Archive for the ‘C’ Category

A short preview to Summer 2011

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

I haven’t been around for the past two weeks because I have been difficulty dealing with some scholastic responsibilities. Besides, [C] had already finished, and it was a great, if ultimately flawed, series. Aside from probably a weekly archiving of Steins;Gate, I haven’t been watching anything: I haven’t even finished Ano Hana, because even if it is one of the best series from the past season I still thought [C] was more interesting. I don’t think I’ll also watch anything novel soon, seeing that our first finals for the year is coming our way next week.

I looked at the usual places and I haven’t seen any of the series I’ve been waiting for. For the time being I only have two, anyway: I’ll watch Blood-C because I love the character designs and especially how the lead character was animated, and I’ll watch Mawaru Penguindrum because one can’t ignore the director of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series. Last, but certainly not the least (I almost forgot), I’m watching Usagi Drop, because its manga has been critically-acclaimed. It also tells the story of a kind but aimless young man trying to cherish the life of a growing little girl. That’s my kind of anime.

I’m not as keen on this year as I was the previous year. I was coming off watching what was the greatest series of all time for me, after all. Does anyone know what Mawaru Penguindrum is going to be all about?

C – 11: the philosophy of hope and final symbolisms

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

I actually watched the episode beforehand, but I could never really organize my thoughts well enough to get out of the paper stage. Despite that, I still feel that I have to make my final post on this great series. It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s certainly one of the better series of the year. So far, it’s been one of the best in terms of provoking thought: while the ending may not have been as well-executed as Tatami Galaxy, it was still a great way to wrap up the series. The entire episode was composed of Kimimaro’s battle and its denouement, as can be expected from a final episode. No amount of summarizing would do it justice, although I must say that the QUALITY and BUDGET of this series reared its ugly head at an inopportune time. Faces were sometimes off, and the art was sometimes ugly, but the episode was dynamic and creative with its resources that its final twenty minutes passed by so fast.

I honestly expected a chess match between Mikuni and Kimimaro given the recent flux of events in C (fights were often eschewed in favor of character and plot development in the later episodes), but they fully showed the final battle that simply reaffirmed my stance that the series was essentially all about a clash of ethics between the main characters. Whereas Mikuni cherishes the present and only the present, Kimimaro hopes for a beautiful future.

Hope has been tackled by many philosophers throughout the years, but I have been decently familiar only with Marcel’s rendition of it. His definition of hope was ‘I hope in Thee for them.’ Thee is not the Christian God, or even a religious god, I think, but a higher being where one places his trust for the sake of other people’s benefit. I believed Kimimaro was the avatar for this hope, especially because he trusted in the ability of the higher being (the entities in the Financial District, perhaps even King Midas) for the sake of Japan’s future, sacrificing everything he ever cherished in his present so that others may live. Tying in with the Qabalistic and Tarot imagery that peppered the show throughout its run, Kimimaro seems similar to the Judeo-Christian Jesus in his self-sacrifice. He essentially killed his present self, losing the two people he has grown to cherish to a different historical reality. His parting with Msyu was bittersweet, and his realization that he would never see the Hanabi he liked ever again was heart-wrenching. Despite everything, he had no regrets other than he wished that he smiled during his picture together with Msyu.

That was nice.

There were few symbols evoked with the macroflations both Mikuni and Kimimaro performed. They didn’t have much of a connection with tarot symbols, although notably both were still heavily influenced by tarot mysticism.

Economic Blockade

Economic Blockade invokes the image of the octopus that activates during C, as well as a closed door. These obviously aren’t directly connected to tarot symbolism, although the skull on top of the image is quite similar to what appears on the Devil card. The card, after all, indicates an obsession or addiction to fulfilling one’s own earthly base desires. Should the Devil represent a person, it will most likely be one of money and power, one who is persuasive, aggressive, and controlling. That’s about right, considering that the invoker was Mikuni, and he was a person of money and power. He is also persuasive, aggressive, and controlling.

The reversal of the rotary press was merely Midas realizing that there are a lot of things that have much more value than money. It has little connection to tarot symbolism, but ties well with the message the episode was trying to deliver. Money is not the end-all or the be-all, and there are some things that money can never trade for.

And that’s it.

For me, the series was a great ride overall. I’ve had pleasurable debates and disagreements, not only on this site, but with people on /a/ who see the value of discussion. I’m still of the belief that the series was all about the ethics, especially because it was never about the money in the final episode, but their stances that they fought for. There were a good amount of inconsistencies and the series was clearly affected by the unfortunate catastrophe that happened in Japan some months ago. Despite that, however, it was a great show for me. The ending wasn’t brilliant, but it was competent enough to wrap the series up decently and cleanly. While Kimimaro failed at beating the house, he was able to give Japan back its future, and was happy that it was full of hope. That was enough for him.

C – 10: the Ouroboros, the Magician, and even benzene

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

I know very well that the few hundreds of pages of philosophy I’ve read does not make me a philosopher. I have much praise, thus, for Simone for explaining certain philosophical concepts, including the Aristotelian entelechy I’ve talked about the previous episode, very well to a novice like me. I did put in a lot of time and effort to read those essays and books; philosophy, however, is not my passion and I do not study it as much as others. I am grateful for his presence in developing my primitive philosophical interpretations.

With that said, I feel that the tenth episode is merely a continuance of the previous episode with regard to philosopy: for Simone, Kimimaro has finally crossed over into the realm of the aut-aut; for me, he’s simply had a pivotal catharsis. It may not be an existential question, but it is a catharsis nevertheless. I feel that the pursuance of philosophy during this episode would be redundant, although if Simone offers his commentary I would be sure to include it in succeeding posts, seeing that his work is well-thought of and enlightened.

For this episode, I am going to stick with what works best for me, and what I know best of all: I’ll return to symbols and their interpretations. This episode is unique in the sense that it has gone beyond mere tarot symbols and integrated different religions into a single picture.

Msyu’s macroflation, Overheated Economy, actually depicts Shiva, who is the Hindu deity of transformation and destruction. It’s simply apt, especially because Msyu was out to destroy with that macroflation. Shiva holds the Sommerfeld model of the atom in his four hands, and the Wheel of Fortune in two. Simply put, it depicts Shiva’s ability to both create and destroy: in some senses, he is fate himself. Kimimaro is also trying to take fate into his own hands – it’s quite apt.

Ace of Pentacles

In Jennifer’s Mergers and Acquisitions macroflation attack, the most telling symbol is the sole pentacle at the middle of the illustration. Quoting SuperTarot, the Ace of Pentacles creates new conditions for material success; it is a gift of money. Through this flation she was able to obtain Kakazuzu, Mikuni’s asset, from him. Although she ultimately failed, the imagery is once again apt to the foreground occurrrence.

Cannibalization

Cannibalization was clearly symbolized by the Ouroboros, which is a snake eating itself. It illustrates a cycle, but also presents an idea of eternity, due to its circular nature. It can be seen in the tarot card of The Magician, where the eponymous character wears it as a belt. I find that similarities between Mikuni’s stance with what the card represents: the card signifies the divine nature in man, which is what Mikuni shows by eschewing his own future so that the present may survive.

It’s also funny how this symbol inspired a certain von Kekule to device the structure of the benzene ring. Without an Ouroboros in his dream, he wouldn’t have done it. 🙂

Finally, but of course, not the least of all, the viewer sees that Jennifer’s sephira are all shining as compared to only the Keter (the crown)shining during the previous episode. This merely symbolizes that she has achieved a higher level of understanding, which is very much seen in this episode: after having decided to act for the sake of the future, she faces Mikuni without any regrets despite being defeated with Q’s rampage. Her enlightenment culminated in her sacrifice for the sake of other people’s futures.

Yes, this episode was awesome, but I really have little more to say about it.

C – 09: going through the spectra of philosophies

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I have a lot of ground to cover. I haven’t posted about the ninth episode primarily because I’ve been sidetracked by the start of school, and the return of responsibilities once more. Doki also haven’t been as speedy as I liked them to be, and it just snowballed from there. I did watch the episode twice already. Before I attempt to tackle Simone’s powerful rebuttal, allow me to posit my own thoughts regarding the episode.

* * *

During the previous episode, we were made privy to the consequences if C was allowed to activate. Not only is there devastation, the places that the Financial District often controls also disappears. It’s not limited to the focus, however: shockwaves destroy places proximal to it just as well. The destruction of one FD can trigger the destruction of other FDs, and this is what makes C so threatening. Japan became nearly bankrupt due to the failure of the Southeast Asia’s financial district: were it not for Mikuni’s interference Japan would also have disappeared as well.

His intervention came at a massive cost, however, not merely to himself, but to Japan. His belief, as I’ve stated in the past is reminiscent to Merleau-Ponty’s general perception of temporality, which is situated in the present. It is only the present that can give rise to the past as well as the future. The hope, however, that is often ensconced in the future no longer remained as it was sold as collateral by Mikuni. Japan’s progress spiraled downward as a result, and people found even less incentive to reproduce. Children represent both the future and the continuation of one’s legacy. Kimimaro was made privy of the love his father had for him when Jennifer pointed out his undiminished existence despite everything. There was little doubt that the reason he was preserved and extant was due to his father’s actions to avoid any tragedy that will occur to him.

It now becomes clear that one can juxtapose Mikuni and Kimimaro’s father as antipodes to one another: whereas Mikuni gave everything, even his soul, to preserve the present, Kimimaro’s father gave everything to preserve the future, his son. If the present only bore a persistent drudgery and a slog toward a bleak future, what use is it? If the future welcomed only death and despair, what use is the present?

It’s also become clear to me that Kimimaro has been in an existential crisis for the past eight episodes. Sartre considered god and religion to be the crutches of humanity but at the same time preventing man to express the full measure of his humanity. How is this? Because if one recognized that we are thrown, alone, into the world, it creates such a crippling fear when one knows that he has only himself to rely on. At the same time, however, by breaking past the constraints of religion one allows himself an open view of both the world and his humanity. But it’s so trying to man – upon his realization that there is no heaven, he is faced with the reality that he has only sixty or so years to be the best he could be by his own effort and humanity.

Kimimaro has been thrown into a dilemma such as this. Episode nine is pivotal because it is his catharsis breaking free of his crutches: he finally decides to act for the future by taking it back.

In contrast to my argument, Simone posits a different explanation for Kimimaro’s struggles. Do note that we perceive the series differently, and that he utilizes Kierkegaard’s lens scrutinizing Hegelian philosophy. I find him more able to express philosophical thoughts than me. Here is his explanation:

The starting point of Kierkegaard’s philosophy is his critical approach towards hegelism. In Hegelian Idealism, there are no real differences between two possible choices, because everything can be reconciled with its opposite. This process occurs in three, subsequent stages:

a) thesis – one choice is analyzed and determined; not a couple of two opposite choices, just one at this point. Ex: I choose to study architecture at college.

b) antithesis – The individual realizes that the initial choice can be defined, analyzed, determined, only when opposed to another, different choice. Ex: I choose to study architecture in college; this means I won’t study medicine, or economy, etc. All the opposite choices are already contained in the original choice, in an implicit and negative form, following the general statement that it’s impossible to define something without defining also its opposite (ex: light has no meaning without darkness, etc.)

By realizing that the initial choice implicitly contains all the opposite choices, that choice loses its original meaning and value.

c) synthesis – the individual realizes that every choice is the same, because one choice has, within itself, every other possible choice. The difference between them is only apparent; every choice is at the same level, has the same weight, and is ultimately the same thing.

Kierkegaard states that this is the realm of the et-et (and-and: where one choice is itself and its opposite), and the first and lowest stage of one’s existence. By thinking that everything is the same, the individual just accepts whatever the world has to offer, ultimately avoiding to make choices that have some actual weight.

This is Kimimaro’s initial stage (episodes 1-8). The lack of money is more of an excuse –it’s not like one has to spend money every time he hangs out with his friends!; Hanabi, in one of the early episodes, says ‘You have it [money], it’s just that you don’t want to spend it’. One other focal point in Kimimaro’s characterisation is one of the early confrontations with Mikuni, where Kimimaro states that he only wants to lead a normal, uneventful life. This is an example of the two different faces of Kimimaro: one is that he’s purposefully avoiding to make any ‘serious’ choice (lack of events means lack of choices), accepting passively the little comfort life has given him; the other is that this isn’t an unconscious decision. He has actually thought about what to do with his life, he has pondered every choice; he accepts this compromise rationally, but in his heart he isn’t happy. He cannot help but feel the anguish originated from this choice.

The realm of the et-et is ultimately void, because, without choices, one cannot achieve anything, but remains still at the starting line of his life, deceiving himself into believing he’s making progresses.

This closed loop of emptiness can be broken by making actual choices. The individual thus enters the realm of the aut-aut (or-or: one chooses one possibility or another; possibilities have an actual weight). This is Mikuni’s stage, and the stage Kimimaro reaches in episodes 9, when he reaches a point where he cannot simply accept the world the way it is, but he has to make a stand.

While the realm of the et-et, which embodies Hegelian Idealism, is seen by Kierkegaard as limited, unproductive for the individual, and generally negative, the realm of the aut-aut has not all the positive meaning it seems to have at first glance.

Making choices is a source of anguish and conflict; Kimimaro, by making a stand, has to oppose Mikuni; he cannot choose the path of coexistence. There’s also another aspect, represented by the [C] effect in episodes 8-9: the more our choices are vital, the more they’re bound to influence the life of others.

The concept of ‘infinite’ is far from everyday experience; thus, we have a very abstract image of the concept of ‘infinite possibilities’, when stated this way. But when one reflects upon one choice, its opposite, and every other possible choices that comes to mind; when one realizes that there may be many other choices that he just hasn’t seen yet, which may be better; when one reflects upon the implications on his future of every different choice, and the implications on the future of others – this is the moment when the concept of ‘infinite’ assumes a more concrete meaning and shape, and the moment where anguish originates.

The source of anguish is not ‘infinite’ as a concept, but rather the vast number of actual futures we can imagine in our mind, which are the only thing that have a concrete weight.

The more futures we can imagine, the more we are close to that ‘infinite’, the more the choice amasses weight.

Lowering the number of choices is dwelling into the realm of the et-et, where the number of choices, possibilities, implications is very scarce. The number of actual, concrete futures we can imagine in our mind is very limited, and so is their weight, also because of the relevance of the choice itself: only in the realm of the aut-aut, the individual makes important choices with repercussions onto the future of others.

The Financial District is another realm of the et-et, as I’ve stated in my analysis; if all the Entrepreneurs saw it in this way, the perverse and hellish game depicted in the series could turn into an immense playground, where even the butterfly effect spawned from choices (one choice influences other people, which make other choices, etc.) could be controlled, thus eliminating every possible side-effect. I think one of the messages of [C] is that even in a potential ‘perfect’ reality, where there could be no actual consequence to our actions, one cannot help but determine himself by giving to its choices an actual meaning; even in a perfect et-et reality, one has to live in the realm of aut-aut to be himself and exist, even if this is a source of anguish.

Clearly I’m out of my league compared to this guy – and I’ve already selected the parts in his letter relevant to this post. I’m going to close this post with his commentary on the Qabalistic symbols I’ve noted early on in the series.

In Hegel, the argument is not limited to choices. Everything is one and the same – literally everything: a computer, a tree, a star, the Moon, space, time, etc. are part of one single unit, the Absolute, which is, in other terms, the Universe seen not as the sum of different entities, but as a single, puntiform unit made of all the matter and energy within it. Only the Absolute has a meaning and a raison d’etre per se; the golden coin is a representation of this concept. Future becomes money; this means that individuals become money, too, and, ultimately, everything else becomes money, because mankind, as a whole, can influence everything on this planet through its choices.

In our everyday life, of course, we see every object as something different from ourselves; accepting that everything is one and the same would be rather radical if put this way. For this reason, Hegel systematically planned his philosophical publications into two different segments: one (the ‘Phenomenology of the Spirit’) describing the path through which the individual can take conscience and accept the concept of Absolute (the Universe as a single unit), and one describing the implications of this notion (several publications in three categories: Rationality, Nature, and Spirit, which is the individual nobilitated by accepting the concept of Absolute).

The path described in the ‘Phenomenology of the Spirit’ begins by analyzing common, everyday things, becoming little by little more abstract, and ultimately reaching the concept of Absolute. The thing I find interesting, in relation to [C], is that in Qabala and tarot mysticism we have literally the same process.

When seen like this, it looks like the top view of the Wheel of Fortune, especially because the Wheel of Fortune has eight spokes.

In tarot mysticism, the Fool (associated to the zero, or left unnumbered – he represents the purity, and the cruelty, of the infant) is the subject of an ideal journey from the material reality to the immaterial and inner reality (Star, Moon, Aeon), whose point of arrival is the comprehension of the Universe, the last card in the series. In Qabala, each of the ten sephiroth represents a different level of understanding of the soul, of the world and of God; the Tree of Life is the visual representation of one’s journey towards the last and more profound level of comprehension, Kether, symbolising the eternal perfection seen as a unit. I believe it’s not a case that it’s Kether the sephira that shines the most in Jennifer’s and Kimimaro’s Tree of Life, in episode 8: they both have reached the final level of understanding of the Financial District reality, and they both have finally decided to make a stand and take action (Kimimaro actually reaches this level in episode 9, but the turning point is in episode 8).

I actually noted the similarities of Masakaki to the Fool, and also noted the Malkuth as being the sephira taken away from Msyu. I did note that the Keter shined even in the early episodes, so I think it pertains more to the elevated nature of the sephira. It most definitely can pertain to the level of understanding Jennifer and Kimimaro have arrived at, however. What do you guys think?

The philosophy of C: a mock dialogue and a titular analysis featuring Kierkegaard and Hegel

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

I have often stated in previous posts that I am not very well-educated when it comes to philosophy, although I am indeed more knowledgeable on it than I am on economics. When people send me enlightening letters, however, I try my best to address what they write. This letter is special because it’s from someone who seems to know a lot more about other philosophers than I am; he also offers a different prism from which C can be viewed at. I can only welcome feedback like this. To Simone, thank you very much.

The mock dialogue

Simone: Michael, I hope you’re having a good day. I’ve been intrigued by your articles about [C]. Too often anime are seen as mere entertainment, subpar to other, more ‘serious’ media of expression. Reviewers seem to (forcefully?) avoid any debate set at an higher level than the usual topics – soundtrack, clichés present in the episode/series, character development, etc. I’m glad I’ve found someone willing to lighten up the discussion about the same series I like: I’m writing you to share my thoughts, hoping you’ll find this e-mail an interesting read.

Michael: First, thanks for the greeting and for the compliment. I do see most anime as entertainment, but I also try to give credence to it as a medium of expression. If certain anime pique my interest enough, I try to view the series through different lenses, so as to obtain more insight from it. Of course, it can’t be done to all anime series, but certain series like C are open to this interpretation and analysis.

Simone: The key concept of [C] is future. Future, in origin, is the realm of possibilities, which can become reality through the choices we constantly make in the present. This is also the way the future is comprehended in the present; but it’s more accurate to say that every possible future is comprehended in the present, not only the possibilities that will actually become reality. An individual chooses or discards one future through decision-making — it’s unavoidable. However, we cannot be sure a priori that choice A is better than choice B. And, even if we reach a higher level of happiness/wealth/etc. by making the ‘right’ choice, the amount of possible alternatives we’ve discarded, of potential future risks and subsequent[ial] choices spawned from that very choice, is infinite, and has a devastating weight, if compared to the weight of the individual’s inner self. We control the future through our choices, but we soon realize that this ‘control’ is illusory. One choice can never be deemed right or wrong, not even a posteriori. As a result, one collapses under the weight of the infinite possibilities in front of us, and falls in a state of perpetual anguish. Very Kierkegaardian indeed.

Michael
: You have to forgive me for being ignorant of Kierkegaard. I have indeed read a few pages of Sickness Unto Death, but I can’t say I read that closely. I have forgotten about it for the most part, and I have not undertaken Fear and Loathing as yet. So you’re saying that the weight of the potential choices clearly outweighs even a ‘right’ choice, and that anguish is the effect of these infinite possibilities? I do see your point regarding man’s illusory control of the future.

Simone: It’s fascinating that it’s not just a matter of philosophical debate, but also something experienced by everyone at some point of their lives. ‘Anguish’ is not just a concept, but a powerful feeling, too. I think Kierkegaard takes his own argument too seriously — not every choice has the same weight, nor is always cause of perpetual unhappiness: most of our everyday choices have a minimum impact on the broader scope of our lives. But his point still stands, if applied to the important choices everyone has to make in his life (studies, career, marriage/love interest, etc.). Whenever we think about the choices we’re not so sure about, we feel that very anguish; it’s indifferent whether we’ve already taken them or not.

Michael: I can relate to anguish. Everyone, I believe, has experienced it at some point in their lives. I do agree that not every choice has the same weight: some are simply primal and more important ones, and certainly choosing not to brush one’s teeth during a night doesn’t cause immediate death or devastating consequences, if taken in isolation. I have been watching dramas lately: this anguish is often what fuels these shows forward. Dramas are often about very important choices and the anguish that these characters feel when surrounded by such choices.

Simone: Kimimaro is rather Kierkegaardian in his approach towards life: he tries to avoid making even seemingly innocuous choices, like going out with his friends, and shows the tendency to seclude himself from the world. His way to control his future is to lower as much as possible the number of possibilities in front of him; his original objective is to lead a normal and uneventful life, free of the pain that striving for something difficult to achieve brings along.

Michael: He tries to limit his anguish by lowering the number of the choices he has to make. Is this what you pertain to as Kierkegaardian? By limiting the weight of the choices upon him, he is also lowering the amount of anguish he feels?

Simone: This is what makes Kimimaro the perfect candidate for becoming an Entrepreneur in the Financial District. It’s apparently a paradox, but to explain it, I have to talk about ‘possibility control’ first. Possibility Control is having control over one’s future. A choice has weight, and is a possible source of anguish, only if the possibility not chosen is discarded forever. This is the core of Heidegger’s Sein-zum-Tode, or being-towards-death: choices have a meaning only if our lifespan is limited. If we could live forever, we would eventually be able to explore all the possibilities lying in front of us, thus making the act of choosing irrelevant. But I’m digressing. Of course, making Kimimaro (and all the other Entrepreneurs) immortal wouldn’t have worked so well.

Michael: I have read and learned a bit about Heidegger, and I’ve written in a previous article that in contrast to Merleau-Ponty’s perception of the future as seated in the present, the idea of the Sein-zum-tode seems to be seated in the future. Choices have weight because we are temporally limited as human individuals, and the fact that we have a price to pay for every choice we make. Is this your point? How do you think this relates to Aristotle’s concept of entelechy? Aristotle proposed that potential may be immense (possibility), but it is entelechy that is much more important, which is the realization of that possibility. Possibilities are meaningless so long as they are unfulfilled. How do you think this relates to your argument?

Simone: The matter is resolved through Hegelian Idealism. If one cannot have an infinite amount of time to explore every single possibility, the only other way left to make choices become irrelevant, is to have every single possibility coexist during the limited lifespan of the individual. Narrowing down Hegel’s phenomenology to our subject of interest, if two opposing choices are reduced to a single unit, since every choice is linked to every choice made before, and to every choice that could be made afterwards, soon everything within the scope of the individual is comprehended into that single unit, even the individual himself. If one choice is, at the same time, itself and its opposite, there’s no actual meaning into making choices, since the number of possible answers is reduced from two (or three, four, … infinite) always to one and only one.

Michael: I’m having some difficulty understanding you here. I’m also not well-versed in Hegel, sorry. What does he mean – that there’s truly only one choice in life, as every choice is connected to one another?

Simone: This line of thought has no real limit, because every opposing force can be subverted and recomprehended into the unit; it can go well beyond the individual — everything becomes part of the unit (or absolute identity of Subject and Object): time, space, God, pain, love, people that make us uncomfortable or that we hold dear, death, sound, laughter, the objects we see everyday, everything eventually loses its autonomous identity, and holds some meaning only if related to the unit. A giant, floating, golden coin, whose value (or number of attributes) is ever-expanding, is an image that fits quite well the description of the unit.

Michael: Everything does seem to be contained in that floating coin. When that is taken away, a thorough devastation occurs.

Simone: How to convey the coexistence of two opposing choices through storytelling? In [C], we know that, every time an Entrepreneur loses a battle, some of his possibilities (or choices) are negated, and reality is reverted to its original state; or, in other words, whenever a battle is lost, a choice becomes its opposite. This way, an individual is unburdened of the anguish of choosing, since by controlling the results of the battles, one can freely explore his own potential futures without the fear of making the wrong choice. In [C], the conflict, as theorized by Hegel, is both unavoidable and ultimately meaningless, because everything, in the end, is recomprehended within the unit. Conflicts are only apparently avoidable: since a price has to be paid for it, there will always be consequences.

Michael: Every choice or possibility is gulped up by the golden coin, at the end of it all. And even when one attempts to avoid battle like Sennoza, he still has to pay a certain price for his avoidance. Is this what you’re getting at?

Simone: If an Entrepreneur desires to broaden the number of his possibilities, he has to win a battle; if he wants to take back one wrong choice he has made, he has to lose; if he wants to leave his present unchanged, he can even avoid conflict (if all Entrepreneurs were organized in one force, the price of avoiding conflict could be paid by someone who wants to go back on a choice, ultimately preventing everyone from giving up some of their possibilities against their will). Note that, since only Entrepreneurs have memory of the different past realities, the Financial District has, in fact, no actual effect on reality. The very definition of ‘different past realities’ is incorrect. The changes are perceived by the Entrepreneurs, as a result of their ability to go back on their choices, but they’re not real: every possible world is on the same level of every other possible world, they do coexist within the same timeline, and are ultimately the same thing, part of the same single unit. Bankruptcy and natural death (if an Entrepreneur never loses during his lifetime) are the ultimate failsafe: all the choices explored through the power of the Financial District are the incorrect ones, one can revert everything to its original state, and leave the Financial District. Everything will eventually be reverted to its original state, when the Entrepreneur dies (as a result of his inability to take part in any more battles). What on the surface seems a situation where one can only lose, is, in reality, an immense playground where an individual can explore the infinite realm of possibilities lying in front of him. The cost is the exact value of these possibilities: to enter the Financial District, an Entrepreneur must accept the coexistence and the ultimate loss of meaning of everything present in his life, past, present or future. The ever-expanding value of the giant, floating golden coin is the only thing which holds a meaning per se.

Michael
: Only the golden coin holds meaning because it is the only one that contains all the choices, right? Because when one joins the FD, he pays that cost of losing the meaning of his life?

This happens when the golden coin is taken away.

Simone: Now, onto the ‘money of soul’. Money is something that holds no real value per se, but embodies a value not in possession of a player in the economic market. In this case, this ‘value’ is the future, seen both as a single concept and as endless possibilities: Assets are the embodiment of the future as a single concept, while Midas Money embodies the endless possibilities (one possibility per bill, I’d say). Possibilities become something which doesn’t hold anymore a real value per se, that can be exchanged and traded freely. The money is ‘of soul’ because the value it represents is immaterial, and pertains to the realm of ‘soul’, or of the individuality of the single Entrepreneur.

Michael: You’ve made a wonderful comparison here.

Simone: The expression ‘The Money of Soul and Possibility Control’, thus becomes ‘the control of one’s future by making his individuality have the nature of money’, which, I think, summarizes this whole argument. Everything is already explained in the title, albeit in an obscure way.Thank you for taking the time to read all this. I sincerely hope you’ve found it interesting, and I apologise for the length of this e-mail. I hope to hear back from you. 🙂

Michael: Don’t. I am seriously impressed at your philosophical and titular analysis. I am only saddened by the fact that I have not yet exposed myself to the philosophers you refer to, and so can’t analyze your argument more thoroughly. This conclusion you’ve made is very impressive, however, and it does seem to me that the title is very apt especially when placed vis-a-vis the series itself. Thank you for this enlightening message. If you have time, kindly elaborate on the concepts that seem alien to me.

If anyone else is interested in Simone’s concepts, do post your reactions. I’ve already notified him. 🙂

C – 08: Hanabi’s monologue, and purple destruction

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

The episode surprisingly began at a different Financial District shown by the different central sun, and the different background. It seemed that the Financial District of Southeast Asia was falling apart. (That’s where I belong, by the way.) The viewer is introduced to what will happen when a Financial District becomes bankrupt: the entire area it controls disappears into nothingness. Mikuni again attempts to maneuver to minimize the effect of the bankruptcy, but he’s having much difficulty, as it seems that the Financial Districts were constructed to be reliant on one another. If one falls, the others are adversely affected.

Some people want to watch the world burn.

Ebara is at the nadir of his life, being unable to do anything and failing to obtain the children that he greatly treasured. Without Kimimaro’s intervention he would have certainly died earlier, but he still faced a tragic end later on anyway. No solution is offered by the Financial District, although the gold-teeth man offers direct reparations, to little avail as Ebara encounters an accident later on.

I saw this episode as more of the turning-point of the series: it is, after all, the episode where Kimimaro finally decides to act willfully, not minding the consequences and the opposition along the way. He has seen people fade out of existence, and is not comforted by a tenuous present leading to an unstable future. He would rather have a future he could believe in; this is in direct opposition to Mikuni’s aims of preserving the present, no matter what the future will become. Ironically, I see that Mikuni’s also trusting in the future: he hopes that his sister will be revived, and thus tries his best to preserve her vegetable state because of that hope. Hope is not rooted in the present: it is a belief that something will occur in the future through one’s diligence and hard work. Mikuni seems to be quite a hypocrite, no matter what he says.

I think it’s undeniable that the final scene of the episode was the most jarring. The only one left in the wake of destruction was a Fool similar to Masakaki. I’ve inferred in my previous posts that Masakaki may very well be the final obstacle of the series, primarily because The Fool is described as Nothing and Everything: it is considered by some to be the most powerful trump card in tarot mysticism. How the blue-haired Masakaki laughed as Singapore was being destroyed inspires a lot of suspicion – and makes it seem as he had planned the occurrence of the entire disaster. It’s really apt if the Fool was both Everything and Nothing.

Among other things, I’ve noted that the CMYK color wheel is observed with regard to the sephirot symbolisms at the back of the Entrepreneurs: Jennifer has a magenta colored one, while Kimimaro has a cyan-colored one. Others have yellow.

Her sephirot is magenta.

Finally, I think the reason behind Kimimaro’s money burning is symbolic to him: he recognizes that no amount of money can be exchanged for the future of a person, and that paper money is inherently worthless without people trusting what it represents (Taketazaki reaffirms this idea). I also think, despite my want of an economics knowledge, that he’s making the money more valuable: if more money circulates, then the less it’s valuable, I recall. That’s what happened to the Weimar republic and more recently, Zimbabwe where due to their excessive money printing their currency was essentially valueless. An economics major should correct me if I’m wrong, though.

The series is shaping up to be great, despite still distant from being a masterpiece, at least for me. It’s a great episode with a lot of areas one can discuss (like the strangeness of Hanabi, for example), but I find that focusing on the symbolism and the gist of the episode (as I did with this post) is what I wanted to do.

Hanabi’s monologue

Hanabi

Kimimaro? He’s a classmate from back in highschool. Even back then he was already boring.
Girlfriend? *snort* Of course he doesn’t have one. It’s like, he’s so stiff sometimes, no fun at all.
His face is not bad, so every now and then he gets girls confessing to him, but he always rejects them.
“I can’t go out with somebody I don’t really like”, he says.
I told him “it’s not like you’re marrying them”, you know?
But he doesn’t listen.
So even now he’s never had a girlfriend.
What, me?
Oh, he’s a good guy, and we get along, but it’s not like that.
Even though we’re the same age, he feels like a little brother.
Just looking at him I end up wanting to take care of him.
It’s because of his nature, definitely.
But really, he’s lived a rough life. Although in these times, it’s no surprise.
Sometimes I also sometimes feel really insecure, but I really don’t want to be discouraged, so I’m working my hardest for the Teacher Competency Test.
I love children, so I feel this is the only thing for me, but…
But recently it’s been a little strange, hasn’t it.
Sometimes I start thinking about a lot of things and just space off.
When I come to, it’s been like two hours.
My head understands, but my feelings just refuse to go along.
I’m hopeless, aren’t I?
…and recently he’s been so lively…
I have to do my best too.

C – 07: continuing the philosophical debate, tarot symbolism, and Q’s monologue

Friday, May 27th, 2011

The episode was, once again, great. It featured the backstories of Mikuni as well as developed the relationship between Msyu and Kimimaro more. I can’t help but think that the assets truly reflect the figurative futures of their entrepreneurs. Mikuni seems to care for no one but his sister, and his future seems to be mired with his sister perhaps getting well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Q looks a lot like his sister.

Change her hair color, and put horns on her head, and you'll see Q.

I don’t know what to say about Msyu and Kimimaro, however. They’re clearly developing, and Kimimaro’s falling for Msyu just as she is for him. This may suggest that Msyu is his future – that they will end up together, or that she may be one of the important people in his life later on. I can’t say Msyu looks like Hanabi, however. There are certain points in the episode that I’ve noticed, but they were disparate from one another so I divided the post into sections.

The philosophical debate continued: the temporality of Heidegger against Merleau-Ponty’s

What's this?

One of our lectures in a philosophy subject featured a discussion on temporality. The essay was written by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and I remember that it featured the concept of ek-stasis prominently. While I may have mentioned this term tangentially in the past, the concept states that man follows a continuous arc of time, and his egress into the future is a jumping out of his self (thus the term ek-stasis) into the future. Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that, and it doesn’t help that it’s been more than three years since my last lecture in philosophy. As I have had a lot more of philosophy than economics, I feel a lot more comfortable discussing the philosophical concepts imbued in this character drama that has economics as a backdrop.

I know I have rusted over time, however, but I have never forgotten the general gist of ek-stasis as explicated by Merleau-Ponty. I read more about it, so as to hone and remind myself a bit of that knowledge I gained back then, and so as not to be ignorant. The ethical battle occurring in Kimimaro’s mind is closely related to this philosophy of time. With more reading, clear similarities could be noted between the stance of Mikuni and Sennoza to the stance of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger.

Ek-stasis is a philosophical concept introduced by Heidegger and elucidated further upon by Merleau-Ponty. In a nutshell, Merleau-Ponty illustrates that our then (past) and there (future) has to be situated in a here, or the present. I can’t go into the nitty-gritty because clearly, while I’m not ignorant I know not much about the nuances of philosophy in depth. Merleau-Ponty used the term ek-stasis in the sense that man, from his present, can jump into his past and his future. There can be no there without a here, and no then without a here as well. Everything is seated in the present. This is much similar to Mikuni’s philosophy, and more light has been shed on why he has been acting as such: it was because of his father’s lack of focus towards his family that his sister has been in a coma for quite some time. Because of his father’s failure to act, his sister technically has no future, because she is a vegetable in her present. Those last words her sister made towards him may have been what cemented his actions in the Financial District. In contrast to this is the Heideggerian priority of the there, or the future, reflected upon by Sennoza Kou. It is more mystical, but both have some merit in them: if there was no future to look up to, what is the use of the present? It’s a difficult debate with no easy answers.

More tarot symbolisms

The card the car is driving over seems to be The Empress. The next card will feature Death, as was made obvious by the skull.

I couldn’t help but notice in Mikuni’s flashback that the path illuminated in his way to the Financial District was the Empress placed alongside Death. From Keen.com,

Another intense card combination with similar results is when the Tarot card Death appears alongside The Empress. This means a longtime relationship will end because of a perceived grievance you have delivered to the other person. So much of The Empress card revolves around not realizing the effect you have on others as your pursuits of pleasure take you out of the daily struggle just enough to lose touch with how the world conducts itself. Death is numbered 13 in the Tarot, a higher echo of the number 3 held by The Empress. Both of these cards signal detachment. Death has no relationship to what came before or what ill comes after; it simply moves through with impunity, ending one chapter before another begins. The Empress is detached from having to worry about day-to-day affairs. She can get by on her looks and coast on her money, and she usually does.

Guess what happened between Mikuni and his father? Who is the one who seems to have lost touch with how the world conducts itself because of his pursuit? While this series will probably have no true relation to tarot symbolism and the Qabbalah, the fact that it’s accurate with the small details make me happy.

Q’s monologue

From our esteemed translator anon on /a/,

I am nothing but an asset.
I have no interest on the Entre’s feelings, personal life or on his activities in the real world.
Deals are all the relation between the Entre and the Asset.
That is the principle I believe in.
Nevertheless, my entre often summons me outside of duels, and under the pretext of “dates”, takes me on walks around the Financial District.
He will talk all the time, and enjoy meals alongside me.
To the other entres, it is quite an eccentric sight.
To me it is an unnecessary conduct, but as I see no reason to oppose it, I follow him.
The entre seems satisfied with just that.
However, when I am with the entre, my body enters an unexplainable condition.
As if my chest is tightening, or as if I want to reach out and feel his warmness…
Unique sensations not usually found in assets.
Perhaps that has something to do with the entre’s lost future.
However these are not debilitating and I can carry out my part as an asset.
That must be what the entre desires as well.

Beyond the episode: Kimimaro’s monologue of foreshadowing

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

A certain anonymous translator had provided me with a transcript of Kimimaro’s current monologue that (as of this writing) may have been taken down already. I think it is very telling, but it is difficult to interpret due to the unpredictability of this series. For everyone’s benefit, here it is:

The words that man said. That the true thrill of deals is not in winning or losing. It`s creating, without losing too much or winning too much, the maximum amount of profit while still taking into consideration the effects on the world around you. I believed those words. To accept your destiny of living in this district, and to avoid bringing misfortune to those around you. That that was the right thing. There`s no mistake about it, he said. I was completely convinced. But Sennoza, he rejected the things that man says and does. He said that if all that’s left is a hopeless future, there’s no meaning for the present. What does that mean? How is it different from what that man says? If the objective is to diminish the effects on the real world, aren’t they doing the same thing? But that man says there’s a difference. He says that’s the reasoning of the big fish. I couldn’t understand it. And so I had to fight. That was my only option. However I do not feel as if I won. I was supposed to be fighting for the people around me, but maybe that was wrong.
If Mashu is the representation of my future… If Mashu is the future that was lost… It’s not about sacrificing the present to protect the future, it’s about returning to the future what was supposed to be there from the start. I don’t understand. What is right, and what is wrong. What am I meant to do?

A fluent anon interpreted it as such:

Personally I think that the future that is “lost” is actually a future that would have taken longer to obtain….The potential is there, but since in todays modern society people want everything in their hands instantaneously no matter what the cost. So instead of living your life out normally, you are effectively speeding up your own life span (since if you lose, you tend to have everything you ever wanted to achieve taken away from you.). What I feel that assets in general mean, are what is it that a person wants the most in their life. For Kimmimaro it is someone to love and appreciate and take care of, and at the same time care about him just as much. Msyu essentially is for all intensive purposes the future he most desires. Hanabi could actually be a physical representation of that, or she might not be the actual person, but a stepping stone towards the person he truly wants to fight for.

How about you guys? What do you think about this monologue in light of the aired episodes?

C – Control: a color analysis and chromatology of the series and the ED

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

I was very intrigued with the ED, even from the very first episode. It only escalated my curiosity when I discovered that the QR codes differ from episode to episode and actually mean something. When someone posted the first QR code for the fifth episode, I couldn’t help but notice three colors being mentioned: cyan, magenta, and yellow. This was tangentially mentioned in a physics lecture about light. It had been quite some time, but these colors were the colors that established the modern scientific color theory, if I remember correctly.

I immediately recalled that the ED contained these colors primarily. After re-watching the ED, the color combination was indeed intended; I thought that it reflected the antagonism among the three different forces. While I mentioned two in the previous posts, it cannot be denied that Jennifer Satou represents a third party: she is the party who desires revolution. She is the nihilist, especially in regard to the Financial District: she wants the Financial District totally destroyed to obviate the disruption and the future destruction of the world economy, and from the ruins start anew. The colors can be taken as the three primary ideologies and ethics in the show, or the colors can be interpreted as how the author interpreted it:

According to a certain translator on /a/ who kindly provided me the service of translating the first QR code from the fifth episode,

Good evening. Are you feeling well? As you can see right now, the ending theme of TV series [C] mostly uses three colors, and does that on purpose. These three colors are cyan, magenta and yellow, and these colors were chosen to represent Kimimaro, Mashu and the Financial District, respectively. They were deduced by the color of worn clothes and overall visual impression. Basically, cyan = Kimimaro, magenta = Mashu, and yellow = the Financial District. This is why the cube that is the central point of the ending visuals stays cyan for the whole time and without changing its color to magenta, for example.

Moreover, cyan, magenta and yellow become black if you mix them together. This is, in a word, the future. The future, a mental phenomenon that cannot be observed, stays covered in darkness to us who can only live in the present (This is why the words about “bright future” have such a great impact. Because the future is usually dark, and one is relieved when there is hope about it). However, as the future is always the result of your own actions, like when cyan=Kimimaro, cyan=Mashu and yellow=District are mixed together, everyone should not hesitate and mix other colors together. As this theme will get developed in more detail soon, I thought I should take the risk and tell you about it now.

Doesn’t the ED take on a whole new meaning from this?

Kimimaro disintegrates and becomes a comet. The colors of the comet are cyan and magenta, with magenta at the forefront, just like Msyu acting as Kimimaro’s shield during deals.

Their combination breaks through the yellow rays,

but dodges the blue rays, and again breaks the magenta rays.

The blue squares aren’t broken by the comet; they are already broken when the comet moves past them. While it suggests the destruction of the Financial District, the ending also creates a disturbing image for us: the magenta cap is no longer there, and all we see is a blue comet striking at the magenta heart found at the center of the Financial District. I sincerely hope the series does not end in such a tragedy, but it is only rational that he will destroy the foundations of his future if he destroys the Financial District itself.

Let’s look at it from the alternative standpoint, however, one that hermit /a/non and I initially proposed. What if the colors indeed represented the major players in the Financial District? Hermit /a/non insinuated who was who with a simple scene in the sixth episode: the cheeseburgers of Jennifer (pun not intended) showed it. While she was playing eeny-meeny-miny with the cheeseburgers, she was really only willing to part with either the color cyan, or the color yellow. Yellow seems to represent Mikuni in this regard because he lords over the Financial District. Guess what she does? She devours the yellow cheeseburger: it signifies that she also seeks the destruction of the Financial District. The magenta may have represented her stance, as it was really the only burger she did not think of sharing to Kimimaro. I think it’s also apt, as magenta is considered a rather feminine color compared to cyan. Cyan may have represented Sennoza’s stance, and it’s quite telling that even in their chats she is a lot more sympathetic to Sennoza’s stance than Mikuni’s solely because she kept quiet about it, while she disagreed vehemently with what Mikuni was executing. Going back to the suggestion of the QR code, however, it’s also telling how she leaves the cyan and magenta hamburgers alone.

Observe Kimimaro’s gear, too. He often wears a coat which is colored cyan. The tips are tinged with magenta. His bag is yellow but inside the yellow are magenta squares. It reminded me of how Msyu can only really exist within the Financial District. They are important parts of his person, however it is very noticeable that the bag is only an extension of him whereas he truly wears the coat.

The colors of the show tie in with the CMYK color model, by the way.

A backdrop of economics in a battle of ethics: C – Control – 06

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I have said, even in my previous posts, that this series was marginally about economics. With some reading as well as asking the right people, I think I remain steadfast in that stance of mine: there are major inconsistencies with what the series presents against real-world economics.

With the wings and the woman, the card is reminiscent of the Major Arcana card, Lovers. It suggests love. From what we've seen of Sennoza's actions, he's also quite full of love. It's pretty apt.

First, it’s simply utterly impossible for one man to shoulder a nation’s debt. With regard to the ballooning debt of Japan, it is downright impossible. As of the episode’s airing, the ‘ballooning debt’ of Japan stands at about 750 trillion yen. Mikuni can’t resolve that, even with his guild: that’s what the recent episode confirmed. Mikuni’s actions are mere stopgap measures, but they will eventually sink Japan even lower than it currently is. It’s quite basic economics that an excessive inflow of money into the economy will devalue it.

Second, it’s quite jarring that no one audits Mikuni on his assets. He could bribe people, but it won’t take long for people to notice his immense wealth. Quite frankly, 75 trillion yen will take hundreds of years to pay, even with the robustness of his Starling Guild, essentially because it’s just a really huge amount. The series can’t centrally be about economics because it doesn’t even follow its tenets. It only simulates the situations of the real world, and is a backdrop to the character development and the plot of the show.

Having said that, I think the recent episode elucidated the true nature of the series. It’s essentially a clash of ethics where money serves as a background. The fact that the series stayed away from the actual battle between Sennoza and Kimimaro this episode meant that they wanted the viewer to focus on other things. Most prominently among those ideas is the clash of ideologies primarily between Sennoza and Mikuni, with Jennifer as the third party attempting to resolve the growing problem in Japan as fast as she can.

I think I can safely say I’m a jack-of-all-trades from my excellent academic performance during high school and university. I know quite a bit about different stuff, but I can’t call myself an expert in either philosophy or economics. I could definitely say, however, that I’m more familiar with philosophy than with economics because I have had four philosophy subjects compared to one basic economics course. I can’t say I’m flawless with the nitty-gritty, but I can say something general about what I learned.

I had a Philosophy subject that was Ethics. I got a satisfactory score, but I read a whole lot because our philosophy professor was known to give pretty low grades. He was a great teacher, however. What resonated within me this episode was the utilitarian ethics of John Stuart Mill (I think personified by Mikuni) against the deontological (duty-based) ethics of Sennoza. From what I remembered of utilitarianism, its central tenet was really ‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’ It doesn’t mean that Mill prescribed murder, but from what I remember he was not above that if it was to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The arbitrary part of utilitarianism is that it admits of exceptions that may have a snowball effect later on. It’s obvious that Mikuni attempts to maintain the Starling Guild so that a lot of people can enjoy their lives without being affected by the repercussions of the Financial District. A good example that presents his utilitarian method of thinking is him taking over the entrepreneur with the Pac-man defense asset so that jobs would be preserved and the economy becomes a bit more stable. By doing that action, he weighed one man against thousands, and aided the thousands.

In contrast are the actions of Sennoza, which are ultimately Kantian and deontological. I only remember primarily the central tenet of Kantian ethics, which was the categorical imperative. I also remember that for an action to be morally good, it must consist of a good will. Kant’s three significant formulations of the categorical imperative are:

  • Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law.
  • Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.
  • Act as though you were, through your maxims, a law-making member of a kingdom of ends.
  • Among those three, the most easily intelligible is the second. Sennoza has performed all his actions in the Financial District with good will and the future welfare of the different children of the world in mind. He saw humanity as something to foster, whether good or poor, and saw each and everyone he helped as human. He wanted to avoid fighting with Kimimaro because he wanted no harm to occur in the world, and he did not want to harm his children. He was truly benevolent: if everyone acted with the welfare in the world in mind, no one would mind it becoming a universal law.

    Sennoza is genuinely a good person in any iteration of the categorical imperative. Even in his battle with Kimimaro was for the purpose of protecting the future of the children he had helped. He did not change his philosophy even in defeat and was frankly grateful for his independence from the Midas money.

    Kimimaro is at the center of all this. He eventually has to choose how to act, because Mikuni’s actions are inevitably destroying the economy he has thought of protecting. Things don’t get any easier for him when Jennifer illustrates the eventual apocalypse that Mikuni’s actions on the economy will trigger. All he wants to do is protect those who are close to him: Msyu’s battery from Angel’s attacks have greatly affected him, and it is no secret that he’s slowly growing closer and closer to Msyu. Both Sennoza and Jennifer exhort him to find a way to destroy the city, and that will probably be the focal point of the next episodes: he will have to find his own ethics, and stick with that to the very end.