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The beauty of simplicity: Ano Natsu de Matteru

I guess I was raised to value the complexity of intelligence and the intelligence of complexity that it reflects in my passions and wishes in life. I have been quite vocal regarding undeserved praise towards pedestrian novels such as the Twilight saga, and I admit that my favorite novels are those that are either ignored or willfully unread by the hoi polloi. I know that what I read are classics, although they are currently rather ignored. Among my most favorite novels is William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, which jarringly shifts through time and person to tell a story that coalesces upon itself at its end. In the same vein is the symbolist masterpiece, Petersburg, by Andrei Bely.

I think the same could be said with regard to my choice in movies. I don’t seek to be idiosyncratic, but I prefer The Killing to any other movies by Stanley Kubrick, and sincerely wished that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy replaced an undeserving Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the recent Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. I love watching films that so beautifully invoke the tip-of-the iceberg image by Freud: there is an elephantine mass gurgling and burbling beneath the surface that is up to the viewer to decipher, enjoy, and decode for himself, with so little to see on the surface itself. I was never fond of the easy way out in the things I loved.

Because this show is that awesome

I think that I have been consistent, even in relatively lesser media such as anime. The Tatami Galaxy was a masterpiece of prognostication, multiple viewpoints and intertwining realities, but it took rather astute observers to appreciate its nuances. Steins;Gate was also masterful because of its ability to connect and twist the story to become esemplastic, and it was reminiscent, at least for me, of The Sound and the Fury.

While I prefer the complex and intellectual examples in my favorite media, there are exceptions to all of them, and the most recent one is the series Ano Natsu de Matteru.

The series is not complex: it does not require multiple re-watches to understand the story, but like the simple and yet beautiful Mice and Men novella by Steinbeck, it simply and incandescently gets the job done. It is a bildungsroman of a certain Kaito, who, like most of us back when we were in high school, sought his own identity in the context of his society. While the story is essentially a rehash, the characters that interact with one another make it one of the better, if not the best examples of anime, because it has characters that are essentially human but also essentially good.

While most people would probably be unimpressed with the flow of the plot, I simply found the empathetic characters to be among the best-written among the series I’ve watched. We all have to admit that it was Lennie and George who made Of Mice and Men, after all. Anything can have a barebones plot, and as long as the characters that pepper that story are rife with life and color, it would be at the very least good. I think Ano Natsu approximates that.

Madoka: of temporal recursions and noble hearts

It would probably take me a dozen posts and perhaps some tens of thousands of words were I to try and dissect the entire Madoka series. It is a series rife not only with symbolism, but also with meaning that to try and encompass it to a single post would be a sacrilege and a disrespect to its greatness. Other pundits of anime have also spoken volubly on it that I have no desire to reiterate what a lot of them have already said.

I have been almost three years removed from any meaningful study of philosophy or literature that I cannot write intelligently about literary theories any longer. I have also never properly tackled the concept of deconstruction so I cannot give any rational comment on Derrida and Foucault. As much as I would like to analyze the series in those lenses, I have been inundated with only medicine these past few years. Instead, I would like to merely recall and expound on certain points that have resonated within me as I was watching the series.

From a helpless girl who was always saved ...

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C – 11: the philosophy of hope and final symbolisms

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

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

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

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

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

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.

    The Inferno and Greek mythos in C – Control

    Once I start finding a show’s symbols and symbolism to be attractive, it often heightens my appreciation for the show and makes me passionate in my pursuit of understanding more about the series as well as interpreting the symbols in relation to the series. This was the case with Tatami Galaxy, and it is what’s currently happening to C – Control and me. I always loved series that were subtle with their symbolism, especially when they contribute to the milieu of the series and its further development.

    I’ve tried to prove in the past that mysticism has an integral part in C especially in the Financial district. Although the reasons remain to be unclear, one is already more than a third into the series and I sincerely doubt all those symbols to be mere coincidences, as I’ve stated in my three previous posts.

    Since this post is going to be sprawling, I think I should begin with the intricate link between the Qabalah and tarot mysticism, and work from there.

    The Qabalah and the Tarot

    The Qabalah is an important part of Judaistic philosophy that presents, through the Sephirot diagram, God’s relationship with his creations, or with the universe. Among the ten different emanations (marked with a circle), there are 22 relationships that not only correspond with the number of Jewish letters in its alphabet but also of the number of cards in the major arcana of tarot. Occultists did not take long to notice the parallels between tarot mysticism and the Qabalah, and developed that link with years of passionate study. While I honestly read five articles on the relationship between the Qabalah and the tarot, I cannot cover for a half millennia of intense study in just a few hours. I must also admit that I lack knowledge about both entities. What I did glean from the different articles I have read is that both the Qabalah and the Tarot observe and interpret the Tree of Life, or life itself: the two are not merely mystic and occult in nature; they also present life. I find it notable that these arcane symbols of life are solely seen in the Financial District. They do not appear in the real world, which seems contradictory, as the real world reflects more of life than the Financial District.

    This, however, makes sense when the viewer discovered in the past episodes that the Financial District has such a hold in the real world that any major occurrence in the Financial District tornadoes into catastrophe in the real world, as explicated upon by Mikuni in the fourth episode. The real world shivers and quakes from the actions of the FD, but the converse is not true. The real world seems to be the puppet existence in this series.

    Anyway, I also found it amusing that in my research, the Malkuth corresponds to a suit of pentacles in tarot. When the exchange of Msyu’s stock was being done between Kimimaro and Mikuni, guess what suit appeared: it was the suit of pentacles.

    A Mix of Historical Mythology

    Many people have noted that the Financial District presents an infernal image. I think they are correct, but to specify, I think the district channels Dante’s City of Dis. Wikipedia states that:

    Dante emphasizes the character of the place as a city by describing its architectural features: towers, gates, walls, ramparts, bridges, and moats.

    The viewer sees a desolate city with tons of towers, gates, and walls around. I don’t think it’s accidental. Furthermore, the natural inhabitants of the city, the assets, seem to look like the Furies that guard hell’s city. Not only does Q look like a Fury, so does Msyu.
    Wikipedia describes Erinyes physically as:

    The heads of the Erinyes were wreathed with serpents and their eyes dripped with blood.

    Q nearly berserk

    Compare this to the historical portrayal of the Erinyes.

    It sure reminded me of Msyu and Q and of Ebara's asset.

    I disagree, however, with the people who think Masakaki as the Devil himself, with the sole reason that he seems too disjoint from the action in the Financial District. He is more of an observer than an actor, even after a third of the series has already past. I think he was based more on the image of Pluto, who is not merely a god of the underworld, but is also heavily involved with wealth. I thought of this when I thought of the term ‘plutocrat,’ which was a person who domineered an aspect of society or government through his sheer wealth. I think this is closer than thinking of Masakaki as the devil.

    Pluto, according to Wikipedia – one doesn’t really have to look very far, is:

    Pluto (genitive Plutonis) is the Latinized form of the Greek Ploutōn. Pluto’s Roman equivalent is Dis Pater, whose name is most often taken to mean “Rich Father.” Pluto was also identified with the obscure Roman Orcus, like Hades the name of both a god of the underworld and the underworld as a place.

    Most people are sidetracked by his abduction of Persephone and his being synonymous to death that they ignore this part of him. I think Masakaki as a pagan god is more apt than the obviously devious devil, and his actions reflect this.

    Conclusion

    To conclude, as these are all just speculations, I think an aberration occurred within the Financial District that connected it to the real world. As it is the realm of gods (or a god), the actions within this area have major repercussions in the real world, just as the actions of gods in Olympus affected how the world ran in Greek mythology. It’s obvious enough that the name of the circulating money in their world is Midas money – it doesn’t take much to connect it to another god known for his wealth, Pluto. I don’t think the infernal method of portrayal of the FD is a representation of hell; I think it presents an ‘underworld,’ and what more can remind us of an underworld than the City of Dis?

    The symbols of life found in both the assets and the players and the mysticism behind them reflect the priority of the Financial District over the ‘real world,’ and it could be seen when one player became bankrupt: this was essentially where life was. Tarot and the Qabalah are known to observe not only one’s current life, but of one’s future lives. It also can be used to predict what will happen. It symbolically applies to the future collateral of the players in the FD.

    I think Kimimaro was led into the FD by his father to correct this aberration (remember the mysterious notebook), and to free the real world from being affected by the actions within the FD. In contrast, Mikuni seeks to stabilize the FD to produce the same effect. There is something devious within the FD that I am as yet unfamiliar with that will propel Kimimaro to want to destroy the source of it all, as the ED suggests. Kimimaro will probably want to break the puppet strings between the FD and reality; Mikuni wants to maintain it with his guild and way of winning. I think this will be the source of friction between them from what I have researched, although all these are just guesses.

    C and mysticism: the Qabalah, the Sephirot, and the Tarot

    When Kimimaro sold Masyu’s stock in the fourth episode of C, the symbol struck me as something I’ve seen in Evangelion before. It was actually the symbols of the Qabalah: it was the Sephirot. The Sephirot is the symbol for the 10 emanations of the Qabalah. The Qabalah is a Judaic school of thought that discusses the relationship between God and the universe He created. As I’m not expert in its philosophy, I’ve provided links where one can read about it. (Kudos belong to wasabi of MAL for telling me what the diagram for the Qabalah was actually called. He reminded me of something I already suspected.)

    The stock that Kimimaro sold was actually the location of the Malkuth, or the Kingdom. It is the only attribute of God that does not emanate directly from God. It emanates from God’s creation (one could perhaps interpret it in this series as the players’ assets). The description, as always, fits:

    [The Malkuth is a]Female vessel for the pregnant nurturing of the male lights of the emotional sephirot into action/becomes the Keter Will source for any subsequent lower level in Creation/accomplishment/realization of the Divine Plan.

    Msyu’s Kingdom is actually located in her womb (her vagina), the location where a normal lady can get pregnant. It is the location where the female vessel can and will get pregnant. Msyu, as a woman, is also the source of the realization of Kimimaro’s plan. Finally, tarot symbolism is heavily related to the Qabalah, as this picture suggests.

    What connects the emanations - are actually the major arcana.

    It may not really affect the plot in a major way, but I’m glad with the series’s attention to detail. The tarot and qabalah are quite closely connected, as they both explore the tree of life.