Thank goodness for Subete ga F no Naru, you know? It has its flaws I won’t deny, but it’s really the only series this season that gets inside your head and messes with it. It isn’t afraid to risk being called pretentious (which it is called, a lot) in order to present some big ideas, and it isn’t afraid to be called boring (which it is, a lot) for being almost entirely dialogue-driven. I’m willing to overlook more, I admit, because the anime landscape these days is so barren when it comes to shows like this – if that makes be biased in the series’ favor, so be it.
In some ways I think the reaction to this series is almost as interesting as the series itself. I’m seeing a lot of complaints about the flashback scenes between Shiki and her uncle (and it seems clear now that’s what they are), on the grounds that they’re creepy and disturbing. Wait – what? To find fault on those grounds is hilarious to me, because that’s exactly what those scenes are intended to be. Are people reading some kind of tacit approval of the characters’ behavior on the part of the writing into these scenes? Are they seeing them as attempts at titillation? Because there isn’t, and they’re not. They’re intended to paint a troubling picture of sick people doing things that no one should ever do. If you’re reading something else into them, you’re the one bringing excess baggage to the flight.
That said, there’s a fascinating ambiguity to the flashbacks this week, where it seems almost as if they’re Moe’s flashbacks – so much so that I actually thought they were, for a moment. I don’t see any way that’s possible, but I think the implication here is that Shiki so expertly got inside Moe’s head that it became hard for Moe to feel where Shiki ended and she began. Perhaps there’s even a suggestion that Moe is beginning to identify with Shiki – almost as if it were another case of a dead soul being free to take up residence in a living body.
Much of what’s really going on here is still clouded – and I love that about Subete, for the record – but at the very least we now know that “purple” refers to what Moe was wearing on the night her parents died. That’s a crucial event about which we know very little, apart from the fact that Moe was wearing purple that night. And it’s implied that it involved a plane crash, since Moe seems to be walking in an airport terminal as she flashes back to that night. The question of whether she was alone that night is a crucial one, too – Shiki latched onto it like a tick, and Moe’s denials seem hollow. But why would it be such a terrible thing to admit she was with someone (Saikawa-sensei, perhaps)?
Essentially, Moe seems to be competing against a dead woman for Saikawa’s affections – and as we all know, that’s a virtually hopeless undertaking (and might be another reason to suggest she could be taking on Shiki’s personality). I see complaints that Saikawa’s philosophical musings are pretentious, and that’s another source of amusement for me because it seems clear Saikawa is meant to be a pretty messed-up and often pretentious guy. He admires Magata Shiki as a “pure” human being despite her having killed her parents – even that is a source of admiration, because she did it to be free. Saikawa’s logic seems to be that Shiki was courageous enough to murder her parents to obtain her freedom, and he’s too scared even to quit a job he hates to gain his. I really don’t believe we’re supposed to find this an especially laudable way of thinking.
For all his navel-gazing and pomposity, though, Saikawa-sensei is clearly a very smart guy – and very smart people who constantly ponder life’s mysteries and their own obsessions sometimes strike on real profundity. I think there’s a fascinating allure to his theory that all children basically have multiple personality disorder, and not only that, but that it’s humanity’s natural state. The notion that children are closer to man’s true nature and that it’s the strictures of adulthood that are unnatural is hardly new, but this is an interesting and disturbing angle for attacking the question.
Magata Shiki is one freaky person, that’s for certain – this is not someone being held up as admirable. The scene where she gives a knife to her uncle is especially oogy – he’s a better man than most, only showing one sweat drop after that. I haven’ figured out everything that’s going on with Shiki, whose story just keeps getting weirder – a dead twin, a dead maid, both living inside her alongside a doll – but it still strikes me that she’s the most likely suspect in “her own” murder. She has the motive, the knowledge and the opportunity – and I’m not sure we’ve met anyone else about whom we can say that…