Potential and entelechy in C – Control: reflections on episode five

As a concept, potential is difficult to grasp as it’s more about the impression the viewer gleans from what he had just seen. One can roughly gauge how much potential a series has, however, even in its very first episode. I have observed that series with high potential are often the series that end up to be the best examples of anime, but this potential can be misleading at times. One of the most notable examples of this (most of the denizens of /a/ actually agree regarding it) is Eden of the East. Some weeks ago, I wrote about how good Eden of the East possibly was (it had a very high potential, judging from its first episode), and yet it smoldered into embers at the end of the series. The movies did little to augment the ending’s failure: it only prolonged the agony and turned more people away from recognizing it as among the best.

I thought this was a sweet scene.

Certain series, however, build much expectation and possess such a torrential potential even before the airing of its first episode. A very recent example of this is C – Control, as the title of the series and the absence of information regarding it seemed to project an aura of mystique and intrigue around it. The exemplary director of Mononoke and the Bakeneko arc of Ayakashi certainly helped bolster that expectation. The most that people knew about it was that it revolved around business and finance, and that was certainly enough for me to watch the series.

Some people expected a modern translocation of the great series, Spice and Wolf. Others, like me, expected a robust, action-oriented anime. The fact that the series was going to be directed by Kenji Nakamura made it seem that despite the genre, the series could have that psychological edge that pervaded previous works of his.

The first episode of the series was, indeed, action-packed. The viewer’s introduction to the Financial District was during a Deal taking place. There were three notable things, however, that made the episode not as inviting as it should have, given Nakamura’s previous series.

  • The fights were derivative.
  • There is, frankly, no way around this. A lot of people commented regarding the similarity of the battle dynamics between Yu-Gi-Oh and the series. Gamers also noted the similarity with the fight in the first episode and the fights in the Shin Megami Tensei series of games. It’s even more damning that the similarities aren’t limited to there: the cards used in YGO were also heavily invested in mythology in the same way that the ‘cards’ in C also allude to a mythos.

  • The series relied on the supernatural.
  • I’m not saying that this is essentially bad, but there is an element of escapism utilized when something uses the supernatural to deal with something essentially mundane. The inclusion may be thought of by some people as a cop-out, although personally, I didn’t really mind – and I still don’t.

  • The business and finance are dealt with only tangentially.

    While there is indeed business dealings going on the real world, it is not with the logic or the intensity that Spice and Wolf, for example, dealt with economics and economic practices. It is not with seriousness or gravitas, like Kaiji does, for example, with its exchanges and characters. The financial terms used were only utilized as attacks by assets, but they are, ultimately unimportant to the series’s plot: they’re just fancy names. Someone complained that there was truly no application of economics, and this led to a few people dropping the show.

    * * *

    Over the course of the four episodes, I have attempted to prove time and again that the creators of this series were not lazy: the symbols that they utilized in the episodes were very consistent, and their imagery was also consistent with qabalistic phenomena. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that even the QR squares of the ED possess meaning. The creators of the show, despite what the QUALITY may present, aren’t lying down on the show. They are actually trying to execute the show the best way they can. Pertinent problems, however, still persist even up to the latest episode that forces the critical viewer (me, in this instance) to rethink his perceptions and expectations of the series.

    Let me begin with my central thesis: the fights are the central problem of this series. It may not have been blatant, but it seems the creators ran out of ideas especially in the synthesis of their battles. This is evidenced in that it was, if I remember correctly, the first episode where a blatantly non-financial term was utilized in battle. A dead man’s trigger is a fail safe. Reading the article, it mentioned The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which was also the first film I truly recalled that had a dead man’s trigger as an important element in the plot. In summary, if the man died or fell down on the job while he was driving the train, the train would stop after a set distance or set time to protect the lives of its passengers. A certain weight was needed to control the handlebar: if there was no weight, the train would stop eventually. It’s a simple mechanism, but it’s certainly something non-financial.

    One could argue that it was merely a fluke or an oversight by the creators; however, I doubt Great Wall pertains to any financial action. I recall a certain part of China being flanked by a Great Wall, but there is certainly nothing economic about that. Through that alone, I discovered that while the series illustrates and synthesizes its milieu excellently (another suit of Cups was utilized during Kimimaro’s battle), its fight scenes leave a lot to be desired. From this alone, the series’s potential essentially dwindled from an enlightened commentary on the status of business to a highly entertaining yarn that may improve as the series progresses. Some denizens of /a/ believe that the show is an allusion to what is currently happening to the world economy, but little more than that. In that regard, sadly, it loses even more of its originality.

    The suit of cups again is seen

    In retrospect (as we are nearing the halfway mark of the show), I now believe that the complaints of certain viewers from /a/ regarding the series to be a YGO series about money has gained merit. It does seem to invite more people from the younger age groups than the older age groups, although I still refrain from considering it as ‘shounen shit’ despite failing to progress depthwise: from the very beginning, the viewer is inculcated of the Financial District’s power and its existence as a necessary evil, and little has progressed from there. The character development, however, is quite admirable as one is slowly seeing the protagonist gain more and more resolve: a spectre lurks in the shadows, however, when the viewer is reminded of the obvious parallels between Mikuni and Kimimaro’s relationships with their assets.

    When I said two paragraphs ago that the series will lose more of its originality if it merely presents what is currently happening to the world economy, I meant it: The International is a 2009 film that chronicles a certain investigator digging in to the malicious actions of a certain powerful bank on reality. The bank controlled economies, financed war, and destroyed lives, just like what the FD has been doing in C. There is an asset who helps the investigator in his search for answers.

    The ending was really what caught me, as it may very well be the ending of this series. Despite the fact that he knew who were behind the bank and tried his best to control their rule, they were merely replaced, leaving him bruised, battered, but little the better. He played in a world where the stakes were too large for one man to control. While I hope it won’t happen in C, I honestly have the feeling that Mikuni is shaping Kimimaro up to be his heir. I hope the series ends more positively, though.

    While the series remains to be very enjoyable, it feels like Eden of the East all over again. I’m a lot more prepared this time, though.

    P.S. I may have made a mistake regarding the Tetragrammaton, because as Angelus pointed out, the Jewish alphabet are all consonants. I stand corrected.

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  • 7 Responses to “Potential and entelechy in C – Control: reflections on episode five”

    1. nerdchills Says:

      Yeah, to be honest, the only thing that makes the series enjoyable for me are your blog posts.
      I was intrigued by the first episode, but the series quickly fell into mediocrity. As of the fifth episode I no longer care to know where they are going with this, and the badly animated fights are no reason to keep watching.
      Nothing like Mononoke which intrigued me right from the start, but also got better and better with every story arc.

    2. Michael Says:

      Thanks for that compliment, nerdchills. I think that as long as you lower your expectations the series is honestly shaping up to be a good character drama. It may not be as good as Mononoke, but the series is showing life and progress, especially with the fifth episode. Just enjoy it as a different series. 🙂

    3. Michael Says:

      I wrote this comment c/o Arabesque.

      Like I said here before, I consider [C] an amazing anime.

      Much like you’ve pointed out, this anime draws inspiration from a diverse number of sources. Yugioh, Eden of the East, Spice & Wolf, Persona 3, Beyblade, Pokemon, Code Geass, Death Note, Mononoke, Trapeze etc. It also amazingly cheap with low production values and horrible artwork, the music has been done on the airing day etc. and yet, despite all of that, despite how much the potential of this series becoming a train wreck, it manages to not only be entertaining, but also interesting to watch from start to finish. It’s far too cleaver for what it appears as.

      Now the YGO! comparisons, while I think are a great deal of fun, may have confused some as that the battles here in [C] are the same as they are in YGO! (going by what I’ve seen in /a/ and AS that might be the case) The difference is, where YGO! had initially ridiculous rules that had no bearing whatsoever on the actual game, and then moved into a similar rule set but constructed absurd card/monster effects to get out of desperate situations (in an attempt to create false tension) [C] on the other hand follows closely the laws it set (I think someone translated the laws of the Financial district earlier) and then creates interesting situations around them.

      As if this show is targeting a younger audience, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. It could be the constant problem all noitaminA programs seem to be having with trying to figure out which segment they are trying to target.

      I personally think that it’s something similar to what Dragon’s Den has done. It’s clearly a show with actual business thinking process and decision making going in the background, but a whole lot of the foreground is all entertainment, making the show appear less ”economic” to not drive viewers away.

      * * *

      I’ll reply later.

    4. Dave Says:

      I’m sorry, but I’m confused on the correlations between this and Death Note, Code Geass, Yugioh? However, you seem well versed on a number of topics, and much more so with anime than myself.

    5. Michael Says:

      Dave:

      I haven’t related DN, CG with this series. The battle system seems similar with YGO’s, but with the recent episode that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

      Arabesque:

      Indeed, it is much more clever than it appears. The director has done excellently with his limited budget, and has handled the limitations well.

      Thanks for the comment.

    6. Maria Says:

      economics terms are different. for instance, would you have ever imagined that “black swan” ever meant anything in econ? basically in econ those odd terms are constantly made up to explain things, so “Great Wall” (not the Great Wall of China) actually does have a meaning in econ. and correct me if i’m wrong, but i believe it meant that growth was coming to a blockade, or something on the lines of that haha econ isn’t one of my strong points.

      i personally liked the anime, it does give simple albeit extreme explainations to the going-ons of the world. for instance, mikuni is basically acting like how all the countries did, pumping “stimulus packages” i.e. QE1 and QE2, in to the economy. it is kind of similar to the show’s idea of using the future to save the now. as the money that are used in the QEs are considered as debt, which must be paid off with future taxes. however, you’re right in saying that the econ/finance terms have nothing to do with the show itself. but at least he’s consistent with them haha~

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