anehan: Elizabeth Bennet with the text "sparkling". (Tenimyu: Hizamazuke)
[personal profile] anehan posting in [community profile] princeoftennis
It's no secret that I'm obsessed with Atobe, so, speculation. Something [personal profile] branchandroot said in her response to my questions in my post about the Atobe family's financial situation about a year ago suddenly pinged me a little while ago. She called Atobe's father "a bit of a maverick" and clarified it with this:

Mostly because business has long equalled politics, in Japan and elsewhere, and Atobe-tou married a foreigner. That's... kind of a radical thing to be doing among those with clout, even today.

Couple that with the fact that it's difficult for foreigners, even if they have Japanese blood the way that Atobe has, to fit in in the Japanese society, to be considered an insider. Add into the mix that when Atobe was living in England, he was not accepted because of his Japanese blood. And suddenly his character makes so much sense.

Let's unravel that a bit. From Shinpuri, chapter 43 (and I admit that I'm not up to date with Shinpuri, so I don't know what the latest chapters may have said), we know that, as a child, Atobe suffered frequent losses in tennis. And not only that, he was disparaged, even bullied, by his peers. One of the taunts was that he was weak because he was Japanese. According to Atobe's own words, it was an unforgiving environment where nothing mattered except winning. He clawed his way to the top, though. The flashback doesn't say whether he won the respect of his peers, but at least he was the best player.

Fast-forward a few years, and we have an Atobe who is the captain of the Hyoutei tennis team and Hyoutei's student council president. In short, he's the top dog at Hyoutei, despite not really even being Japanese. How did we get from the losing, bullied player of his childhood to this Atobe?

I speculate that when he heard they were moving to Japan, he decided to reinvent himself. He decided that never again would he be bullied. The only way to make it impossible would be to be the one on top of the social hierarchy. And because he would once again be the foreigner, he would need something pretty outrageous to manage it. Thus, the "ore-sama no bigi ni yoi na" persona was born.

I say "persona" because I really do think a lot of it is a front. No doubt it has become ingrained for Atobe to act that way during the three years he has spent in Japan. However, the feeling I get from the Shinpuri flashback is that while Atobe had a burning determination to succeed, he did not have the kind of arrogance that he displays in Japan. What he did have (or possibly, what he developed) is an ability to read people and, I suspect, thorough self-knowledge. I think those are the key skills he needed in order to be able to become and stay the top dog at Hyoutei. Arrogance and flamboyance alone would merely have got him bullied again.

I think it's not at all surprising that Atobe would decide that he needed to ensure that he would never be bullied again. What is surprising is that he managed to do it. Certainly a lot of us have wanted to reinvent ourselves when we moved to a new place or a new school, but how many of us have really succeeded in it? Atobe did, and that makes me admire him all the more.

What do you think? Do you have your own theories about Atobe's character?
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