“You really are a nice guy, person who didn’t give me his burger.” – Nej
There’s something inherently comforting about fast food. It’s cheap, convenient, sinfully greasy and downright delicious. Fast food often evokes feel-good memories of childhood (thanks to the insidious power of fast food conglomerate marketing campaigns saturating children television programming). I have fond memories of receiving my first Happy Meal on a school field trip in elementary school. Best school lunch by the way–not only did it come with an awesome toy, the cheeseburger was pretty darn tasty.
While certainly not the only BBB episode to prominently feature food, the episode featuring Leonardo’s escapades with his alien friend, Amagranoff Luozontam Ouv Lee Nej (or Nej for short), uses burgers to regale us with a tale of an interspecies friendship that withstood the test of time. Burgers, the quintessential fast food item, operate simultaneously as items of privilege and as tokens of friendship in Blood Blockade Battlefront (Kekkai Sensen). The former operation is surprising because burgers, like most fast food items, are meant to be accessible, affordable to any buyer regardless of their socioeconomic class or status. Given their relatively low cost and their identity as casual fare, burgers are for everyone. But such a concept only seems applicable with those belonging to human society.
When Leonardo firsthand witnesses the discrimination Nej faces as a non-human–the poor guy can’t even walk into your fast food joint and order himself some fries and has to rely on getting consolatory half-eaten burgers from unapologetic drivers that run him over–Leonardo takes it upon himself to help Nej out by helping to buy the burgers he loves so much.
What starts off as an act of moral obligation soon blossoms into a budding friendship. In a city where the lines between human and non-human are tightly and rigidly drawn, Nej and Leonardo stand out from the crowd but we never doubt the natural ease and camaraderie between them. From the quiet satisfaction of chowing down on burgers, their talk turns away from food to deeper, more personal topics.
Leonardo: “I was worried…that maybe you might have forgotten about me.”
Nej: “Forget you? Leo, how big a fool do you think I am?”
Don’t forget. Don’t forget me. These words repeatedly flash at us, reminding us with the same insistence, the same desperation felt by Nej as he tries to hold in his pain, to prevent the spores inside him and escape the torturous ordeal as two disgruntled men beat the crap out of him for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. All because Nej doesn’t want to forget Leo. For how can a friendship be sustained without memory?
“Huh? that’s funny…are cheeseburgers supposed to bring me to tears like this?” -Leonardo Watch
Leonardo and Nej’s re-encounter proceeding almost verbatim hits all the right bittersweet tones. The answer is that: of course, without memory, a friendship falls apart. But amnesia-inducing mushroom gas fumes aside, despite our tendency to forget–in fact, it’s more accurate to say that we spend more time forgetting than remembering–there is something indelible about human memory, something that experience alone carves out permanently into our brains. When we forget something or someone important, we never lose them completely. Even if our friends forget us, or we forget them, a part of them stays with us and a part of ours stays with them, regardless of our awareness. Maybe it’s just a vague sense of familiarity, of having walked down a street with someone before, of having eaten a meal with them before. These echoes of familiarity, which make encounters re-encounters, in a way, remind us we are never truly alone.