fact that Buffy "let her" do "those things" is enough to make this evening "amazing". More evidence that she's not just a victim here.

In fact, Satsu's confidence compared to Buffy's panic attack over her sexual skills makes an interesting contrast to their behaviour in the previous issue when they were out Slaying. It's indicated by the casual way Satsu sits up naked in the bed facing Buffy, while Buffy clutches the sheet over her chest in an insecure-looking fashion. She's also making wry comments again, about the instruction manuals. (My assumption from the way she mentions them is that she's read such things herself in the past.)

While I don't think Satsu went into this blind, it's clear that she has been allowing herself to get her hopes up... maybe Buffy really is secretly gay after all, or at least bi? Maybe there is some hope? Hence her crushed look when Buffy says that this might not go any further. It's one thing to assume bad news, it's another to actually hear it spelled out. Her immediate reaction is to clear out of Buffy's way - and notice that while she was perfectly comfortable with being visibly naked before, now she's suddenly covering herself up with the sheet just like Buffy is.

It's interesting that Satsu assumes that "I'm not sure it goes any further" means "this was just a one-night stand and it doesn't mean anything" - but Buffy is insistent that she doesn't want to shut Satsu out. That she actually wants to wake up beside her the next morning. Satsu is poignantly grateful for this consideration, making me feel really sorry for her; she's desperate for anything Buffy can give her. As for Buffy, she also seems to me to feel a genuine emotional connection to Satsu... she's just not sure if sex is likely to be a part of it in the future. Bear in mind, they're already friends; now they're friends who've slept together. Was it a mistake for Buffy to do this? Quite possibly. She's older, she's less emotionally invested in this than Satsu; she was in a better position to say "hold on, maybe this isn't such a good idea." But she didn't; and personally, I think that 24-year olds making the occasional poor choice in their love life is allowable. :-)  (*Thinks back to self at that age. Shudders.*)

Satsu is quick to agree with Buffy's desire for secrecy; I suspect that's simply because she wants to please her. Plenty of people have commented on the pattern this shows in Buffy's relationships - Spike as the main example, but also Angel in early season 3 - and that it's a harmful trait. Of course there are also practical reasons for her to keep it secret... accusations of favouritism from the other Slayers being one potential problem. There's also the fact that this is quite possibly something Buffy needs some time to think about... which to be honest I've not yet seen any comments on.

Sometimes fandom seems so permeated with slash, femslash and Torchwood-style pansexuality that it's hard to remember: for many people, having sex with a member of your own gender for the first time would be fairly major. Even if they come to the conclusion that they're not gay and it was just an experiment, they might want to contemplate things for a while, perhaps think through the implications, before they go around announcing the fact to all their friends, neighbours and work colleagues...  

(And if they do decide it was a one-off thing, even less reason to want to tell everyone about it).

And here we see a study in what happens when Satsu gets thoroughly and completely mortified with embarrassment. :-) Although she does seem to be at least trying to play it cool with her "Hi Renee", while Buffy is falling out of bed in her urgency to hide from Xander and Renee. Incidentally, Renee's utter disbelief suggests that she, at least, hadn't suspected anything was going on between the two of them - despite my suggestion earlier that Leah might have a few thoughts along those lines. I'm assuming Satsu hasn't discussed her feelings for Buffy with any of her friends... or at least not with Renee.

In her final scenes so far, Satsu has got over her embarrassment, but she's definitely not happy. The first picture looks like she's fighting back tears, but in the second she almost looks resentful - or maybe just miserable and distant. In the third she's downcast and perhaps a bit ashamed. My guess would be that after the public humiliation they both just went through, Satsu has jumped to the conclusion that Buffy will be avoiding her like the plague from now on. That any chance of them getting together permanently (however slim that chance might be in reality) has now been shattered. 

Given the way she blamed herself over Twilight beating Buffy in 8.11, it's possible that Satsu is also feeling guilty because Buffy is suffering because of her: she's let her down again. That is particularly likely in the third panel: she presumably knows Willow was Buffy's close friend, and Willow is acting bewildered and hurt and a little accusatory, and Satsu is blaming herself for spoiling their friendship.

She may also be blaming Buffy, of course. I've said above that I disagree with the idea that Satsu was the helpless victim of a seductress in all this, but if she's currently feeling upset and bitter and hopeless, it would be understandable if part of her is thinking it's all Buffy's fault for agreeing to go to bed with her in the first place, and maybe wondering if she was just using her for self-gratification.

Mostly, though, I think she's just worried that Buffy will never speak to her again. To find out if that's true, we'll have to wait until the next issue comes out...

(And if in 8.13 Satsu betrays Buffy to Twilight, gets killed, and becomes an Evil Dead Lesbian Who Is Written Out Of The Series The Very Next Episode After Having Sex With The Heroine, I won't be a happy bunny...)


Tags: buffy, meta, season 8
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