Karma and the Right to Punish in Girl from Nowhere

Marius Carlos, Jr.
Jul 5 · 6 min read
(PHOTO | VOX POPULI PH)

Girl from Nowhere (SOUR Bangkok) features distinct interpretations of discipline and punishment in human society. What’s clear from the beginning is that the mortal realm is guarded by unseen and rarely understood forces that decide how balance and justice should turn out.

While Girl from Nowhere is entertaining as it presents a pastiche of popular culture and present-day issues, it also poses serious questions on how concepts like punishment, revenge, retribution, and justice are perceived and, most importantly, how they should be meted out, and by whom.

It’s a Nanno World

Nanno (Chicha Amatayakul) is a high school student in Thailand who transfers from school to school, exposing what is perceived as undesirable behaviors and traditions in modern Thai society.

Nanno makes it clear that seemingly insignificant practices and create uncontrollable ripples in reality’s continuum. Once something is set into motion, humans only have a few opportunities to make it right.

In the series, Nanno’s targets are characterized as selfish, dishonest, and almost always permanently set in their ways. They are unable to change until it is too late. Nanno’s brand of karma is often brutal, life-changing, and permanent. For example, in season two, episode one (“Pregnant”)[1], Nanno allows Nannai, the school’s most popular male student, to flirt with her so that he can get into her pants. Nannai is the school playboy, having impregnated more than a handful of his classmates/schoolmates. Once a girl is pregnant, he immediately bails to look for his next quarry.

He ‘scores’ with Nanno after three days and immediately becomes pregnant. He has erectile dysfunction and a shrinking penis mere days after having sex with Nanno. True to her nature, Nanno remains unshaken and observes the changes to Nannai’s body after the affair. Nannai experiences accelerated gestation. In what appears to be mere weeks, he was ready to give birth. Nannai delivers a healthy daughter via c-section and is left to care for the infant alone, having been driven out by his father. His previous girlfriend and Nanno both wish him luck but do not commit to anything. Nanno is particularly angry with men who take advantage of women.

Nanno can be described as a shrewd and intelligent girl with a slew of supernatural abilities that aid her in her quest for directing karma in people’s lives.

Karmic Justice

Nanno does not prevent people from committing evil deeds. Contrary to what protagonists commonly do, Nanno makes sure that evildoers can proceed with their plans, no matter how severe the outcomes may be. Nanno provides choices to people and the resources to get it done. However, the actual doing remains in the hands of people. In a way, Nanno also represents the conscience of the characters — the inner dialogue that ensues when a person is about to commit something wrong. The interactions between Nanno and her targets highlight the subjects’ awareness of their misdeeds, but they always proceed, nonetheless. As Nanno engages her targets directly, she barely exerts efforts to negate their falsehoods and hypocrisy. Instead, she asks them questions concerning their choices in life. These moments are cleverly hidden traps, as Nanno exploits human nature, and she knows that people will wrong others at the heat of the moment because of fear or the desire for revenge.

The series emphasizes that people have always had the power to choose good over evil (and vice versa) and beings like Nanno exist to ensure that intentions are carried out to the very end — even if it means eventually, some decisions will lead to the demise of others.

With the rebirth of Yuri and the subsequent “passing down” of the powers to Junko, we can infer that there may be many others like these three girls.[2] Despite not having any clear origin, Junko, Yuri, and Nanno possess powers to amplify karma and the consequences of people’s actions, and they also serve as catalysts for systemic change. The nature of these changes is also up to humans, who are often

On many occasions, Nanno allows people to have their way with her. Nanno is routinely assaulted, battered, raped, and killed in Girl from Nowhere, only to reappear a few scenes later, completely healed and unaffected by assault and even outright murder. While there is a transparent comic element as other characters are set up for fear and shock, it’s clear that Nanno demonstrates that she belongs to a race of beings that can be deemed immortal because they can regenerate from assault repeatedly. However, Nanno’s main rival, Yuri, appears to have discovered that their immortality is tied with their obedience to a more extensive system of laws that forbids explicitly questioning their purpose. When Nanno did not respond to Jane’s question about whether she deserved her punishment for running away from her family and her social media identity, JennyX, Yuri immediately appeared beside Nanno to mock her. Yuri accuses Nanno of questioning her purpose and her judgment’s righteousness, and therefore, the slash on her neck remains bleeding, signaling that she has become mortal.[3] Thus, Nanno’s immortality and other powers seem to be tied to her blood. A more considerable influence appears to be in charge of regulating these karma directors, so we can say that it’s unlikely that they would commit anything beyond their authority to do so.

Whose Laws and Whose Traditions?

The big question is: what’s the nature of the powers that control Nanno, Yuri, and Junko?

Very little is known about Nanno’s past, and perhaps her origins are of little consequence to the work that she’s been doing for decades. It is also unclear how old she is, and only the audience is fully aware of her immortality and how she maintains her youthful appearance.

By ‘complex,’ we do not allude to anything monolithically grand or beneficial to the entirety of human society. Nanno focuses on the excesses of humans — so much so that the amenities spill over to others and cause harm. Particularly interesting is how Nanno deals with both the establishment and the individual — the tyrannical bent of individuals who seek pleasure and desire and institutions who repress and oppress, following ancient molds and traditions. Nanno disrupts ideology by magnifying portions of it and allowing entire systems to choke on its excesses. Whether social-climbing tendencies or a corrupt school siphoning money while neglecting its students, there’s always something amiss and someone to punish.

The Girl from Nowhere clarifies her position every time — I did it? Weren’t you the one who did all of those things?

To be clear, Nanno lies when she says that she doesn’t do anything to people. She possesses capabilities that make people do things (including mass hysteria and mayhem), but only after the target makes a clear choice. Like the classic trickster in literature, Nanno outlines the conditions of each action, smiling all the while. Nanno possesses a deep understanding of human nature and knows exactly what will happen after a person decides. Again, she allows people to commit both good and evil. Her participation in the mayhem that ensues is she’s capable of influencing others to widen the path for the deed to be done.

Nanno’s brand of karma also transcends class distinction. In the episodes Wonderwall parts one and two, the soccer team manager, Bam, proceeds to punish those she perceives have oppressed her — including Nanno, who was assigned the soccer team’s role. Bam writes her vengeance on a magical wall in one of the cubicles in the school’s toilet. Eventually, Bam manages to kill a school janitress for erasing her scribbles on the wall.[4] Eventually, Nanno speaks about how power corrupts everyone, from the poorest and most oppressed to the rich and most oppressive.

Nanno rejects the notion of ‘righteous power’ but continuously punishes humans as she sees fit — perhaps because she mankind’s soldier of ‘universal retribution’ or ‘universal justice-’ the personification of humankind’s excesses and how society tries to make up for its countless sins throughout history.

[1] “Pregnant” Girl from Nowhere, directed by Pairach Khumwan, season two, episode one, SOUR Bangkok, Jungka Bangkok & GMM Grammy, 7 May 2021 https://www.netflix.com/watch/81310445

[2] “The Judgement” Girl from Nowhere, directed by Pairach Khumwan, season two, episode eight, SOUR Bangkok, Jungka Bangkok & GMM Grammy 7 May 2021 https://www.netflix.com/watch/81310452

[3] “JennyX” Girl from Nowhere, directed by Jatuphong Rungrueangdechaphat, season two, episode seven, SOUR Bangkok, Jungka Bangkok & GMM Grammy 7 May 2021 https://www.netflix.com/watch/81310451

[4] “Wonderwall Part 2” Girl from Nowhere, directed by Jatuphong Rungrueangdechaphat, season one, episode seven, SOUR Bangkok, Jungka Bangkok & GMM Grammy, 19 September 2018 https://www.netflix.com/watch/80241865

Marius Carlos, Jr. is a storyteller, essayist, and journalist. He is the Creative Director at Vox Populi PH. He is also the English editor of Rebo Press Book Publishing. He is an independent researcher focused on transnational capitalism, neocolonialism, empire, and pop culture. Contact him for writing projects. Visit Marius’ profile on Minds, MeWe, and Twitter. Email Marius: marius@voxpopuliph.com.

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Vox Populi PH

Vox Populi PH is led by an organization of young writers who want to create new, critical spaces for literature, analysis, and community journalism for readers of all ages in the Philippines.

Marius Carlos, Jr.

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Ideas, a whole lot of them.

Vox Populi PH

Vox Populi PH is led by an organization of young writers who want to create new, critical spaces for literature, analysis, and community journalism for readers of all ages in the Philippines.