Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 09: the limits of possibility

The previous incarnations of Watashi, while being mordantly cynical, were never really evil. All of them chased for the elusive rose-colored campus life, and all of them failed. As the incarnations evolved, however, they’ve slowly learnt that love is the answer: that was the purpose of the past three episodes, after all. Despite their indecision, however, most of these incarnations have never been short of virtue: it was often a self-conscious set of values that plagued and ultimately doomed these incarnations.

This was not so, at least in the current incarnation of Watashi. Whereas the past Watashis all have a small vestige of virtue, this Watashi was determined to go the other way: he was determined to do everything necessary, even evil, to achieve his goals of a rose-colored life. The leader of the bicycle thief that ultimately doomed Watashi’s efforts in the third episode now turned out to be himself: he has become the avatar of evil and corruption that he was trying so hard to avoid in the third episode. The viewer is also reminded of the first episode in the introduction, where Akashi called Watashi an idiot (this time, however, she slapped him). Even in his fiendish behavior and his evil, his heart still felt a pang when Akashi told him that.

He has turned back from what endeared him to her.

He has turned back from what endeared him to her.

It is also quite notable that pieces of the previous episode are slowly falling into place: there is a suggestion as to the reason why Higuchi knew what he knew about Watashi in the first episode, and it ties heavily with the appearance of the ultragroup that controls the entire university. Higuchi, after all, is connected with Ozu. The prominent Jules Verne novel that appeared during the fourth and fifth episode also reappeared this episode, and it was with Higuchi. Some more imagery from the fourth episode appeared in this one. Higuchi still remained to be Ozu’s master, and that was the reason why he always escaped the clutches of Watashi.

As the episode progressed, it’s also become more and more clear: Watashi does not have the ruthlessness to rise up in the ranks of his current club, because he is still fundamentally scrupulous. He does not like to dwell in the unhappiness of others and it has been reiterated throughout the series that it is this lofty idealism that keeps on bringing him to his doom. Because of his failure in the Library Police, he was transferred into the Print Shop. What has once been just speculation is now becoming more and more coherent: it is the Print Shop that ties the fraudulent reports with Ozu and Watashi as evidenced by the previous episode arc.

In the previous arcs it was suggested that one of those who typed up reports was Akashi: this episode is a confirmation that she is an excellent student in addition to being an excellent club member. The omnipresence of Ozu in those different arcs is also alluded to with his power in the secret society. In this universe, however, it is only Ozu who troubles people with fireworks from across the river. Watashi has become too busy as a delivery man to take part in Ozu’s hijinks.

Ozu and his fireworks

Ozu and his fireworks

Because of his tricks, however, he destroyed a good amount of reports and as a result, a lot of people failed in their classes. This was recognized by Aijima: he assigned Watashi with a solo mission with the target of knowing Akashi. Aijima’s presence in the Reading Circle Sea and in the Misogi movie club is also clarified with this episode: acting as a second fiddle, no one would believe he was the mastermind of the venal and ubiquitous underworld secret society. In Watashi’s words he was the jester in Jougasaki’s court.

Watashi followed Akashi into the woods. The moths had returned once again to pester Akashi. It could be seen that she falls into his arms as she rolled on the hill. One of the more instructive and insightful lines that tells us about the whole series was said by Akashi: ‘I don’t know why, but it’s always come back to me, even if I didn’t search for it (pertaining to her lost Mochiguman).’ It’s always come back: Watashi always does come back to Akashi. The final Mochiguman as Akashi symbolism isn’t very far fetched: in fact, he dressed up in the color of the lost Mochiguman itself to protect her in the previous episodes.

The return of the moth

The return of the moth

Ozu, despite his mischief and trouble, once again evinces his friendship to Watashi. He gives Watashi the lost Mochiguman of Akashi, even though it was difficult because it seemed as if it wanted to be picked up by someone. The reason of Jougasaki’s escape with Kaori and his wish of help from Watashi is also given some clarity this episode: it was because of the actions of Aijima (or Higuchi, but he’s also part of the Proxy-Proxy war that the secret society is also involved with). When it was time, however, to interfere with Jougasaki’s love for Kaori Watashi decided to run away.

He still did not lose his sense of virtue and respect toward love. It is this sense that led him to such tragedy in the previous episodes, this virtue that reflects a stultification of his desires. It is the virtue that showed his cowardice and his autism. Despite his bad feeling, however, the fortune teller placates him in a tone that was much different from her previous incarnations: she placates him instead of warns him while essentially repeating the same thing: ‘opportunity hangs, and it is left for you to grab it.’ In his fear, however, he hides in a manga cafe reminiscent of what he mentioned in the first episode, but due to a different circumstance this time around.

Aijima was deposed with luck and with Ozu’s strategies. Ozu now took the place as the manager for the secret society, and assigned Watashi to be the head of the Cycling Corps that was his bane in the third episode. What happened afterward was the introduction.

Watashi had already tasted being in the presence of many women because of his seedy actions. He thought that it was the rose-colored life he dreamed of. But in the end, surrounded by sepia and his solitude, it seemed that the slap affected him more than his affluence: what he had was still not what he desired. In this pensive mood, however, Higuchi returned 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to him having finished reading it after two years have passed. This reminded me of the fifth episode, where the exact thing happened without Higuchi’s tears.

I got to where I am believing in my own potential,’ Watashi said while he continued the chat with Higuchi after having eaten ramen. This was an extremely telling statement: this is the confirmation of his autism, and it also supports my idea that

[h]e’ll probably realize that there was no rose-colored college life to speak of in the first place, really, just an honest love between two people that makes life all right. [from AnimeSuki]

Higuchi’s reply, however, is one that belies his happy-go-lucky behavior and aloof actions:

You cannot use the word ‘possibility’ without any limitations. Can you become a bunny girl? Can you become a pilot? Can you become a famous singer, or a superhero who saves the world with his powers? […] But if you keep focusing your gaze on that which is unrealistic, you never will. The root of your evil is in always relying on one of your other possibilities to get your wish. You must accept that you are the person, here, now, and that you cannot become anyone else other than that person.

Higuchi continues further, and it is eerily similar to the above statement I made before the episode even came out:

There is no rose-colored campus life, because there is nothing rose-colored in this world.

Despite these wonderful reflections and proverbs from Higuchi, however, Watashi got taken by underlings of the secret society because they revolted against Ozu in the same way he revolted against Aijima. The identity of Ozu’s girlfriend, the one that Hanuki mentioned in the sixth episode is gradually becoming clearer: she is Kohinata-san, as what Quarkboy said, and the reason that he went to the Honwaka headquarters in the fifth episode. He wanted to steal her father’s airship so that they could look at the five mountains in the sky. Despite his mischief and discordant nature, his feelings for Kohinata are purer than Watashi’s feelings, as Hanuki noted.

Kohinata-san, indeed

Kohinata-san, indeed

Unlike Watashi, Ozu tried to enjoy his life as much as possible, not aiming for impossible ideals or perfection. He loved; he enjoyed meaningless things; but he enjoyed them fully. He made what little possibilities he had into reality. It could be seen that the ending no longer had a clock resetting: finally, despite the somber ending, our Watashi has become grounded in reality.

* * *

I’m sorry, but I just had to add separate notes this time around. The episode was simply excellent, as excellent as any anime episode can be. I’ve had an unlucky string of consecutive bad days, but this just broke me out of it and made me smile at its intelligence. This was what I needed, and I’m grateful for the series’s continuing excellence.

Higuchi’s riposte to Watashi serves as excellent philosophical fodder. I don’t know much about philosophy, but I do know some of its major figures that support his statement. In response to Jean-Paul Sartre‘s argument on the infinite autonomy and possibility of consciousness, Max Scheler posited an argument that was a worthy reply to an idea of Kant, and to Sartre as well (I read this from Merleau-Ponty‘s essay on Temporality, however, but this was the only thing I remembered):

‘รขโ‚ฌยฆ the Kantian idea of an intention which is tantamount to the act, which Scheler countered with the argument that the cripple who would like to be able to save a drowning man and the good swimmer who actually saves him do not have the same experience of autonomy

As much as the cripple intends to save a drowning man, he can’t. Despite the infinite possibility of his consciousness, the intention is just not tantamount to the act: ‘possibility’ cannot be without limitation. No matter what the cripple does, he cannot save the drowning man. In that regard Watashi is like the cripple who thinks about saving the drowning man: no matter what he desires, it’s unrealistic and nigh impossible despite his intentions, his consciousness, and the autonomy of his thought.

Watashi cannot become Superman in that span of time: he must accept who he is, and despite the infinitude of his intentions and ideals, he cannot realize them all. He is human, just like you and me. This is what he just discovered in this episode: he cannot escape into other possibilities if he thinks those possibilities are infinite, because they aren’t. Even in the failure of this episode one can be comforted by the fact that he no longer escapes into ‘another choice.’ This is progress enough: he no longer runs away from the truth.

* * *

Nine is twice of four-and-a-half. While that hypothesis seems pretty difficult to substantiate now, there is still credence in the fact that things have been quite cyclical, although they have interacted with one another a lot more than what I initially thought. This seemed to be the episode that tied together the first five episodes: it seemed as if it really was the 4.5 episode, and not the Honwaka one. Everything is now interwoven and interconnected with everything else, and the presence of the different characters now have coalesced: it’s as if their basic characteristics are known by us. It is the episode that ties everything together. The previous arc seemed to be a diversion from the original path which were the first five episodes, and this was its connection.

Quarkboy noted the significance of these signs. It's quite obvious that the sixth clockwise represents the Proxy-Proxy War. The seventh clockwise, with the 'ho' hiragana has a background of a bee, so I assume it's Honwaka. The X-marked circle represents the Cycling Corps.

Quarkboy noted the significance of these signs. It's quite obvious that the sixth clockwise represents the Proxy-Proxy War. The seventh clockwise, with the 'ho' hiragana has a background of a bee, so I assume it's Honwaka. The X-marked circle represents the Cycling Corps.

Quarkboy expands more on this here.

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10 Responses to “Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 09: the limits of possibility”

  1. ahr Says:

    Autism? I’m not sure I’d call it that. I agree, the episode was excellent. Its execution was superb, just like episode 3 was.

    What was quite important here to me (and you’ve omitted) was what Higuchi said after “nothing is rose-coloured”. That is, “everything is a bunch of colours mixed up, you see”. What colour do you get when all colours are mixed together? White. What colour is white associated with? Akashi.

    Also, this is perhaps wrong, but don’t you think that if Watashi is “you are spending overtime in your mother’s belly” (as Higuchi says), then there would be an umbilical cord? Wouldn’t the string attached to Ozu (but now cut) be just like this cord? I suppose Ozu is, in a way, a motherly-like figure, partly due to how he is looking out for Watashi. The only problem with this is that it’s attached to his finger rather than his belly in the show.

    I also find it quite hypocritical that Higuchi is lecturing Watashi on spending overtime in his mother’s belly, because if we remember that it is him (and the other leader of the Proxy-Proxy War, Jougasaki) who have been staying at university for an abnormal amount of time, relying on their parents. So perhaps they are different extremes, either one that Watashi would become if he were to “stay in his mother’s belly”.

  2. Michael Says:

    I don’t pertain to the psychiatric meaning of the term, but to its alternate meaning (that’s still very viable): it’s ‘a tendency to view life in terms of one’s own needs and desires,’ which is pretty much what Watashi has been doing with himself and his ‘rose-colored life.’

    I felt that I didn’t need to repeat what Higuchi said because I already mentioned it beforehand (in an eerily apt prediction of mine). That’s a good catch with white and Akashi, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I was thinking about this statement by Higuchi as well, but I was also perceiving it was just a figure of speech. As to what it means, I’m also unsure, but it may be an allusion to Watashi’s autism: he is sealed off from the world, too innocent, because he was shielded from reality. This is the reason he chases after only ideals, and this is why he fails. But it’s a nice assumption as well.

    Higuchi is a guy who goes with the flow and enjoys life the best he can even if it ultimately is meaningless. This ties in, I believe, with the wabi-sabi belief: nothing really lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is ever perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. ahr Says:

    I see.

    I took it symbolically rather than literally. The reason I mentioned the possibility of an umbilical cord is due to how after the string was cut by Ozu, he spoke of his birth.

  4. Michael Says:

    Ozu does act motherly to him at times and I’ve noted that in my posts. He does help Watashi despite himself, and I recognize the allusion. With his actions, he is also birthing Watashi into the world as well as helping him transcend his obsession with ideals, so I can at least recognize where you’re going towards. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you for the comments! If you see anything else of note feel free to question me.

  5. anime|otaku » Blog Archive » Comparative and comprehensive interpretations of The Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei)’s timeline through the first nine episodes Says:

    […] « Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 09: the limits of possibility […]

  6. Vendredi Says:

    I also think “autism” is possibly too harsh a term. Naivete, certainly. One interesting thing that did stand out is the clear parallelism between the naming of the Lucky Cat Restaurant and Neko Ramen, and how Watashi is at the same time surrounded by two vastly different influences – Aijima and Higuchi.

    It’s interesting to note too, that the central character of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, is “Nemo”, a “no-man”, secluding himself underwater because he cannot stand the company of civilized men.

  7. Michael Says:

    Yeah. In that sense the novel is quite apt.

    But isn’t he too conceited with himself? ‘Autism’ is quite harsh, I recognize that.

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