I think something needs to be said straight out about the use of English in anime, and it’s this: sometimes Westerners like me can forget that the target audience for Japanese anime is Japanese, not American or French or Scottish. When we criticize the use of “Engrish” in an episode like this, we do it from a Western perspective. To a native Japanese speaker, the English spoken by Kase Yasuyuki and Kaida Yuuko almost assuredly sounded quite good, and using it was an artistic choice.
Intellectually, I know all that. And I know I have no right to criticize the writer and director of Subete ga F ni Naru for the way that crucial scene was written. But I can’t help being taken totally out of the moment by that choice. The issue is that the English being spoken wasn’t good – not really, and even given the context there’s really no logical reason why Miki wouldn’t speak accented Japanese at the very least. And it was impossible for me not to be distracted by it during what was supposed to be such a serious and crucial moment. For the target audience, it’s atmospherics. For me, it was an unwelcome diversion.
So, then, the A-Part this week just didn’t to it for me. Whether it was influenced by the English sequence or not the tone of the whole thing just felt off to me – too flip and irreverent. There was some potentially very important stuff said in this part, too, like Miki’s comment that her sister had a way of making it feel as if “they were the same person” (though I feel as if this might actually refer as much to what’s happening with Moe as anything). Not to mention her spot-on assessment of Saikawa-sensei as a very emotional person who repressed his emotions rather than let them be seen. And her recollection of Shiki telling her that the human body was “nothing but a container”, and the revelation that the gift Miki was carrying in her bag was a doll.
Happily, things got better in the B-Part – massively, exponentially better. Shimada-san’s virtual kidnapping (pun intended) of Moe is what sets things off. Shimada is very creepy-funny here, and Moe has never seemed more childlike (and she’s pretty childlike all the time) then in her perplexed reaction to Shimada’s antics. The game Shimada is playing here isn’t billiards, but things get serious when she forces Moe into one of the virtual reality immersion tanks (those were huge in fiction when Mori-sensei wrote the book) for a little trip down fantasy lane.
The first thing I noticed here was that these virtual experiences seem to be constructed of the Lego-like blocks Magata-sensei was so fond of. I have no clue of how this could possibly be explained even in fiction, but it’s an interesting effect. We never see Shimada’s reality bubble (it’s implied it involves Saikawa-sensei and the horizontal bop) but Moe’s starts predictably enough – she’s frolicking with a Saiakwa-sensei who both lets his emotions run free and adores her (he even wears a “Moe!” T-shirt). But this turns quickly when Magata-sensei intrudes on the moment, and it’s not entirely clear that this is all entirely in Moe’s fertile imagination.
Could this be some sort of “Otherland” scenario, where Shiki has found a way to upload her consciousness to the Singularity – finally leaving her useless container behind? Her VR-words to Moe (“Come over to this side – this is how it’s supposed to be”) certainly put that explanation on the table. As ever, real or imagined Shiki is focused like a laser on dragging Moe back to her past, and once again Moe’s memories become entangled with Shiki’s in an extremely fascinating and disturbing way. We now know that indeed Moe’s parents died in a plane crash, and that Saikawa-sensei was with her when it happened.
Visions of that fateful night when Shiki and her uncle killed her parents never fail to be extremely creepy, and they don’t disappoint here. One can’t help but take note of what Shiki tells her uncle when he begs her to kill him – “Don’t worry, I’m certain we’ll be killed one day”. Whatever is really going on here, it seems almost a certainty that Shiki is the mastermind behind it all, and has been planning it for a very long time. It’s an interesting mystery, but not as interesting as the emotional deconstruction of the people acting it out.