Kyousougiga – 05

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Another magnificent flight of the soul – but then, we’re used to that from Kyousogiga by now.

This was the last stage of the journey the TV anime of Kyousogiga is making in the footsteps of the ONA, and it was a memorable one indeed.  This may very well have been my favorite of the short background episodes, and I’ve made very clear my feeling that it’s Yakushimaru who’s, if not the main character, then the heart and soul of Kyousogiga.  This story is his journey as much as anyone’s, and he more then anyone else sets the mood and tone of the series.  We get a small but brilliant taste of it in the ONA, and a much more comprehensive one here.

Some great anime are effortless, falling into the “it’s really hard to make it look this easy” class.  Kyousogiga is quite different, at least for me – the art of what I’m seeing is always evident.  It’s a majestic construction, intricately pieced together and flowing like a river, emotionally true and intellectually spellbinding.  But I don’t listen to Radu Lupu playing Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto and think “Boy, do they make it look easy” – I marvel at the amazing art playing itself out before me, at the impact it makes on both the mind and the heart.  And that’s how Kyousogiga is for me – it’s something that quite openly sets out to be something great and, so far at least, achieves it in breathtaking fashion.

“Marvel” really is the right word, because this show is marvelous to experience.  It’s both incredibly literate and extremely human, grounded in the most basic and elemental of all higher human emotions – the complicated love between parents and children.  To use Alice in Wonderland, Buddhist mythology and the tale of chuuken Hachiko the faithful dog (I pass his statue every day outside Shibuya Station on the way to school) to do so is high art, but the story it’s telling remains very simple at the core.  Just what does Kuruma infer about Myoue when he implies that Hachiko’s motives might not have been so pure as Japanese public mythology has made them out to be?  We see the Monk waiting outside the station, waiting faithfully for the parents who are never aboard the train – but unlike Hachiko, Myoue goes home at the end of the day and goes about the act of proving that he’s alive.

Even as things are explained in Kyousogiga, the mystery always remains in place.  We now know how Yakushimaru came to be Inari and Koto’s “son”, and how those beads ended up on his arm.  Did Inari simply save the boy’s life, or did Yakushimaru actually die outside that burning house on that terrible night and come back via Inari’s magic as something very different than what he was?  It seems very likely that his true father and mother were murdered, and that he attempted (at the least) to commit seppuku, presumably over the dishonor at having been unable to save them.  What’s more, whatever happened that night clearly remains in the memory of the man they call Myoue, who dreams of it with regularity.

While much happens narratively in between, those dreams lead directly to the final moment of the episode, when Myoue tells Koto “After you find my mother, kill me.”  My sense is that Myoue feels as if he died that night Inari found him, and everything after that has been a cheat.  Just how long has Yaskushimaru – by all appearance and information a human – been “alive”?  He grew from a small boy into a man (the spitting image of the man who appears not to be his biological father, interestingly) so his time clearly moves in at least some fashion, but while it hasn’t been stated overtly my sense is that centuries have passed since Inari and Koto took their odd little family to Mirror Kyoto.  Maybe Myoue is simply tired of the burdens he’s been carrying for so long and ready to meet what he sees as his natural fate, but perhaps there’s more here than that.  In some ways Mirror Kyoto could even be seen as a symbolic afterlife in and of itself, which would cast the story in an interesting light.

Whatever truth you believe lies in that direction, there’s no question Myoue has firmly connected this new Koto to the one he knew as his adoptive mother, though whether he’s established the exact nature of the connection is much more debatable.  The final nail, perhaps, was when Koto defends the names of the mysterious A and Um by telling Myoue that they mean “Beginning and End” – which in fact they do, as the chanting of the Sanskrit syllable “Aum” is traditional at the beginning and end of a Buddhist or Hindu prayer or mantra.  Inari told Yakushimaru “I will return one day, bringing a beginning and an end.”  And so Koto has come to Mirror Kyoto, bringing with her the familiars now in the form of cute little boys that she calls her brothers.  What does it all mean?  I’m looking forward to seeing everything answered, though truth be told I hope that Kyousogiga leaves us with many of its mysteries intact – because the wonder of the series is even greater when it operates in the realm of mystery.

As I’ve said before, what surprised me most in transitioning from the ONAs to the TV series is just how sentimental and emotionally powerful Kyousogiga has turned out to be – and I find Myoue to be the most tragic figure of them all.  The boy who waited, the boy who died and came back, the man who seems to feel as if he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders – his sadness is inescapable but no more so than his decency, and those qualities are proudly on display in this episode.  I think the final scenes (as they were in the ONA) where he and Koto walk through the golden fields of tall grass in the setting sun, towards the Shrine in the mountains, are some of the most beautiful in anime – both to the eyes, and in the profound mono no aware sentiment that’s so palpable.   Next week, apparently, is a detour before the journey into uncharted territory begins – a visit to Kozan-ji, the Temple in Takao that inspired the one in the series.  I don’t like having that journey delayed, but I confess I’m rather looking forward to this side trip.

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Preview:

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18 comments

  1. s

    Let's get one thing out of the way: this is the episode that convinced me that this is indeed a great series. Now this is what im talking about. This episode had less of the segmented story progression and was much stronger for it. Things progressed smoothly and the characters felt that much more poignant and vibrant for it. I am really starting to like Koto; there's this air about her that says "this is a very precocious girl; all her playful antics aside, she is emotionally mature and insightful".

    As i stated before, I always felt that Yakushimaru was the most interesting of the characters and that this series would be more about his journey and i couldnt wait for the series to finally get into that and elevate to the level of great. Everything in this ep worked from the characters ( i still want to know more about Myoue's woman and the girl he continually visits. Koto promised to take her to the outside, but it almost looked like she hesitated to agree and that older woman seems to know more about Myoue's pain than she lets on….perhaps she isnt some random chick Myoue sleeps with).

    And overall this ep was great; from the symbolism behind the train station to the moment in the fields (sadly not much animation was going on there but still). This is the type of character progression and development that show that a series has the skill to craft a good, no great series; this series has convinced me of that; cant wait for ep 6, although ill be tuning in to 5.5 to educate myself.

  2. Glad to have you on-board – there's plenty of room on this train (Inari and Lady Koto aren't taking up seats, after all).

    Let me say, though, that I would argue that this episode really works on a par with what came before it for me, even if it was the most conventional and least frenetic. Everything that happened in the prior episodes was necessary for what happened in this one. To continue in the Mozart theme I'll quite Salieri from "Amadeus" – "Change one note, and it would be diminished. Change one phrase, and the structure would collapse."

  3. s

    you're absolutely right about that (love that quote by the way). Im not the type of viewer to look at eps just on their own and i agree that this ep's success was definitely riding on the coat tails of the first four (or five however you're counting it) as those eps were really good.

    To me, those eps teased that sense of greatness that i felt was there and just ready to burst at the seems; and then ep 5 actually made it all come together and gave it that tiny nudge it needed to reach its apex. The story-telling nuances riddled throughout this ep were high-quality stuff and i cant wait for what's ahead. These train seats definitely dont look taken so yeeeeeeaaaaahhhh ima just take a seat riiiiighhhht here and enjoy the marvelous ride.

  4. D

    I don't mind taking a detour, I'd like to stretch out Kyousougiga's meager 10 episode run time as long as possible.

    Also, for reasons already stated rather nicely in your post, this was my favourite episode so far.

  5. That "10" is a bit deceptive, really. There was "0", next week is "5.5" and there's also going to be a "10.5" – so there are actually going to be 13 aired episodes in total.

  6. t

    " We now know how Yakushimaru came to be Inari and Koto's 'son' "
    actually we really don't know anything, we can guess and have some interesting theories due to those flashbacks and glimpses. but that's what makes things even more interesting.
    if so far I was thinking that I got used to Kyousogiga's unique style, and I was ready to have another simple POV ep, this episode shake that feeling away and manage to surprise me.
    like previous POV eps, in which the characters find some inner-peace, this episode is very a like. but it still manages to surprise us thanks to the addition in mystery related to Myoue.
    Koto did wonderful job with her performance this ep, mostly at the end in that scene beautiful scene of the grass field when she explains about "beginning and end". it wasn't a big surprise that she managed to shake Myoue, but that sentence of "bla bla kill me" was interesting. he knows something. I am eager to know why. it's probably related to his past..but what else..something about this world and their family that I can't fully grasp yet.

    speaking of which, when Koto suggest to that woman with the braids (I am bad with names) to return with her..she hesitated with "but…". I was wondering about that. she is originally from the mirror world?if so…can she really "return" or simply go to the "real-world"?

    yeah, our adventure with kyousogiga will be delayed next week, but I found that preview and the next ep (5.5?) pretty intriguing.
    I always enjoy to see the places that inspire the anime background. as there was in AnoHana, free and so on..
    and we even got an episode for this?can't be better!

  7. D

    Oh, yeah, what did you make of the pomegranate symbology? It felt like the 7th episode of Titan all over again with people attempting to make sense of that mysterious fruit.

  8. s

    love man, love. I dont know about anyone else, but i interpreted that scene of Koto eating the pomegranate as the moment Myoue realized that this girl Koto means more to him than he thought. She basically became his life line. Like attack on titan how the pomegranate represent love and its drive to make one live, its the same thing in this case but much more subtle and more relevant in this series.

    As a child, Yakushimaru was willing and had killed himself after losing his will to live. What Koto having ate the pomegranate she received from Yaku, she has given him purpose and meaning again, she has taken a piece of that he would have probably thrown away and is now connected with him (i got major mawaru penguindrum vibes from that scene; the whole Kanba sharing his apple with shoma and through that, connecting their lives and giving each other a reason to live).

    Yaku's life is in Koto hands, which is why he also gave her the task of killing him when he helps her find the black rabbit. Myoue has probably wanted to die for some time, but didnt have what it took to end his life maybe because he was holding on to the idea of seeing his parents again. Now that Koto is here, she serves two purposes; his drive to continue living and looking for his parents, because in the beginning of the series, it was very much obvious that he was just trudging through live and that at some point, had given up hope looking for his parents until Koto arrived. The pomegranate represents all this: myoue's heart, the piece of him he now share unknowingly with Koto, and the fact that he has now placed his life in her hands. That's what i got out of it.

  9. Well, in Buddhism it more or less symbolizes eternal life, rebirth, that vein. But it may be the most symbolic fruit there is – it means something in just about every belief system.

  10. A

    Fortunately there was a lot of slice of life from Myoue's perspective in previous episodes, so it's not like his backstory became his character, like Yase. I still like the ONA better from an animation point of view, but what they added at the end makes more sense in context, and sets up for more interesting things to come.

  11. F

    This was a good ep overall – there is something about the narrative of each of the siblings that can touch a part of the viewer imo, and that is a hallmark of a good series.

    Lets see what will happen now that the charas are "all in place" as it were…. I look forward to interesting things. 🙂

  12. A

    Glad to see Kyousogiga isn't being forsaken by the anime community. This series is well underrated. With all the symbolism hidden under frantic comedy/action, this reminds me of FLCL and Uchouten Kazoku. Both of which are masterpieces that present in-depth existentialism in a subtle manner.

  13. C

    Oh dearest Myoue I wish you wouldn't say such tragic things 🙁 I'm thoroughly enjoying this series and I think this episode was a step up from last week as I don't connect with Yase's character nearly as much. I truly hope this series can tie the main plot together because this series is defiantly on it's way to being a favorite. It too reminds me of Uchouten Kazoku but more than the familial love theme its the breathtaking visuals and the captivating freaking mysteries tHEy GIVE Me THiS CuRIOUS FEeL AND IT HURTS!!

    @Enzo: You are correct in saying the 3 children have been there for centuries. I believe it was explicitly stated by Myoue when Koto arrived that "nothing new had arrived for centuries"

  14. H

    "He grew from a small boy into a man (the spitting image of the man who appears not to be his biological father, interestingly)" It's a blink and you'll miss it moment but when Inari pours his beads into Yakushimaru they briefly change to DNA so it's always been my theory that he literally put some of himself into Yakushimaru (after all, he's able to do something similar to magic with the beads now and it seems like he was the most "non-magical/normal" person when this series started). The OP also shows strands of DNA in it a lot when Myoue 2.0 is on screen (although it does that with Kyoto as well and there it could possibly symbolism her actual blood connection with Inari/Lady Koto).

  15. p

    That last part of the episode in the wheat fields was absolutely fantastic. Mono no aware, sentimental at its best. Yeh, this is definitely a familial love story despite its wacky and bizzare outerior… at its heart its a story about love for your family members and psuedo-family members, as it's very beautiful, pure and human emotions at its best.

  16. R

    I think that Inari is already in the Mirror Capital. He's the guy with the bunny head disguise that took Myoue's soda from his hands. The Opening also suggest that he has a connection to A and Um.

  17. That's certainly possible, but it feels a bit obvious to me.

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