Kyousougiga – 07

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It seems almost unfair to have two anime episodes this good airing on back-to-back days.

For sheer brilliance, there are really only two anime series on the schedule right now, this one and Hunter X Hunter.  There are other shows I like an awful lot, maybe even love, but as far as delivering the whole package it’s these two for me.  Neither one of them may be in a class by itself, but it sure doesn’t take long to call the roll.  Every episode of Kyousougiga feels like an event – they manage to fit so much muchness in there.  Truly great anime engage both the heart and mind, and Kyousougiga does that as well as any series I’ve watched in a very long time.

It’s certainly no secret that original anime tend, on average, to be better than adapted (especially from light novels).  My all-time best list is littered with originals and shows taken from full novels, and I suspect one of the reasons is that these series more than manga or especially LN adaptations tend to be fully realized creations before the first frame is finished.  There are exceptions of course (just look at Gatchaman Crowds) but there’s just not the sense of stilted pacing and time-wasting in shows like Kyousougiga, Uchouten Kazoku or Shin Sekai Yori.  These series give the impression of full and complete stories that have been exactingly planned out to the letter – and I suppose that also speaks to what an atypically incredible job Madhouse is doing with a two years-long and counting manga adaptation in Hunter X Hunter.

Episodes like this give me a sense that I have little to do as a writer, because the sheer quality of the effort is self-evident.  I don’t have to sell, or justify, and complain – you saw what I saw.  As I’ve said before the area where Kyousougiga has really surprised is by how moving it is – I knew it would be fascinating, and as this episode unfolded I was certainly churning over the meaning of what was happening in my mind, trying to explain and predict.  But every bit the equal of the that was the character interaction – this was the moment (moments, in truth) the series has been building towards since the beginning and it didn’t oversell it.  In this strange mythology where inhuman characters are the order of the day, their reaction to a fantastical situation was ineffably and unmistakably human.  All you had to do was watch everyone react to the return of Lady Koto and later Inari, and you knew that it was right.

Make no mistake, even setting aside the practicalities of the situation this was a difficult and awkward reunion.  Yase reacted like the child she is, with delight and raw emotion – unlike the others, the return of her mother was in itself the end she’d been seeking.  For Kurama and Myoue it’s quite different, and there was a barely disguised (indeed, perhaps not even barely) resentment coming from each of them, albeit for different reasons.  I found Kurama’s demeanor especially poignant (as I often do), most especially his shrug, laced with feigned indifference, when Lady Koto praised the technological marvel he’d created.  Koto didn’t try to be warm and cuddly with Kurama, though it’s clear her affection for him is no less than her other children.  She was every bit the beloved mother returning after a long absence, clearly feeling very guilty about having left her children, trying a little too hard to pretend everything was all right.  And it was Kurama who was most hurt by Koto’s matter-of-fact declaration that it was “time to go back”.

As for Myoue, his chosen gesture of defiance was to hang back, quite literally keeping a distance between himself and the others and refusing to plead for his Koto’s approval.  I find it interesting that he – and the others – generally but not always refer to the being they think of as their mother as “Koto”, rather than “Mother”.  Names seem filled with meaning in this series, and the story they tell is a puzzling one.  I still can’t imagine that Koto and Lady Koto sharing a name is coincidence, though every evidence this week is that they’re indeed mother and child rather than two facets of the same being.  In truth none of these people is truly the child of Koto in the conventional sense, so whatever the relationship between she and her namesake it may be a mistake to categorize it in conventional terms.  But psychologically and emotionally, she is for all practical purposes their mother – with all that implies.

Speaking of little Koto, she has her own issues with Lady Koto’s return, which it’s clear she’s made possible with her hammer.  She – like Inari with his katana – clearly has the ability to rend the dimensional fabric and create a path to Mirror Kyoto, seemingly the only way in or out.  But quite justifiably she’s gotten tired of being seen primarily as the useful tool for everyone else’s ends, and in this episode she behaves as every inch as the child she physically appears to be.  That certainly doesn’t change when Inari finally shows up – and again we have the conspicuous strangeness with titles, for although Koto thinks of him as her father she usually refers to him as “Master”.  Koto runs to him as any little girl would to the father she loved and hasn’t seen in a long time, but it’s the vibe between the two Myoues – or Inari and Yakushimaru, as the “father” refers to the “son” – that’s most interesting.  Of all the relationships in Kyousougiga this is surely the most conflicted – it was Inari that gave Yakushimaru life, but it was a life he didn’t ask to have returned to him – just as he never asked for the heavy burden of responsibility it’s increasingly clear Inari laid on his shoulders when he abandoned the children.

The final scene of the episode can really be framed in two quotes – first, Lady Koto asking Koto if she can “free her father from the dream which traps him”.  And second, what Kurama says when he arrives at Myoue’s room – “Good grief.  Some things never change – it’s always our father who brings all the trouble.”  This situation is clearly wrong – Inari’s drawings are turning to dust one by one and as they do, their embodiment in Mirror Kyoto disappearing with them.  Lady Koto had earlier commented on Inari “keeping his promise” and coming to get her – something it’s clear he’s not done, just as it’s clear how surprised (and alarmed) she is at sensing his presence in Mirror Kyoto (“My dream turned real…  But why now?”).  This is a family that clearly isn’t intended to be together – my sense is that reality was twisted against itself in order to create it in the first place, and isn’t pleased by the manipulations that reunited it.  With so many strong wills pulling reality in so many different directions, it was bound to tear sooner or later…

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  1. R

    My take on this is that it's actually Inari's god-like ability to create/bend reality as much as he wants that's, for the lack of better words, "fucking shit up" in the general sense. He pobably was also the one responsible for the creation of little Koto's magic hammer, as it pretty much can screw reality as well. But the question is, the danger of annihilation is something that affects only the Mirror World or the real one as well? Guess we will know soon. ^^

  2. p

    What you wrote on "fully realized creations" in television reminded me of an interesting tidbit I read the other day about the death of Brian in the animated TV series Family Guy. Why was this popular character killed off? Well, to quote ABC News:

    "So, after 11 seasons, where Brian was a key star, why kill him off now? E! News spoke with executive producer Steve Callaghan to find out. 'This was an idea that got pitched in the writers’ room and it sort of caught fire, and we thought it could be a fun way to shake things up,' he told E!."

    Yep. You read that right. The producer and his team decided to kill off a character simply as "a fun way to shake things up". That's how much the writers of this show care about their characters.


  3. w

    I love this episode as well as the others. As you said, Kyousougiga engages the heart and mind, and I'm so grateful for it every week. The writer/s of this show is/are brilliant. I really love how they explained the bit about why Lady Koto was shocked that it was small Koto whom she hugged. I also love how they explained the way both Koto and Inari entered Mirror Kyoto. I love the expressions in this one too. They don't have to look moe-ish to look cute.

    I also love how this show makes us wonder. Kurama's dialogues have been filling us with a mystery to ponder over, and there's nothing I love more than an anime/or any story that makes me think.

  4. K

    I watch the commie subs for this episode and something doesn't sit well me. It dawn on me that when they are connecting the various parts – some of them did not make sense. I don't recall Koto calling Koto (rabbit) mom during the ova. I recall the kiss but it wasn't mention. And Koto was suppose to be griefing because she was kiss by a woman not because she believe that she was about to die. So yeah, I love this episode but I don't get it!


  5. F

    Hrm… finally material outside the ova and ona, and while I can be happy to report that my interest level has finally "pricked up it's ears" I still hafta admit that I am all confused again. -_-

    Well, maybe that is both good and to be expected, since I am looking forward to next week's ep a lot more now. ^^

  6. J

    I feel very terrible. This should be the anime of the season for me, and yet I'm largely apathetic. I feel I should be engaged, and yet… I dunno. It was the same with Uchouten Kazoku as well. This is quite frustrating, especially for the fact that I wish we'd get more family stories like Clannad: After Story. I get them, yet I don't feel anything for them, even though I should. This is indeed frustrating to me. The ongoing events, though, intrigue me.

  7. M

    Yeah, I feel ya J-Man. I still marvel at the technical wonders that this show delivers weekly, but the family story (and characters) are revealing themselves to be less extraordinary. Although the core family in Uchouten never quite lived up to the title of the show. The best characters for me were undoubtedly the scheming twins. I was actually hoping Kyousougiga wouldn't follow suit – but so far it feels that way.

    Ideas wise I think Penguindrum executed similar themes in a more ambitious and stimulating way, despite not being as tidy as the others.

  8. Z

    I have a tough time giving a damn about anyone in Mirror Kyoto. Apathetic is right.

    Don't feel bad about it J-Man, you're not alone.

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